Do the ends justify the means? That seems to be a popular question on dark TV dramas right now and this third season of The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET, Crave) is no exception.
All season long we’ve seen June (Elisabeth Moss) grab power where she could and delve deeper into the resistance, all while doing some heinous things to get what she wants. There have been several character deaths as a result of her actions now, but until last week when she took a ballpoint pen to Commander Winslow (over and over again), she was never directly responsible for taking a life.
That moment, as we predicted last week, definitely changed her. And that makes it kind of hard to like her or the things she’s doing—even though we’re still rooting for her. Sunday’s episode, “Sacrifice,” was the perfect example of that conflict. June continued to “break bad” as she inched toward her goal of saving those 50 kids, and like Walter White, it’s clear now that nothing is going to stand in her way.
You can’t really blame her, given everything she’s gone through these past three seasons. This woman has been kicked around time and time again, but now she has a mission. If anything, Sunday’s episode was the highest we’ve ever seen June. She learned that the Waterfords had been captured by Canadian authorities, that everyone believed Winslow to be missing, and that her airplane plan was indeed a go. Or as Lawrence put it, “Fred and Serena are toast and you just got away with murder. All in all not a bad morning.”
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If only the rest of the episode had been so chipper, huh? One of the themes Handmaid’s has dug into this season is the idea of mental health and what it means to have a chemical imbalance in this “pure” world of Gilead. Eleanor Lawrence (Julie Dretzin), without her medication and a quickly-deteriorating mental state, has been the poster child and it’s been heartbreaking to watch.
It was #PeakEleanor when she almost blew the entire plane-plan by telling Winslow’s wife, Olivia, that they could take her children with them. Later, Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) and June stopped her on her way out the door to recruit some of the neighbour’s children, making Eleanor a real threat to the escape—which was set to take place in a week. Naturally, that made her extremely dangerous to everyone involved.
Enter a bottle of pills, a broken woman, and June… coming into the right place at the right time.
In the second season of Breaking Bad, there was a major turning-point for Walter White when he walked in on his partner Jesse and Jesse’s blackmailing girlfriend Jane, who was overdosing in her sleep from drugs and the moment became a crucial one for the rest of the series.
June pulled a similar stunt on Sunday when she walked in on an overdosing Eleanor. And even though her first reaction was to run and get help, in the end she just couldn’t risk having Eleanor ruin her plan and so she quietly shut the door and left the woman to die alone. It’s an act that may or may not have huge repercussions heading into next week’s finale.
The thing is, Eleanor is maybe a more important character that we realized because she was what humanized Lawrence. All of his good actions were a result of his love for her, and without her, we have to wonder what his motivations are for continuing to help June and these other kids. Will he continue with the plan or will he lean into his newly reinstated position of power alongside the other commanders?
Furthermore, what does this mean for June and her place in Gilead? We know she doesn’t want to leave without Hannah, but how would she be able to stay in the Lawrence residence without a wife there too? Yes, the whole escape plan involved Lawrence and Eleanor also escaping, so she’d be in a similar position once they fled, but it’s starting to seem like June really isn’t seeing big-picture here.
Or, maybe she is. Lawrence’s look of sheer anger at the funeral is causing us concern to be sure, but this is also supposed to be the season of hope. So as we look towards next week’s finale (already?!) we have to hold on to hope that something good is going to happen here. And saving 50-plus children certainly sounds like something good… right?
Let’s hope so. Blessed be the fight.