The Handmaid's Tale: Bear Witness
July 24, 2019 7:29 PM - Season 3, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Home life at the Lawrences begins to change.
posted by roolya_boolya (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Before we get into the rest of it, I have a question. Given their pedantic hewing to the importance of the ceremony surely the Waterfords have their own new handmaid and why haven't we seen her?
posted by roolya_boolya at 7:31 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


Muffins mean yes.

This episode felt solid to me, like the show is back on track. June's gone almost as crazy as Janine but now she's got a new purpose and, after a bit of a shaky start, she's got a plan and allies.

The second enactment of The Ceremony was horrible to watch. Doubly so since it was told so sensitively and differently. I'm still really uncomfortable with how Lawrence is the most interesting character on the show. They almost made us sympathetic for him this episode, like he's a victim of The Ceremony too. But as everyone kept reminding him; this is the world he constructed. He has the power and the responsibility. I appreciated that Eleanor explained that Lawrence is a war criminal and can't leave Gilead, that helped make his whole situation make a lot more sense.

The worst moment for me was when I realized what Fred had really accomplished with demanding the ceremony be witnessed. When he first pitched it, it sounded like he was trying to catch Lawrence out, to entrap and disempower him. But he must have known that was a weak ploy. What Fred actually accomplished was the ensure that June got raped again, verifiably, and even if it was another man doing the physical act ultumately it was an expression of Fred's power over June. Truly monstrous.

Is Serena really so stupid as to trust Fred with the satellite phone and her American contact? Her one way out?
posted by Nelson at 8:29 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


Did anyone think that Commander Meloni's golf comment was alluding to he and Lawrence being DL bisexuals in the before times?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:24 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


Before we get into the rest of it, I have a question. Given their pedantic hewing to the importance of the ceremony surely the Waterfords have their own new handmaid and why haven't we seen her?

Moreover, how is it that when Waterford argued that the number of odd occurrences surrounding Lawrence's home was worthy of further inquiry that no one did a full spit-take, asking THIS IS COMING FROM YOU, WATERFORD?!!? Babies disappearing, preganant handmaids on the run, a wife out of line to the point of needing retaliatory disfigurement, full-scale arson: whose household has truly seen more sketchiness?

Did anyone think that Commander Meloni's golf comment was alluding to he and Lawrence being DL bisexuals in the before times?

This occurred to me as well; curious to see if the queer subtext floating around him rises explicitly to the level of text.
posted by youarenothere at 7:24 AM on July 25 [5 favorites]


Oh man, that was kind of a fakeout because it seemed like they were all going to go stand around the bed watching.

“Muffins Means Yes” really is the proper episode title.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:44 AM on July 25


The Ceremony scene was painful. Glad they didn't show the act.
"At least it wasn't you."-- perfect response!
"We're gonna need a bigger boat."--that made me laugh. Glad the Marthas are willing to get the children out.
"He's in California."--Very kind of June to do that.
posted by luckynerd at 11:59 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


This is going to sound terribly blunt and possibly crass, and I promise I mean it in all seriousness: I was wondering why June and Lawrence didn’t consider the alternative option of him masturbating into a receptacle, and June transferring the resultant semen to the interior of her vagina in preparation for the doctor’s examination (plus maybe her rubbing/applying pressure on and around her vulva to produce physical evidence that friction had occurred). Grim and dehumanising, certainly, but it seems that would have been more bearable for all three of them. (I’ve written that as clinically as possible because I really don’t want it to come across as any kind of “LOL, they should have just had separate wanks!” flippancy.)

But then I don’t know if I’d have the presence of mind to even consider that in any of their situations. And I suppose you don’t want to risk having any evidence of onanism hanging around when a Wife and Aunt and doctor - already on high alert for any hint of “impropriety” - are going to be entering the room immediately afterwards. And, yes: Rule of Drama.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 2:08 PM on July 25


Finally something real happened this season!

I find Fred to be the worst, even just beyond that he's supposed to be the worst. He's outlived his usefulness as a villain. I don't even find him particularly threatening anymore, just gross.

