Under the Eye: “Household”

Every time somebody tells me that the Gilead-infested world of The Handmaid’s Tale is, in actuality, Donald Trump’s vision for America, another nail is hammered into the coffin of science fiction. They’re still saying it to this day! For there can be no science fiction when everything has some sort of cultural or political significance. Science Fiction is dead! We can’t have space aliens and super powers, intergalactic battles and time travel oddities anymore without there being some kind of pedestrian context with all the print and font sizes magnified so that we can see the “genius” of the storytelling in connecting all the dots for us.

It used to be that you would watch a movie like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, enjoy it for the gripping suspense, and then possibly read into it a veiled threat of Communism, such as it was. I prefer to reserve my subjective interpretations, maybe keep them to myself. Even in my fiction, I avoid direct interpretations, and I try not to offer any correlations or connections to current events. I’ll lose my audience in ten years if we aren’t still in lock-step with this kind of rigid, pathological thinking. I don’t know where they come up with Trump as a correlation. Maybe it’s because they think he’s Republican, therefore hates women or something, I don’t know. Trump’s been married three times and has sex with porn stars, so I think he likes women. He’s not particularly religious. His daughters have jobs. Nope. Still not seeing the connection.

Maybe it just comes down to hatred. If you hate somebody, then it’s easy for you to ascribe certain behaviors to that person. He can become a misogynist. He can become a Nazi. He can become everything you hate, therefore it’s within his abilities to become an architect for Gilead, right? I don’t buy it. I mean, he was President for four years. If he wanted Gilead so badly, he would’ve had it, right? Baby steps toward male supremacy? I’m sorry if this disappoints my readers, but I don’t think Trump is the Devil. He’s just, frankly, not interesting enough. There are much more qualified candidates out there … right now, as a matter of fact.

Politicizing a child is a 24-hour-a-day job, so Commander Lawrence informs “Ofjoseph” that her services are required on an extended loan basis to the Waterfords. They travel by train to Washington D.C. where they are to stay with Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni) and his family. We get a much-needed change of scenery from dreary New England environs. The Winslows have an enormous menagerie of children, and they all seem happy. This is an unsettling change of pace for Serena, Fred, and June. I must question the writer’s motives. Is the writer attempting to show us that life in Gilead can be manageable; that there can be happiness? If this is so, it gives us more reasons why the system is flawed, because as there are many who have adapted to this “new normal,” there are many who haven’t.

Those who fight Gilead should be allowed to leave Gilead, and those who don’t, can stay and do their part. Seems logical. If that is the case, then Gilead should never have become a fanatical dictatorship. It certainly didn’t need religion to control the population. We’re talking about the end of the human race. Enough sense for today! June shares a room with the Winslow handmaid (“Ofgeorge”) who reveals, in short order, that her lips have been stapled shut. So much for the fantasy of happiness in a Commander’s home. This is also the episode that introduces the handmaid muzzle, and believe me, the irony is not lost on me that a year later, we would be donning similar accoutrement. The muzzle is a tool of oppression whether it is used to silence a handmaid, or to “combat” a virus.

Fred has this idea that he can keep churning out “host segments” with his wife and June paraded in front of a camera in order to put pressure on Canada to return Nichole. Later, June is to lead in a national “day of prayer” for the safe return of Nichole. In conversations with Serena, June comes to the conclusion that she wants Nichole back after that brief visit from the previous episode. June cuts her down, telling her, “Our girl deserves better, and I know you know that.” Serena can’t see past the smiling faces of the children. Her resolve has strengthened, no matter what hell they put their handmaid through. June talks to representatives of the Swiss government. She tells them she wants Nichole to stay in Canada. They tell her she must get Nick to reveal information about Gilead’s power structure. They shake on it.

Okay, Commander Winslow … here we go. Winslow is an odd sort-of bird. He’s obviously done his fatherly duty in bringing forth all these new children. He loves them, but something tells me he … ahem, pitches for both teams, if you know what I mean. During their pool game, he gets very close to Fred and that, in conjunction with his character in the hilarious Wet Hot American Summer, have led me to call him Commander “Refrigerator Humper.” Meloni is a national treasure—you know, and I know it. This is Detective Elliot Stabler, for crying out loud. On this show, he is Commander “Refrigerator Humper.” There, I said it. Lunch? In other news, Nick agrees to meet with the Swiss, but nothing will be done given Nick’s history. Apparently, he’s “not to be trusted.” Oh well. La-dee-da, la-dee-da, la-la, yeah. Damned Flakey Swiss!

This revelation of Nick’s past as “a soldier in the Crusade” appears to shock June. Really? She never once thought that a man of his status as an Eye, and then his meteoric rise to prominence as a Commander didn’t come with a few hefty bags of devotion for Gilead? I hate when established characters suddenly lose their brains. It’s like Mallory on Family Ties or Rebecca on Cheers. The show tries to deal us another reversal with regard to Aunt Lydia. She doesn’t like the handmaids being muzzled. Beaten? Sure! Mutilated? I’m there! She says this right before she straps a muzzle to June’s face. Hey, but at least it doesn’t cover her nose, right? I wonder how Gilead would deal with Covid. Let’s save that speculation for later.

“Household” is an episode of stunning (and way too on-the-nose) visuals. Whether it’s the marble wings poised oh-so-perfectly behind June in one of the videos, or the chessboard flooring in the anteroom, or the pulverized Lincoln Memorial (an interesting choice), or the Washington Monument that has been transformed into an enormous cross (an even more interesting choice), The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t skimp. Of course we know that subsequent episodes will be thread-bare in production value to compensate for the enormous budget of this episode. Just before she is to begin her prayer, she has it out with Serena, telling her she doesn’t know how to love, and that she built this horrible nightmare of a world just so she wouldn’t be alone, but it won’t work, because Serena will always be “empty.” Much like this episode.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: