The Handmaid’s Tale, S2 E4 ” The Other Woman”

Blessed be the Froot Loops!

I decided to try something a bit different for my review/ recap this week. I’m going to watch the episode in “real time”and react to in “real time,” pausing as I have a thought. I’ll try to give approximate times and we’ll see if this makes for a better thing this week. I’m often unsure of how to react to the show, so the first reaction is probably going to be my best? Do correct me when I’m wrong!

Mostly because at about 13 minutes in, I thought ” JESUS, that a lot of plot!”

Of course, we figured we’d end up with June back in Gilead somehow and as a Handmaid, hence the whole premise and title of the show.  After June has been caught escaping she is chained to a bed in the Red Center like Ofwayatt from a previous episode. She mentions pig balls, which is a great passage from the book about the emptiness of time as a Handmaid in Gilead. “Something to think about. There are 71 flowers on this comforter.”

Because of the Waterford’s prominent position in Gilead and the scarcity of a pregnant Handmaid,  they have agreed to pretend June was kidnapped and make something of a publicity stunt about it.  Aunt Lydia puts this in pretty stark terms: “June” can live out the remaining months of her pregnancy going mad chained to the bed or “Offred” can be given a second chance.  It would, after all, likely be better for the baby if her mental health was SLIGHTLY better being imprisoned in the Waterford’s home. ( And I suppose there is some cold comfort in no more pesky “Ceremonies” now that June is with child.)

Serena is, of course, furious and practically strangles June, who’s defiant. But Aunt Lydia is there to take charge, making sure the Marthas wash the produce and that June takes a bath.

Seriously, that was a lot of plot for me.  I buy it, but wonder if the escape only to have June right back where she started may have been the show getting a bit too excited a bit too early?

But at about 14 minutes in, I’m really on board with the idea of Aunt Lydia moving in to the Waterfords to supervise June (and likely Serena) for the duration.  This could be interesting with Aunt Lydia being somewhat of a true believer and June’s newfound spirituality, I wonder if that will be explored.

Also, for a show that isn’t really funny, I can see an opportunity for some dark humor in this dynamic.

17 minutes in: – Shit , does Aunt Lydia know Nick is the baby’s father? Also, Aunt Lydia’s menacing condescending kindness is terrifying and amusing. I took one look at that protein shake and just KNEW June would puke it up. That was not an accident.

19 minutes: Baby showers are the fucking worst. Nice detail about the Martha tasting the champagne before giving it to a Wife.

21 minutes: Meanwhile, the Commanders are having a fucking 1930’s  pheasant shooting party or something. Including the Commander who had his hand cut off for something last season. Also, the closed captioning suggests that there is a Commander Linus, and it would follow that his Handmaid would be named Oflinus, which gave me a giggle. ( Insert Arrested Development reference to his Charlie Browns here)

24 minutes: Aunt Lydia and Serena have a semi expository conversation. I’m reminded of the particular place Aunts had in Gilead from the book – they were allowed to read, for example. Here’s hoping Aunt Lydia, or another Aunt gets converted to being a Mayday operative in a later season.

27 minutes: Mayday has gone silent, they’re done helping Handmaids and Ofglen had her tongue cut out. It’s not ALL June’s fault, Alma whispers. Still, she’s got a lot of shit over her head. I wonder if we’ll see her engaging in prayer soon?

Speaking  of, that little ritual with the wives was at once very kind of fundamentally Protestant and also a bit medeival and Cathlolic.

32 minutes:  FLASHBACK- Oh, hai Annie! Luke’s first wife! As if we needed more rminders of all the shit over June’s head, let’s not forget she was an adulterer, and that’s why she’s a Handmaid to begin with. Also, Luke’s first wife invokes God and seems to indicate they were at some point both religious. Annie is also black. This would be a good time to bring up race, show!   Of course, Luke is not to blame. He’s handled this whole thing PERFECTLY.

36: Baby showers are THE WORST part 2 – a possibly tipsy Serena slaps Rita – the closest peson t o her after June reminds her that she’s already had a baby and a shower and GAVE some of the presents away. A real spitfire, that June. OF COURSE Fred is listening to forbidden jazz records in his study while stroking his stupid beard. I bet he’s abesntmindendly conjugating atin verb, the smug so and so.

38: Aunt Lydia takes Offed for a walk along The Wall that featured prominently in the book, and we find out what happened to Omar and his family. The Republic made good on their threat by making the wife a Handmaid and giving their son to another set of parents. And hung Omar. . Here’s another pile of shit on your head.

Aunt Lydia says the family would not have chosen that path if she had asked them, and didn’t even give them a chance to ask.  God willed it (Inshallah) because June is a selfish person. I’m not especially religious myself, but I have a feeling that actual people of faith will find their deity being OK with that choice. Most major religions have a whole ” they who save one life saves all of humanity” kind of thing,  Doesn’t really help anyone in this dimension, though. I wonder if June will pray sometime this episode?

Or will Offred win out?  Damn, Aunt Lydia. You’re good.

45: I predict June will take out the letters saved by Rita and there will be some sort of prayer/ spiritual imagery.

47: Is this nightime visit from Serena going where I think it’s going? Come on, show. Be better than that.

48: Phew!

49: “My fault” nice callback to the painful  scene in the book when the women were at the Red Center and blaming themselves and each other.

50: Jeepers! June is praying! Who could have guessed that? Though it is a different kind of prayer this week.

52: Good job, Gilead and Aunt Lydia. You have successfully beaten June into being Offred. Good thing she’s a main character,  and I believe there will be a 3rd  Season, otherwise I would despair.


Stray observations:

  • I enjoyed writing the recap /  review this way,  I felt like I had more to “say: in the moment. Unless there are objections or someone else signs up for an episode, I’ll likely do it this way for the rest of the season
  • When are we going to talk about race, show? Come on, just even a throwaway line from a commander about the dogma of Gilead would help, There are clearly no people of color in the upper echelons of society, but they are rasing children of color, so like say something about it, show!
  • Nick Offred was clearly glad to see him, and he was shocked to see her. He’s kind of a cypher to me, but last week RiverSong made a point about how any connection June has would be important to her. Hence the whole buying into the “Offred” identiity with Aunt Lydia.
  • I think we can officially start calling Ann Dowd Beloved Charactor Actor Ann Dowd. I could easily imagine BCA Margot Martindale or BCA Cherry Jones in the role of Aunt Lydia, but Ann Dowd brings a very subtle piousness to the role that I like. Get this woman an Emmy. ( and BCA Cherry Jones is already June’s mom! hoping for a Margot Martindale apperance to complete the trifecta!)
  • As always, great face acting by Elizabeth Moss
  • Joseph Fiennes is almost too creepy. Maybe it’s the beard. Or the fact that his brother is Voldemoort.
  • hoping to see Emily and Moira soon.
  • Speaking of Samira Wiley, Orange is the New Black has such a deep bench of actors, it would be great to see some of them on the show.