The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 4 “God Bless The Child” – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

June smoking a cigarette Serena gave her.
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June really tests the limits of her influence, but this time with the Waterfords and Aunt Lydia. Especially when Janine puts herself in a dangerous situation.


Network
Hulu
Director(s) Amma Asante
Writer(s) Eric Tuchman
Air Date 6/12/2019
Introduced This Episode
Oliver Charlie Zeltzer
OfMatthew Ashleigh LaThrop

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Planning For The Future: June, OfMatthew, Oliver, Sylvia, Emily

Thanks to a celebration to honor recent babies born, it seemed June was going to have herself a nice recruitment event. However, between her walking partner OfMatthew and the after ceremony gathering taking place in a Commander’s home, she drops that idea.

However, while June is planning her revolution, Sylvia and Emily are trying to see if their old routines still work. Which, in the case of their son Oliver, it seems despite the time which has gone by, he is ready for Emily to return back to his life. He even asks her to read him a bedtime story. Leading to many people in tears but Emily not ready, just yet, to rejoin Sylvia and fully pick up where they left off.

Orchestrating Peace: June, Serena, Fred, Naomi

While Serena is willing to be social, and even visits Naomi’s home after the celebration of the new children, she wants nothing to do with Fred. So, as if she was a marriage counselor, Fred approaches June, and she comes up with a solution. One in which Fred would empower Serena, give her some say behind the scenes, and recognize she isn’t really the domestic type. Capable of it, to a point, but that isn’t what she lives for.

Serena Joy entering Naomi's party.

As for Serena? Well, she agrees to this. Isn’t sure how it will be executed but recognizes between her mother’s advice and the system she set up, divorce isn’t really an option. Much less, there is only so much embarrassment Fred can endure before it would bite her in the behind as well.

Separate & Unequal: Aunt Lydia, Janine, Naomi, Serena, June

As June is working her magic, Janine is entranced by seeing her baby again, and with Janine being who she is, naturally, she crosses the line. This creates a problem for Aunt Lydia because she loves Janine, but the girl is too sensitive for the life of a Handmaid. Add in Aunt Lydia’s own frustrations with nearly being killed, and now feeling vulnerable, and it leads to her, when Janine makes Naomi and the Commander uncomfortable, beating her within an inch of her life. Leading to, strangely, June jumping on top of Janine to stop the assault. Thus leaving Aunt Lydia a bit embarrassed yet you realizing June may have allowed things to go this far for a point.

After all, the separation of each sect in the population isn’t just about control but to lessen sympathy. So to see Janine not only without an eye but longing for her child, and beaten like a slave, it puts things in perspective. Maybe not for the husbands, for this doesn’t effect their callous a**es, but the wives may feel differently.

Perhaps leading to why Serena gave June the information she needed to see Hannah. Maybe even take her from the school if she ever got plans to escape. For while Serena may mourn what could have been with Nichole, seeing Janine’s pain puts things in perspective.

Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments

  • Nichole gets baptized thanks to Moira and Luke – also, Commander Waterford and Serena learn, thanks to an Eye, that Nichole is across the border. June, thanks to being nosey, learns this too.

Commentary

Janine’s Beating & Serena’s Comment

I firmly believe June allowed Janine to make a fool of herself and cause a scene. She was right there, could have grabbed Janine, make a real effort, but instead didn’t. What she wanted to do was one of two things: Help show how damaging the system is to women like Janine or expose those like Aunt Lydia who are more brutal than perhaps known. For while the Commanders may know what happens, and likely don’t care, as shown by Naomi’s kindness, the wives are different. They can still be reached, and so June wanted to tap into that sympathy.

After all, if she is going to manipulate Serena into a leader and push Fred to empower her, she needs that moment which helps rally the troops. For what was the driving force last time that got Serena a following? Education. Some minimal feminist idea. That doesn’t compare to seeing an act of violence. Nearly every revolution, or civil rights movement, required shaming those in power and gaining the pity, sympathy, and support of those who didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history.

Now, you could say many of the wives may have a “Better them than me” attitude. However, as Serena notes, the women are often separated or watched for a reason. Even forbidden from whispering or gathering in groups – the Handmaids and Marthas that is. So, who better than the wives, who can usually congregate without male attention, to become a revolutionary force. All they needed was a reason. One beyond forcing another woman to be raped so that they can steal their child. Since, apparently, that wasn’t violent enough.

What May Happen To Aunt Lydia

Aunt Lydia recounting what she did.

With Benjamin, who often provides context in the comment section, making it clear the books are so much more brutal than the series, it leads you to wonder if anything may or will happen to Aunt Lydia. All things considered, she broke a few social norms. The first being, she beat a fertile Handmaid by kicking her, and maybe bashing her with a weapon. Secondly, she did that in mixed company with those above her. Third, perhaps the worst part, she did that in front of the wives and a child.

So comes the question, can or will she be punished? We saw what could have been an embarrassment, but could it have actually been fear? Lest we forget, Aunt Lydia is getting older, now requires a cane and scooter to get around, and that outburst could be seen as a red flag. Leading me to wonder, if there are punishments for aunts, besides death, what can they be? Do they take their eyes, cut their hands, and the same atrocities the Handmaids suffer?

