The Handmaid's Tale: Liars
July 31, 2019 3:53 AM - Season 3, Episode 11 - Subscribe

A return to Jezebels puts everything in jeopardy; Serena Joy and Commander Waterford take a clandestine trip.
posted by roolya_boolya (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
OH SHIT Y'ALL. I know they just renewed this for another season, but how -- HOW -- is June supposed to dodge punishment for that?

I really wish they'd quit romanticizing the rekindling connection between the Waterfords. Serena Joy is a complex and rich character, but her husband is not. I'm not cheering for them to "make it" as a couple, and the idea of Serena doing anything to help Fred in the current predicament makes me feel ill.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:24 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Dodge punishment for what? That evidence clean-up seemed pretty thorough. Right now you have the Waterfords being arrested in Canada, and Commander Winslow will be considered missing. That's going to be chaos for a while (which of course is going to mess up the Martha shipment plan) and they may never figure out Winslow was murdered at all, never mind exactly where or by whom.
posted by mikepop at 10:29 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Gah I hope you're right, mikepop. I guess Gilead isn't going to have a super-scientific CSI investigation of Jezebel's looking for microscopic blood stains and such. But it seems pretty obvious that torturing the Marthas on room service duty until someone confesses would be standard if it's the last place Winslow was seen before his disappearance.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:47 AM on July 31


Winslow has gone for good; Fred has gone, perhaps temporarily, who knows? They're the ones who were stirring up trouble for Lawrence. So with them out of the picture, "they" might not be coming for the Lawrence household after all ...

I know there was talk of a gay vibe from Winslow, so did anyone else think, when he told June to lie on her face, that he was going to sodomise her?

That Cloudbusting montage was wonderful, the Marthas a well-oiled machine who'd probably done this cleanup multiple times - although my first thought was that they'd probably had to dispose of more women murdered by the patrons than vice versa.
posted by essexjan at 10:51 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


I really wish they'd quit romanticizing the rekindling connection between the Waterfords.

Oooh, I didn't get that vibe at all- it all seemed like Serena was saying goodbye throughout the whole episode. I definitely thought she was the one that set him up and turned him into the Americans/Canadians?

Am I the only one that thought that?
posted by Bibliogeek at 11:34 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


I thought Serena set him up as well. Should be interesting if the payoff is supposed to be Nicole.
posted by mikepop at 11:57 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I said I'd hold off judgement until the end of the season and this episode at least moved the plot forward in ways they can't turn back.

To me it seemed that Serena sold Fred out too, but I thought it was lazy (non-existent) writing to not show how exactly she persuaded him that their road trip would bring glory to Gilead and reinforce their belief.

I guess Winslow going missing at the exact time Fred is arrested will probably help June to get away with it. People will think he sold out Waterford so he could go into hiding I guess.

Hopefully with Serena and Fred out of Gilead we will get to see a lot more of the outside world next season.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:12 PM on July 31


How convenient that the Martha who HAPPENED to be the cleaner for that room is one of the five women that June chose for saving. June has the most amazing luck. Truly, it's spectacular.

June is someone who "keeps her cool" (sez her household's Martha) but she didn't have the common sense to take a few minutes to just...wash the blood off and put her shoes back on so she could walk down the hall like she belonged there. FOR FUCK's SAKE.

(Also, she could have just not answered to Commander Meloni in Jezebel's and pretended not to know him. I mean, what's he going to do, tell on her?)

I did enjoy the irony of Fred letting Serena drive. I liked the way Yvonne Strahovski played that, having Serena smile out of visceral joy, keeping it unconnected to her betrayal agenda for the trip. It was a clever upside-down counterpoint to June's disembodiment mantra for enduring rape.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I'm on the fence about whether it was a setup. Serena has been selfish and stupid this entire series so I think it's possible she thought the American would actually help them defect and expected they would pick up the kid and live as a family. Serena wants what she wants and is petulant and mean and also incapable of realizing that people aren't just going to give her what she wants.

I too thought Commander Meloni was going to sodomize June. I'm irritated that they're using a suggested anal scene to remind us that he's bisexual. That's lazy and reductive.

Did anyone else think that the family they dropped in on were Mennonites hiding in plain sight?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 7:29 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


I've rewatched Fred getting arrested five times because it is just. So. Satisfying. I 100% think Serena set him up. (I'm not on board with her being redeemed in any way, I just think she's sick of his shit and will do anything to get closer to her fake daughter.)

I really like the character of Mark Tuello and I love how he was reciting the code and laws that Fred has broken. FUCK YOU, FRED. I HOPE YOU GET EXECUTED, YOU RAPIST PIECE OF SHIT.

Ahem. Sorry. The rest of the episode was fine. I need an episode or spin-off series about the Marthas' resistance. During the scene where they were questioning June, I was way more interested in them and what they've got going on than June's crazy plan. TELL ME MORE ABOUT BADASS, COMPETENT, QUIETLY FUCKING SHIT UP MARTHAS.
posted by Aquifer at 8:55 AM on August 1 [15 favorites]


Yeah, those cellar Marthas were amazing, particularly that one Boss Martha who chewed June out.

