The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2/ Episode 3 “Baggage” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

June wishing her mother was there.
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Guilt over not being the perfect mom, nor feminist, haunts June as she reminisces about her mother and how she has been as a mom.


Network
Hulu
Director(s) Kari Skogland
Writer(s) Dorothy Fortenberry
Air Date 5/2/2018
Actors Introduced
Holly Cherry Jones
Omar Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Getting Used To Canada: Moira, Erin, Luke

While it appears Erin and Luke continue to do hardly a thing at all, Moira has a job helping people new to Canada as a guide. In fact, she comes across a fellow queer person, a man, and this introduces us to queer life in Canada. Nothing big. Just the idea they are accepted allowed their safe spaces, and able to just be.

Commentary

Moira looking into a mirror after hooking up with someone and using her Jezebel name, Ruby.

As noted in the valuable comment section of season 1, we have reached a point beyond the books. So, with that, while also recognizing the show presents a far more lax Gilead and world, you have to appreciate that it is starting to expand to show what it was like for certain cultures in a post-Gilead world. Much less, address the trauma outside of June.

Like with the gentleman Moira was helping – A soldier noted as a gender traitor for being under the LGBT umbrella. By expanding things beyond Moira and Emily, and showing how it also affected men, queer men of color as well, so begins the journey of seeing what life was like for people outside of June’s rather small scope.

But, putting a focus on the characters noted, I am rather curious as to why Moira used her Jezebel name after hooking up with that woman? Taking note of the trauma of the soldier, did she find hooking up to bring a bit of a flashback for her and shame or did she just not like when the person tried to make a finger bang more than what Moira wanted?

Also, what the hell are Erin and Luke doing with their lives? They have been in Canada for a while but, with the way this episode made it seem, they don’t really do much but annoy each other.

Mother/Daughter Relationship: June

As we have seen, June has a complicated relationship with being a leader and standing up for more than just herself, but others as well. This can all be sourced to her mother Holly. Someone who was a staunch feminist who had a bit of a complicated relationship with June. They loved each other, of course, but June wanting to marry Luke, her being an assistant editor, things of that nature were a bit of a disappointment to Holly. It even led to her assuming she was settling. Especially since June, as a kid, would talk about wanting to become a Supreme Court justice.

Yet, despite these dispiriting remarks, we don’t necessarily see them fight. June just gets quiet and absorbs the criticism. Which, in modern times, seemingly maybe why, every now and then, she finds herself sparked into action. Her mother’s voice probably echoes and pushes June past complacency or worrying just about herself. It makes her do as she did for Janine and stop injustice.

Something which her mom, who seemingly maybe in the colonies, based off a slideshow picture Aunt Lydia uses, may be proud of.

Commentary

Holly noting how disappointed she is in June for settling in life.
Cherry Jones as Holly

Feminism is quite complicated and it shows in how June and Holly interact and lead their lives. For June, her sense of feminism is simply being able to do as she pleases and live comfortably. When it comes to Holly, she has a more radical feminism. She takes to the street, protest, and gets a bit judgmental when it comes to women who aren’t joining the fight but are enjoying the benefits warriors like her quest for.

Making things difficult between the two for Holly, so it seemed, still held on, even after decades, this idea her daughter was going to be a champion for the cause on the Supreme Court. Yet, instead, she is looking for typos for some small academic publisher. Which is a weird thing to be displeased about. Your daughter is employed, seems happy with what she is doing, but you downplay that because it doesn’t fit your narrative and ideals. I mean, in comparison, she hears about Moira’s queer site and is bragging her friends that her daughter’s friend is a contributor.

And what we got was just a taste. So imagine how it was growing up with someone like Holly yet not fully inheriting the same drive and spirit? Much less the willingness to take the punishment for your activism. For, as noted, Holly is now in the colonies for trying to maintain an abortion clinic. June, on the other hand, has continued her complicated relationship with feminism.

