Summary: June and Lawrence put their plan into motion, but things go awry when a martha arrives in the daylight and is reported to have been seen. Lawrence wants to back out but June forces him to continue. Lawrence decides to stay in Gilead while June and the others escort the kids to the airport. A guardian patrol is barring the way so the handmaids and marthas cause a distraction, allowing the kids and the remaining marthas to get on the plane and escape. June and Janine are shot and badly wounded, but they survive. The plane lands safely in Canada. In Canada, Fred pettily throws Serena under the bus by suggesting that she was complicit in Nick raping June, getting Serena arrested.
The Good: Sometimes simple and predictable storytelling is absolutely the right way to handle things. What I expected and wanted from this episode was a tense and dramatic episode centering only around June actually enacting the plan of getting the 52 kids out of Gilead. And that is exactly what we got. This show has consistently enjoyed making storylines way more complex than they need to be, but episodes like this one prove that complexity doesn't necessarily make an episode better. A simple episode that is executed well can easily be better than a sloppily written episode that has more depth to it.
The escape of the children from Gilead is a rare story that was built up across several episodes, and that played a big part in making the moment as successful as it was. The process of the kids escaping was really effective and it worked as a joyful moment that provided some much-needed hope into the world of Gilead. I thought that the handmaids and marthas attacking the one guardian patrol was a very strong scene and it was the most heroic that the victims of Gilead have ever been. This was a lovely moment of hope and strength that worked as a climax for the season.
The scenes at the airport in Canada were even better. The arrival of the children and marthas was a rare victory over Gilead for the rebels. The moment hits hard and is surprisingly emotional as Rita meets with Emily and Luke. Furthermore, this scene marks the first time a rebellious move has actually had a significant impact in saving lives and fighting back against Gilead, finally giving us some pay-off for the show's endless promises of rebellion.
June's determination to ensure that the kids get out was a very good story to follow. Her desperation when Maggie nearly ruins her plans is easy to understand and I really liked her choice to draw a gun on Maggie, with her willing to kill Maggie before letting Kiki go back. The prior scene where June got to empathize a little bit with Kiki was also very strong and it did a nice job of bringing June's emotional state to the forefront of her decision to draw a gun on Maggie.
The scenes with Lawrence were strong, as always. He came off as pretty heroic in his final scene as he says goodbye to June, and I did enjoy June mouthing off to him earlier in the episode as she attempted to force Lawrence to stick to the plan.
I liked the scenes with the Waterfords in Canada. Fred would be petty enough to throw Serena under the bus for betraying him, and it was very satisfying to see the walls close in on Serena, providing us with some sweet catharsis as Serena's plan falls apart right in front of her.
The Bad: I get that the show was trying to say that this episode was the point where June went from a victim to a major rebellious leader. The existence of that opening scene suggests as much. But the story doesn't work at all for me because June hasn't really been a victim for so long. I can't recall the last time that June has been abused without her acting out in some way, so it's hard to relate with June as a victim in this season.
I thought the scene of June pointing the gun at Kiki was very forced and it was difficult to buy into why June would do this. I don't buy into June being so desperate that she points a gun at Kiki. The scene simply existed because it was dramatic, not because it was logical.
I found it odd that Serena was convicted at the word of a war criminal. Surely they would need some actual proof of her involvement. Also consensual sex isn't rape, Tuello claiming that it is was very stupid.
The Unknown: What was Janine's gift that she gave to June?
Will Janine and June be fine after getting shot? What will happen to them when Gilead discovers what they did? What will Lydia's reaction be?
How will Gilead react to the child smuggling? Will they demand returns from Canada? Will this lead to war? Will Lawrence be punished for his actions? Or will they remain a secret?
What consequences will Serena face?
Best Moment: The airport scenes.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This was a very good finale that had some emotional moments.
This season was a major disappointment. It started well enough but then the middle of the season put the show in a slump as the writers stalled the story, wrote sloppy side-plots, and completely failed to produce emotional moments. There were some good episodes towards the end, but the show mostly didn't recover and I still ended the season feeling underwhelmed. Funnily enough, I thought that this could have been a really strong season if it was written better, but it never lived up to its full potential. This show continues to get worse with every season and it isn't showing any signs of learning from past mistakes, so I'm not feeling very hopeful about season 4's quality. I'm unsure if I will be reviewing that season next year due to my declining interest in the show.
Summary: Billy accepts June's plan and June is ecstatic. News arrives of the Waterfords arrest and that Winslow has gone missing. Mrs. Winslow comes by and Eleanor nearly reveals the plan to smuggle out children. June shouts at her upsetting her. Eleanor commits suicide and June sees her slowly dying, but she lets her die. Lawrence is distraught during the funeral but seems to suspect something about June. Serena's betrayal is confirmed and Fred is angry at her. Serena is allowed some time with Nichole but only after Moira shouts at her. Luke goes to speak with Fred who refuses to give any valuable information. Fred infuriates Luke who strikes him.
The Good: Elisabeth Moss is fantastic as per usual. I love how she conveyed June's excitement and happiness early in the episode. She has actual power now, 52 kids are going to be saved from Gilead and the Waterfords are facing some sweet comeuppance back in Canada. Everything is going perfectly from June, and Elisabeth Moss is able to convey a light in June's eyes that wasn't there in any prior episode. She is ecstatic about everything that has happened and for the first time in a long time, she is actually looking forward to what is coming up.
This makes Eleanor nearly revealing the secret plan to Mrs. Winslow such a scary moment. In this one scene, June is faced to look at the reality of her actually falling back down to just another handmaid. After doing all of the hard work to get to the top, it's unbearable for her so she lashes out at Eleanor to ensure that the plan goes along perfectly. But she goes the extra mile. When she is faced with an opportunity to rid herself of any risk by letting Eleanor die, she takes it, and in one of the show's darkest scenes, June simply lets Eleanor pass away quietly. The moment is shot perfectly and it gives me chills, and it reminds me a lot of the scene in "Breaking Bad" where Walt lets Jane die when he has a chance to save her. Of course this moment isn't executed quite as well (see: The Bad), but it still hits the mark.
