The Road To Nowhere
As a general rule of thumb, I usually give things half a season before critiquing heavily over pacing or plot development. I’ve given The Handmaid’s Tale the benefit of the doubt for a good while now but this week is really where things start to become unraveled. With no plot development, little in the way of characterisation and a toned down artistic touch, The Handmaid’s Tale delivers an underwhelming episode, and worse, one that actually undoes some of the narrative work from the past half of a season.
We begin the episode with a public hanging before Ofmatthew and June head to the supermarket together where rhey discuss childbirth. Once there, June liaises with the Martha in charge of looking after Hannah. June tells her she wants to get them out with the help of Commander Lawrence but in order to do so, she wants to see Hannah first.
She hurries home and frantically asks where the Commander is, knowing that she can see Hannah if she gets to Brooklyn by 3pm that day. With Joseph gone, she convinces Mrs Lawrence to head outside with her instead. After an awkward encounter with Mrs Putnam, June soon learns that Mrs Lawrence and Joseph attempted to have children at one point.
Meanwhile, Serena and Fred continue to work on bringing Nichole back to Gilead. They head to a party in the evening and they’re both separated into their own groups before dancing together. Up in Canada, Emily and Moira discuss past relationships before heading off to protest, putting pressure on ministers over Nichole’s refugee status. The consequences of their actions land them in prison.
June and Mrs Lawrence then make it to the school but the guards refuse to let June in. She runs around the walls and hears the children playing before collapsing on the ground. After a fruitless pursuit, she heads back home where June continues her day to day chores, holding the noose rope ready for a public execution. Holding back her shock, the Martha that helped her arrange a meeting with Hannah is hung.
The Handmaids disperse, leaving June in quiet contemplation, watching the lifeless corpse before hurrying off with the others. Ofmatthew throws a snidy comment at her prompting June to turn round and confront her fellow handmaid. It turns out Ofmatthew was the one who told Aunt Lydia about the conspiracy. June removes her wings and grabs Ofmatthew by the throat, screaming in her face. Restrained by the others, she walks off alone.
If you missed this episode and continued the season, you probably wouldn’t be missing much if I’m honest. It pains me to say it too because as I’ve said before, The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favourite series but I’m inclined to agree with those questioning the direction the writers are taking. Serena’s character devolution has really not worked at all, the rebellion feels like a million miles away and worse, the Canadian refugee story appears to be regressing. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see all the refugees put back into Gilead by season’s end.
Whilst I’m not suggesting Handmaid’s Tale abandon its methodical pace that’s dominated much of the run-time, there’s also a distinct difference between dragging a story out unnecessarily and building toward a climactic finish. The teasing nods toward a rebellion and the gorgeous cinematography can only go so far and this week proves as much.
The Handmaid’s Tale feels like an hourglass about to run out of sand. There’s only so much patience one can have with a meandering story like this and unless this week is the proverbial deep breath before an explosive second half to the season, The Handmaid’s Tale feels in danger of fizzing out long before it should.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!