I'm not sure Serena set Fred up. I think the bubble in which she and Fred live in Gilead has led them to think they're untouchable. It probably never occurred to her that she was being played just to get Fred.

I think Serena now realises the price she's paid for Gilead has been far too high. She's had to give up everything she loved, her career was destroyed, she's been mutilated - she can't even have sex with her husband any more. At least I think that's the case, if my understanding of Gilead is right - that sex is only for procreation so if the women are 'barren' (it's never the men, obvs), then there can be no sex solely for pleasure between husband and wife. Hence the separate bedrooms for all the wives.
posted by essexjan at 9:32 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I was fascinated by the conversation Serena and Fred had outside the Mennonite B&B. When she talking about her writing career and asked, "How could you take that away from me?" HOW COULD YOU GIVE IT UP? When they showed their first Waterford flashback episode, they show Serena all excited to give up her designer clothes and jewelry and books and throwing her own book in the trash. What did either of them THINK Gilead would look like? What did she THINK it would feel like to give up her work and her identity and watch her husband rape another woman?

Gilead increasingly seems like a society designed by men with NO understanding of human psychology. When Lawrence mumbled that they underestimated maternal love, like, NO FUCKING SHIT YOU DID, DUDE. WHAT DID YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU TOOK PEOPLE'S CHILDREN FROM THEM?
posted by Aquifer at 10:12 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


There's a commenter on AVclub who says (replying to the reviewer):
Dude. You somehow missed a super important thing. Serena set Fred up. This has been a set up since she returned from Canada. She and Tulelo made this plan to get her over the border and Fred in prison. All the clues were always there. We just didn't see them because we assumed of course she'd betray June to get Nicole back. But she didn't. It's why she didn't turn June in for trying to kill her. And why. Despite us seeing she had not given luke the tape he later had it. I assume based on the promo that he is also in on the plan. It's probably why we have not seen much of Canada the past few weeks.

I don't think I'd go THAT far--that the plot actually dated back to ep 5--although I'd be interested in rewatching for clues (well, I'd be interested if this season hadn't been kind of a slog). However, there's no question that Serena set Fred up. It was clear throughout this episode.

My question is whether Serena is really still after Nichole, or if she's instead planning to join the leadership of some sort of movement in Canada to overthrow Gilead. The show has swung so wildly between presenting her as evil and presenting her as sympathetic--one of those is a cover for the other. I don't mean she can't be some of both (she is). But her fundamental motivation is going to be revealed for being one or the other. It would not surprise me if, given the suffering and repression she has suffered personally and has witnessed, she has decided to do penance by giving up her non-valid claim on Nichole, and taking up with the resistance against Gilead. (An echo of June's saying to Lawrence, "wouldn't it be funny if you turned out to be a hero.")
posted by torticat at 11:42 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


If Fred and Serena are going to the pokey, will we finally get Nick's paternity to be an issue?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 1:27 PM on August 1


If Fred and Serena are going to the pokey, will we finally get Nick's paternity to be an issue?

I would think so. Their whole claim that Nichole is 'their' daughter rests on Fred being the father. Presumably the Americans know from the tape that Nick is the real father. That leaves the Waterfords with no legitimate claim. What it means for Nichole's life with Luke and Moria who knows? And what does it imply for June in Gilead if it becomes public knowledge?
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:07 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I want Rita and The Marthas to be a thing. Still trying to figure out how one gets to be an Econowife.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 2:58 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I don't think I'd go THAT far--that the plot actually dated back to ep 5--although I'd be interested in rewatching for clues (well, I'd be interested if this season hadn't been kind of a slog). However, there's no question that Serena set Fred up. It was clear throughout this episode.

Yvonne Strahovski was definitely playing Serena with an undercurrent of that. She's too good in this part for it not to be true. It would explain Serena's abrupt about face to willing accomplice to Fred's propaganda, but why would the Swiss have pursued backdoor channels for them?

I want Rita and The Marthas to be a thing.

I want to be in a girl group called that. I love the increased profile of the Marthas network this season. It fuels my middle-aged resistance fantasies.
posted by gladly at 6:32 PM on August 1


Since Winslow bought her Lawrence-is-into-cuckolding cover story, why not just avoid his advances by saying: "Sorry. Has to be a black guy/girl/[whatever value of generic cuckold bullshit was situationally easiest.]" Winslow would have believed that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:46 PM on August 1


> Since Winslow bought her Lawrence-is-into-cuckolding cover story, why not just avoid his advances by saying: "Sorry. Has to be a black guy/girl/[whatever value of generic cuckold bullshit was situationally easiest.]" Winslow would have believed that.