Lawrence's reaction to Eleanor's death is pretty heartbreaking. He has been one of the best parts of the season, and his motives are pretty clearly defined. He loves his wife more than anything else, so it really destroys him to lose her. But Lawrence isn't stupid, and June seems oddly unperturbed by Eleanor's death to him. It seems like June and Lawrence are on-course for a major confrontation in the season finale.
The scenes in Canada are good for the most part. It's satisfying to see Moira trash Serena, just as it's satisfying to see Luke get a good, clean hit on Fred. It's refreshing to see the Waterfords in a powerless position and it lets their real character show, not the fake facade that they have been putting on for way too many scenes in this season.
The Bad: There's something lacking with Eleanor's death. In "Breaking Bad", Jane's death was the climax of a despairing episode that built slowly and intricately to Walt's fateful decision. Eleanor's death doesn't get the same treatment and there are only a couple of moments before it that allow us to buy into June's decision. The death isn't a major climax like Jane's was, it's just another underwhelming big moment in a season that has been filled with underwhelming big moments that haven't gotten the appropriate amount of set-up to make them impactful.
June continues to get away with anything and everything and it is becoming more frustrating with every episode. In the last two episodes, June has been responsible for the deaths of two important people, yet she has currently faced no consequences for it. Somehow it's easier to get away with murder in Gilead than it is in the real world. It's frustrating that Winslow's disappearance has been attributed to the Americans. Were their no cameras to track where he went? Did nobody notice him go into Jezebel's and never come out? Were there really no pieces of evidence left behind to track where he had went? It's absurdly easy. I'll make a comparison with "Breaking Bad" again to demonstrate how this story is really lacking. "Grilled" was a hugely eventful episode in season 2 of "Breaking Bad" that led to the death of a major character. The consequences of his death were explored for 3 full episodes after his death, and the entire following episode was spent covering up his murder. The story was fleshed out and satisfying because of the time dedicated to it. Winslow's death is cheap and underwhelming because of how quickly it got brushed aside without any consequences.
I think that June letting Eleanor die was a poor direction to take June's character. We have already explored the darkness inside June with the Ofmatthew story earlier this season. Do we really need to see more of it? This show is very low on characters I genuinely empathize with and care for, so it's dangerous to put June on such a dark path, especially when her actions have started to become more and more frustrating for me. Once I stop caring about June as a person, I will have lost most of my interest in the show. The show needs to be very careful with where it goes next. Unfortunately, the messy writing of this season hasn't got my hopes up at all.
I still find myself disconnected with Serena's storyline. Not letting us know why Serena set Fred up is a huge mistake. Since we don't know what Serena sacrificed Fred for, we don't understand the significance of her actions. Furthermore, Serena seemed to genuinely care about Fred in their reunion scene which contradicts the idea that she still hates him. I'm left confused with Serena's motives, and that makes her story arc wholly uninteresting.
The Unknown: Will June's children plan work out? Will they be saved? Will something go wrong? Will Lawrence escape? Is June going with him? What will happen to both of them?
Does Lawrence suspect that June let Eleanor die? How did he figure it out? What will he do about it?
What are the effects of Eleanor's death? Will that mean that June has to be shipped off to a new household since the Lawrence household no longer has a wife?
What was Serena's deal with Tuello? What is she getting in return? Why are the Waterfords imprisoned in such cozy holding cells?
Will Fred eventually break? What do the Canadians want to do with him? Will Gilead make an attempt to get the Waterfords back?
Best Moment: June letting Eleanor die.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This episode had some impressively good storytelling surrounding June, but the writing problems, fractured storytelling, and lack of consequences all but nullify the impact of the episode. There is a great story underneath all of the poor writing this season but it hasn't overcome enough to create something worthwhile.
Summary: June convinces Eleanor to not kill Lawrence since she needs him. June begins putting her plan to save the kids into motion, but it gets screwed when Lawrence flees. When he returns, Lawrence reveals that he doesn't have the authority to get anybody out of Gilead now that he is being watched. June convinces him to take her to Jezebel's where she can speak with Billy, the contact that was helping get the kids out. After offering him Lawrence's house, she leaves Billy to think on the deal. June is seen by Winslow. Winslow tries to rape her and June fights back, ultimately killing him. June is smuggled out of Jezebel's while the Marthas dispose of the evidence. June and Lawrence prepare for war. Fred and Serena meet with Tuello who drives them into Canada where they are promptly arrested.
The Good: The Lawrences remain one of the best parts of this season. I'm really enjoying this slow transformation of Lawrence from a criminal to hero. While the middle of the season lost the plot surrounding Lawrence, this episode did a much better job of showing the conflict within him as he struggles to push himself over the edge to actively helping June's cause. The scene with him and Eleanor at the beginning is excellent, some good follow-up on the significant events from the last episode. To contrast Lawrence being vulnerable at the beginning of the episode, we get the end of the episode where Lawrence has seemingly resigned himself to his new role as he prepares to fully oppose Gilead, siding himself with June.
Speaking of June, her story is great in this episode. She is working very hard to actually do something, which is very refreshing. If June had shown this same determination to save Hannah/escape Gilead, I think that some of June's earlier storylines could have been better. Needless to say, her urgency in this episode added a lot of tension, and I was invested in her scenes with Billy and the Marthas.
The climax of June's story is horrific, yet awesome. Winslow is shown as pure evil here, and honestly I was originally groaning because I thought that June would just be raped here as the show spins its wheels yet again by making Winslow the most boring character ever, a literal clone of Fred. Instead, the show goes in a surprising new direction as June brutally murders Winslow, showing that she is done being the victim now. This murder propels the plot in a big way as Gilead will likely be after June and Lawrence for a crime. It took 11 episodes, but finally there has been some change in the stakes and the world this season.
Speaking of change, Fred and Serena's story is very good and also leads to a big, game-changing ending. We get to see Fred and Serena bonding again and their scenes are actually quite good here. I liked seeing them reflect on where they could have been without Gilead, plus we even got Fred coming to terms with him being sterile. It's a nice moment for them and serves as their peak moment before their fall at the end of the episode. In the end, Tuello doesn't care about the Waterfords at all and instead chooses to arrest them, finally giving these two some consequences for the awful things they have done. Plus, there is possibly a hidden story in play here which is pretty interesting (see: The Unknown).