I think the ceremony sequence was handled well and brought a new tension to the show. I know the show can't just keep continually raising the stakes because everyone would just be killed by the rules of this world, but I liked that I felt like something that was actually putting the characters in danger was happening.

I'm sure the show will find a way to walk it all back here shortly. I am sure some stupid things will happen with the Waterfords and the phone and season four will reset again.

But for the moment I have hope that the plot is actually moving forward. Just for the moment.
posted by darksong at 3:40 PM on July 25


i grinned so hard at "At least it wasn't you." In your face Fred
posted by numaner at 11:51 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


I laughed out loud at that line and Fred's reaction, enough to not care that season 1 June might have got her tongue cut out.

With a network as big as the Martha resistance seems to be and five years to work and strategize, surely the idea of getting children out has already occurred to someone and is either quietly succeeding or was abandoned for reasons. But hey, now we have a white lady with a savior complex and grandiose ideas! Let's do this.

Eleanor is breaking my heart. The twinge of pity I felt during the Ceremony was not for Lawrence finally having to abide by the rules he wrote (shove your sad man feels, Joseph, you did this to yourself - this was done much better when it was Nick and Eden and June's response was 'oh, you have to fuck someone you don't want to? Cry me a river') but for her having to endure it.

Either Serena is making some kind of six-dimensional chess move by offering that satellite phone to Fred and telling him about the American's offer or she is dumber than a block of cheese. He had your finger cut off, woman! He cannot be trusted! The days of 'you and me against the world' ended when Gilead came to power!
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:02 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for the paternity issue and Nick's secrets to reemerge. There's no way that storyline is resolved by the Swiss just refusing to deal with him.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:26 AM on July 28


Either Serena is making some kind of six-dimensional chess move by offering that satellite phone to Fred and telling him about the American's offer or she is dumber than a block of cheese.

I just can't believe that Serena doesn't understand what Eleanor does: that Fred, like Joseph, can't escape Gilead because he'd be a war criminal. What could Fred offer that would have another country take him in?

With a network as big as the Martha resistance seems to be and five years to work and strategize, surely the idea of getting children out has already occurred to someone and is either quietly succeeding or was abandoned for reasons.

June is specifically talking about the children taken from handmaids. Marthas care for those children, but I don't think they have the same sense of injustice that handmaids do about them. It's only because Eleanor is on the verge of breaking down that they have access to that information at all.

But for the moment I have hope that the plot is actually moving forward. Just for the moment.

I'm hoping that next season will be the final season. With Atwood's novel coming out in September, I think it's time to set up the demise of Gilead. I really hope that's where the show is going.
posted by gladly at 9:00 AM on July 28


I was wondering why June and Lawrence didn’t consider the alternative option of him masturbating into a receptacle

I think June, as well as playing it safe, both wanted Lawrence to be directly affected by Gilead in a way he couldn't easily escape, and to give her additional leverage for her escape plan.

Honestly I think this episode should have been about 3 or 4 episodes ago.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:58 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Maybe, but "you're going to have to rape me now, sorry about that, let's make it as quick and painless for you as possible" is a repulsive dynamic I'd rather not have seen.

Honestly I think this episode should have been about 3 or 4 episodes ago.

Agreed. This season would have benefited from being only 10 episodes long with no guarantee of renewal.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:05 AM on July 29


Before we get into the rest of it, I have a question. Given their pedantic hewing to the importance of the ceremony surely the Waterfords have their own new handmaid and why haven't we seen her?

Surely with such a low birth rate, they'd try to space births a little bit to allow each child to have the most attention devoted to them. You'd at least expect the delay to last through the breastfeeding period, when the handmaid who bore the baby is (normally) meant to stick around. (June and Janine were usual in being removed immediately post-birth.) Aside from the one household in DC, which was clearly a surprise to Serena, how many multi-child houses do we see? Technically, the Waterfords still have Nichole, and the waiting period to try for a little sibling would still apply.

I really have no idea what Serena was thinking giving up the sattelite phone.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:37 AM on July 29


Yeah, I think between the line about "they're going to keep coming back each month" and June mentioning the punishment for contraceptives when Joseph offers them (I'm thinking she's going to hide or destroy them without taking them) they're setting us up for another June pregnancy.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:40 PM on July 29


I'd fallen behind on this show so I binged episodes 8-10 last night. It used to be that watching more than one episode in a single sitting was impossible due to the weight they used to carry. This season, eh, not so much.

