Under the Eye: “Smart Power”

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O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.

I open the review with that little ditty because Fred and Serena (with Nick) are bound for the Land of the Rising Maple Leaf for … I don’t know, some kind of diplomatic mission? Maybe they’re selling Gilead Chocolate. You know, I hear Gilead Chocolate is the best chocolate. Serena is crestfallen after the beating she took in the previous episode. She can’t drum up the enthusiasm she once had for her perfect world. Fred wants to show off his wife to the Canadians. He wants to show them the “strong Gilead woman.” Eden, being her sweet and clueless self, gives Nick cookies to take with him on his trip. She behaves like a 15-year-old’s fantasy of a good wife. Nick continues to keep his distance from her. He might even appear cold to her. Eden doesn’t understand how wrong and psychotic all of this is, but she is 15 years old, for crying out loud. Before Serena leaves, she utters a little prayer for the baby’s health and then tells Offred she will be leaving after the baby is born. No nursing. No quality time. No singing. Just get the hell out of here. These contradictions make me crazy. You’re raped and made pregnant with said rape-baby, but then you have motherly impulses and affection for the rape-baby; these handmaids want to have it all, don’t they? If you’re a progressive woman in 2018, you scream for reproductive rights, but then you are forced to carry a child for whom you’re not permitted to care, and then you develop a maternal bond with that child. In Canada, Moira identifies Fred coming off the airplane. She and Luke demand his arrest at the Consulate office. Her American representative tells them she can do nothing; that they are guests in this Country and have to abide by Canada’s laws. Talk about a smack in the face!

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Fred and Serena meet with Canadian officials. One of them makes a point of telling Fred he enjoyed visiting the States way back in the before-time with his husband. Oooh, burn! Serena is given a schedule of cultural activities. It’s just a piece of paper with pictures on it (because women aren’t allowed to read, you see) but the schedule exists as not only a reminder of Serena’s station, but also an acknowledgement of Gilead’s “culture.” I’m aware of the irony that our Nation has dealings with other cultures who subject their citizens to unspeakable horrors, so perhaps this is the episode writer’s observation of that contradiction. Later, while walking with Janine, Offred lets it slip that she will be required to leave the house when the baby is born. This, understandably, freaks Janine out, and when she tells the Guardian Isaac to “suck her dick,” after he calls her an “unwoman,” he slams her in the face with the butt of his machine gun. This is a nice place, isn’t it? In Canada, the “normies” are freaked out by Serena, and because we live in an identity-based society, everything that Serena “represents” is everything Serena is. Serena goes to the bar and orders a drink. An unshaven man approaches her and, in short order, reveals himself to be an operative working for the American government. They make some flirty small-talk until he puts his cards on the table. He gives Serena the opportunity to defect provided she write of her experience as a Commander’s wife. She tells him Gilead is her home and she could never leave. What’s this, a week after she was whipped by her husband? He tries to talk some sense to her, but she isn’t having it. Gilead is a cult, after all.

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Meanwhile, back at the cult, Isaac and Offred return home. Offred notices there is a sexual tension between Isaac and Eden. They like each other, but because we’ve made Isaac a bad guy by beating down Janine for no reason (and it was Offred’s fault), Isaac can show or manifest nothing but a hulking-bully presence in the kitchen when Eden feeds him strawberries. At a protest outside of the hotel where the Waterfords are staying, Luke holds up a large picture of himself, June, and Hannah. He shouts at Fred as he gets into his car, calling him a rapist. Fred tells Luke he’s the victim of misinformation. No, no, no silly boy, Gilead is a good place! Luke tries to attack Fred but is restrained by security people. Good for you, Luke! Nick catches up with Luke at a bar. He tells Luke that June is his “friend.” A friend with benefits, but we won’t get into that. He tells Luke that June is pregnant by Waterford. Well, sort of. You know how it goes. He’s not going to mention his contribution because he doesn’t want his ass handed to him. Instead, he gives Luke the letters he was able to save when June tried to burn them. I begin to suspect Luke might be a “beta.” He takes no action. If it were me (in my idealized nature) I would be planning a rescue. I would put myself inside Gilead with fake credentials, armed to the teeth, and leave a trail of bodies right up to June’s door, or I would die trying. Luke does nothing. In Gilead, June successfully manipulates Aunt Lydia. She asks her to become the baby’s godmother, under the presumption that her life will be marred by violence and that the baby will need to be protected. Whether or not Lydia agrees to this, she gets the message. Well-played, June, well-played.

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Luke, Moira, and Erin go through the letters, reading stories of atrocity. They already knew about this. In fact, I’ll wager the whole world knows about this, so why are they shocked and appalled? Moira even echoes my complaint from last season’s episode, “Night.” Letters? Letters! That’s what this was about? That’s why she risked her life? You don’t win wars with letters. You win wars with bombs. That’s how Gilead played it, and they won. The letters are publicized and all hell breaks loose, so to speak. The letters become little bombs, of a sort. Fred and Serena are given the bum’s rush out of Canada. They’re told to leave immediately. So, basically it was the bad press that caused Canada to change their position, and not the actual brutality of which they were all aware? Their limousine is attacked on their way back to the airport during another protest. I see only women at this particular protest. Why? At a “watch party” later that night, Moira officially announces that the plane has left Canadian air space, which kicks off a muted rendition of “America, the Beautiful” among the participants. It’s a sweet gesture, but it does nothing for anyone. The plane should have been bombed. Based on what I’ve seen the last few weeks in this Country, in 2020, this response is underwhelming. Our fellow Americans are killing each other, setting fires, destroying private property all in response to an incident which would be marginalized in The Handmaid’s Tale. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. If there was ever a call to violence, destruction, and scorched earth, it would have to be these letters. Anyway… Fred and Serena return home in shame. It was a failed mission. A somber but shaken Serena sits by the fire, and it almost seems she’s considering the consequences of her actions, and the chance she had to escape from it all. Nick tells June about the letters, and also that he met Luke. He tells her he loves her. Thanks, Nick. Thank’s a lot! Next time on As Gilead Turns …

One response to “Under the Eye: “Smart Power””

  1. Reblogged this on Misadventures in Blissville and commented:

    Letters? Letters! That’s what this was about? That’s why she risked her life? You don’t win wars with letters. You win wars with bombs. That’s how Gilead played it, and they won. The letters are publicized and all hell breaks loose, so to speak.


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