The Bad: It's hard to care about what happens in this episode unfortunately. Sure, this was easily the most dramatic, exciting and game-changing episode of the season, but I wasn't feeling as excited as I should have been. The set-up to the key moments in this episode was botched horribly in different ways. I'll start with June killing Winslow. Winslow's death suffers from him being a shallow and boring character, making his attempted rape of June a much less interesting scene than if somebody like Fred was going to rape her instead. Winslow wasn't set up as a character in any way, and he came off as more of a means to an end than an actual player in the story like he was supposed to. He simply existed to die, and I think that's a really poor reason to introduce a new character. It's a shame that he did nothing interesting at all before dying. Furthermore, killing Winslow isn't the pivotal moment for June that it should be. She has been breaking rules left and right this season and facing no consequences. So why should we care if she killed Winslow? I'm certain she is going to get away scot-free in the end. Additionally, we have seen June openly rebel many times before, so this scene isn't as impactful as it tries to be.
Fred and Serena getting their comeuppance is good but I think it took far too long for the story to get here. Had this happened back at the end of season 2 when the Waterford story was still interesting to me, I would have reacted to this much more positively than I did now.
The Unknown: Who will come after Lawrence and June? How will they escape safely?
Will Billy take June's offer for Lawrence's house? How is June going to get Lawrence to give up his house to Billy? How does she plan to get Gilead to accept this deal?
Did Serena set Fred up to be arrested? It doesn't seem that way based on her reactions, but the hints are there to suggest that everything that Serena did after coming from Canada was to arrest Fred. We haven't seen Canada since that episode so many Luke was in on the plot.
Best Moment: Winslow's death was a real surprise and it changes the story in a big way.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This was a big episode but I thought it left a lot to be desired. By all rights, this should have been way better than it actually was and I think that the sloppy plot movement going into this episode made it really hard to invest myself in the key moments. It was still a good episode, but it should have been better.
Summary: June proposes to Alma a plan to smuggle kids out of Gilead but she refuses the offer. June works to get Lawrence's help for her plan. Fred convinces Winslow to go to Lawrence's household and bear witness to the ceremony since Lawrence has had very unsuccessful records with handmaids. Lawrence begrudgingly does the ceremony to ensure that all of his household isn't killed. Horrified by his experience, Lawrence agrees to get Eleanor out of Gilead and to help June smuggle kids out of Gilead. Serena gets Fred to speak with her contact in Canada.
The Good: The central focus on Lawrence and his household in this episode felt refreshing. He has languished in the background for so long after a hot introduction this season, so it is nice to put him back as the main focus. And unsurprisingly, this led into the strongest episode in a while with a fantastic focus on interesting side characters.
The ceremony scene was phenomenal. This scene allowed Lawrence to finally face the consequences of creating Gilead. He expressed clear fear as he desperately tried to find a way out of doing something he doesn't want to do. His entire world effectively falls apart here when he realizes what he has to do and it has lasting effects on his character, which I really like.
Eleanor had a stand-out episode as well. Julie Dretzin did a stellar job portraying her heartbreak when she realizes what was going to happen. Couple her fears with the lack of meds and she was utterly destroyed by everything that happened. Her visceral reaction evidently affected Lawrence more than anything else and it added more to the complexity and power of the ceremony scene.
The effects of this scene are pretty big. Lawrence comes to a conclusion that he needs to get his wife out of Gilead in a terrific scene with June which allows him to seem more vulnerable and human than before. I particularly loved the line "I'll be a hero" which was delivered perfectly by Bradley Whitford. Lawrence says the line with such disgust that it becomes clear that he is feeling guilty for everything he has done and doesn't feel at all that he has earned the opportunity to be a hero. A fantastic moment.
I thought the writing was really strong too. I understood that Fred only chose to go after Lawrence because of June mocking him and he wanted to establish that he still had power over her in a very petty way. While I have my problems with this development (see: The Bad), it makes logical sense and is an easier story to follow than most stories we get in this show.
I really liked June telling Janine that her son was still alive in Califronia. It was a nice way for June to spare Janine of some unnecessary misery and also lets us know that Janine's observation that June is selfish is incorrect. Here we see June doing something solely for the sake of a friend.
The Bad: I wish the Lawrences had been given a more focused storyline that built up to this episode. A climax can only be outstanding if the rising action before it allows the moment to carry all of the weight it possibly can. Unfortunately, the messy nature of this season detracted from the impact of this episode and made it less evocative than it could have been. The poor set up of this story let down this terrifically executed episode.
June still gets too much leniency. After she was caught talking to other handmaids in the store, why is nobody watching her actions more closely? The fact that she can just go back to the store and speak with others in literally the exact same manner is frustrating. June gets far too much plot armour.
I was confused by Winslow demanding that all handmaids be given a mouth-ring and veil. Does he really have power to just make this happen? Why hasn't he acted on this earlier then, because there are clearly handmaids in the world that aren't affected by these laws. Is he really so isolated in DC that he is oblivious to the world he is in charge of? Additionally, how does somebody so brutal ascend to a position of power? It's clear to me that most people resent the treatment of handmaids in DC, so how did they let somebody like Winslow gain power when they resent all that he does? I'm very confused by the government system in this show, as per usual.
The Fred and June drama has grown bland. There was nothing new explored about them here. Fred is still an obsessive and creepy prick while June still likes to mock him when she can. If the show wants to continue exploring their relationship, we need to get some new storytelling content quick.
The Unknown: Will June lying to Janine come back to haunt her? What happens if Janine learns what really happened to Caleb?
Will Lawrence actually be able to save the kids? What will happen to him if he does? And how about his wife? It appears that Lawrence will actually get a proper redemption arc unlike Serena, and I suspect that he may be executed at the end of the season.
What is Serena's plan? What does she plan to do with her contact in Canada? Does she want Fred to turn against Gilead?
Best Moment: The Lawrences have us spoiled for choice here. My pick goes to Commander Lawrence choosing to help June and saying that he'll be a hero. Powerful stuff.
Character of the Episode: It's tough to choose between Lawrence and Eleanor. I'll narrowly give it to Lawrence.
Conclusion: This episode was really strong because of an excellent story about the Lawrences. But a lot of this season's problems still persisted and that prevents this episode from being one of the show's top-tier efforts.