I don't think he really bought it. I think he decided that it was an interestingly titillating thing to consider later, but eh, he doesn't really care why June is actually at Jezebel's, the important thing is that this opportunity to violate her fell into his lap and he's gonna take it.
posted by desuetude at 8:07 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


That scene at Jezebel's was incredibly upsetting. The rapes so far on the show have been quiet and calm, a hideous exertion of power without any outward violence. This one was outwardly violent and horrible, Winslow physically attacking June. I was sick they were going to do that for our entertainment. I appreciate the turn, she hits back, but oh god that was almost truly, triply hideous even for this show.

I hope this is all a turning point. June kills a rapist Commander and succeeds. Serena turns her war criminal monstrous husband in and succeeds. The Marthas' plan to get the children out in in a bit of chaos now, but will succeed. The End. But we know we have another season now, and of course nothing is ever so simple on this show anyway.

Lawrence continues to fascinate me. Now he's weak, looking for guidance and leadership. And June sees that and is right there to control him with a firm hand. I hope it holds.
posted by Nelson at 9:13 PM on August 2


(I realize in the sober light of morning that they've depicted physically violent rapes in the show before. I don't mean to diminish that. Still this episode felt like an escalation, one too far, and I would have quit the show forever if it weren't for June's defense.)
posted by Nelson at 9:48 AM on August 3


Enjoyed this episode, as it seemed to balance character stuff, plot advancement, and an exploration of Gilead World both geographically and otherwise, in a way I haven't experienced for a while. Plus a moving ending, something that feels a bit different (optimism?) yet reasonable for the show, thanks to Kate Bush and stuff. It's probably my favorite of the season but I've a short memory.

While I remember the show leaning on the idea that "you have to give the Canadians something of value", including in "previously" material, I don't see how I can read Serena as devious here. In this episode she seems so content and face-value in all of her interactions with her husband. This obviously would be in simple dramatic contrast with them getting arrested. And during the arrest scene, she seems really upset? Like, not wink-wink-upset? I feel like whatever happened was not her plan (and you know, that's continuity of drama 101), but maybe I wasn't watching closely enough. I'm looking at this scene again. One way to convey "mixed feelings/I did this" would be to have her look away or down and not really struggle or speak out. Instead, she is struggling, upset, looking toward Fred, etc.
posted by sylvanshine at 7:18 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


This obviously would be in simple dramatic contrast with them getting arrested. And during the arrest scene, she seems really upset? Like, not wink-wink-upset? I feel like whatever happened was not her plan (and you know, that's continuity of drama 101), but maybe I wasn't watching closely enough

I think even though this was in fact her plan that it can still be pretty upsetting, and I think this final scene is another tell. They are making a calm but concerted effort to tell Fred he is being arrested, what for, what jurisdiction, etc. Kind of a Miranda rights reading equivalent. But they are just pulling Serena away with no comments. I presume they are going to get her into a separate vehicle and then talk to her about next steps. It's also in their best interests that Fred believes Serena is arrested, so they can use that belief for leverage while trying to get him to talk/cooperate.
posted by mikepop at 7:28 AM on August 5


That leaves the Waterfords with no legitimate claim. What it means for Nichole's life with Luke and Moria who knows?

While I don't think this actually happened (because it would be too free of drama), I think this would have been a good chance for Serena to negotiate supervised visitation with Nichole.
American diplomat: We can get Serena Waterford to defect, but she would like to visit Nichole regularly.

Luke: Fuck no

Diplomat: She can trick Fred Waterford into coming with her, and he'll be arrested and tried for war crimes.

Luke: ...I'm listening.
Even without bringing Fred over, Serena herself is a huge asset in terms of knowledge of current Gilead and how it developed, people in leadership, etc. She's also a huge PR/diplomatic asset if she'll do the rounds and make speeches about life there and why she escaped.
posted by mikepop at 7:45 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


> I think even though this was in fact her plan that it can still be pretty upsetting, and I think this final scene is another tell. They are making a calm but concerted effort to tell Fred he is being arrested, what for, what jurisdiction, etc. Kind of a Miranda rights reading equivalent. But they are just pulling Serena away with no comments. I presume they are going to get her into a separate vehicle and then talk to her about next steps. It's also in their best interests that Fred believes Serena is arrested, so they can use that belief for leverage while trying to get him to talk/cooperate.

This was pretty much my exact interpretation. Even if she knew she was setting him up, actually watching it go down is pretty awful, plus she's undoubtedly upset by her own guilt and doubts. Additionally, she may have expected the Canadian authorities to have handled Fred through more of a negotiated, respectful, businesslike process, rather than an armed ambush on a back road. The latter is not very consistent with how they portrayed Canada's relations with Gilead in the Nichole PR situation.
posted by desuetude at 11:50 AM on August 5


Even without bringing Fred over, Serena herself is a huge asset in terms of knowledge of current Gilead and how it developed, people in leadership, etc.

And, with Fred arrested and Serena in limbo, possibly turned, and Commander Wilson dead, the Canadian refugees should be safe. There's no repatriation in the works, and I was legitimately afraid the show would make that choice when Wilson brought it up again to Fred.
posted by gladly at 8:02 PM on August 5


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