The Handmaid's Tale: Progress
June 9, 2021 5:25 AM - Season 4, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Serena and Fred greet unexpected visitors from Gilead. Aunt Lydia deals with a hunger strike at the Red Center. June and Nichole have a reunion.
posted by roolya_boolya (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Excellent episode, possibly the best of the season.

Question: have we seen characters other than June shot close up center frame before? They shot Luke this way in this episode during his and June's conversation about meeting Nick (mirroring June's own center frame close-up), and it struck me as unusual for the show.
posted by dysh at 8:16 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Is there a reason why Nick didn't just defect to Canada? It seemed like the obvious next move for him. If the Canadians can accept Waterford's sins for his intelligence I don't understand why Nick, with his knowledge of Gilead intelligence, couldn't have just handed himself over and sought asylum alongside June.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:19 PM on June 9


Did I miss Nick getting married? I saw him put on a wedding ring after June left but don’t remember
posted by one4themoment at 3:56 PM on June 9


wasn't he reluctantly paired off to a too-young bride last season?
posted by kokaku at 6:52 PM on June 9


wasn't he reluctantly paired off to a too-young bride last season?

That too-young bride ran away with a young Guardian and the pair was subsequently drowned in a pool for refusing to disavow their relationship. Presumably another too-young bride has been provided for Nick in the meantime, especially now that he's a big deal commander.
posted by dysh at 7:45 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I KNOW they're both awful people and literally the worst, but the Putnams crack me up. They're both so nasty and delivered such sharps slaps to Waterford faces. I loved it.
posted by Aquifer at 8:32 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


YES-- excellent episode. So much more interesting than last week's.

O-T Fagbenle probably isn't given sufficient scope for his talent in this show, but he's really excellent. His acting in the scene in which he suggests to June that she meet with Nick was outstanding (and IMO heartbreaking).

Speaking of heartbreaking, wow, that "good-bye" to Nick. Seems clearly set up to be the last time June sees him (alive, or alive and not dying in any case).

Not the last we're seeing of Nick, though. So he's got a wife we haven't been introduced to yet. Is he using a handmaid? Would probably get a little too cast-incestuous for him to wind up having Esther assigned to him, I guess.

I love Nick, but I don't trust him. Carrying out the order to bomb Chicago was really fucked up. And yeah, I too wonder why he doesn't just escape to Canada. Seems like he's got his bread buttered in Gilead and is okay with it (assuming he thinks he couldn't be with June in Canada even if he cut & run)... he's complicated--same way Lawrence is--and I don't trust either of them.

So Lawrence gives Janine to Lydia as an appropriate object for her to take out her anger on--and instead Lydia is treating her like a pet. I'm not sure if this is sloppy writing or over-convenient plotting or a train of events that makes perfect sense and I'm just not getting it.

I do suspect that Janine and Esther will be cooking up some resistance together. Of COURSE neither of them is as quiescent as they appear.

Have no idea what the significance was of the "Last Supper" framing of the Aunts' dinner!!--with Lydia in the place of Jesus! That seemed really out of character for this show, which is rarely campy.

I loved loved LOVED Putnam's "We will continue to send you our thoughts and prayers." Not that HT has been about gun rights in any way, but it was still so great to see Waterford on the wrong end of that sentiment.
posted by torticat at 9:06 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Can someone remind me about the setup in Gilead--are all the Commanders' wives supposedly unable to have children, and all the supposedly fertile women used as handmaids, so as to spread the wealth around (sorry for the flippancy)?

I don't actually remember seeing a Commander & Wife who were just able to have kids on their own. Which seems odd; even if birthrates are down, there's no reason why none of the wives would be able to carry a pregnancy to term.

I'm asking because I'm trying to figure out the full significance of Nick's having a wife. Would he necessarily be using a handmaid? When he was previously married, he was just a driver, and I don't think having children would necessarily have been expected of him.
posted by torticat at 9:18 PM on June 9


Well, the difference with how she greets Nick is stark compared to her attitude with Luke. And I can't stand Luke - which I think is the point. He's seems so angry at her for doing what she had to, just to survive. And he doesn't even know 1% of it. He seems actively jealous and hurt about her relationship with Nick. And he takes it out on her rather than dealing with it himself. It's especially glaring given how Luke and June met anyway. And he pushes her to USE that relationship for his one desires rather than honor it.