Summary: June is forced to wait with Ofmatthew for months until her baby is born. Ofmatthew will likely die but the doctors are doing whatever they can to save her baby. June loses her sanity over time and nearly murders Ofmatthew in several instances but she is stopped each time. After she attempts to kill Serena, the doctor speaks with her and calms her a little. June finds herself again after Ofmatthew's child is born and she is allowed to leave. June chooses to stay until Ofmatthew dies and confesses she lost her way> She decides she is going to try to save the children of Gilead by helping them escape.
The Good: I thought that this episode captured June's fraying sanity really well. Opening the episode with her callously singing "Heaven is a Place on Earth" while Ofmatthew's life ebbs away ended up being a genius move. It set the tone excellently, and the episode's focus on June really helped the exploration of her mental state. June is pretty scary and unpredictable in all of her scenes and there were numerous moments where I was horrified by the things she was saying to everyone. Evidently, the time with Ofmatthew hadn't helped her brain at all and she only seemed to get worse. And then her worsening state led to that reckless attempt on Serena's life which was a low point for her character. When Serena is lecturing her to be stronger, that's a pretty big fall for who is likely the most stubborn and resilient character in this story.
The rest of the episode had the tough task of taking June from this low point and bring her back to who she was before. I thought the show did a pretty good job too. The scene between June and the doctor was really strong and it nicely showed to us that there are good people still living in Gilead. The doctor also touched on the fact that there are people who object against the lack of human concerns that the authority in Gilead have as they seemingly disregarded his objections to keeping June locked up with Ofmatthew and isolated for months on end. It seems like Gilead simply believes that the lord will save anyone no matter what the situation.
In the end, June recovered and it led to the terrific moment of her choosing to stay by Ofmatthew's side as she died. There, she gave a powerful speech of how she lost herself after Gilead took everything from her and that she plans to correct her mistakes by saving Ofmatthew's baby. The scene was powerful and it nicely reset June to her former self.
The episode looked very pretty. The white colour scheme was perfect, giving June's hospital room an asylum-like feel. It fit nicely with her decaying state, as did everything else the episode did. Those jarring cuts from day to day were perfect at showing how the time has sort of blended together for June as she sits around doing absolutely nothing.
The Bad: I have to ask if this episode and all of the storylines within it were actually necessary for the story as a whole. The entire story of June losing her mind really didn't result in anything significant. Ofmatthew's character could have been skipped entirely without any detriment to the story. June could have easily decided to save children with a different story that doesn't waste as much time as this one did. The whole arc of June going evil unfortunately feels pointless and I don't think that the show needed to go in this direction at all. Sure the story was fine, but watching this show stall its characters and plot for something like the 7th time was ridiculous and it really tried my patience. I'm certain that this story of June going evil was just a delaying tactic from the showrunners instead of the logical next step in the story and that makes me feel really unsatisfied coming out of this episode.
Furthermore, the sloppy writing that accompanied Ofmatthew's character made it hard to care at all about her fate or how June feels about her as a person. The show relied too hard on its great acting prowess to give depth to what was a shallow, simplistic and unnecessary story and unfortunately acting isn't good enough to accomplish this.
Additionally, this episode is painfully slow at times. Looking at it on paper, there isn't much going on in this episode and it relies too hard on its artistic style to keep us interested. Granted, I did enjoy the style of this episode a lot, but I was definitely feeling a little bored in several scenes, especially with the repetitive nature of many scenes. It also doesn't help that I wasn't as invested as I should have been in the story which made me lose interest much quicker. The key to great bottle episodes is making the viewer care about the single story that is being told while also evolving the story and changing the situation to make the episode feel fresh despite being crammed into a single location. This episode accomplishes only a little bit of this.
There were a couple other things I disliked. Aunt Lydia's character radically changes again as she shares a sweet moment with Janine. The show needs to decide how Lydia is going to behave and stick with it. As a final gripe, I thought Serena randomly showing up while June was looking for somebody to kill was way too convenient. Why was she even visiting anyways, especially with how her last conversation with June went?
The Unknown: Will Ofmatthew's baby survive?
How does June plan to get children out of Gilead? Does she plan to use Lawrence?
Best Moment: June confessing to Ofmattehw was really good.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: Despite this episode telling a strong story, it ended up being slow, tough to invest in and ultimately quite pointless. Even though the story was told competently and the episode was masterfully crafted, the episode failed to compel me as much as it should have. It's a shame because this episode itself is very good, but it's the unsuccessful overall story of this season that causes it to fall from a great episode to an average one at best.
Summary: Flashbacks show Aunt Lydia's past. She had a healthy relationship with a mother, Noelle, and was encouraging her to be a better parent. But when Lydia is rejected by a man, she lashes out at Noelle by removing her son from her custody. In the present, June is frustrated with Ofmatthew and gets the handmaids to pick on her. Going crazy from constantly being assaulted and bothered by those around her, Ofmatthew snaps at the store and kills a guard, stealing his gun. Before she does anything, Ofmatthew is shot. June is pleased by the whole development.
The Good: I'm very glad that we got to see Lydia's backstory. I've been wanting to see more of her character since the start of the show, so this episode fulfilled something I've been eagerly awaiting. I thought her backstory was a nice little story showing how Lydia became so cold and ruthless, highlighting her own insecurity as her big flaw. Though it wasn't anywhere near as good as I had hoped and didn't really fit the character(see: The Bad), it's a competent story that's easy enough to watch. I thought Ann Dowd was terrific and I definitely felt something as I watched Noelle angrily lash out at Lydia who had done so much hard work turning her into a better mother only to throw it all away for nothing.
Even though Lydia gets most of the focus in this episode, I think the star was June. She has changed drastically after the events of the last episode which I really like to see. This show doesn't give us enough fallout to big events which has been crippling it for a while now. But her we get to see June very nearly lose her mind now that she has lost Hannah. Throughout the episode she seems to care about nothing and refuses to cooperate with anyone. While this does add to my constant criticism of June having too much plot armour (see: The Bad), at least now it has apurpose int he story and is adding on to a pretty satisfying story arc. I'm most surprised by how evil June comes off as in this episode as she tortures Ofmatthew, and in that horrific ending scene June appears to be completely insane as she smiles in the face of a death and proudly enjoys the fact that she has ruined the life of a pregnant lady. It's very frightening stuff and has a pprofound impact on everyone watching. Seeing the protagonist turn bad is always a shock and I'm pleased to say that they did a good job of it here. I just hope that June faces some comeuppance for her horrid actions in this episode so that there is a point to this development.
