The Handmaid's Tale: Heroic
July 17, 2019 10:44 AM - Season 3, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Confined in a hospital, June's sanity begins to fray, but an encounter with Serena Joy forces June to reassess her recent actions.
posted by cozenedindigo (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Total filler episode.
posted by floweredfish at 5:30 PM on July 17, 2019


Oh, so you're going to complain about this show relying way too much on inappropriate pop songs and June glaring at the camera? Here's an entire episode of just that!

To be fair, in the end, it did a bit more than that, but not by much. I think by the time it got to the point, there wasn't much of a point.

I'm glad June finally realized she's been terrible but it didn't feel fully earned, or that she completely understood just how selfish and awful she's been, despite multiple people telling her so.

(I think this show treated Natalie terribly all the way around.)

I am totally on board with eyepatch Janine though. I'd like to see a Janine episode and also have Janine triumph in the end.

I think Elisabeth Moss is a great actor but I thing the supporting cast deserves more to do. Madeline Brewer is remarkable in every scene she's in and I want more of that! I think that's really what I miss after the first season ended -- it felt more like everyone was in this world together and it was much more of an ensemble. Now it's just the June show and it's kind of boring. Why have all these great actors if you're just going to shuffle them off to the side constantly?

I'll probably finish this season but I don't know if I'm coming back for season 4. Or at the very least, I'll just wait until it's all there to watch it.
posted by darksong at 6:15 PM on July 17, 2019 [4 favorites]


We want Emily.
posted by kokaku at 7:14 PM on July 17, 2019 [4 favorites]


It amazing how satisfying it can be for someone to call June out at this point. And how satisfying it was for it to be Janine using that calm, soothing voice, "Give me that."

I was actually mostly following along with this episode -- only rolled my eyes at June saying "It's their turn to hurt."

If around every corner there's some citizen of Gilead who doesn't agree with Gilead, then how tf is Gilead still a thing? Just that people are that cowardly?
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 7:17 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


Weirdly, after all my complaining about this show, and even though I feel like it has become narrowly focused on June, and even though the resolution of saving all the babies feels like an unrealistic notion, I liked this weird hallucinatory breakdown episode.
posted by kokaku at 2:13 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also there's something really twisted about Janine excitedly receiving an eyepatch from Lydia who had her eye removed.
posted by kokaku at 2:14 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


It’s like they tried to do a version of the Breaking Bad episode “Fly”. Tried...
posted by Burhanistan at 5:23 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


I didn't think that they adequately explained why this was driving June to madness. She's been through so much worse. She's not in solitary confinement. Why are her knees bloody and bruised? We're supposed to presume she's been forced to kneel without moving for so long that she's having trouble walking, but we see her moving around.

It also seems asinine and unrealistic to leave her alone and unsupervised in a (giant, airy, beautifully-lit) hospital room all night with Natalie and all of the medical equipment.

> If around every corner there's some citizen of Gilead who doesn't agree with Gilead, then how tf is Gilead still a thing? Just that people are that cowardly?

Do you mean the doctor? I think he does agree with Gilead. He is also a real physician and has found a way in his head to square theocracy with his professional oath.
posted by desuetude at 7:45 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think we're supposed to infer that the doctor doesn't report June, either for attacking Serena or fantasizing about attacking others, so we are supposed to conclude that he doesn't fully support Gilead. Yet he still seems willing to do their bidding. That's maybe been the strongest part of this seasons, exploring the gray area with a lot of the supporting characters like diplomats and Commander Lawrence - they keep upholding the status quo while inside they feel conflicted in one way or another. A fascist dictatorship doesn't depend on total buy-in from everyone.

I want to see much, much more of the whole cast of characters in Canada. They all seem really three-dimensional, they are all great actors, and there is so much story to explore there, yet we are only getting a scene or two every few episodes. It's frustrating.
posted by mai at 8:32 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


> I think we're supposed to infer that the doctor doesn't report June, either for attacking Serena or fantasizing about attacking others, so we are supposed to conclude that he doesn't fully support Gilead. Yet he still seems willing to do their bidding. That's maybe been the strongest part of this seasons, exploring the gray area with a lot of the supporting characters like diplomats and Commander Lawrence - they keep upholding the status quo while inside they feel conflicted in one way or another. A fascist dictatorship doesn't depend on total buy-in from everyone.

I would also like to see more of this gray area. I don't think that the doctor not reporting June was any sort of rebellion against Gilead, I think it's quite the opposite. He doesn't feel the need to obediently turn her over to jackbooted authorities enforcing simplistic rote rules for behavior, because he is secure within his own reasoned sphere of authority. It's so much worse (and more interesting ) to see the beginnings of a calm normalization of this culture by people who are not "villains."
posted by desuetude at 12:37 PM on July 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


If around every corner there's some citizen of Gilead who doesn't agree with Gilead, then how tf is Gilead still a thing? Just that people are that cowardly?

I think it's a sort of thing where the threat of execution, plus the promise of, like, a life that's not as bad as somebody else's, pretty much keeps people in line.

I mean, i look around our world today and it's pretty understandable, right?
posted by entropone at 7:09 AM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Add in a dose of your neighbor may report you and it's totally understandable. East Germany is a great example of how a repressive society can maintain itself.
posted by kokaku at 7:46 AM on July 19, 2019


Oh hey, a bottle episode! Well not exactly; there's lots of other characters coming in and out and at least a partially new set. Still it has that claustrophobic feel. I always like these because it lets the writing and characters shine through. This one suffers a bit in only having one (conscious) character in the bottle though, talking to herself most of the time, and so you miss (say) the great dialog and character chemistry that marks Fly in Breaking Bad.

