Under the Eye: “Mary and Martha”

This is Filmmaking 101. I am your instructor. My name is David Lawler, and I’m going to show you how to elicit sympathy in your visuals without actually eliciting sympathy from your characters. We start with slow tracking shots, a crane gingerly poised above the lead character’s head, swooping down to see part of her face before we cut to a series of “macro” shots. Macro shots are accomplished with a set of specific filters so that all the background action is obscured while our lead character’s face is in sharp focus. Add some twinkly music and a whispering voice-over from said lead character.

“Ofjoseph” (June’s new name, meaning “of [Commander] Joseph” Lawrence) waits for her new shopping partner as various handmaids pass by and make eye contact. Dig, if you will, a picture; a picture of a society of nuns walking, heads down, as armies of militia thugs with machine guns roam the streets looking for trouble. They go into the nearly-empty supermarket, do their shopping, and “Ofjoseph” returns with a couple of items. Aunt Lydia returns, having survived being knifed and pushed down the stairs by Emily. She has to walk with a cane.

June tries to help her when she slips while walking up a flight of stairs, but Lydia pokes her with a cattle prod for her trouble and tells her she should be “on the wall” for all her misdeeds. Nice place, huh? Nice lady. In Canada, Nichole is placed with Luke and Moira. Moira embraces surrogate motherhood, but Luke isn’t having it. I understand his jealousy and apprehension, but I know somehow this show is going to turn it around on him for being a man. Original sin and such. Emily sees a doctor who orders full work-ups and examinations as well as a referral for “clitoral reconstruction.”

That’s very nice and all, but I suspect the scene was written to show how awesome the Canadian healthcare system is, but knowing what I know (from my various friends in the Great White North), it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Of course with the human race dying off, maybe there’s less of a wait time to get clitoral reconstruction. June sits in on a meeting with the Marthas in Lawrence’s house. They are arranging another escape plan. This time for a Martha named Alison. Let’s hope this one actually does what she is told. June suspects Lawrence isn’t a completely horrible person so she clues him in and asks him to provide safe haven for the handmaid in the transfer.

The Marthas want to keep June out of this plan, presumably (and wisely) because there’s too much heat on her, and there is, but June demands to be a part of it. They dress her as a Martha and take her into town where the buildings are adorned (like horrible Christmas trees) with the hanging bodies of deviants, criminals, and people who didn’t rewind their video cassettes. They make it past a couple of checkpoints and drop off the “loosie” (that’s what I call women who try to escape) at a garage. That’s it? That’s the plan?

An uncomfortable dinner follows with Emily, Luke, Moira, and Erin (nice to see Erin again). When Luke tries to quiz Emily on Gilead diet habits, Moira, rather rudely, shuts down his conversation and orders him to “get the fucking potatoes.” This is what happens when you’re the only male living in an apartment with two other women, even though Erin doesn’t talk that much. This was never about men versus women, but who dominates the conversation. The “loosie” returns to the Lawrence house after being shot by Guardians. It turns out she was a chemistry teacher in her previous life and had gotten adept at making bombs for Mayday.

June hides her in the basement, but she moans from her pain, and if caught, she could roll the entire Mayday network, but it doesn’t matter at this point. While the other Marthas are contemplating what to do with her, she dies, so basically all of this was for nothing, but at least it ate up about thirty-five minutes of running time, so we’re good I guess. June is tasked with wrapping up the body and burying it (she could really use some help, huh?), which takes up another six minutes. I have a feeling this season will be composed of a lot of time-wasting and padding. I don’t know why.

In Canada, Nichole cries and wakes up Luke. Moira comes in and holds the baby, and Luke marvels at how awesome she is being able to juggle this hell and a baby. I mean, come on. It’s not like Moira is Mother Theresa here. She was a miserable bitch before Gilead, and she is a miserable bitch after Gilead, but apparently she’s awesome, so nevermind. In short order, June realizes her new shopping partner is a pod person, fully committed to the ideals of Gilead, and then indirectly threatens pushing her into oncoming traffic. Probably not the best ground upon which to build a new relationship. A girl like that you gotta watch carefully.

Emily gets a new pair of glasses. Same day! Boy, Canadian healthcare rocks! She calls her wife, Sylvia, (Clea DuVall) who picks up while she’s driving. That’s a no-no, Clea. Let it go to voice-mail! She doesn’t and winds up blocking traffic. Good one, Emily. Thus ends our Filmmaking 101 course. After watching this episode, you will note the many slow tracking shots, use of “twinkly” music, whispering voice-overs, paper-thin narrative, and long stares into the dark, pitiless void, and finally, you will learn how to make effective drama in 2020. Cue the inappropriate Cake song!

*Based on the world-building in Luke’s journey to Canada, Luke escaped, met up with Erin and her group, made it safely to Canada where they took an apartment together. Moira joined them a few months later. In essence, this is Luke and Erin’s apartment and Moira is a guest in their house. Is this how you treat your host?

“Outside, outside the walls
Out there you don’t hear the echoes and calls

But the steel eye, tight jaw
Say it all, say it all
But the white paint
Plastic saints
Say it all, say it all
Say it all, say it all, say it all, say it all
Say it all, say it
Somebody has got to say it all”**

**John McCrea/George Kane. “Shadow Stabbing.” 2001. Comfort Eagle. Columbia Records Inc., 2001

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