It's impossible not to feel bad for Ofmatthew during this episode as she is completely torn apart by how she is being continuously harassed by June. She feels more alone than ever and is afraid of the world, and even more afraid of June's wrath. The moment when she snaps is built up to well (take notes "Game of Thrones", this is how you show a character snap), and the scene itself is one of the best moments the show has ever done. It's a perfect mix of sad, horrific and shocking, leaving a huge impact as the final scene of the episode.
The Bad: For as much as this episode does right, it also gets a lot wrong and unfortunately the details completely shatter the story that was being told in this episode. I'll start with Ofmatthew. She is pregnant and that is not treated as a big deal by anybody. The fact that Lydia simply allows her to be harassed and that Ofmatthew isn't given the luxurious treatment that June was makes no sense at all to me. June was treated like a treasure when she was pregnant, but Ofmatthew is just another handmaid in this time. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that nobody tried to talk to her and save her. Instead she is just killed. It's shocking to see her killed so thoughtlessly, especially when you look at how much effort was made to save Janine back in season 1. Babies and handmaids have always been protected at all costs, yet that wasn't the case here. Once again, the writers presume that they can just change the rules of Gilead to suit their story and it just isn't working. And this isn't the only time that this is an issue.
June's lack of punishment is baffling to me, especially with all of the things that she does in this episode. She is a literal loose cannon and she makes it well known to everyone. She mouths off to Lydia, she gets in Lawrence's face and she refuses to cooperate in almost every situation. Yet she doesn't face any punishment. Why? They say it's because they need her to shoot commercials for the Waterfords, but that's a very bad excuse. Sure that can explain why they can't do anything drastic like cut her fingers off or burn her, but it doesn't prevent them from doing more subtle punishments. It's almost like the show forgot that over-the-top violent punishments aren't the only way to punish the characters. Just give June a slap on the wrists with some lashings maybe (the cameras won't see those), or maybe something else. Torture her without doing any lasting damage, isolate her and chain her up for a while, send her back to the Red Center, all of these can be done without any issues. Yet June is spared because the writers don't want to punish her, and it's really hurting my investment in the show and the world of Gilead.
Lydia's backstory is unfortunately a total disappointment. Lydia has been so strange as a character this season since the writers have tried to change her to make her more sympathetic. It's like they are ignoring all of the horrors that Lydia has done in seasons 1 and 2, almost as if they believe that she was some other character back then. That's why the backstory we get for Lydia isn't at all consistent with the character. We learn why Lydia is so devout and why she believes in the Gilead system of finding ideal mothers. But we get no insight on Lydia's violent tendencies and the cruel punishments she gave to the handmaids. This darker aspect of Lydia is an important aspect of her character and it can't be ignored. Yet the writers are refusing to address this aspect of her character in any way this season.
Furthermore, Lydia's motives in the flashbacks are so basic that it's almost laughable. In short, the reason that she is such a horrible person is because she was stood up by a guy she wanted to have sex with. Really? That's such a basic and poor reason for Lydia to become a terrible person and it seems more ridiculous the more I think about it. Surely there would have been more to make Lydia into such a deranged person.
The Unknown: Is Lawrence thinking of sending his wife away? I can't think of any other reason that he allows June to mouth off like she did in this episode.
Was it a guardian who killed Ofmatthew or somebody else? What will become of Ofmatthew's death? Will June be punished for it?
Best Moment: The final scene where Ofmatthew finally loses it and ends up getting killed. The icing on the cake was the dark turn for June who smiled menacingly in the face of certain death, a smile cold and scary enough that it frightened Ofmatthew out of trying to kill her.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This episode had a lot of really good elements. In fact, I think that on paper this could be one of the show's best episodes. But execution is everything, and unfortunately this amazing story was told very incompetently and that led to this episode being much worse than it should have been. Another big disappointment in what has been another disappointing season.
Summary: June wants to go visit Hannah again and speaks with Frances, Hannah's martha. June takes Mrs. Lawrence with her but they ultimately fail to see Hannah. Frances is executed for her conversation with June that Ofmatthew reported to Aunt Lydia. The Waterfords begin to settle down in DC and tensions between them are resolved. In Canada, Emily has to report her crimes in Gilead. Moira and Emily head to a protest and are arrested when they accost a minister.
The Good: This episode nailed a few of its scenes and I enjoyed those moments thoroughly. Unfortunately the rest of the episode was messy and nonsensical (see: The Bad).
I really enjoyed Emily being forced to reveal all of her criminal activities in Gilead. Alexis Bledel was fantastic and I was able to sympathize with her as she's forced to face up to her actions and also reveal them to Sylvia. The ending of her story was good too as she and Moira reflect on the monstrous things they did and contemplate if they are even good people anymore.
The last scene of the episode where June assaults Ofmatthew was really well done. I could understand why June reached a boiling point with her, and the vicious attack she unleashes on Ofmatthew was outstanding. It was a fitting way to demonstrate June's sheer rage as she lashes out at the person who took Hannah away from her.
I liked the sequence where Serena walked through the abandoned house with Liv. It was very atmospheric and there was something really powerful about the way that both of them spoke so optimistically as we were given the visuals of an abandoned house filled with remnants of the likely dead family that once lived there.
The Bad: June's storyline in this episode is completely ridiculous. We hear nothing of June's plan to see Hannah before this episode, yet suddenly she decides that today is the day that she will do something drastic. It makes no sense, and worse yet is the fact that she selfishly attempts to drag somebody else with her. Her last-second planning to bring somebody else is ridiculous and paints her as more selfish and stupid than ever. Does she have no fear for the consequences of her actions? Thankfully she gets punished for her brash actions in this episode.
Unfortunately the fact that I'm praising the show for punishing June completely nullifies the tragedy at the end of the episode. It's tragic if June made some choices that I could sympathize with that led to Hannah being taken away. But if June does some out-of-character, stupid things that never had a chance to end well, my sympathy for her cause goes away and so does the tragedy of the story.