It's the doctor who ends up being the most interesting character to me. Much like Commander Lawrence we have another man with authority and power who knows what he's doing is awful, but also justifies it to himself in some twisted logic. I dunno, I find that psychology fascinating, and given they're in the face of a true existential human disaster it seems believable and worth exploring more.

What is the right response to a giant worldwide fertility crisis? Clearly not turning women into sexual slaves, but what do you? Me I'd triple-down on IVF technology and other reproductive aids, but perhaps Gilead sees those as unnatural and wicked. Also one suspects that most of the Gilead men are in it more for the rape opportunities than the need to reproduce.

I agree with Made of Star Stuff that the doctor is yet another potential dissident. There are so many around, almost leaves room to start a revolution, you know? I still think it's the army of young not-commander men who are the real risk to Gilead. Armed, empowered, denied even the hope of love or marriage or children because those privileges are reserved for the masters they server. That's not stable.

Great code switching in the dialog, too, I love how the Doctor just turns on normal human talk. Pre-Gilead society was right there, just a few years ago. You'd think more people could imagine returning to it.

I'm mad how this show treated Natalie / OfMatthew. It seems important that she's a Black woman and so deeply trod upon, not just by Gilead but by her fellow Handmaids too. Janine's comment "she's one of us" seemed to strike home to June, even if to her that means "I should kill her to save her" in that moment. Anyway I wish Natalie had been given a little more agency, even if it was just her doubling down on her mistaken piety.
posted by Nelson at 8:50 AM on July 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


"How long have you been suicidal?"

This was the question I had at the end of the previous episode, where June has the gun pointed right at her and she just nods slightly instead of taking any evasive action. It's only Natalie's choice to shoot Lydia that spares her. This would seem to go against her primary driving force of rescuing her daughter(s).
posted by mikepop at 12:27 PM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Take out that ridiculous opening music cue* and this was not a terrible episode! I know, I'm as surprised at myself as you are. Still too much glowering, but that seems to be E.Moss's weapon of choice this season. I may retroactively revise my opinion when we see if June's new focus and motivation last.

* That bit didn't need to be lampshaded, the idea that if you listen to the same sounds long enough your brain will try to find a pattern and June's brain landed on this song is a good one. I've had it happen myself. And I do give them credit for getting it out of their system in scene 1 instead of going bombastic over the credits. The monitors beeping, then not beeping, was a well-chosen ending.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:09 PM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


So, odds that Natalie is waking up next episode?
posted by Burhanistan at 6:27 PM on July 19, 2019


0%. She died when the monitors stopped during the closing credits.

My opinion of this episode has already been revised downward slightly since realizing it was #9 of 13. They could have cut two hours' worth of glowering and had June's mental breakdown and realignment around episode 5 or 6, leaving plenty of season for her to become Gilead's Harriet Tubman and also to spend more time on the Canada crew. This is the kind of pacing you get from a student who only has 8 pages of material for their 15-page term paper... or a showrunner who wants to drag things out for as many seasons as possible. Can we get a consulting producer from Game of Thrones or The Good Place in here? Kill some characters, shake up your show's premise multiple times a season, it's fun!
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:15 AM on July 20, 2019


relying way too much on inappropriate pop songs

Seriously, what is going on with those. I still can't decide if they're just incredibly wide of the mark, or actively trying to hit a tone I don't understand at all.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:23 AM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Arguably the songs are supposed to jog our memories (and that of the characters) back to the time before Gilead, remind us that such a time existed. It's that they just appear, without context. That is kind of annoying, or is to me, anyway. Heaven is a Place on Earth does have context, June knows it from the past and presumably is thinking of it in this episode for some specific reason. Out of irony perhaps, or out of a genuine wish that heaven did exist on earth. It's when they blast the songs over the credits that they come off as jarring, especially after all the Gloom and Foreboding music used as the main soundtrack.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 5:04 PM on July 20, 2019


That was my thinking last time I griped about this, but I don't think they work even in the ironic sense they're intended. Like "Friday" or "Gangnam Style" would be fantastically ironic reminders of the trivial concerns of the pre Gilead lifestyle, but I wouldn't put them in the show.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:20 PM on July 20, 2019


presumably is thinking of it in this episode for some specific reason

She hears it in the beeping of the hospital monitors - they repeat the same pattern over and over and it reminds her of that tune.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:03 PM on July 20, 2019


I had to go back and look at the episode again to see that the tune synchronizes with the beeps. That's kind of disappointing to me. That it's just something she happens to hear in the beeps, not that it reflects something the character is specifically thinking about.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 7:27 PM on July 20, 2019


I think she was going mad, and recognized the pattern and her desperation found a song that "fits" the situation. The show beat you on the head with symbolism, but I don't think it's a bad thing. In the case of an overbearing society like Gilead, with their own grand symbols, you need the resistance to yell back just as loud.

As the doctor said, they left June along because they didn't think she would dare to do anything to harm Natalie or the baby, because they didn't know she was suicidal. Talking to the girl seemed to pull her out of that despair and now we'll see how she's inspired to get back to the revolution again.
posted by numaner at 1:41 PM on July 22, 2019


I'd like to see a Janine episode and also have Janine triumph in the end.

Me too. Janine the Space Pirate!
posted by Paul Slade at 2:08 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


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