June eye with a reflection of a cross in it.

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We take a trip down to DC to learn if things are better or worse in the capital and oh, not only are they worse but June gets a wake-up call.

Director(s) Dearbhla Walsh
Writer(s) Dorothy Fortenberrry
Air Date 6/26/2019
Introduced This Episode
Commander Winslow Christopher Meloni
Olivia Elizabeth Reaser
OfGeorge Kirrilee Berger

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Welcome To DC: Fred, Serena Joy, Aunt Lydia, June, Commander Winslow, Olivia

To further Fred and Serena Joy’s cause, things are taken to DC for better visuals, more spectacle, and an increase in pressure. All of which helps Fred recover from the damage June did for now High Commander Winslow is allowed to see his media savviness play out. Also, as that happens, Serena gets to spend time with Commander Winslow’s wife Olivia who has, at minimum, 6 kids.

And while the elite play and have public prayers, Aunt Lydia and June see how different DC is from the Boston area. One of the first things that they notice is an increase in security, which is expected, but the more shocking bit is how far the system goes to keep Handmaids silent. For example, Commander Winslow’s handmaid has her lips either stapled or sewn so she can’t speak. On top of that, she wears a lower face mask which is too tight to speak clearly. Something which may or may not become a new thing in the northern region.

Negotiations With The Swiss: Nick, June, Serena Joy

With Canada being uneasy about the negotiations, strictly considering them due to Gilead’s military strength, it leads to the Swiss getting involved and trying to see what they can get out of this. The answer? Well, June, despite what she is told not to do, tries to cut a deal with the Swiss so Nicohle will stay in Canada. Now, as for what the Swiss want? Espionage information. Gilead isn’t online, in a public sense, and so everyone only knows what they put out there. So, any information about their power structure and more would be helpful.

Unfortunately for June, the only one she knows with such information is Nick. Someone who the Swiss don’t trust for they know he was a crusader that led to the fall of the US government. Thus making June’s rebellion for naught.

Small, Cruel, And Empty: June, Serena Joy

Well, at least in terms of her making any headway. For Serena Joy, it perhaps gave hope for who else but June could possibly derail everything? And her failure is probably why the two decide to have one out. One in which Serena makes it seem she wouldn’t be trying to get Nicohle back if June escaped to Canada with her and June ending her attempts at making Serena an ally, or useful to her, by hitting a low blow.

As in what kind of low blow? Well, she points out Serena is empty. Which, on one hand, could be her talking about how Serena Joy is emotionally empty but let’s not forget that Serena Joy, thanks to an assassination attempt, also can’t have kids so she is also without a womb. So the emptiness inside could take on that meaning as well, and that is likely the cruelest thing June can say.

So, more than likely, if June ever has her revolution, Serena Joy will be on the opposing side.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Taking note the increase in security, how was June able to move about so freely, yell at the former Lincoln Memorial, and act more rebellious than ever? Especially the Nick situation?
  2. While it could have just been being friendly, did anyone else get some slightly uncomfortable vibes from how long Commander Winslow had his hand on Fred’s back and how Fred was reacting to that?


Serena Joy Back To Being A Villain

Some characters just don’t work well trying to live in some sort of gray area. Nick does to a point, but he barely says much and at this point is a reoccurring role. So him being in the gray area works. As for Serena Joy? With this world crafted by her and her mad she lacks the power she thought she would have, any attempt at trying to become a hero, outside of her own point of view, would be massively difficult. Outside of sacrificing herself, as she did and lost a finger for, wouldn’t make her seem look a good guy or complex.

Essentially, Serena Joy will always be a selfish character, and even if they continued to attempt to make her someone selfish, but with a goal which aligned with June, there is no means to recover. So it seems best to return her to simply being a villain than trying to have her be someone who deserves sympathy. For really, lest we forget, she held June down, more than once, as Fred raped her and is there any real coming back from that?

Low Point

June Clearly Betraying Gilead And Living To See Another Day

All I want to know is how June can speak to a foreign government, clearly try to coax some sort of deal in her favor, and not be put on notice? I mean, considering this mask thing they now use, would it be so hard to find a woman with similar features to June? Would the Swiss even care if June died? Nick is being sent out to Chicago so he wouldn’t know. So, as with many of the episodes this season, you’re left to wonder how in the world is June getting away with this?

On The Fence

What’s Up With Aunt Lydia?

Every time we see Aunt Lydia it is like she switches from being a hand to the authoritarian government to a victim of circumstance happy she can enjoy some comforts. This episode leaned her towards being a far kinder character than we’ve seen since June was pregnant and there is a serious need to ask why? Is she trying to atone or make up for how brutal she was to Janine? Which, so it seems, didn’t cause her to be punished in the slightest.

Yet, maybe something happened off camera? How else could you explain, as June asked if Aunt Lydia wanted them silenced, Aunt Lydia not being hardline? Perhaps even glad, and intrigued, by the local custom?

Off and on, like Serena Joy, there have been attempts at softening Aunt Lydia, and according to a BUILD interview featuring the actresses who play Rita and Janine, her backstory will be featured this season. But, also like Serena Joy, there is a need to question do we need a villainous character softened up or do we just need to know the reason behind their resolve?

