The Handmaid's Tale: Pigs
April 29, 2021 9:44 AM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

On the run, an injured June and the fugitive Handmaids find refuge at a farm. In Gilead, an imprisoned Lawrence tries to avoid a death sentence. Aunt Lydia reels from the loss of 86 children on Angels' Flight.
posted by roolya_boolya (10 comments total)
For the first time ever I am watching the episodes shortly after they come out. It is 2021, and while the immediate fear of an election catapulting the US toward Gilead is over, I still can’t help but see all these Gilead commanders as extra evil Mike Pences.

As for this episode, I can’t stop thinking about Esther (mini farm wife) and her backstory. June said that Esther’s family sent her off to be married, but was it Esther’s real/original family? Or could she be like Hannah (but 5-8 years older), taken from her birth family and “reassigned” to a Gilead commander’s family? Would she have remembered the war as an elementary-aged kid? I felt like this episode was the first to poke at the multiple compounding layers of Gilead-related childhood trauma.
posted by Maarika at 9:53 AM on April 30, 2021

Prefaced with the fact that I thought this was a better episode than most from last season...

I honestly can't tell what this series is doing with June, and in the year and a half that it's been off the air, I've forgotten how frustrating that is. I rewatched the S3 finale, and it really seems like they're suggesting that she's losing her grip on reality more despite the progress her fight against Gilead is taking. And that's the problem, she's losing it, making rash decisions, but everything keeps working out just fine. Martha gets cold feet and runs off before your big jailbreak? Presented as a fatal problem, but then it just... isn't. Plot armor for June is one thing, but plot armor for all her plans (modulo losing a stone-throwing friend or two to an AR)... less interesting.

Now, taking this incredibly traumatized teenager and traumatizing her further by pretty much coercing her into carrying out the sentence June passed unilaterally? I really can't tell if they're taking her into "unhinged revenge antihero" territory or just "badass woman warrior". I'd assume the former, based on indications from the writing and direction, but up to this point, the showrunners can't seem to not center June's righteousness, or give any sort of indication that she's not a reliable narrator.

I enjoyed this episode purely based on how explicit June's descent is getting, in the hopes that they let it continue.
posted by supercres at 11:10 AM on April 30, 2021

And that's the problem, she's losing it, making rash decisions, but everything keeps working out just fine.

I thought the episode was ok, am somewhat tired of the show being Elizabeth Moss mugging for the camera while doing some insane shit absolute should not work, but does.

Asked my wife what she still liked about the show and she said "Elizabeth Moss being an absolute badass and fucking shit up."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 PM on April 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

During the past year, I re-watched both this show and The Good Place. I cringed every time June called her crew "girls." Not sure if it's because that's how Aunt Lydia talks down to them all the effing time or if it's because Janet was always "not a girl." Either way, I know June is trying to keep the women together and functioning, and she's maybe relying on some of the Gilead brainwashing to do it.

I'm also wondering about the insistence of what seems like a lot of the wives being smokers, including this child Mrs. Keyes. Mrs. Waterford was also making a point about it up in Canada. Having personally quit nicotine a bit over 3 years ago, I'm still pretty sensitive to when smoking or vaping get used on camera. Especially in more recent productions. With the latest round of very young wives (they are still children, really) who are apparently expected to be reproductive at some point, it seems like they would be forbidden things similarly to how the handmaids had been treated. After all, Aunt Lydia had pointed out to Mrs. Waterford that smoking was bad for the baby when Offred was pregnant.

I'm curious about how this season is going to play out and look forward to watching and discussing with you all.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:52 AM on May 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Elizabeth Moss being an absolute badass and fucking shit up

I guess this episode is why it feels like a turn to me— she’s gone from fucking up the tools of Gilead to fucking up a teenager who’s just as much of a victim as she is. I just don’t fully trust that the show sees this as “fucking up a teenager” instead of “turning a teenager into a badass warrior for The Resistance”.
posted by supercres at 1:45 PM on May 1, 2021

That teenager was already fucked up by Gilead, June simply pushed her to get a bit of revenge.

Should June have done that? Probably not, simply because a missing soldier draws attention, the last thing they need. But as a way of hitting back? I can't fault the character too much for that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:19 PM on May 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I found the guard's death incredibly satisfying, although disturbing in the same measure. Very few people who have been violated and harmed like Mrs. Keyes ever get to take their justice into their own hands and see it done. And I think this episode also shows why we don't let people enact their own justice as well.

In any case, I really want this season to focus on the women characters and focus on how they are striking back at the regime and people that have harmed them so cruelly. Whether through violent means or not.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:40 AM on May 5, 2021

It's funny to love The Leftovers as much as I do and watch all the fancy people smoking on Handmaid's Tale. Are they smoking because This Is Explicitly Not America?

I am almost caught up, will see if I can get to watching 2 and 3 tonight.
posted by wellred at 5:48 AM on May 6, 2021

Interesting to read this thread - I read the situation with the guard and June's verdict very differently. It seemed to me she did it in large part to manipulate Esther, and was having some complicated feelings about that fact.

Esther is itching for her revenge, for action, and earlier in the episode lashes out at June and others when she feels like they're not going to help her get that. June points out that their entire precarious position here depends on Esther, a traumatized teenager.

June setting it up so Esther kills the guard on June's orders is not the healthy thing to do. I think June knows that, but does it anyway as the most efficient way to keep Esther on-side. Esther will be more likely to listen if June tells her they need to lie low again in the future, now that June has given her a little of her revenge. Note also "make me proud" - that's June reinforcing her own role in Esther's revenge to Esther. June doesn't actually seem okay with what happened, and in better circumstances would have made different decisions with regard to Esther.

June also doesn't want to slip into the complacency that some of the other women would choose. She does want to act, and setting up the death of the guard the way she did pulls the other women towards her as a leader and towards more action in the future.

While June definitely wants revenge... the entire thing felt very calculated on June's part, mostly about the effects it would have on her group and their situation rather than the guard himself.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:05 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Just starting this season, feeling ambiguous about even watching. As Brandon Blatcher said, it's a bit too much "Elizabeth Moss mugging for the camera while doing some insane shit". But then it keeps surprising and I thought this first episode was awfully good.

My favorite part was the ambiguity of the morality of June's actions with Esther. Most of the comments here seem strongly opinionated one way or the other and mad that it wasn't clearer. I chose to understand it just as ambiguous in a way that really highlights just how terrible the situation is. The fulcrum of the episode is when June snaps to her friend "we are not safe here", highlighting how precarious and temporary their situation is. Seriously, their protectors are a senile Commander and his impetuous 15 year old child bride? It's a bad situation. So yes June wants to control Esther, but she also sympathizes with her, and she also wants her perpetrator dead but she also wants to serve justice. The final moment she chooses a form of control over Esther, her act of volition to take control of the whole situation. It's kind of awful but also totally understandable.
posted by Nelson at 11:08 AM on June 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

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