The season ends not with June taking her baby across the border to reunite with her husband and perhaps make plans to liberate older daughter Hannah, but with June handing the infant to an understandably dismayed Emily and declining to get in the van herself. The van drives off, June pulls on her hood, glares at the camera and walks out into the rain as Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” plays.
It is meant, I think, to be a triumphant moment: June trying to live out the song’s title by destroying Gilead (or, at least, rescuing Hannah) from the inside. But it plays as perhaps the dumbest reset button in the history of TV reset buttons, capping off a season that has already pressed said button far too often.
Again: June has a chance to escape THREE different times and never makes it. She suffers no real consequences the first two times. Nick is returned from his misadventure with the Guardians like nothing happened, even though Gilead otherwise doesn’t seem to allow for the “No harm, no foul” rule. Even the return of Emily and Janine from the Colonies – to replace the Handmaids killed in a terrorist bombing – felt like the show trying to revert to its most familiar status quo by any means necessary. Miller is apparently committed at all costs to the idea of June living in that house with the Waterfords, even though Fred has never been a particularly interesting character and Serena is a bundle of seemingly irreconcilable belief systems from which Strahovski’s performance creates the illusion of consistency. (Serena wrote most of the laws on which Gilead is based, and it takes June to remind her that “her” daughter won’t even be allowed to read? And June’s decision to let the baby be called by the name Serena gave her was absurd, as if both June and the show are forgiving Serena her myriad, devastating sins because she has a change of heart after finally suffering herself from this fascist hellscape she helped create. Feh.)
It may be that Miller has some fiendishly clever workaround to this problem, but it sure feels like the only reason Offred doesn’t get into that van is because the show would be over if that happened – or, at least, this version of the show would be. There are ways to tell stories of June’s life in Canada, and/or to choose a different Handmaid to be the new Offred, and our eyes and ears in this nightmare. But the former loses much of the current premise’s tension, and the latter marginalizes the genius of Moss or says goodbye to it altogether. It’s totally nonsensical for June to turn around and go back to Gilead, but it’s also the only way forward for the drama that finally put Hulu’s original productions on the map, including the kind of Emmy haul last year that Netflix and Amazon are still dreaming about.
trapped on a diabolical Ferris wheel that periodically stops to let on more misery but never really goes anywhere.
And then as she’s wrestling with all this, Emily is there? Totally unexpected! T
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