Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Handmaid’s Tale 2x04 and 2x05 Review: "Other Women" & "Seeds" (Source Material Expiration Date?) [Contributor: Melanie]

"Other Women" & "Seeds"
Original Airdates: May 9 and May 16, 2018

A happy belated Mother’s Day week to all (especially Yvonne Strahovski who — playing against type — just announced she’s pregnant with her first child)! What is a more wonderful way to spend this glorious time in the celebration of mothers than to continue to delve deeper into the chaotic and horrifying post-apocalyptic world of misogyny? In these episodes, we see a reversal of fortunes for June — meaning, she goes back to exactly where she started.

To be honest, it did feel a tad like the past few episodes of her escape attempt were filler material if she only ended right back where she started. But thus is the symptom of pushing a piece of media past its source material cut-off. 


After June is apprehended by the Guardians, she’s chained down to a bed by Aunt Lydia who offers to send her back to the Waterfords if she behaves. June agrees. Commander Waterford believes her disappearance to be a kidnapping, while Serena is less benevolent in her reaction, attacking June before ultimately relenting for the sake of her unborn child. Serena shares her joy by throwing herself a baby shower where June sees that Nick is alive and unharmed, evidently still undetected for his part in her escape. Unfortunately, Ofglen had her tongue ripped out for her part in June’s rebellion.

To continue to force June’s hand,  Aunt Lydia shows her the body of Omar — the man who had been keeping her hidden — where it hangs at the wall. His wife was forced to become a Handmaid and his son was sent to another family. June accepts the blame for what happened to them.

In the flashbacks, June deals with Luke’s ex-wife who brings more hints of the rising theocratic tide when she insists that their wedding vows were “before God,” and therefore must be honored. June rebuffs her and later, the ex-wife watches June, Luke, and Hannah at dinner together.

In the next episode, June seems to be having some sort of health trouble when she starts bleeding in the midst of her pregnancy. Scared, she keeps the information to herself. However, Nick takes notice of June’s apparent melancholy and stress and brings his concerns to Mrs. Waterford. She, in turn, goes to Fred about the issue. But she also points out Nick’s apparent concern for their Handmaid. Fred then arranges for Nick to be married to a woman named Eden in recognition of the work done by the Guardians. During the celebrations, Nick finds June unconscious and she is rushed to the hospital. When June comes to, she learns the baby is okay but steels herself in her resolve to get herself and her child free from Gilead.

Meanwhile in the Colonies, Janine insists Emily keep faith by assuring her that God is watching over them. Emily is not uplifted by Janine’s tactics, even her organizing a wedding for a sick worker. Emily feels pessimism for their position and resents Janine’s attempt to falsely bring hope. Ultimately, the sick worker succumbs to her illness.


Now let's get back to my original issue with the recent episodes. I do think that The Handmaid's Tale is one of the best-written shows out there right now. Additionally, it’s visually stunning and incredibly impactful. I’m just having trouble getting over the hurdle of continued story. As I mentioned, June’s doomed escape attempt felt like filler — perhaps to get to the season’s extra three-episode mark. It seems to me that we’re taking a turn toward more plot-oriented action, rather than a focus on the overall commentary that last season delivered.

Season one was not, of course, a complete adaptation of the book either — nor does any adaptation have a requirement to be 100% faithful to its source material. But I think about Atwood’s original intention of her book and look now at the show which has taken a turn for high-stakes plot points and entertainment value. Season one was June’s story — a look into her life as bigger and more complicated pieces of plot moved around her, eventually sucking her in. This season, the story is about a wider set of characters, a larger world, and it’s taking a leaf from Lost’s book with the past and present timelines. (Though I will say that the flashes into the past showcase some eerie stuff and serve as a necessary warning for The Handmaid's Tale's audience.)

I’m curious to see how this stretch of episodes will look from beginning to end — as the sum of their parts by the culmination of the season, rather than dissected pieces of a larger story. And with The Handmaid's Tale greenlit for a third season, you can bet the writers do have a larger story they’re working toward.


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