The Handmaid's Tale: "Other Women"
May 9, 2018 7:05 AM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

A baby shower provokes a troubling shift in June's relationship with Serena Joy, as she reckons with the choice she made to become a Handmaid.
posted by Bibliogeek (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It was astonishing how claustrophobic it felt to be back in the house. After such a brief taste of something like freedom, being back in that in house, in the red dress....devastating. I hadn't noticed how wide and open the previous episodes had been shot until this episode brought us back to those super tight close-ups.

And building off of last week's observations- do we trust the show enough to believe that the fact that people of color, and women in particular, are getting hurt all around June is an intentional storytelling choice? June is a complicated character, selfish but self-sacrificing, smart but prone to acting without thinking through the consequences, it all makes her a compelling protagonist, but hell on supporting characters. I want to believe the show is dipping its toe into discussing the effects of her white privilege in Gilead, but I....I'm just not sure.

Also...Aunt Lydia, you creepy, bath-watching horror, GTFO. Ick, ick, ick. (Ann Dowd, you treasure, never change!)

Nick, you continue to be as compelling as room-temperature oatmeal. Carry on.
posted by Bibliogeek at 7:29 AM on May 9, 2018 [15 favorites]

And building off of last week's observations- do we trust the show enough to believe that the fact that people of color, and women in particular, are getting hurt all around June is an intentional storytelling choice?

It certainly seems to be; IIRC the showrunner made a point of saying that race issues would be given more attention in S2. In addition to Luke's first wife and the driver from last week, the handmaid who lost her tongue is also a WOC if I've kept my secondary characters straight.

Crossing my fingers this bodes well; after the first couple of episodes I was beginning to wonder if there was going to be enough material to merit the additional seasons, particularly as there were parts that were beginning to feel torture-pornish. June embracing (for lack of a better word) Offred this episode, the far-reaching repercussions of subversive acts, and what hints at the possibility of a look into how even in such an altered society some of the traditional notions of privilege still play out will hopefully make the reaches beyond the original book's scope worthwhile.

I will miss subversive June, though. Her DGAF attitude with Lydia and the Waterfords early on was a glory, and balanced out her comeuppance upon learning the fate of the family she thrust herself upon.

That and Lydia's matter-of-factly plucking the cigarette out of Serena's fingers with the admonition of it being 'bad for the baby'. I'm curious to see how much latitude the Aunts will have over the Wives.
posted by myotahapea at 2:47 PM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

All of the cooks/maids at the baby shower were women of color too. Was that something that had already been established?
posted by something something at 5:54 PM on May 9, 2018

I think it's interesting that they are making June complicit in bad things happening, including to other women. I think that's actually been a big part of the show since the beginning -- it's not just men oppressing women. It's women going along with it, or using other women to get ahead. June's shown she's not much better there. I think it's an intriguing turn and I like that I'm not that happy about June's behavior in this episode (or the last). I understand she was desperate and wanted to escape, but June absolutely made some selfish choices and didn't think through the consequences.

(And I think the flashback scene with Luke's wife was interesting. Yeah, we like June but I could also understand the wife's perspective. But I also know from personal experience that these sorts of things are way more complicated than most people understand. Even the people involved.)

Aunt Lydia is so amazing and scary because she genuinely believes what she's doing is right. She genuinely cares about the handmaids. That's way more frightening than Serena Joy, who seems, increasingly, just be going along because she built this cage for herself and now hates it.

I've kind of been less sold on this show this season than I was in the first, although there's definitely been some good moments and some interesting things. I'm just not sure where it's going, or if it's going anywhere. I am still watching and enjoying it (as much as you can enjoy this show) but I'm just not sure how much I trust it.

(And yes, Nick is boring. I think it's somewhat the casting but he's such a nothing character. I know June just needed some tenderness but he's dull.)

The racial stuff has been weird, yeah, and I'm not quite sure how they'll fix that.
posted by darksong at 6:59 PM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm glad to see June so gutted by the fate of the Econofamily and her failure to anticipate the consequences of her actions on others. So far this season I have been liking her character a lot less and maybe this (for lack of a better term, and acknowledging the cruelty in how Aunt Lydia delivered it) "come to Jesus" moment and breakdown can help her ultimately rebuild in a stronger, more nuanced and forward-thinking way.

