Under the Eye: “Mayday”

Even in the best of times, we turn on each other. This is what we were born to do. We should always try to seek out the best of us, but we should remember there are snakes in the garden. The trouble is the snakes don’t always identify themselves. It would be easier if they weren’t wearing face-masks. In the final episode of season three, we go back to the initial problem: Gilead’s Female Question and Final Solution. Before all of this nonsense began, the women were led into slaughterhouse facilities, stripped, and fast-walked to transport compartments. The whole thing smacks of Nazi Germany, of course. It looks good on paper, but Gilead always feels unreal because it was crafted by writers and not politicians and military leaders. Many of these women don’t seem have a clue.

One of them, the soon-to-be one-eyed batshit crazy Janine (Madeline Brewer), even threatens to sue. One of the show’s tells is to throw in pointless flashback scenes when there isn’t enough story to fill out the running time (even though this episode runs over an hour). Always a bad sign. Meanwhile, in the present, the plan seems to be going along smoothly. June (Elisabeth Moss) fills us in. Notes (in the form of soap cakes) are passed in baskets. I guess they ran out of muffin batter. A plane leaves at midnight. Not a couple of minutes before, we had men with machine guns on street corners, but apparently everybody’s taking a smoke break. Lydia (Ann Dowd) takes June aside, convinced she’s up to no good. She tells her to watch herself. June says, “You got it!”

The Marthas are on edge, slicing bread and getting cross with each other. What can you do? Could you imagine that a good percentage of these women are quite possibly sloppy and disorganized, and don’t make for very good domestic help regardless of the needs of Gilead? I always wondered what happened to all of the females in law enforcement. The spies. The armed forces. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Were they summarily executed? Or is Atwood’s (and the writers’) universe composed only of women who can make babies and cook dinner? Atwood’s constructed universe requires women to be inherently docile and easily led, and the men to be vicious and hateful. Yet for June to make any kind of headway in this universe, Gilead must be insanely incompetent and inefficient, and this episode, “Mayday,” finally confirms it.

Does Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) feel any more like a prisoner within the U.S. Government than she would in Gilead? Our flirty American operative, Tuello (Sam Jaeger), eases up on Serena’s restrictions. Why? Good behavior? She wants to abscond with a child who is not hers. She has not recanted Gilead. She dropped a dime on her own husband. Yet, she is given more freedom? June promises sunshine and puppies for a young girl she is hiding. Everything will be better! You’ll be allowed to read! June gives her food. The girl makes June pray. This is incredibly manipulative stuff. Her Martha rushes in, changing her mind. She wants to return the child to her home, no harm, no foul. June grabs a gun, tells her this is a one-way-trip. Oddly, this now looks like child abduction instead of liberation.

We get more unnecessary debate between June and Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). This is shocking to me in that Moss actually acts, particularly when she insists the Universe has, what Lawrence calls, “a balance sheet.” I begin to suspect Lawrence is an atheist. I don’t know that I agree with June. I don’t think the Universe is watching, but I do think people are always watching, and it is people who provide that “balance sheet.” Now, it seems, June has resorted to the gun to get her way. This episode is particularly heavy on the man-hate. Fred (Joseph Fiennes) is interrogated by a gaggle of angry-looking women. He decides to drop a dime on Serena’s activities inside of Gilead, but Tuello tells him she has immunity. In Gilead, June sets up the “underground railroad” to the plane where the kids are to be ferried.

We’re talking about 52 children and assorted Marthas, so somebody suggests a five-mile hike through the woods to the airstrip. Tuello takes Serena into custody after Fred tells him about Nick’s dalliance with June to produce baby Nichole. I don’t understand how the Americans would view this as a crime (it surely is a crime in Gilead) in view of the fact they don’t recognize Gilead as anything other than a terrorist faction that seized control and grabbed a handful of warheads. The only difference between Gilead and the United States on the subject is that we make sure contracts are signed and the parties are satisfied with the terms of surrogacy. We don’t do this forced thing, far as I know. Our “railroad” is under way. I don’t know how any of this is possible.

You mean to tell me that Gilead took a long nap while all of this was happening? Security consists of two slow-moving vehicles with enormous spotlights, and there is a total of one guardian monitoring the airport! There was a wonderful moment previous to this that had Lawrence reading to the assembled children before their departure, but it was all-too-brief. When June suggests Lawrence accompany them to Canada, he tells her, “I’m not a big fan of flying … or children.” They make their farewells, but I have a feeling those two crazy kids will see each other again. Call it … a HUNCH! Ba-dum-chee! In the woods near the airstrip, June decides to provide a distraction so the kids can escape. This is fairly tense to watch. She has the Bruce Willis moment of deciding on a weapon, but a bunch of handmaids (including Janine) give her a Spartacus moment.

They pick up rocks and throw them at a vehicle as the children are led to the plane. The guardian sprays bullets into the woods, apparently not seeing the children. June reveals herself. The guardian gives chase. June should really be running in a serpentine fashion. She gets shot, but then shoots the guardian. June lies bleeding in the woods as the freedom plane flies overhead. Moira (I have to say I’ve become impressed with her evolution), Luke, and Emily are part of the rescue team in Canada. The children de-board and there are tearful reunions. Okay, this one got to me (Amanda Brugel as former Martha Rita particularly sells it), but I come back immediately because of yet another overused (and inappropriate) needle drop. This time, it’s “Into Dust” by Mazzy Star, but I am not going to end this season with those lyrics. Instead … how about a little Kate? Until next time, I want to thank you for reading.

“And every time it rains
You’re here in my head
Like the sun coming out
Like your son’s coming out
Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen
And I don’t know when
But just saying it could even make it happen”*

*Kate Bush. “Cloudbusting.” 1985. Hounds of Love. EMI Group Limited, 1985

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