Under the Eye: “Heroic”

“It’s a God-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling, “No!”
And her daddy has told her to go
But her friend is nowhere to be seen
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen
But the film is a saddening bore
For she’s lived it ten times or more
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on-

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show

Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy

Oh man!
Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?”*

“Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?”**

June and Dementia: A Lecture. She hears Belinda Carlisle in the beeps of a heart and pulse oximeter. She listens for meaningful patterns. She glares at doctors. She glares at the comatose Ofmatthew. She glares as the camera zooms in on her white face. Why is she in this room? Unattended. Unguarded. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If Gilead demonstrates this level of basic incompetence on a daily basis, perhaps it is God’s will that it should capture the world. We’re talking a voodoo magic level of luck here. June is being punished, of course. This is punishment. She’s forced to kneel, day-in and day-out in front of the coma chameleon, and we’re treated to her stream-of-consciousness internal monologue.

She watches a parade of disturbingly-young handmaids-in-training as they take a moment to look over Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop). Nobody tells June to get up and leave, so this is obviously for the duration. When she gets up to stretch, her leg bones make ominous cracks and her knees are bruised. She manages to fiddle with Ofmatthew’s ventilator. She squeezes the tube and the heart monitor makes all kinds of noise. How is she allowed to do this? A better question would be why. Why is she allowed to do this? As she watches urine drip into a collection bag, she hears Belinda Carlisle again. Where is Belinda Carlisle? I think she made it to Canada and is currently collecting residuals. Between this and the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, she’s (or her songwriters) gotta be raking it in.

Gil Bellows pops up as the doctor in charge of Ofmatthew. June does everything in her power to antagonize Lydia, but it doesn’t wash. How do you antagonize the powerless? Bellows seems to know what he’s doing, which makes him a real doctor. Lydia justifies this by saying the doctors perform God’s miracles. June asks Lydia if she can go home. Lydia might as well chuckle at this request (maybe she does in her head) but she tells June she may go home when Ofmatthew gets up and goes home. Lydia leaves and an attendant seems to make sure June can see that there is a bin for sharps. He drops a scalpel into the bin while catching her eye. What is that about?

Later, June rummages through the bin and pokes herself with a spent needle. That’s a good way to get an infection, young lady! She finds the scalpel. She now has a weapon. She hovers menacingly over Ofmatthew. Janine enters. It seems she’s spending time at the hospital because of her infected lack of an eye. I’ve always found Janine intriguing; a combination of youth, rebellion, and innocence in a mind that is just as raped as her body. She prays over Ofmatthew even as June waves the scalpel in front of her with glee. “She’s one of us,” Janine tells June. I noted, at the time of the episode’s premiere, viewers started to see June as the enemy because of this episode.

Janine tells her as much, and indicts her for her selfish attitude—add to this June’s callous indifference of a stupid handmaid who didn’t know any better. Ofmatthew is a very short stone’s throw from Janine, yet June learns nothing. Instead she contemplates murdering doctors (and a visiting Serena). She beckons Serena closer and slices her once with the scalpel before she is sliced herself. Scalpels are dangerous, kids. Bellows disposes of the scalpel and treats June’s hand as June continues to glare, glare, glare… He seems kind and sympathetic, and again we are led to wonder where the cruelty and sadism of Gilead ultimately leads. It turns out he knew her mother, Holly, when she was in residency in the before-time.

June tells Gil she intended to kill Serena. He pretends like he didn’t hear her. As merciful as he is, he is just as powerless as June, as Lydia, as Ofmatthew in this world. I’m guessing Gil wanted to be on the show, like Whitford, but he didn’t want to play a monster. Later, Ofmatthew begins to hemorrhage, and the alarms go off. Gil performs an emergency C-section, and the baby is put on life-support. June goes off on her merry way, but not before chatting up a young handmaid-in-training named Rose. June asks the girl if she really wants to make babies for the State. Rose says, “Of course.” What answers did June expect to hear? On her way to the car, she has a change of heart and tells Lydia she must stay with Ofmatthew.

At her bedside, June tells Ofmatthew her child doesn’t deserve to grow up in Gilead. Her child deserves to be free, as do all the children of Gilead. She promises to help the children escape. June sings more Belinda Carlisle, while listening for more meaningful patterns, as this tedious exercise in mininalism comes to a close.

“Ooh, Heaven is a place on Earth.”

*David Bowie. Life on Mars.” 1973. Hunky Dory. RCA Inc., 1973
**Rick Nowels/Ellen Shipley. “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.” 1987. Heaven on Earth. MCA Inc., 1987

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