Welcome To D.C.
With more world building, a shocking glimpse at Washington D.C. and some beautiful cinematography throughout, The Handmaid’s Tale proves just why it’s one of the most engaging shows on TV right now. Some of the imagery is strikingly beautiful too and the haunting score combined with a look at America’s capital really hammers home just how deeply Gilead’s roots are now set in the United States.
We begin with June hoping Gilead’s prayers go unanswered as the country ramps up the pressure on Canada. In a bid to make a statement and sway the Canadian government, June and a handful of other Handmaids take the train to D.C. where the abundance of armed guards and defecation of iconic landmarks shows how serious the problem has now become. The Washington Monumental has been turned into a cross whilst the latter segments of the episode showcases just what’s happened to the Lincoln Memorial.
For now though, June sees most of the handmaids with muzzles and she’s taken to a red spot on the ground where she’s eventually reunited with the Waterfords. They’re then taken to a high Commander’s house where they’ll be staying. A handful of children run in, causing June’s expression to narrow as she realizes how many of these kids have been snatched away from their real parents. June struggles to get through to Serena soon after, whose grief runs so deep now she’s willing to do anything to bring Nicole back to Gilead.
June heads off for the night and tries talking to the handmaid in the house. To her horror, she realizes the woman has had her mouth stitched shut. From here, the Waterford’s put on another show; a plea for Nicole on camera which prompts the Canadians to agree to meet and talk. After speaking to Commander Waterford, they bring June in alone where she begs them to keep Nicole in Canada. They calmly remind her that Gilead is a very strong country with a lot of military weight behind them and don’t want this to result in a war. However, she agrees to help siphon information on Gilead in exchange for keeping Nicole safe in Canada. They want Commander Blaine (Nick) to help them so she sets out to make that happen.
While Waterford and Serena attempt to bring joy back into their relationship again, Nick and June meet in the dead of night to discuss her proposal. After some pursuasion, he agrees to help her but unfortunately, the Canadians wont do business with him. It turns out Nick was a soldier in the crusade for Gilead – and a high ranking one at that. Realizing that everything she’s known to be pure is a lie, she has a surprising heart to heart with Aunt Lydia where they talk about the current state of affairs in the country.
June then dons a muzzle and heads outside where she finds the Lincoln Memorial completely desecrated and missing half its head. It’s a significant moment too, given its symbolism around freedom and liberating slaves, and seeing it in this way only further underlines the sinister truth about Gilead. Serena shows up soon after and the two trade verbal blows, with June telling her she should have let Serena burn and that she will always feel empty.
As June heads outside and looks out upon the sea of red and white handmaids standing, watching her every move, Commander Waterford begins his televised prayer for Nicole. As hundreds of Handmaids watch June’s every move, she locks eyes with one and as she lowers to her knees, every handmaid follows suit, leaving the episode on a tantalizing note.
The Handmaid’s Tale delivers a really well written episode and arguably the best of the series, with the symbology and cinematography some of the strongest in the series’ history. The use of colour is as striking as ever, with plenty of overhead shots emphasizing that “God” is watching over Gilead’s capital. It’s a subtle inclusion but alongside multiple shots of June standing infront of wings, only reinforces the notion that Gilead is a warped version of Heaven on Earth, with June acting as a fallen angel. Of course, you could also interprete this as a phoenix rising from the ashes but either way, Handmaid’s Tale is a show that breeds on this sort of artistic decontruction.
Seeing more of America, and in particular Washington DC, feels like a well-earned treat amidst several seasons of methodically paced drama. Interesting times certainly lie ahead but if the rest of the episodes can match up to the same standard as this, we’re in for a real treat going forward.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!