Until y'all pointed it out, I hadn't noticed that all the adverse consequences of June's actions have fallen on minority characters. In the soup scene at the Red Center, I assumed all the handmaids were also going to get burned at the stove or otherwise punished, but we only saw scars on one... although she's the one June was closest to before and, it seems, the only one still willing to speak to her. Presumably the rest of the (majority white) group has also suffered for June's sins.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:50 AM on May 10, 2018

My feeling this episode can be summed by by 'Yeah, June. Not everything is about you'
posted by fluttering hellfire at 4:39 AM on May 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wow, so harsh. She's just living this terrible life and making mistakes and being flawed and having all those things thrown in her face at every turn. I'm looking forward to having this series resolved - I hope they don't just keep renewing it, I hope there's an end in sight so we can see how Gilead falls. I hope June escapes in one way or another.
posted by h00py at 5:34 AM on May 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

This episode was another that did such an amazing job of showing women's complicity in their oppression. It's such an intense subject. The extent to which they're focusing on it makes me wonder if that's the planned end game for Gilead - that all the women *finally* come together and say, you know what, fuck this shit, and revolt as a united front. Because this system only works when women who have any power or perceived safety at all are willing to act to keep it at the expense of other womens' freedom or agency. (As even June demonstrates in this episode)
posted by olinerd at 8:50 AM on May 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm really interested to see if June will meet the Econowife again. They'll need to revisit their conversation where the Econowife told June that she would die before she ever let someone take her baby. I'm curious to see if Econowife will do just that, or if she'll realize that she doesn't get a choice.
posted by gladly at 10:38 AM on May 11, 2018

I'd like to see the post-Gilead era in season 3. 23 episodes are plenty to dwell on how unrelentingly grim it is and how limited anyone's options are, especially for women but also for men. How do you come back from that and rebuild a functioning democracy? Distribute resources when the center of the country is an uninhabitable nuclear wasteland? Reestablish your reputation and standing in the world?

IIRC in the books Gilead lasts for decades, long enough for several generations to pass, assuming they get the birth rate back up. It would be interesting to jump ahead from June's 5-minutes-in-the-future time to late Gilead for awhile, then early post-Gilead, and eventually end where the book's epilogue does.
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:10 PM on May 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

The problem is that the story should be expanded beyond June but the realities of tv shows mean that the series has to keep being about her. And I think there are much more interesting plots -- let's see more about the Econowives, about Moira, about all the other characters we haven't heard from.
posted by jeather at 9:33 AM on May 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I, too, was feeling like this season was feeling increasingly torture-porny, and put off watching this episode because I dreaded seeing how June would be punished for her escape. I was relieved that we spent more time probing complex social micro-hierarchies -- they do such an interesting job intimating different levels among the wives and their handmaids and the husbands and the aunts.

Why was the econowife an econowife rather than a handmaid in the first place, since she's fertile? I guess because she wasn't deemed pretty enough or something?
I know that the aunts keep telling the women that being chosen as a handmaid is a privilege, but since they didn't previously show us any fertile women who WEREN'T handmaids, I guess I assumed that the crisis was acute enough that all fertile women's wombs were considered property of the state.
posted by desuetude at 7:29 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Handmaids are "fallen women". Since Luke cheated on his first wife with June, she's an adulteress, not some man's legitimate wife. I think also their attempt to escape to Canada may have had something to do with it as well.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:48 AM on May 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was a little surprised that Aunt Lydia went with explicitly differentiating June from Offred the way she did. By encouraging this compartmentalization of "June escaped and would be executed, Offred was kidnapped and can live if she's a good girl" it just more strongly validates that June has an identity and exists at all.

This is somewhat contrary to the mass orientation of the handmaids, where their names were not even acknowledged.
posted by desuetude at 7:49 AM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't think we've seen the end of Luke's first wife-- in fact, I think she's the one who offered Gilead the information that June was an adulterer.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Seems like a good possibility, especially if selling June out could improve Annie's status amid the chaos and threats of the new world order.

...Do you suppose it would be enough to elevate her to Wife status? And that the household Hannah was assigned to is that of Annie and her Commander? I feel like Gilead leadership would go for that sort of thing, and that Serena Joy is good enough at the long game to still be holding that card back.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

June's embrace of Offred made me think of the final line of George Orwell's 1984: "He had won a victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."
posted by Paul Slade at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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