JUNE ON THE RUN (HANDMAID'S TALE RECAP)
Blessed be the Froot Loops. This episode ranges all over the place, from our great neighbor to the north to the Red Center. We have three-ish storylines to cover, and I’m going to start with Moira.
Moira is running through the Canadian snow (in a nice cross cut scene with June running through the newspaper building). She passes a shrine/memorial to those still in Gilead, and ends up in the apartment with Luke and the silent blonde woman he rescued. I’m going to call her Pixie Cut. Luke is watching TV, just like he was the last time we saw him, and he seems to think that British and Canadian forces are going to invade Gilead. Moira is the mom to everyone, and Luke supposedly has a job. Pixie Cut mostly lays around the apartment, it seems. Moira is working for the refugee resettlement project, and she looks great in her smart office wear. She is helping a man, newly arrived in Canada, go through the processes, when he tells her that he was in the Army before. When the Sons of Jacob overthrew the government, his unit became Guardians, and the next week, they were hanging bodies on the wall, including a man he’d dated in college. (This is interesting because it suggests that some of the armed forces joined the Gileadean cause, while others, like the unit of the female soldier Luke met on his journey to Canada, continued to fight for the US of A.) The refugee is clearly shaken and traumatized, and Moira is not able to connect with him, trapped as she is in her own PTSD.
The next time we see her, Moira is at a lesbian bar, drinking water and doing some high level eye flirting with a redhead at the bar. The two go into the bathroom for a little fingerbanging, and Moira brushes off the woman’s attempt to return the orgasmic favor. The woman introduces herself, and Moira gives her her Jezebel’s name, Ruby. She is clearly working through some things. At home the next morning, Moira mothers her flatmates, and everyone is delighted when Pixie Cut, enjoying a bowl of sugary cereal, says “Blessed be the Froot Loops.” In an episode that leans heavily on telling, Moira’s section stands out for the way it uses acting and silence to let us see what’s going on with the character. We don’t need Moira to spell out her every thought, because we can see it in her actions and on her face. Samira Wiley is a treasure. I’m sad to report that Luke still sucks, though.
Meanwhile, in Gilead, two months have passed. June has worked up a good cardio routine as she runs through the newspaper building (and I can’t help but imagine how good it must feel to be able to run, after all those years of forced stillness as a Handmaid.) She’s worked on her shrine and her newspaper-clipping Crazy Wall ™, where she is reconstructing the events that led to the creation of Gilead. Which is great, but also, bitch, didn’t you watch the fucking news? You lived through this. I’m pretty sure I could come up with a coherent timeline of Trump’s ascendency, you know? June’s scenes in the episode are covered in voiceover, which gets on my nerves as it goes on. E. Moss is an incredible actress, and I think she could sell a lot of this through expression and action, rather than telling the audience exactly what she’s thinking all the time. Anyway, Nick comes to tell her she’ll be moving on soon, and she is a bit frightened of leaving her haven. Also, I hate Nick. She asks about Hannah and Nick says he’s working on it. Sure he is.
The man who dropped her off comes to get her, and I find him delightful. He’s like, “Who’s Nick?” when she asks, and good for him! No need to throw names around in our secret, underground, super-illegal, punishable-by-death resistance organization. He takes her to another dark warehouse and tells her to wait. Inside are all of the street signs in Boston, taken down when Gilead proclaimed women are not allowed to read. I like it, and it gives us a bit of that silent, post-apocalyptic storytelling I enjoy. June is startled by a man named Omar, who makes a lame Oz joke (which I love) and tells her he’s taking her to a small airfield to hop on a puddle jumper to Canada. However, he gets a text and freaks out. He tries to leave June behind, but she stands in his path and refuses to move. Omar reluctantly takes her with him.
Omar brings June to his home, situated in an Eastern bloc type housing project. We finally get to see how the majority of people in Gilead live: the Econo-people. Omar sneaks her up the stairs and into his apartment, where he lives with his Econowife, Heather, and his son, Child (I don’t remember what Child’s name is...maybe it’s Adam). This is something from the book we haven’t seen yet. Econowives wear gray, and Econo-people are citizens who have not violated Gilead’s laws by being divorced and remarried, gay, of a different faith, or a troublemaker. (Econo-people are everyday people. Atwood loves portmanteaus more than she loves irony, which is a lot.) Heather is pissed off, as one would be, that he brought a super dangerous stranger into her home. Heather, I get it. I’d be mad, too. June flirts with Child and it’s cute but it reminds her of Hannah, and that’s sad. The family must go to church, to make a public profession of faith, and warn June to stay silent while they are gone. They tell her they’ll be back at 2.
