Under the Eye: “Baggage”

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June has taken to jogging her troubles away in the massive Boston Globe space. Her little memorial to the slain Globe employees has grown to form a visually-impressive semi-circle of lit candles and knick-knacks. In “Little America,” Moira has taken to jogging her troubles away. She’s shacked up with Luke and Luke’s little mute friend, Erin (Erin Way). At the Globe, June goes through old clippings from newspapers in an effort to track the progress of the Sons of Jacob and their eventual transformation into Gilead. She finds a piece about a “Take Back the Night” march from back when she was a kid. She attended that march with her mother, Holly (Cherry Jones). I don’t know that these marches were geared strictly toward women or a feminist movement, but the emphasis of this gathering seems to start a bonfire and set little pieces of paper on fire. On his way out the door, Nick tells June to be ready to meet up with her next contact. In Canada, Moira converses with a refugee who tells her Gilead conscripted Armed Forces soldiers and turned them into Guardians. He realized he had to flee because of his sexual orientation. I understand his need to escape, but I don’t understand how easily (or swiftly) “our” soldiers would link up with Guardians. A soldier’s purpose is to protect and defend our interests, not be programmed and turned into an enemy combatant’s killing machine against us. I say that because Gilead is not America. The Military does not simply become the tool of an installed government, at least not here. June hops into the back of another delivery truck and is taken away from the Globe.

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The truck takes June to another holding area; some place near Logan Airport. Everything is abandoned and decrepit. Why would Gilead not take advantage of all this unused space? That’s one of my problems with the Globe scenes. Propaganda through news-print is a powerful tool of elite governing forces. Why aren’t they printing up propaganda journalism, or do the writers not want us to see news as a form of political propaganda? A man approaches and asks if “she’s a good witch or a bad witch,” to which June answers, “depends on who you ask.” That must be code. The man tells her the final destination is an air strip where a black market privateer will take her across the border, but first she’ll have to wait it out at a “safe house.” Before they can leave, he gets a message on his phone and decides to cancel this jaunt. I wish they would tell us what the message is. He wants to get out of there, away from her. He is frightened, but she begs for his help. He takes pity on her. He takes her to his home which appears to be an apartment complex where he lives with his wife (noted in the book and show as an “econo-wife,” a poor or lower middle-class wife in Gilead) and child. June calls them the “econo-people.” The wife is instantly terrified when she sees June. She doesn’t want any part of this. This is a great society, huh? The next day, the man, his wife, and child leave June alone in their apartment, but they never return. In the interim, June begins to understand why this man is betraying Gilead by sheltering her. It turns out he’s Muslim, and he hides a prayer rug under his bed.

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The flashback scenes with Holly are tedious. I don’t understand her mother. She doesn’t want June to settle down and get married. She doesn’t approve of June’s job either. She wanted June to grow up to be an activist. What, you can’t be a married activist? Please explain why, but she won’t. The country’s going down the tubes! We have to get out in the street and fight! Maybe explain your position to the four kids who died at Kent State. Or the shop owners watching their stores being looted and destroyed. Or the people being pulled from their cars and beaten to death. Irrationality, on either side, only leads to chaos and violence. June flashes back to handmaid orientation. During a slideshow presentation, Lydia lectures them on the destruction of Earth by man. In the next slide, she sees her weeping mother, transformed into an “unwoman” in the “Colonies.” Strange that June’s mom didn’t see this coming, being as fearful and paranoid as she is, but she also thinks that riots and protests against irrational, dangerous fascists actually work. June finally gets the clue that something horrible has happened so she dresses herself up as an “econo-wife” and leaves the apartment. She takes public transportation (at least Gilead keeps the trains running on time) to a location presumably near the air strip. This is a strange train ride. Everyone is quiet. Everyone (with the exception of the machine gun-toting Guardians) smiles politely. It’s around this point that June finally decides to escape without Hannah. Almost miraculously, she finds the air strip and lays low until night falls.

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Moira hooks up with a fellow lesbian and makes scissors with her in the bathroom of a seedy dive-style nightclub. I’m guessing this is Canada. The Handmaid’s Tale is a bizarrely hyper-sexualized television series. To me, there is nothing less sexy than an oppressive regime systemically removing freedoms, that is raping and murdering your friends, and making the world a miserable place, but on this show, we’re having lots of sex in addition to all the horrible rape. Hey, we may be bordering a 21st century incarnation of Nazi Germany, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun! Moira comes home angry, tells Erin, “go fuck yourself,” to which she responds (Responds! Hey she can talk!) “Blessed be the fruit loops.” I guess she’s not mute after all. Maybe she doesn’t like conversing with idiots. I can dig. In fact, she might be my favorite character in this whole show. June connects with the pilot and an escaping former Guardian. The small plane makes it down the runway before it is stopped by Guardians who order the pilot out of the plane and then execute him! This is absolutely ridiculous. Why do Guardians take it upon themselves to execute people who could be made to provide incredibly valuable information about the underground? The answer is simple. Gilead, even though it had managed to be swept into power after a very simple, efficient takeover of the United States of America, is stupid and incompetent as a tool of governance, as improbable as that sounds. The contradiction is shown in their brutality. Gilead is an excellent first draft proposal of how not to seize power. My words fall on deaf ears, though. June is taken from the plane and, presumably, returned to Gilead. What was the point of the previous two episodes if we’re back to square-one?

2 responses to “Under the Eye: “Baggage””

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