I was also annoyed with Commander Lawrence in this episode. His story with June was easily the most compelling part of the season, so I'm confused why it has been shafted so far into the background. In fact, there was a great opportunity to continue it here but the show refused to move anywhere. Lawrence just doesn't seem to care about how June stupidly took Mrs. Lawrence away which is odd considering how he snapped at her for talking about Mrs. Lawrence in a previous episode. It's inconsistent for his character and it appears to me that the writers simply didn't want June to face appropriate consequences for her actions, so they forced a way out of punishing her.
June was pretty atrocious in this episode and I found it hard to believe that she hasn't gotten more punishments. She directly disobeys Aunt Lydia TWICE in this episode, yet somehow she gets away with it scot free. Furthermore, the episode ends with June assaulting a pregnant woman, a huge no-no in Gilead and I find it hard to believe that she wouldn't be severely punished for this. But seeing how lenient the writers have been with June in this season, I doubt that anything will come of this.
Also, how repetitive was the main story in this episode? We have seen June make so many attempts to visit Hannah before, so seeing it again is hardly original content. I hardly felt anything when June was trying to get into the school to see Hannah because I had already seen these exact same emotions many times before. As a side note, did we really need to see Gilead people moving the children with rope? Gilead is a strict community that values children, not an evil and cruel organization. It seems like the writers may have forgotten about that in these past few episodes with the silenced handmaids in the last episode and now this.
The Waterfords were boring in this episode. I find it ridiculously hard to care about their story now that June is gone. Neither Serena nor Fred are strong enough as independent characters to make me care about their plight. Fred has been too shallow in previous seasons for me to believe there is any depth to him at all, while Serena has been so inconsistent as she constantly flip-flops on her morals which causes me to not really buy into anything she is doing. The dance at the end of the episode was really poor and I found it incredibly hard to believe that these two ended up back together, especially after the whole finger-cutting thing (which was never brought up again!).
The protest scene was filmed really badly. Normally the politicians wouldn't be able to respond to any comments because 1: they don't want to, and 2: because there are so many people trying to talk to them that it becomes difficult to even understand what people say. Yet somehow Moira is isolated and gets in a direct conversation with the minister, which is too on-the-nose and convenient.
Why is Ofmatthew doing the executions? She doesn't seem to be getting the same treatment that the pregnant June was getting last season.
The Unknown: Are the Waterfords staying in DC? What's next for their story if June doesn't see them anymore? I really hope that something interesting comes from this.
Is Lawrence contemplating giving Mrs. Lawrence more freedom? He seemed to dwell on the fact that she was happy when she went out with June.
Where have The McKenzies gone with Hannah? Will June find her again?
Will June face consequences for attacking a pregnant handmaid? What would those consequences be?
How will Emily and Moira get out of jail? Also, was this the first time we heard Emily's last name?
Best Moment: Probably Emily being forced to reflect on killing the guardian and attempting to kill Lydia.
Character of the Episode: Emily.
Conclusion: This episode was a mess and was filled with repetitive, nonsensical storytelling. The midseason lull is in full effect and I can't say that I'm optimistic about this season anymore.
Summary: June is summoned by the Waterfords to DC so that they can continue to pressure Canada to return Nichole. Lydia accompanies her. The Waterfords stay with Commander Winslow who offers Fred a promotion after seeing his dedication to Gilead in the videos he is shooting. June discovers that some handmaids have been silenced, horrifying her and Aunt Lydia. The Swiss arrive to conduct interviews on behalf of Canada. June tries to make a deal with them to keep Nichole out of Gilead by letting them speak to Nick, a commander. However, the deal falls through when the Swiss check up on Nick's past. Serena tells June that Nick was a soldier who fought in the crusades. June is upset that the deal falls through and has a spat with Serena.
The Good: As usual, this was acted brilliantly and shot beautifully. This show is beautiful to behold and it took that to a new level in this episode. Things like the destroyed Lincoln Memorial, the modified Washington Monument and the new Union Station were lovely to see and they added a lot to the world of Gilead.
There were some really good scenes of character interaction as well. June's final scene with Serena was emotionally charged and was a good way to provide a climactic moment in their conflict regarding Nichole, though it did have its problems (see: The Bad). Lydia and June's scene was phenomenal, showing a more human side to Lydia and giving us some really good emotion. Though again, that moment had problems (see: The Bad). Lastly, I really enjoyed the brief moments between June and Rita as they took a few seconds to relax and talk amidst a hostile environment.
I appreciate that we finally got to learn more about Nick. His backstory seems to take his character in an interesting new direction and I'm happy about that, though like everything else in this episode, I had my fair share of problems about this development too.
The Bad: That shouting match between June and Serena didn't achieve its full potential for a number of reasons. First of all, this logistically should never have happened. If Gilead is so restrictive, how on Earth is June able to get away with such a loud shouting match? And in the Lincoln Memorial of all places with its loud echoes! Surely everyone would have heard that. Additionally, there is no way that June was allowed to go to Lincoln Memorial alone, especially not in the capital where it has been established that the rules are far more strict. Furthermore, all of these fights between Serena and June are beginning to feel a little bit numb for me and the only thing that keeps them engaging is the acting from Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski. I've seen them fight and make up so many times by now that the repetition outright annoys me.
Nick's past really seems like a last-ditch effort to give the character something to do, and it comes off as something that is pulled out of nowhere. I can't fully remember the backstory given to Nick in prior seasons, but I'm confident that nothing like this was even hinted at before. The reveal doesn't feel earned at all unfortunately. Furthermore, it seems odd that Nick's previous life caused the Swiss to refuse to speak with him. Surely speaking with a commander is too big of a chance to pass up regardless of somebody's past.
As much as I loved Lydia and June's scene, it seems very out of character for Aunt Lydia. This same woman would torture the handmaids without a second thought, yet she is freakishly horrified by the idea of silencing and then proceeds to actually open up a little bit to June. It doesn't fit with what we know of her character, and continues the show's trend of making characters contradict their past actions.
I didn't like the idea of the silenced handmaids. It is unnecessarily excessive brutality, even for Gilead and it seems fairly counterproductive. After all, how would they hide this from convoys from other countries? Surely other countries would have discovered the horrors of Gilead if they are as careless as this. Furthermore, it feels like a manipulative way to gross us out. Just showing the handmaids with cloths over their mouths is telling enough and it sends the message. The rings in the mouths are pointlessly excessive and don't add anything other than a gross out for the viewers.