The Swiss, DC Culture And Some Form Of End Game

Ofgeorge (Kirrilee Berger) being shown with her lips unable to move.
Ofgeorge (Kirrilee Berger)

While it is always interesting to see not just outside of the Boston area, but also get a vibe of how other countries see and deal with Gilead, I don’t think this trip was made to be as interesting as it could. Don’t get me wrong, seeing the Washington Monument made into a cross, or the destruction of the Lincoln Memorial were stunning images. Yet, there is just something about seeing this imagery and feeling like June isn’t making any progress in her revolution which makes this show seem so long.

What I mean by that is, June touts herself about as this almost untouchable bad ass who lucks into multiple situations to be amongst powerful people. Both those who benefit from Gilead and those who are oppressed by the regime. But, episode after episode, especially this season, we’re back to that vibe of the show being more about world building than any sort of plot made to make us feel an ending is planned. Yes, you may have an ideal ending planned, but it seems Hulu and the writers rather milk this show for all it is worth, be it accolades, ratings, and of course paychecks, than present any sense the end game for June or Gilead is anytime soon.

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[ninja_tables id=”36752″]

Serena Joy Back To Being A Villain - 80%
June Clearly Betraying Gilead And Living To See Another Day - 65%
What’s Up With Aunt Lydia? - 75%
The Swiss, DC Culture And Some Form Of End Game - 70%


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  1. In many ways, taking note of your comparisons, it seems violence, or the threat of it, seems to be how the show compensates for how flat the characters were in the book. Yet, like many shows we’ve seen on HBO, while violence, and sex, can tantalize and shock at first, so comes the problem of when you build up a tolerance and are left with what is left.

    Which, at this point of the show, it feels more like those involved are enjoying a cultural relevance and thus are continuing the program to be a symbol of resilience than really trying to craft a plausible story. One that has its ending anywhere in sight and isn’t just trying to use shock value as a means to keep people talking and so it can hold onto its relevance.

  2. Here in Australia, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is being broadcast on public television on the same nights as reruns of “The X Files”… watching the two back to back, I honestly found it hard to decide which of the two had the loopiest depiction of political intrigue… but I can say for sure, “The X Files”, of all things, came across as having more believable characters.

    Why is Lydia even here? Why not let one of the local Washington Aunts handle things? Surely that would be better than flying over someone who has proven in the past to be ineffectual in handling this particular Handmaid? For that matter, why is Lydia the only member of the Aunts that we see doing anything of importance in this show, even after she’s made enough screw ups in handling June that logically she’d be assigned a different case? (Of course, the “real world” reason is obvious – Ann Dowd is on contract and it avoids the extra time/money of casting a new character)

    The scenes where Fred is greeted with approval by the political establishment seem downright surreal to those familiar with the novel – in which the other Commanders have Fred killed because they think he is an embarrassment to their image as a tough regime, and because he has failed to live up to their fundamentalist ideology in his own sex life.

    All this stuff about women having their lips stapled shut is not in the book… a weird thing about this series is that it frequently invents elaborate forms of torture, death and abuse that aren’t in the source material (as if the original didn’t have enough violence already) – but then it shows the worst of these things being inflicted upon minor characters, seemingly for lighter offences than what our heroine has done (and got comparatively lesser punishments for)…. so to me, it’s like every time this show trots out some newfangle torture/abuse/execution it doesn’t shock me that much anymore, and since it’s unlikely to factor into the main plot or the protagonists life, it often feels kinda pointless.

    As for the question of how the show flip-flops on humanising it’s villains…

    I wonder if Serena’s redemption would’ve seemed any more plausible to people who haven’t read the book, if Hulu’s writers had kept the following aspects of the literary-Serena intact:

    – In the book, Serena does not know about the plot to overthrow the US government and has had no hand in designing the structure of Gilead… book-Serena was not a major player in politics, she was just a small-time televangelist who made vague statements about “returning to traditional family values”, but was no more militant than your average republican. She never wrote a manifesto that came to be a touchstone of the Gilead movement.
    – In the book, its implied that the “ceremony” method is not something Serena is comfortable with, and that she may just be doing it because she’s afraid she’ll be killed if she too blatantly breaks the rules. There are many hints that Serena isn’t on board with the Biblical rationalisations for it either. Viewed in that light, you could argue that “the ceremony” is also degrading to Serena in the book, even if it’s not as extreme an ordeal as what June has to go through.
    – Serena NEVER attacks June physically in the book. The scenes in which Serena assaults June and the scene where Serena urges Fred to rape June were all made up for the TV series.

    In the book, Serena doesn’t actually do all that much besides be rude and emotionally manipulative in a passive-aggressive way. Yet the novel treats her with contempt… It is weird that this show constantly invites the audience to feel pity for Serena, after showing her doing EVEN WORSE things.

    The same with Lydia – the show has her lashing out physically more often than her literary counterpart and presiding over elaborate tortures and executions that weren’t in the novel…

    …surely, if you’re gonna humanise a villain and put them on a redemptive arc, you don’t start by making them EVEN MORE violent than they already were?

    It’s a pity, because I think a redemptive arc for Serena could’ve been genuinely interesting, if it had been handled better. I know I’ve got an image as the guy who complains it’s not like the book, but Serena and Lydia are both rather flat characters in the novel. I can see why Hulu thought a different approach might be an improvement… but it takes more than a few pretty speeches and tears to get an audience on the side of a character, their actions matter more.

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