TV Series The Handmaid's Tale: Season 3, Episode 12 "Sacrifice" - Recap, Review (with...
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The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 12 “Sacrifice” – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

June makes a monumental decision which seems to weigh on her more than any other. Though, when it comes to Serena, her decision has her in a nearly joyous mood.

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Network
Hulu
Director(s) Deniz Gamze Erguven
Writer(s) Eric Tuchman
Air Date 8/7/2019

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Recap

Meanwhile In Toronto: Fred, Moira, Luke, Mike, Serena Joy

Serena Joy is pretty much living her best life. Mike has her in what looks like a beautiful hotel suite and whatever agreement she brokered with him, it got her visitation rights. Oh, yeah, in case it wasn’t made clear, she screwed over her husband of decades for a baby that isn’t hers. Which is something Moira points out, as she is forced to allow Nichole to spend an hour with Serena, and before she is escorted out of the room.

But, before you think Luke and Moira were just coerced to deal with Fred and Serena being in Canada – you’re mistaken. Mike does allow Luke to speak with Fred, with a guard present, but you can tell he knew something was going to happen. Luke is, after all, June’s husband and this man kidnapped his wife, represents the people who stole his daughter, and what man do you know could have all that done to him and not snap? Especially when dealing with someone like Fred, who is just smug.

Fred after being punched by Luke.

Sacrifices Had To Be Made: Commander Lawrence, June, Eleanor

In Gilead, we’re told in one week, the plane will come in, and the kids will ship out. This is something which, at first, was rather joyous for June. A plan was coming together and was doing much good. On top of that, it seemed she was going to get away with murder for with Fred and Serena Joy taken in, it is assumed Commander Winslow’s disappearance may have been related in some way. However, there is the issue of Eleanor. Someone who is a bit overzealous about kids being rescued to the point she is willing to speak of it to some of the other wives.

As you can imagine, this is alarming to June since this will not only ruin her plan but probably get more people killed at once than she has gotten harmed thus far. So, she goes off on Eleanor, quite harshly, until Commander Lawrence stops her. But, what he doesn’t stop is the guilt Eleanor takes on from being chastised which leads to her killing herself. An action June could have saved her from, for she did discover Eleanor not too long after she took her pills. Yet, to protect all she planned, she lets her die.

Which, for June, might have been a good idea. Well, at least for now. For one issue June was facing was, with Fred being taken in, and Commander Winslow missing, it made a lot of the hotheads in Washington want to retaliate. Also, with those two gone, it has allowed Commander Lawrence to regain prominence. So combine a dead wife with a resurgence of power equals Commander Lawrence stopping his peers from locking down the border or more drastic actions.

Joseph looking at June with suspicion.

However, there is a serious issue that June now has to deal with. Eleanor was one of the driving reasons Commander Lawrence was willing to work with June. So, with her dead, and him suspecting something, did she create a short term solution which won’t allow for her long term plans?

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Considering Eleanor is dead, does Commander Lawrence have much of a reason to go along with June’s plan anymore?

Review

Highlights

The Weight Of June’s Decisions Is Aging Her

I hope this doesn’t come off ageist, but there is something about looking at June, after Eleanor’s death, which makes it seem she has aged. Which I only point out since we spend a good 5 or so minutes an episode staring at June’s face. To not know every line, bruise, pore, and the structure of Elisabeth Moss’ face at this point could only be achievable if you fast forward.

So one would submit the stress of Gilead, grand plans, letting people get harmed, killed, or even committing suicide because of her pursuit of redemption, it’s getting to June. Maybe to the point that, before this is all over, she’ll likely die not from a bullet, but a heart attack or stroke. Which, I know, considering how Handmaids are medically monitored this isn’t likely to happen. However, a lot of things which shouldn’t happen do on this show all the time.

June looking towards Joseph Lawrence.

Serena Betraying Fred

It can’t be said June planned out Fred’s demise but as strong-minded as Serena is sometimes said to be, let’s not pretend June isn’t watching an old seed planted bear fruit. Serena has long been pushed to look at Fred as the reason she isn’t happy or fulfilled. So this, what could be considered her snapping, its on par with Luke punching Fred in the face.

On The Fence

Why Would You Let A Civilian With Motive To Inflict Pain Be With A High Ranking Prisoner?

Which really shouldn’t have happened. I get Mike will try to write it off as something he didn’t know would happen but, think about it, you have a war criminal in your custody. Why in the world would you let anyone who has reason to do them harm in the same room? He could have stabbed Fred, took the guard’s weapon, assuming he had one, and pretty much killed your leverage and gave Gilead all the reason they needed to start a war. But, I guess giving the audience a cathartic release was all that mattered, right?

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Review Summary

The Weight Of June’s Decisions Is Aging Her
85 %
Serena Betraying Fred
80 %
Why Would You Let A Civilian With Motive To Inflict Pain Be With A High Ranking Prisoner?
75 %
Amari Allahhttps://wherever-i-look.com
I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and from movies, TV, the occasional book, play, and Broadway show, have been trying to bridge the gap between a critic and an avid lover of various forms of media.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “Do you think that Mike allowing Luke to have a go at Fred might’ve been intended as some half-assed commentary on the way in which the American military has abused POWs and suspected-terrorists in the past?”