But I thought this episode was a lot stronger than most have been. I actually watched under the impression that it was the season finale, so I was glad to discover there are two more this season and they're not leaving quite as much hanging. In particular, we need to get back to Canada. I'm sure June's new project and the phone will send us back that way, but we're long overdue to check in with Moira and company as well.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:19 PM on July 29


WHY IS SHE LIMPING.

I thought that the show deftly handled June's reassurance of the Lawrences about the Ceremony. It's painful for me to see a woman reassuring her rapist, but it's also spot-on accurate emotional labor.

Serena keeps piping up with her opinions about political strategy as if her pre-Gilead qualifications mean something, but then she keeps turning around and demonstrating how naive she really is at high-stakes politics. Oof.

I harbor a secret fantasy that Waterford is overplaying his hand and that Lawrence is going to pull rank and destroy him. As youarenotthere pointed out, his success as head of household is in shambles. But I don't think that the writers are going to get that complex with the storyline.

> Surely with such a low birth rate, they'd try to space births a little bit to allow each child to have the most attention devoted to them. You'd at least expect the delay to last through the breastfeeding period, when the handmaid who bore the baby is (normally) meant to stick around.

Nah. Child gets nothing BUT attention from a Commander's wife who isn't recovering from childbirth, doesn't work, and has servants. Handmaids are just intended to be baby machines, and there's no real reason for the Gilead standard for breastfeeding to follow the recommended WHO minimum of six months. I'd expect breastfeeding to last six weeks or so tops, with the intention of returning the Handmaid to active Ceremony duty within three months after birth. (Didn't Janine or one of the others say at one point how long you get to be "on vacation" from the Ceremony after giving birth?)
posted by desuetude at 8:02 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


June has achieved pretty much nothing for 3 seasons - she couldn't even stab someone properly - but somehow thinks she is going to extract all the children from Gilead. Lol k. This is hate-watch material for me now, soz. The first 1.5 seasons held so much promise.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:39 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


WHY IS SHE LIMPING.

Because she was kneeling for so long in the hospital, I assume. It seems like it decreases throughout the episode so it's likely just a temporary limp.
posted by mosst at 10:40 AM on July 30


Articles about the season 4 renewal mention that season 3 will end on a "wild cliffhanger". Fingers crossed that it will include the fall of Gilead's current leadership - not the whole thing just yet, I want to see mid and late-period Gilead, after the original architects are dead and gone and people who for better or worse were raised there are in charge. Blow this shit up and open up the world to allow room for whatever the new book reveals in September.
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:12 PM on July 30


> Because she was kneeling for so long in the hospital, I assume. It seems like it decreases throughout the episode so it's likely just a temporary limp.

Oh, I get that, but it's ridiculous.
posted by desuetude at 6:51 AM on July 31


I think the limp was also meant to thematically mirror Aunt Lydia's mobility trouble early in the season after she'd been stabbed, kicked, and pushed down the stairs.
posted by Nelson at 5:34 PM on July 31


I thought when they were going to witness the Ceremony they were going to witness the Ceremony. Aunt Lydia even said something about watching to make sure each member of the family did their part.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:24 PM on August 7


I thought so too. It seemed heavily implied and I remember a sense of Fred letting them off the hook after the initial scripture reading with "we'll let you get on with it then" or something to that effect.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:27 PM on August 7


Every time someone tells June she's going to get herself killed, it means she's going to get someone else killed.

Also, maybe my understanding of jurisprudence is shaky, but what makes Lawrence a "war criminal" as opposed to a terrorist or traitor or enemy combatant? We still don't really know what his great contributions to Gilead society were, either. I half expected him to say that he invented the punishment for contraception but didn't expect to be taken both seriously and literally.

Hoping the season ends with June learning some goshdarn humility from seeing the Martha network communicating acts of rebellion with baked goods.

Cupcakes and we riot.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:38 PM on August 12


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