On one hand, June getting as far as she did was by using, or relying depending on how you see it, the men around her. Something which her mom probably wouldn’t approve of. However, with her being pregnant, having a safety net, as Lydia called it, she did try to use her privilege to save a fellow woman. She also did give Moira the push to save herself. And while, yeah, she nearly abandoned her daughter, the next generation of women, in the episode, again, being a devout feminist in a society which looks as such as terrorist makes it so you really have to pick your battles. For it isn’t just being called a b**** or spat at, it means genital mutilation, being raped and forced to have a child, being sent to the colonies, or simply death.

But, from what it seems, forgiveness remains possible as well as reconciliation. Something which June, in her mind, gives to her mom, for they did have good times. As for how long it would take for Hannah to give that to June, either verbally or just in thought? Who knows.

The Econopeople/ Being My Own Savior: June

When it comes to Gilead, there was a general impression that their power was absolute. That fertile women were Handmaids and that was it. However, then we meet Omar, an undercover Muslim who is also a smuggler, who is part of the Econopeople.

Now, as for who the Econopeople are? All we know is that they are a religious group which seemingly are close enough in belief with those of Gilead that they are given exemptions. They have their own community, women can walk around without escorts or a buddy, though conservatively dressed, it isn’t on the level of Handmaids, and it seems, going by Omar’s wife, they aren’t necessarily supporting the concept of what the Handmaids do.

In fact, it seems they are quite ignorant to their plight. But, being that June has grown tired of relying on Nick, the truck delivery guy, and now Omar to provide her safety, she takes her life into her own hands. Something which perhaps can be seen as an impetuous and foolish act for just as she gets on a smugglers plane, it not only gets shot up but she gets caught and dragged off.

Commentary

June leaving Omar's house in Econopeople garments so that she may move about stealthily.

So what exactly makes Econopeople so special they aren’t held to the suppressive regime of Gilead? Granted, there are still heavily armed soldiers around, but their women have more freedom and things don’t seem as tense and old fashioned. Is it really just because their religious background aligns closely with The Songs of Jacob’s mantras? Could this be, like a modern day Amish, or perhaps a reservation, a pocket where local customs are respected as long as they don’t directly conflict with Gilead’s?

Also, what is going to happen to June now? We can assume Gilead soldiers are the one who took her but with her ripping out her tracker, but being pregnant, will where she get sent to? Will it be a holding cell like we saw that woman in? Then, following that, her being reassigned to a commander? Would luck make it so where June ends up in the same household as Hannah? For it would seem odd that, with Hannah becoming more towards the forefront, June wouldn’t end up in proximity to her.

Though there is also the question of how did someone, right across from June, get shot and she didn’t? Especially since those bullets ripped holes through the plane and they were shooting on both sides. June has been quite lucky thus far but surely she isn’t that lucky.

Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments

  • Two months have passed since the last episode.
  • Newspapers still existed in 2021 based off a newspaper clipping reporting it was Monday, September 13th.
  • Holly gave birth to June at 37 and her maiden name is Maddox.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Next time we see Emily, will we see Holly too?
  2. Considering Nick’s name wasn’t known to the driver, so likely no to Omar either, is there any chance all this can be traced back to him?
  3. What was Holly’s relationship with Moira like?

Miscellaneous Commentary

June and Holly in Relation to Emily and Dan

These two dynamics have an interesting similarity to me. Holly is the Dan of the situation and June is Emily and you can see if not envy, perhaps the slightest bit of animosity because of how much easier June has it. Especially since she didn’t have to experience the struggles to fully appreciate it.

Highlights

June creating a timeline of Gilead's rise based on newspaper clippings.

  1. Meeting Holly and understanding her and June’s relationship.
  2. Learning about a culture which seems exempt from the more oppressive rules of Gilead.
  3. In general, seeing how difficult cultures, across different intersectionalities, are dealing with a post-Gilead world.
  4. Though not mentioned above, getting a brief idea on the rise of Gilead through June going through news clippings.