Highlights

Emily, Sylvia, and Oliver – Together Again

June’s consistent victories take away from moments like Emily finding normalcy. Yet, it remains a highlight for Emily truly suffered to get this bliss. She didn’t just get shocked a few times but was sent to the colonies, her genitals were disfigured, and she was forced to maim or kill. Much less, someone she loved got killed due to her interacting with them. So to read to Oliver, be back in arms length with Sylvia, it was one of the rare times on this show you can say, despite the likelihood of the situation happening, you could suspend disbelief and just enjoy the scene.

On The Fence

June

I promise not to note how unrealistic June’s life is every episode, but I do find it strange how June can tell an Eye that she knows Luke, it be seen Nichole is with him, and yet it seems nothing happens. Lest we forget, the Commanders and Eyes have files which details the lives of nearly every woman we’ve ever seen. So surely this should be a sign that June had a part in Nichole’s escape. Which, in my mind, considering how grace an offense taking a child out of Gilead is, and they can’t touch Emily, June should be made an example of.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. In answer to your question regarding timelines in the series versus the movie:

    The novel was written in 1985 and the movie was made in 1990… looked at today, the movie seems like an “unintentional period piece”. It’s not so much a futuristic vision, as it is an idea of what the late 90s would’ve looked like if some environmental/nuclear catastrophe had occurred in the 80s… its full of antiquated technology – brick sized chordless phones, bulky laptops that still use floppy discs, VCRs, older model cars etc… it also features hairstyles popular in the late-80s but tragically unhip now and a score which features synthesiser prominently.

    The movie seems to be set very early in the regime’s ascent to power. Authority figures are constantly giving speeches explaining the “new laws” to the public (and by extension the audience). Also, there are brief scenes of black people being rounded up, loaded on trucks and taken out of the country (the regime in the book/movie being racist as well as sexist), which is something the government did early on in the novel… however, the exact placement of the plot in the timeline is rendered ambiguous by the movie’s biggest flaw – in order to fit this story into two hours, the film had to cut out all of the flashbacks and all of the protagonists voice over narration. So unless you’ve read the book or seen the TV series, the process by which this government came to power remains mostly unexplained in the movie.

    It seems as if the TV series moves the timeline forward so all the catastrophes happened sometime in the 2020s and the regime came to power shortly after that. References to modern tech (mobiles, the internet, drones) abound and carry over to the regime. There are some lines of dialogue in the main narrative that imply this system has been in place for a few years now, and maybe that’s enough time for those in power to grow complacent.

    I just think that if the regime was just a little bit more efficient then the protagonists’ victories would have a bit more dramatic impact, but maybe that’s just me.

  2. From what it seems, the series seemingly took note from the response to the movie and flipped it. Instead of a dreary dystopia, we get a suburb which is oppressive but livable – outside of the rape. For you are given so much free time when you can shop, whisper, and even have somewhat of a life as long as you know when to code switch.

    That is, compared to the movie which, the way you make it sound, seems like a true dystopia that is soul crushing and unyielding. Making me wonder, if you know, are the show and movie set in different time periods? Is Gilead further along in the show, hence how lax things are compared to the movie?

  3. We can now add Angela to the long list of characters this series has spared from a dark fate… in the book, Angela was born deformed and sickly, dying soon afterwards. It is implied that Janine will then be shipped off to a labour camp because she can’t produce healthy children and is too mentally ill to assimilate into this society… which is all the more tragic because the literary Janine NEVER did anything rebellious and made a whole hearted effort to conform. In the novel, Lydia breaks Janine’s spirit through a process of meticulous psychological manipulation (Janine doesn’t have her eye gouged out in the book – Lydia doesn’t always have to resort to thuggish physical abuse in order to win over hearts and minds in the book) and Janine is effectively brainwashed into being a true believer. Not only does she faithfully adhere to orthodox codes of conduct, she comes to regard Lydia as something of a surrogate mother figure… the TV version of Janine is still mentally fragile, but she never wholeheartedly commits to the regime’s laws and frequently flouts conventions. Because of this, she has all kinds of physical abuse inflicted upon her that “book Janine” never endured – but she never really learns from these experiences and is STILL affectionate towards Lydia at times.

    Because the writers changed Janine so much, Lydia doesn’t really have a “success story” to demonstrate she is competent at winning hearts and minds. Also, she is frequently shown lashing out at people physically for petty slights that have nothing to do with the regime’s laws – whereas her “book Lydia” generally preferred playing clever mind games with her enemies, and always had some legal pretext to instigate force on the rare occasions she got her hands dirty. Basically, the Lydia of the series was a lot less effective at her job, even before she became disabled – and I’m inclined to agree with you that any functional totalitarian society would’ve gotten rid of her already.

    But just generally, security measures on this show are very slack. I recently rewatched the 90s movie version… in that film, whenever the Handmaids are not required for sex, they do not sleep in the homes of their Commander. Instead, whenever The Commander is away, they are sent back to the local detention centre where they are held under armed guard and video surveillance… also, in the movie, whenever The Handmaids attend a public function, there are soldiers present, machine-guns at the ready should anyone step out of line… suffice it to say, there isn’t an equivalent scene in the movie where people get the opportunity to “act out” like in this episode. The security is too tight…. indeed, I think it’s fair to say that these basic security measures would also serve to make it harder for Handmaids to become too emotionally attached to their masters, as seen here.

    I suppose all these changes have enabled greater emotional expression and more heated drama (the movie was often criticised for its cold tone and passive protagonist), but it does take away a lot of menace from the villains when they are so incompetent as to let the protagonists get away with so much

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