Fred's promotion doesn't make sense to me, especially since he was literally just demoted a little while back. The way that Winslow's impression of Fred suddenly changed offscreen was very convenient and it didn't work for me.
The Unknown: Does Winslow have any other plans for Fred? Is he earnest in his offer of a promotion?
What were the crusades that were mentioned in Nick's past? I'm interested to learn more about them.
Best Moment: Probably Lydia and June's scene, flawed as it was.
Character of the Episode: June.
Conclusion: This episode was fine overall if not the most exciting, but the problems underneath the surface detracted massively from my enjoyment. The show is hitting a midseason lull once again.
Summary: Serena is still unhappy because she wants to be with Nichole. She arranges a deal with June to have June call Luke and arrange a meeting between him and Serena so that Serena can see Nichole. At the meeting, Serena threatens Luke into letting her share some time with Nichole. June gives Serena some tapes to give Luke as a gift. The tapes have messaged from June on them and she tells Luke everything that happened. Back in Gilead, June is taken by some Eyes to a set. The Waterfords a filming a TV spot demanding the return of Nichole to Gilead.
The Good: Scene by scene this show is outstanding. There was tons of emotion on display in this episode and some of the scenes were as good as anything else this show has produced. June and Luke's moments in particular were wonderful. I really enjoyed their actual phone call as Luke was overjoyed to hear June's voice, while June stoically kept herself together so she could spout the dialogue that everyone wanted her to say. Because of how fake this felt, the conversation felt somewhat disappointing. But that was the point. By the end of the episode we get to see what their conversation should have been as June gets to spill everything to Luke over a cassette tape. The scene is wonderful, and O.T. Fagbenle ended up doing his best work on the show as he reacted to the bombshell revelations that June gives him.
This was by far the most likable Luke has ever been. He had some wonderful internal conflicts to deal with in this episode as he got to speak with his wife for the first time in ages. We see him pondering the validity of what June said on the phone, we see him processing the information that June fell in love with another man, and we see him choose to obey Serena when he realizes that his irresponsible actions could have massive consequences for June. There is a lot for him to do in this episode and thankfully O.T. Fagbenle stepped up to the task.
Serena and Luke's scene ended up being quite brilliant. While getting to it was a bit iffy (see: The Bad), the scene itself carried a lot of weight, even in their opening dialogue as Serena gives a generic Gilead greeting while Luke swears at her hatefully. Serena initially tries to be kind, but when she sees it isn't working, she desperately goes towards a subtle threat in order to get some more time with Nichole. Seeing that his wife is in danger, Luke's resolve shatters and he gives in to Serena's demands. What's most fascinating is that Serena doesn't even seem to acknowledge that she played dirty against Luke. I think she believes she is being a genuine person, and that she does have a mother's right to persuade Luke to let Serena be part of Nichole's life, no matter how she goes about it.
One of my biggest issues with this show is the lack of consequences for its characters. So when the show takes the time to make a character's actions have disastrous results, it feels even more satisfying. This is the case with the ending of the episode as June sees the Waterfords attempt to bring baby Nichole back to Gilead. And the worst part is that it's all her fault. She was the one who inexplicably tried to get them back together. She was the one who showed Serena kindness and agreed to let her see Nichole once more. And now her kindness has ended up in her baby being in danger of being brought back to Gilead. June's willingness to work with the Waterfords completely backfired on her, and these are the kinds of consequences I want to see characters face when they do stupid things.
There were some other moments I enjoyed as well. I liked Lawrence sharing some time with his wife as they listen to the mixtapes together. It was a lovely moment that seems to hint that Lawrence isn't a bad guy underneath everything we have seen from him in the past few episodes. I also enjoyed Ofmatthew's horror when she became pregnant again. Evidently her pious act is a sort of denial, and when faced with the loss of another baby, she seems to be losing her composure.
I've finally picked up that it's "Nichole" and not "Nicole". Better late than never I suppose.
The Bad: The show is suffering from the same big issue as last season. The continuity between episodes is non-existent and there is never any change in the story. The fact that we are back at a Serena vs June conflict is ridiculous, and I don't care to see that explored anymore this season. Furthermore, we have several moments which breach the continuity of the show. We have never heard back from June's attempt to start a rebellion back in "Useful". Aunt Lydia faces zero consequences for beating up Janine last episode, and she seems to be back to her old self again without any development. Lawrence and June's interactions aren't advancing at all and the constant repetition is already testing my patience. The show is facing the danger of completely losing its quality in the middle section of its season once again.
Serena has been woefully underused this season. For 5 episodes, all she has done is cry, cry, and cry again. It gets old quick and it's disappointing to see somebody as talented as Yvonne Strahovski forced to play the exact same scene over and over again. Honestly if I had a shot of alcohol every time Serena starts crying this season, I would be dead.
Serena's character has been inconsistent, and not in a good way. The show seemed to set her up for a redemption arc, but now they have cut the legs off of that story by having Serena demand to bring Nichole back. Why would she do this? Does she no longer care about the safety of her daughter? It's so out of character for her to completely back out on her choice to let Nichole go. Worst of all, she makes this decision off-screen so we can't even see her get pushed to decide that Nichole must come back. Also, why is she back with Fred now? Did she forget that he had her finger cut off? I can't see a single reason for Serena to stay with him or listen to a word that he says. It's absurd. Furthermore if she wants to see Nichole again, why not leave Gilead? That would be much more organic for her character to do this, yet because the writers need to keep spinning the show's wheels we instead have Serena remain a villain.
The Gilead government is really stupid in this episode. Clearly they are aware that Luke has Nichole. So why do they need to wait for Serena to say something before they demand to get her back? Shouldn't they be searching tirelessly for her already? The fact that they only did something when Serena actually wanted them to is so stupid. Another problem is the phone call from Luke to June and the meeting they arranged. Did the government really just allows June to make this conversation? And did they really just allow Serena to leave the country without her commander? Having the main plot of the episode built on such a flimsy foundation ended up hurting my immersion in the story a lot, making me less invested in the story being told. With stronger writing, the story would have hit a lot harder.
5 episodes in and there has been nothing for Moira and Nick to do. If you have these side characters, you should give them something to do. As it stands, they are useless to the story right now.
The Unknown: Does Lawrence still have good in him?