I think it all really shows that maybe their foundation of a relationship isn't all it ever seemed to be. Of course it's painful to know your spouse may love someone else, or may have loved some one. But the desperation involved in the whole situation should make it understandable. She was literally forced together with Nick, then he actually looked out for her, when nearly no one else did. Luke should be grateful that someone cared that much, that someone saw June the way he sees her. Someone you can care for. Yet he's still upset and won't even talk to her about the relationship. He does expect her to just come back and be "mom" and "wife".

Can someone remind me about the setup in Gilead--are all the Commanders' wives supposedly unable to have children, and all the supposedly fertile women used as handmaids, so as to spread the wealth around (sorry for the flippancy)?

No, if I recall, there was the whole bit about the young girls being trained to be wives once they started menstruating. Hence why Nick's first wife was so young and they didn't have a handmade. She had been raised to be a wife. I think they only get one if the wife has been shown to be infertile.

(I've been watching these late at night, but I should have been on here the whole season! Oops! Last season for me, wasn't great. But this one is looking up!)
posted by Crystalinne at 12:32 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Hmmm, I read Luke differently, even though I don't know that things can ever be restored between him and June.

In spite of Luke's early infidelity with June (before they were married), there's been no indication that he'd been other than faithful to her while waiting in Canada, and he had spent all that time pulling whatever strings he could to find Hannah (and to try to get June out). It's an interesting parallel, actually, June's dual discovery in the same episode of the information Luke had collected and then the information Nick had compiled for her. Both men clearly love her, and I think she loves both of them, although her passion by now is clearly for Nick.

Luke might be clumsy at times in his dealings with June ("now I understand everything"--when he clearly doesn't and can't), but he's also trying. He went to the hearing because he wanted to understand. He gives her time and space and tries to talk her out of her self-blame about Hannah. Maybe most important, he took on Nichole for June's sake and clearly adores the baby, who is not his.

I don't think he "used" June and Nichole to get to Nick; I think he made a sacrifice in proposing that, and it hurt him to do it. It seemed to me that he and June had a mutual understanding about that.

Maybe I'm just partial to Fagbenle, though, and that colors my interpretation. :) I really thought his conversation with June about meeting Nick was a fantastic portrayal of someone battling jealousy, longing for his family back, and accepting with a lot of pain that things with his wife are complicated/different from how they used to be. Couldn't be easy, after all, to hear her say outright, "I think Nick would do anything for me and for Nichole, yeah."
posted by torticat at 2:52 AM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Hence why Nick's first wife was so young and they didn't have a handmade. She had been raised to be a wife. I think they only get one if the wife has been shown to be infertile.

yes, econowives seem to be in a different category that's been sort of glanced over on the show. I'm not sure though that Nick at that point, as a mere driver, would have been given a handmaid, even if he and Eden had failed to conceive. Have we ever seen a handmaid with any couple other than a commander & wife?

And still, again, why does it just so happen that ALL the wives are unable to bear children? I'd like to be corrected if I'm wrong about this.

Also, commanders are expected to marry, but I don't think we've seen any of them given assigned wives? It seems like they marry for love, or at least have the autonomy to choose their own partners? Could a commander marry an econowife? What puts some women in the category that they are eligible to be wives--just that they've never committed adultery or other sexual "sins"?

Sorry to go on about this. I think I've forgotten some of the world-building. Or maybe it was always kind of arbitrary/plot-driven and we were just supposed to go with it.
posted by torticat at 3:59 AM on June 10


And still, again, why does it just so happen that ALL the wives are unable to bear children? I'd like to be corrected if I'm wrong about this.

Also, commanders are expected to marry, but I don't think we've seen any of them given assigned wives? It seems like they marry for love, or at least have the autonomy to choose their own partners? Could a commander marry an econowife? What puts some women in the category that they are eligible to be wives--just that they've never committed adultery or other sexual "sins"?


