Under the Eye: “Night”

Two minutes and forty seconds of “previously on The Handmaid’s Tale.” This is a 49 minute episode. If you’ve watched the show, you don’t need the back-story. If you haven’t watched the show, you wouldn’t start at the beginning of the third series. You would start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start! We know that Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) has provided a means of escape for both June and Emily. We know that June decides to stay behind while Emily and the baby flee via a truck to a train. In the here and now, Lawrence tells June she’s “fucking insane.” I didn’t need him to tell me that. All of these people are fucking insane, but that’s none of my business.

June tells Lawrence her daughter, Hannah, is living by the good graces of a Commander MacKenzie (writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear, no one comes near). She wants to find this guy so she can get back (heh) her daughter. In the aftermath, Serena is a wreck. She makes her intentions known to Waterford of her desire to keep Holly safe from this hellish existence, and being that Fred has no idea what marriage, love, and sacrifice is all about, I predict this will not bode well. Yet, we still go through the hoops of reversal with regard to Serena’s character. The woman is a monster, but the writers don’t want us to hate her. Why? Is it because she’s a woman, and therefore understanding of the bond between mother and child? Is it because women are just plain better than men?

June shows up (unannounced) at the MacKenzie fort to find Hannah. Of course we know what’s going to happen. She’s going to find Hannah, comfortable; all nestled in her bed, uncaring and unknowing of the ways of the world. Better to leave her there. Let’s be Hannah for a minute. We’re talking about a couple years of turnaround, and she hasn’t grown much. She still has an aching memory of her mother, but this is a much nicer life, you know, until she is raped repeatedly for the good of Gilead. The Guardians show up and are about to arrest June when Mrs. Mackenzie interrupts. She tells June of Hannah’s nightmares after their reunion at the big house from the episode, “Holly.” Boo-hoo.

It becomes an awkward situation of “small talk” about Hannah. Hannah likes to cook. Hannah wants a dog. June tells her Hannah is allergic to dogs. She’s also, like all women, allergic to rape and subservience, but okay. Dogs? “You know all of this ends with you dying on the ground in front of her.” Nice life, huh? Death … and dogs. They take June back to the Waterfords. Fred demands to know where the baby is. He then pleads with her, telling her they’ll all be put on the wall. Fred sounds like he’s frightened of death. Wow. Serena turns on June. How did that happen? Something about the baby’s safety, I don’t know. Why are we worried about little, defenseless babies when we’ve fostered a society that tortures and murders women? After three years, I’m still trying to figure out this bizarre logic.

Even Nick has a problem with June. I understand that she is doing this to get Hannah out of Gilead. I understand that. I guess this feeling only comes to those who have children. I would die for my daughter. I don’t know why, but I would. Thankfully, we get some Emily-fill. She hides under the cover of darkness in the forest of the night with baby-Holly (or Nichole, as June insists she be identified) in her warm arms. She makes it to a body of water, where she is eventually picked up by Canadian border patrol. It’s interesting to me the guard had to spout off a litany of requirements and pledges before Emily would believe she was in an autonomous area. In the interim, she had to submerge herself and the baby in the open water. It reminds me of Dear Zachary*, but in a good way.

Later, Fred produces a cover story to protect Serena from being arrested and, quite possibly, executed. “God has made me master of an incredible woman.” Is this how he gets laid? Puh-leeze. Serena muses over this as she treats her finger. I feel nothing for her. Even now. Serena is a soulless bag of meat with eyes, and that’s all she’ll ever be. June notices smoke wafting up to the attic space where she normally resides. She follows the trail of smoke (slowly, yeesh) down to a burning bed. Serena has set her bed on fire, and it looks like she might want to have an extra-bold barbeque. Fires are dangerous, kids. Remember that. I don’t know why June intervenes. I’d let her cook, but that’s just the way I roll. June would probably be blamed for that, but nevermind. It looks like the Waterfords will have to change residences. No worries. They’ll probably steal another magnificent house.

As the house is engulfed in holy virgin fire, we’re treated to the inappropriate strains of The Boomtown Rats’ only** song, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” I wonder where Bob Geldof is during this whole GIlead thing. He’s probably scamming donations for a one-off charity concert with all the surviving rock stars of the era that he intends to call, Handm-Aid! Thank you! I’m here all week! Emily and the baby make it to a Canadian hospital where they are they greeted with applause. The Waterford house is smoldering. We don’t put out fires in Gilead. No. We just empty our clips into them and roast pictures of hot dogs and marshmallows. Water is expensive. Bullets are cheap.

Now it’s time for God to require penance from June. I thought the concept of penance was strictly Catholic, at least as far as Western religion is concerned. This being The Handmaid’s Tale, penance means floor cleaning, and lots of it! I do a lot of floor cleaning. I have two cats and a wife and daughter that don’t seem to care about the condition of our floors. I wonder if this is my penance. June gets a new posting. This time with Bradley Whitford. “You’re not gonna be any trouble, are ya,” he asks her. Tee-hee. Meanwhile, in Canada, Emily (with Holly) meets up with Luke and Moira, and word of this gets back to June. That’s faster than email, for crying out loud.

**”Only” song because it’s the only song I ever hear in connection with The Boomtown Rats. The song is in grave danger of becoming cliché.

*Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is a heart-breaking documentary from 2008 about, among other things, the failure of the Canadian judicial system.

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