On The Fence

  1. How long, realistically, June could rebel like this and not end up in the colonies.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I will try to answer your questions as best I can, but you should know that I’m Australian, and therefore speaking from an outsider’s perspective when it comes to US politics…

    I don’t know what showrunner Bruce Miller’s political leanings are and how that will be reflected in Season 2, now that the series has run out of stuff from the book to adapt, I suppose Miller will be the main driving force behind the narrative…. I hope that the series becomes more even handed in its critique of present day politics, showing the left, right and centre as we know it today in a warts n’ all fashion. If the series’ depiction of the rise of a theocratic, totalitarian society is to ring true then it has to show how all sides of the current system either enabled these oppressive ideas to take hold (be it through malice or incompetence) and/or alienated a sizeable portion of the general population enough that fascism seemed an attractive alternative. The Sons Of Jacob’s powerbase cant have plausibly come from nowhere.

    Margaret Atwood’s politics I find hard to fathom from interviews but she seems to be a believer in “horseshoe theory” – that the extreme left and extreme right are often closer to each other than they are to the centre.

    I think the character of Holly was originally intended as a case in point. In the 1980s, when the novel was written, left-leaning feminist groups and religious conservatives both seemed to be in agreement over the need to censor pornography. Also, both groups were fond of protesting against literature they deemed insensitive to views…. in the novel, both Holly and Serena express a desire to see a seperate “women’s culture” instituted – and there is a passage of internal monologue where June reflects that they both got that with the rise of Gilead, but it didn’t turn out to be exactly what either of them hoped for.

    In “The Handmaid’s Tale” both left and right leaning people advocate for limitations on freedom of expression, and this is shown to be part of the slippery slope that leads to the restrictive ideas of this regime becoming accepted… it seems to me today there are both “liberal” and “conservative” advocates for restriction of speech in the real world and both sides are very shrill and strident in promoting their agenda, especially on the internet. Is this the beginning of a slippery slope to totalitarianism? I doubt it. For that to happen there’d have to be other destabilising factors
    (like the environmental catastrophe and nuclear war that happens in “The Handmaid’s Tale”) before people become so keen on trading liberty for security.

  2. Thank you so much for a breakdown/ book perspective. Do you think, to try to sway the idea the show isn’t so left leaning, they may increasingly criticize liberal ideas/ideals? Or the show is fully committed to its political statement and Holly is just an exception? Perhaps just used to show that June is capable, and knowledgeable on how to be a radical, or leader, but chooses not to do so for she has seen the sacrifices it takes and doesn’t want to pay that cost?

  3. Hmmm, I wondered how they were going to handle the “econopeople”.
    In the novel they aren’t a seperate religion, but a seperate class or caste… basically “the working class”, people who do menial jobs that are not connected to an elite household.

    Gilead is a colour coded society in that each class is given a uniform to distinguish themselves… government and military personnel (the elite class) wear black… the wives of the elite wear blue… the consorts of the elite (Handmaids) wear red… servants of the elite (Marthas) wear grey…. and the working class labourers wear brown.

    In the novel “econowives” (the wives of working class men) wear striped multi-colour dresses that symbolise the fact they are expected to fulfill the duties of wife, servant and handmaid to a working class man, as well as doing whatever menial labour they are capable of. So presumably their attire contains stripes of red, blue, grey and brown

    The Aunts as a class… they are rather like the Jews which the Nazis employed to perform administrative and guard duties in Ghettos and prison camps… they are a transitional class really, the political logic behind it being much the same – that it is easier to subjugate a minority if a privileged few of that group are enlisted to subvert it… but really, how effective such schemes have proved to be is very debatable. Certainly, in both the novel and film of “The Handmaid’s Tale” the regime’s implementations of tried and true political strategies has often been incompetent and ineffective – which ultimately leads to the downfall of the regime in the novel.

    Yes, the makers of this series are going in their own direction, but it’s good to see that they included the bits with June’s mother… critics of the TV series have sometimes accused it of being “left wing propaganda”, when Atwood’s book is critical of both the left and right side of politics.

    In showing the negative aspects of left wing politics through Holly’s character, they also show the unattractive sides of the old world that enabled the Sons Of Jacob to find a following.

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