The commanders we see who I would characterize as getting married for love (Waterford, Putnam, Lawrence) are a) older b) involved in the original Gilead insurrection, and would have gotten married to their wives pre-Gilead. I think we can assume that newer commanders, like Nick, would be assigned wives, and would not be able to marry for love/marry an econowife (as they are of a different class). And yes, I believe wives are eligible if they have not committed adultery or other sexual "sins". I think it's also likely that commanders' wives (or even drivers' wives, as we see with Eden) must come from particularly "good" true-believer families.

As for why the wives are unable to bear children, 3 things: a) we've been told several times that it's most often the men who are sterile, not the women b) some of the wives are older and possibly past their child-bearing years c) wives and commanders are not permitted to have sex with one another (if it's assumed they can't conceive? we see this with the Waterfords) so it's likely that after some determined period of attempted conception, there is no longer ever an opportunity for wives to bear children.
posted by dysh at 6:23 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Gotcha, dysh, and thanks.

But regarding
a) we've been told several times that it's most often the men who are sterile, not the women
...what would be the point of pairing them with fertile handmaids, then? I guess that to test the Commanders for virility would be to question their godly manliness? If it's most often the men who are the problem, then what's the point of subjecting everyone across the board to the monthly ceremony?
posted by torticat at 7:29 AM on June 10


...what would be the point of pairing them with fertile handmaids, then? I guess that to test the Commanders for virility would be to question their godly manliness?

Yes. And the point of the ceremony (and the whole Gilead setup) is power and control, rather than the named goal of increasing fertility. It seems to be rather standard practice for handmaids to be impregnated by doctors, guardians, etc. rather than commanders.
posted by dysh at 8:06 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The cruelty is the point.
posted by emelenjr at 8:23 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


And still, again, why does it just so happen that ALL the wives are unable to bear children? I'd like to be corrected if I'm wrong about this.

In season two we are briefly introduced to Commander Horace, whose wife is pregnant. The interaction between the commanders in that scene does seem to suggest that it's unusual, but it's not clear to me if fertility among commanders and their wives is lower than the general population.
posted by jedicus at 12:41 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I think Luke wants to compartmentalize and also has sort of bought into the hype of the Angel Flight and June as a figure, but June is going through it.

Kind of wondering when there's going to be a 'refugee influencer' subplot, considering the Canada/USA/Gilead situation looks to be moving that way to being negotiation over violence. Gilead supporters greeting the Waterfords. I want to see how the information warfare plays out in the show now.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 3:32 PM on June 11


Well, more has happened in this season than in season 3, but I think something's gonna really need to happen in the final episode for me to be able to say something "happened" in this season. It better be good because, sheesh.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:59 PM on June 15


Hey it's Nick! Good ol useless Nick. Did he have a turnaround? He seemed so useful this episode! He came to the meeting all prepared. He'd done his research and gave June exactly what she wanted without her even having to ask. Nick, being useful, imagine that! Funny thing about that wedding ring though...

Nick is useful, sure. Useful to Gilead. He's acting as their agent. The intel he handed June is false, a trap. Your daughter is fine but deep in Colorado where no one could possibly get her out? He knows June is going to try to get her out. Out of Colorado, the center stronghold of Gilead. And June's desperate enough to fall for it.

I realize I'm out on a limb here putting my theory down knowing there's another episode or two broadcast I haven't even seen yet. But that was my read on the Nick situation. I mean I believed he was genuinely trying to be helpful until the wedding ring. And yeah, why didn't he just defect to Canada? I'll tell you why, because he's made his commitment to Gilead. He's got his wife and his command and he's working his way up the ranks now trying to reel in June. The final, worst betrayal. It's hideous.

I was a bit annoyed with the Last Supper imagery for the Aunts dinner at the Red Center. Right down to 13 wives (plus the servant, Janine). OK so who's the Judas? I think they just used the imagery because they could, not because it meant anything.

The scenes with poor Esther were heartbreaking. Janine is so confusing. She has a strong moral center but then she's so gullible. I think she genuinely believes she's helping Esther. It's just heartbreaking all around, there's no way those women can win.
posted by Nelson at 10:15 PM on June 17


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