    I think Mike has a thing for Serena and Fred is making his job difficult by not being willing to confess. Also, what Mike is asking of Luke and Moira, in terms of cooperating, is a lot so it could very well be this was the trade. Let Serena see Nichole, without making a big hoopla of the Waterfords being in Canada, and Luke gets alone time with Fred and we’ll bring Fred to justice.

    Now, whether or not Serena Joy was made aware of what Moira and Luke would get out of this? Who knows. All that we are made aware of is that she’d have visitation rights. So, if anything, the show is pushing that misogynistic theory that women can’t be in power because something like a child could easily unravel things. This is seen with Serena Joy and Eleanor, to a point.

    Oh, and like most Americans, I just live here. So no offense taken.

    “What did they think was going to happen? How would their imagined Gilead differ from the emergent reality? For that matter – how divided is the ruling council on policy matters? What percentage are hard-line true-believers and how many are just power-grubbing opportunists?”

    The way it seems to me, Serena Joy’s conservative writing was one of the inspirations and the means those who created Gilead formerly marketed their vision. However, I would say those who rule Gilead are the extremist who followed her writing and shared a similar vision. Hence the divided council for some just wanted a patriarchal society and others, like Commander Lawrence, had a full vision of how the society would run and survive economically, among other things. But, with Commander Winslow gone, Fred, and Commander Lawrence losing favor for not being on the bandwagon of the more extreme ideas, it’s causing issues with the long term viability.

    Of which, it’s hard to say how fractured the council is since it isn’t really made clear how Gilead’s government works. At least, I’m unsure if there is still a federalist system or something new altogether? With the only titles we hear being commander, not governor, president, or anything which implies ranking, the show has never made it easy to figure out who are the notable decision makers?

    For the people in Washington, do they have sway over the Boston area? Who rules over the area where The Colonies are? What about the Econo-people? With us only seeing a small bit of the suburbs and one city, Gilead may have been shown in a multitude of ways but its inner workings are still a guessing game.

    “I do wonder why they made Serena complicit in the design of Gilead for this series. Why do you think? Did the writers think that making Serena more directly involved would make her a stronger character? If so, then why did they keep her sense of shock? Did they think it would make her more sympathetic?”

    A part of me feels they wanted to show a white woman as both a hero and villain. Yet, never truly being completely good or evil. June, while presented as the protagonist, does a lot of things most audiences wouldn’t agree with. Same for Serena. While on the side of villains, there is this showing she wants to be good, or at least disagrees with what is a much larger evil.

    And I’d submit Serena’s shock mostly comes from, as you’ve noted, how sheltered and isolated the wives are. They don’t get to speak or read, and have limited tasks and movements. So what their husbands do is a bit of a mystery and they are rarely exposed to it.

  2. I have a theory about the assault on Fred…

    Last week you said that much of the hypocrisy and stupidity of authority figures in this show might be intended as a commentary on the moral inconsistencies of the current US administration and contemporary public apathy towards mainstream politics in general… the prime example being that in this adaptation The Commanders having their own private brothel is public knowledge and there’s no backlash from working class males over the fact that ordinary men get executed for committing adultery whereas the ruling elite are permitted to be unfaithful on a whim
    (In stark contrast to the novel, where the existence of Jezebels was a closely guarded secret, and when it became widely known, all involved were put to death – including Commanders, who are expected to abide by the same rules as civilians when it comes to marital fidelity)

    Do you think that Mike allowing Luke to have a go at Fred might’ve been intended as some half-assed commentary on the way in which the American military has abused POWs and suspected-terrorists in the past? You know, like some of the more pointlessly elaborate torture and petty bullying that went on in Guantanamo Bay?
    (if that’s so, then maybe they actually went a bit EASY on Fred here. No offence, but given America’s track record during The War On Terror, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Fred was treated worse than this)

    What I find more strange is that Serena got such a cushy deal – or that Luke & Moira would bother with her. But again, dramatic catharsis probably plays a part here too.

    One thing that’s puzzled me is that they show Serena, Fred and Joseph as being complicit in the basic setup of Gilead, but ignorant of some specific policy details – only later to be genuinely shocked and appalled when these are put into practice… which makes me wonder, what did they think was going to happen? How would their imagined Gilead differ from the emergent reality?

    For that matter – how divided is the ruling council on policy matters? What percentage are hard-line true-believers and how many are just power-grubbing opportunists?

    I do wonder why they made Serena complicit in the design of Gilead for this series. Why do you think?
    In the book she was not a party to the planning of this society and although a religious conservative, was not directly tied to the party that took over. Her resentment and dissatisfaction made a bit more sense, because she wasn’t prepared for the coup or an advocate for this specific brand of fundamentalism, she was just a small time televangelist muttering vague platitudes about how swell “traditional family values” are.

    Did the writers think that making Serena more directly involved would make her a stronger character? If so, then why did they keep her sense of shock? Did they think it would make her more sympathetic?
    (I dunno… I found this actually made her less sympathetic to me cause I constantly thought that she ought to know better… novel-Serena at least had more genuine-ignorance to begin with, so she wasn’t quite as much of a hypocrite)

    I’m glad to hear June is losing a bit of her physical indomitability, though I know nothing permanently debilitating would ever happen to her now. Eleanor’s death does strike me as an awfully convenient plot development but at least it makes her plans and concealment of past crimes a bit more plausible, like you said.

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