Here we are, two weeks into the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale (streaming Sundays, 9 p.m.ET on Crave). We’ve had four episodes to contemplate all the things happening in Gilead and to digest a resistance-forward season that’s supposed to offer us hope. After all, Emily (Alexis Bledel) escaped. Luke (O-T Fagbenle) has Nichole. June has found new purpose with the resistance while in the household of the very (very) confusing Commander Lawrence.
Still, we have a long history with this show, and we know that just when things are looking up everything we think we know changes, and darkness creeps in. That’s the world Margaret Atwood first designed when she wrote the 1985 novel, and that’s the universe creator Bruce Miller and his writers have kept alive and expanded on these past few years. So after watching the last few episodes, which gave us so much Handmaid’s gold and hope, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Let’s dig in a little deeper, shall we? On Sunday night’s first new hour, “Useful,” we saw the full extent of Commander Lawrence’s (Bradley Whitford) power. He had all of the commanders over at his house where they contemplated how to deal with the increased resistance to Gilead. There, Lawrence put on quite the embarrassing show with June (Elisabeth Moss) in which he proved just how “useful” women could be. In his way, he was potentially saving dozens of lives by proving a point to his gallows-happy cohorts, but by making June fetch a book like a child and reminding her of her previous book editor life he also reminded her of everything that’s been taken from her. It was quite the damaging display and it nearly broke her—especially when Lawrence followed it up by telling June to select which five (of what must have been more than 100) people to save from The Colonies and to make Marthas.
Thankfully, the episode also marked the return of Nick (Max Minghella). He came to bid farewell to June with one final secret bedroom romp before being sent to the frontlines in Chicago, where resistance is strongest. Although it was just one small act of defiance, the moment reignited June’s will and allowed her to select five Martha candidates that could help further their cause in the resistance. Another small moment of taking back power in a crappy situation, right?
Fast forward to the second new episode, “God Bless the Child.” Of all the episodes so far, that was the one that made us the most uncomfortable with June’s new status quo. Weirdly, Commander Lawrence and his wife were missing from the Putnam’s baptism celebration, but that meant June basically had free reign of the house and lots of opportunity to interact with both Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski). In fact, she essentially became a marriage counsellor to the two and somehow stuck them back together while gaining powerful “friends.” Or at least we’re sure that’s how she sees it. We see it as something else.
Every time June has claimed this much power or tried to pull strings to make the Waterfords do what she wants on this show, it has backfired. Hard. There are small cracks appearing in Gilead now: look no further than Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and her breakdown on Janine (Madeleine Brewer) for proof. That means powerful people are going to start cracking the whip even harder to get Gilead in line. People like June, who keep pushing that line further and further, even having a smoke with Serena poolside in one of the most GIF-able moments of the series to date.
For June personally, the entire thing may blow up in terms of Nichole and her freedom. Just because that baby is with Luke now doesn’t mean she will be long-term. Not now that he’s been parading her around on TV (why, Luke, why?!) and the powers-that-be in Gilead have been alerted to her whereabouts. This is a society whose sole mission is to have babies. Each law that’s been created revolves around repopulating the dying planet, so course they’re going to do whatever they can to bring that baby home.
So if we, or June, or Serena, or anyone else thinks that things are going to be peachy keen going forward in regards to Nichole we’re probably kidding ourselves. Would Canada go to war to keep the child? Or would they extradite Emily, Luke or Moira, and give Nichole back in order to maintain the overall peace?
As Canadians we’d like to think not, but this is a show based on historical events and situations that could happen IRL. With everything going on in the world right now the scenario is definitely plausible, no matter heartbreaking it is to think about.
Of course thinking about those larger issues and feeling their impact on a smaller scale by getting to know the characters affected has always been one of the show’s reasons for existing. That’s why it can be such a hard—but relevant—watch. In the coming weeks, following a resurgence of hope, we have a feeling the show is going to drive some of those points home in a really big way. And it’s giving us that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs as a result.
Blessed be the fight indeed.
The Handmaid’s Tale continues Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on Crave.