The Handmaid’s Tale has always reveled in its slow pace but has always felt like it had a purposeful narrative to drive it forward. For those few episodes that didn’t adhere to this, Handmaid’s Tale always relied on its artistry and gorgeous cinematography to see it through. This week’s episode abandons both to deliver the worst episode in the show’s history, one that feels utterly pointless and fails to move the plot in a meaningful direction.
We begin with June in hospital with Ofmatthew. Forced to kneel before her walking partner, she begins to go crazy singing ‘Heaven is a place on earth’ before informing us that Ofmatthew is essentially brain dead but being kept alive as a vessel for the child. Its been over 30 days since she’s been there and June is struggling to remain sane.
After an extended period of time on her knees, June struggles to her feet in the middle of the night and squeezes the breathing apparatus, with every intention of killing Ofmatthew. As the machines beep urgently, she shuffles back whence she came before suddenly cutting to Aunt Lydia and the girls praying with her the next morning. June decides to pray for her to die instead before pleading with Aunt Lydia to be let home, which she incredulously refuses.
As day turns to night, June finds a scalpel in the deposit box and contemplates killing Ofmatthew until Janine arrives and convinces her otherwise. However, June clutches the scalpel tightly and keeps hold of it for the next day, determined to kill someone. By chance, Serena enters the room and as June struggles to her feet again, she lunges at Mrs Waterford while the room is empty and slashes her arm. Serena easily overpowers her, looking at her former handmaid with pity as she tells June she was supposed to be one of the strong ones.
The Doctor arrives soon after and it turns out Serena vouched for her, saying June cut herself. He comforts June and offers to patch her hand up. As he gives her stitches, June confesses she was going to kill Serena. After some words of encouragement from the doctor, June goes to sleep only to be awakened from her sleep to hear Ofmatthew’s monitors beeping repeatedly. The baby is coming. As blood seeps into the sheets, doctors hurry onto the scene and cut her open, taking the baby out and making sure it’s still alive. With the work done, the doctors nonchalantly declare that Ofmatthew wont survive much longer.
From here, we then cut to the next day where it appears June is allowed to leave the hospital. As she steps outside and feels the rain on her face, she changes her mind, deciding to stay with Ofmatthew after all. Aunt Lydia smiles warmly at her before offering a red eye patch to Janine, as June heads back inside again.
After 9 episodes of promising a revolution and fighting back, June promises Natalie (Ofmatthew) that she’s going to fight and get all the children out. She admits she doesnt know how though and finishes the episode by singing Heaven is a place on Earth again.
Before I get into why this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the worst in the show’s history, it’s worth mentioning again that I love this show. Before this season, I’d easily rank it as one of my top 5 TV shows of all time and for the first season alone, The Handmaid’s Tale is truly a work of art. By comparison, this week’s episode feels directionless and artistically jarring against what we’ve seen before.
With blues, greens and greys seeping into the colour palette, some of the scenes feel tonally inconsistent and worse, bear no dramatic weight or thematic relevance to the big picture. At the end of the episode we really don’t see any plot progression here beyond June forgiving OfMatthew, which easily could have been shown in a 10 minute segment tops during another episode.
With a 10 year plan for The Handmaid’s Tale, this recent episode feels in danger of falling into The Walking Dead waters of filler. There’s been a few hints this year of the plot meandering off into meaningless tangents but none have really delved as far off track as this week’s episode. It’s such a shame too as going into this series a lot of excitement and buzz felt geared around the upcoming revolution. 9 episodes in there’s been little to suggest the show is anywhere near starting this and the radio silence in Canada for the last few weeks feels like the entire plot line has been sidelined.
With 4 episodes to go I hope this is a proverbial deep breath before plunging into a meaningful narrative to see us through to the finale but right now it’s difficult to see where this is coming from. The show feels directionless, unable to pull the trigger for fear of traveling down a road with big consequences. Ironically the safe path may have an adverse affect and with time slipping away, the season feels in danger of leaving its fans impatient and frustrated.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!