Who left that satellite phone in Serena's bag? How will that be significant in the future?
How will the world react to the Waterfords broadcast? Will Canada fight back? Will they be pressured to give Nichole back? Canada better at least try to prove that Nichole isn't related to the Waterfords at all because she really isn't.
So why hasn't Emily or anyone else tried to start a revolution against Gilead? Why haven't they revealed more about the truth of what is going on in Gilead?
Best Moment: As much as I loved the Serena/Luke meeting, I have to give it to the moment when Luke listens to the tapes that June recorded and reacts to a flood of information. Such a lovely scene.
Character of the Episode: Luke.
Conclusion: On the surface, this is another excellent episode. I think the actual scenes we have been given this season are the strongest since season 1. Yet the lack of consistency and consequence drags things down once again, and an episode that should have been incredible ends up being merely good.
Summary: The handmaids and commanders go to a ceremony celebrating the children of Gilead. June meets with Serena and Fred and tries to sort out their relationship. June orchestrates a deal for Fred to allow Serena to have some power behind the scenes, and it seemingly gets them on good terms again. Janine goes to see her baby again and oversteps her boundaries. Lydia gives in to her darker side and viciously beats Janine, but she immediately regrets it afterwards. Luke is seen on TV carrying Nicole. Emily reunites with her son and is emotional when she returns to her old life.
The Good: The focal point of this episode was on June trying to restore the fractured relationship between the Waterfords. I thought the scenes between June and Serena/Fred were pretty compelling. It was easy to understand June's goals, and I thought that it was a clever idea to examine both of the Waterfords individually from June's perspective as they attempt to put their marriage back together. The acting was superb as expected and I was surprised by how sympathetic all 3 characters were throughout this story.
Aunt Lydia had a really good arc in this episode. Following her injury back in "The Word", we have seen a darker and more bitter side to her character after she had been hurt by the handmaids that she loved so much. She snapped at June back in "Mary and Martha" which was a sign that she wasn't taking her injury too well. Here we know for sure that this woman isn't the same one we met at the beginning of the show as she viciously takes out all of her anger on Janine, brutally beating her down for a mistake which was pretty understandable. Everyone was quite uncomfortable watching Janine get smacked around, and after the moment had passed, Aunt Lydia was suitably horrified by her actions. It seems clear that these rage issues are eating away at Lydia from the inside, and now it seems that she may be facing some big consequences for lashing out like that in front of so many commanders and their wives (see: The Unknown). Ann Dowd conveyed Lydia's fear wonderfully in the ensuing scene and I'm curious to see where her story goes next.
As usual, Emily's story was quite good. I liked seeing her reunite with her family and there was definitely a lot of emotion in her returning to the life that she had lost in Gilead. Bledel was spectacular as usual and she really made every moment she was on screen count.
The Bad: This episode was problematic for a number of reasons however and I'm nervous that the show may be falling to its familiar trappings once again. For one, repetition mixed with slow pacing is a deadly combo for TV shows. The past few episodes of this season have felt fresh with a pace quicker than what I was expecting, even too quick at times. Yet everything came grounding to a halt in this week. This entire episode (outside of Emily's story) took place during a single gathering where nothing particularly interesting actually happened. The episode really milked this gathering for all it was worth and I don't think there was enough substance to justify this. Surely the Waterford storyline could have been incorporated into a plot with a bit more forwards momentum. Additionally, the show milked some more time through world-building by revealing this celebration for the recent children of Gilead. What is the problem you may ask? Well the issue is that nothing new is revealed through this. We already know that Gilead values its children, and we have even seen some of these celebrations last season, in episodes like "Seeds". There is nothing new on display for the world, so the entire episode hinges on minor character development and plot movement for Aunt Lydia and the Waterfords.
What's worse is that all of the more exciting storylines coming out of the last episode were ignored for the brunt of this hour. There's no Lawrence, who has been by far the most interesting aspect of this season. And there was also absolutely no mention of the rebellion which was teased heavily at the end of the last episode. Not following up on any of these moments make this episode feel a little disappointing overall.
June's plot armour continues to grow to ridiculous amounts. Just look at everything she is doing in this episode without consequences. She actively goes against Aunt Lydia to pull her off Janine and nobody says a word. She is constantly engaging in normal conversation with the Waterfords yet nobody seems to care about this. Even the Eyes don't punish her for eavesdropping on their conversation. By far the worst thing is that she is actually able to follow Serena, talk to her and even smoke without anybody noticing this. News flash, when people smoke the smell sticks around them for a while! Everyone would smell the smoke on her and she would be busted immediately.
I'm struggling to comprehend how June's relationship with the Waterfords became so caring. Last season these same people raped June while she was pregnant and did a number of other vile atrocities. Yet now June seems to genuinely care about them as people and is actively trying to help them. I always thought that June was manipulating them for her own goals, yet in this episode she feels oddly genuine. I have no idea why she is so attached to them now, and that hurts my immersion in the Waterford storyline.
The kid actors in this show are awful. Oliver was pretty bad and his line delivery did nothing for me. Kid actros have always been an issue in this show. I initially liked Hannah's portrayal back in season 2 because she seemed so creepy and messed up in the head. Looking back on it, it's clear that I was never supposed to look at her scenes in this regard (June seems to think that Hannah is just fine) and it was just a really bad performance by the kid actor playing her that gave off these vibes unintentionally.
Really Luke? Your going to show off a kidnapped baby on the news for everyone to see? How stupid is this guy?
The Unknown: What's the story behind Ofmatthew? She is getting a decent amount of screentime so I think she will have some importance. I'm curious to learn how she became so pious.
What consequences will there be for Lydia's actions? Could she be fired from her position for such a vile misuse of her power?
Is Gilead going to target Luke now? What are they going to do to get Nicole back? Will they send some men to kidnap Nicole? Or perhaps they will send men to kill Luke. Or will they do something else entirely?
Best Moment: Lydia beating down Janine simply because she had a very human desire to go back with the people she thought of as family. It's a very powerful scene, and Lydia's reaction after realizing what she has done was chilling.
Character of the Episode: Lydia.
Conclusion: This episode had some glimmers of greatness with the Lydia storyline and most of the Waterford storyline. However the stagnant plot, strangled pacing and inconsistent characters hurt the episode.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.