The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 2 “Mary and Martha” – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Aunt Lydia holding her cane.
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A few old faces return this episode, and we learn how willing Commander Lawrence is when it comes to participating in the new underground railroad.


Network
Hulu
Director(s) Mike Barker
Writer(s) Kira Snyder
Air Date 6/5/2019
Introduced This Episode
Beth Kristen Gutoskie
Cora Victoria Fodor

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The Healing Process: Moira, Luke, Emily

With Emily joining the family, Luke is forced to deal with a few things. First and foremost the fact June had a baby with another man. The second thing being his own daughter is still in Gilead and the third being that, while he lives rather safe and sound, his wife remains under the repressive regime. This messes with him a little, and he takes that out on Emily. Someone who is still dealing with PTSD and whose mind is trying to adapt from her biggest worry being getting raped or killed to having high cholesterol.

Luckily for both, Moira is a bridge which keeps Luke and Emily from going crazy. But you have to wonder, how much will she be able to bear of those two before she may also crack? Though with Emily contacting Sylvia, maybe she won’t have to worry about Emily for long.

Sylvia being called by Emily.

Trouble Brewing: Aunt Lydia, Commander Lawrence, Beth, Cora, June

Despite being stabbed in the back and tumbling down stairs, Aunt Lydia is alive. Using a cane and wheelchair, but still alive and with a cattle prod for when people treat her like an invalid. Which June learns when she is given a shock while trying to help Aunt Lydia. But, the shock is just a minor thing as June learns what goes on in Commander Lawrence’s home. Take Beth and Cora, two Marthas, who seemingly run a network that usually delivers messages and items, but is attempting to deliver people. Something June wants to get into, but has to earn the trust of those involved.

Which happens to include Commander Lawrence.

I Can Deal With A Lot, But Don’t Lie: Commander Lawrence, Beth, Cora, June

Someone who isn’t as gung-ho of an ally as you may have thought. Don’t get me wrong, he thinks a lot of Gilead’s policies are BS, however, he still enjoys his privileges. So what goes in the outside world, all he asks is for you not to bring it into his house and if you do get involved – don’t lie. This is something Cora struggles with, and June does not. So, while June gets involved with trafficking a Martha who is likely to make bombs, and brings in a dying woman into Commander Lawrence’s home, her telling the truth helps as opposed to Cora who lies. Which is why, despite realizing how much trouble June will be, Cora is sent away, and June allowed to stay.

An act that makes Beth happy since June is showing herself to be quite the asset.

Beth helping another Martha leave the region.
Beth (Kristen Gutoskie)

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Why did the Martha think June gave Commander Lawrence a blowjob? Granted, June is new to the house, but it seems Commander Lawrence is disinterested in sex. Heck, a part of me wonders if he is a gay man and Eleanor someone he married to hide that.

Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments

  • We’re told Gilead has taken back Chicago.

Commentary

Raising Someone Else’s Child

I’m trying to get into Luke’s head a bit about what he is going through. Can you imagine raising the child your wife had under the mindset it was born of rape or to survive? Then, on top of that, likely hear from Emily all that has happened to your wife specifically, not a generalized viewpoint, and realize how powerless you are?

Granted, Luke has never been shown as the most machismo kind of guy, but that is still his wife and daughter in Gilead. So while raising Nicole gives him purpose, surely it isn’t what he wants to dedicate his time to.

Is Aunt Lydia In Trouble?

One of the things we have yet to learn with this show is what happens to old women, if not the elderly period? Notice, we haven’t seen senior citizens anywhere in Gilead. Middle age people like the aunts and some commanders, yes – however, no one old. So one has to wonder if, like the book (so I’m told) those people might be put to death? Hence Aunt Lydia flipping out and shocking June for making her feel weak.

Was this done out of her own frustration with what happened on those stairs, for the sake of appearances, or just to be cruel? We’ve long known Aunt Lydia to be like an abusive mother who will leave you with welts and then say she did what she did because she loves you. So the question is, could Aunt Lydia be on the brink of meeting the kind of fate she has led many to?

Eleanor

I just want to know if Eleanor is putting on an act or not. Considering how she acts when the guardians come about and helping June cover up the dead body in the yard, it seems she is more there than she often lets on. Also, taking note of Commander Lawrence’s occasional liberal activities, is she mostly in agreement? Perhaps wishes she could do more?

This is asked considering June, in the trailer, pushes Serena Joy to do more and who else but Eleanor would be better in training her, among other, to harness their dualities? Meaning, playing upon the wife these Commanders think they have, despite many knowing them long before the Gilead days, yet also using said persona to create a network, similar to the Marthas, as well as Mayday, to create a rebel force.

Highlights

Emily

Emily sitting on a bench.

There is just something about how Alexis Bledel portrays a shell shocked Emily that just hits in ways I don’t think we’ve seen in a long time. For while we saw Moira go through something similar, Emily has been through a whole different journey to get to freedom. One which included her genitals being mutilated, violently raped, her getting sent to the colonies, and even attempted murder, alongside suicide. So watching Emily now be in Canada and one of the greatest things she has to worry about being her cholesterol? The way Bledel processes that really pushes you to think about Emily’s entire arc up until now and makes the idea of her reconnecting with her wife something that could bring you to tears. Nevermind, considering her medical knowledge, possibly being put to use and trying to pick up where she left off.

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1 COMMENT

  1. This show didn’t even have the nerve to kill off Aunt Lydia???? I can understand that this show would want to spare sympathetic characters that die in the novel – like Janine and Emily. But they can’t even have a major baddie die??? Not even after showing them being repeatedly stabbed and thrown down a flight of stairs??? Aunt Lydia showing up was a major wallbanger moment for me in this episode, it’s like every major character in this has “plot armour” that protects them from dying when they logically should… the only ones who’ve perished in this series so far have been minor characters like Eden and Commander Pryce, who weren’t in the novel and didn’t get much screentime… so now I very much doubt anything permanent will happen to Aunt Lydia, even with her age and infirmity. Ann Dowd is a popular actress, as are most of the performers playing characters that were spared – and I suspect it’s fear of losing viewers by writing out a popular actor that is the REAL reason the writers are so lenient with these characters.

    About Commander Lawrence… the writers claim to have based his character on J. Robert Oppenheimer – one of the scientists employed on the Manhattan Project who is commonly thought of as the mastermind responsible for the ultimate design of the atomic bomb…. now Oppenheimer was a man who, by many accounts, had some camp mannerisms and was once rumoured to have had an affair with a male student. But the only substantially confirmed relationships he had were with women, he was married, had children and also a scandalous extra-marital affair with a radical female activist… he was a man of fascinating contradictions. He professed communist politics, but was frequently employed on establishment projects that had the effect of propping up capitalism. He would later express remorse for his role in creating the atomic bomb but remained ambivalent in his view of the military, never completely disowning their usefulness.

    Many of Bradley Whitford’s mannerisms in this are reminiscent of Dwight Schultz’s performance as Oppenheimer in the film “Fat Man & Little Boy” (released under the title “Shadow Makers” in the UK and Australia). Funnily enough, that film featured Natasha Richardson as Oppenheimer’s activist mistress, and Richardson also played the lead in the 90s movie version of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

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