Immediately, June goes to stare out the window, which, what the actual fuck, lady! Guardians are stationed every twenty feet, armed with assault rifles and suspicious attitudes. Child sees June and almost waves. June is an idiot. Soon after they leave, someone knocks on the door, asking if they are in. June panics and hides under the bed, and I sort of love that, because I have anxiety and people knocking on my door fills me with that exact desire. While she’s under there, she spies a bundle, which she rudely takes and inspects. Turns out, it's a Quran and a prayer rug. She has a whole moment of unadulterated white privilege as she realizes the family is having to hide their faith, under fear of death. I really wanted to punch her during all of this. How golly, and how insensitive, to poke through their sacred objects and get all teary-eyed, especially as they risk their lives to shelter her dumb ass.
The family does not come back, and after waiting, June decides to take action. She dresses in Heather’s Econowife clothes and descends the stairs, in a truly beautiful shot. She joins the other Econowives as they go about their business while the armed Guardians stand about. She has the map to the airfield in her pocket, and she boards a train. This is a very tense scene. She gets off and flees into the woods. Girlfriend must have been a Girl Scout in her youth, because she is super good at orienteering. She runs through a field and ends up at the tiny airport. She sits there until dusk, and the pilot arrives. June ventures out and identifies herself as the Handmaid. The pilot asks to see proof, and she shows him her butchered ear. Out of the darkness steps a young man (Nick’s eyebrow twin) who says that he was a driver. The pilot accepts him as well. They crawl into the baggage compartment, and June silently asks Hannah for forgiveness for leaving her behind. I hate flying anyway, and find take off particularly scary, so I was already on edge before the shooting starts. The driver is shot, and the plane comes to a stop. Gilead descends on the escapees. The pilot is shot in the head, the driver is pulled out of the plane, and they snatch a terrified June out of the plane. It’s terrible and upsetting. She’s in trouble now!
Last and sort of least, we get to see June’s mom. Played by Cherry Jones, Holly is an outspoken feminist and activist. We see a flashback to one of my favorite scenes from the book, when Holly took young June to a Take Back the Night Rally. The women are burning the names of their rapists (in the book, they are burning pornography and it’s so beautifully written.) Holly judges the grown June for deciding to marry Luke, basically saying all men are trash (#truth). She also clearly thinks Moira is awesome and June is a disappointment, working with her little books and not helping the cause, marrying a dumbass and all that. It seems that Holly may be an abortion provider, as well. We are shown a scene at the Red Center, as the Handmaids are being indoctrinated by Aunt Lydia via slide show. As she warns them of the dangers of disobedience and the terrors that await the troublemakers in the Colonies, she shows a slide of Holly in the Colonies. Moira grabs June’s hand as they stare in horror and sadness. Given what we’ve seen of the Colonies, it seems unlikely that Holly is still alive. June thinks of her mother and the way mothers and children fail each other: Holly wasn’t really the mother June wanted, and June certainly wasn’t the daughter Holly wanted, given her thirst for that tasty D.
June’s mom is one of my favorite parts of the novel, and I missed her sorely in the first season. She was the Cassandra, shouting her warnings to deaf ears, right up until the end. In the novel, June’s mom is sort of a sister to Aunt Lydia--both are convinced of men’s perfidity, but Aunt Lydia insists that women must be protected from them, and June’s mom thinks that men should just, you know, not be so fucking terrible 24/7 for all of human history. Both are zealots, but I’ve always put June’s mom on the side of right. Just like all moms, she’s disappointed with her daughter’s choices, but June clearly takes strength and courage from her mother. As she gets ready to flee, she thinks to herself, “Raise your daughter to be a feminist and she spends all her time waiting to be rescued by men.” June chooses to take agency in her escape attempt. I’m sad that we didn’t get to spend more time with Holly. Maybe we’ll see her again.