The Handmaid’s Tale: Episode Three

This episode, directed by Elisabeth Moss herself, is one for the books. It starts out with June muzzled and chained up in a van, being transported to a prison facility. When she arrives, Nick unchains her and tells her that Mrs. Keyes has been taken into custody, and that the other Handmaids are assumed to be at the next safe house. He asks her to let him help her, but the only way he can do that is if she tells him where that safe house is. June stays silent, and Aunt Lydia comes to the van to take her to a cell. She is immediately met with violence from her, and with men in all black, who enter into the cell and strap her down on the table there. A  Lieutenant then comes in and in a soft voice, asks her where the Handmaids are. June doesn’t say anything, and the man punches her in the ribs and asks her again in a gentle voice. She doesn’t respond again, and the men pray, then flip her upside down, place a cross-emblemed cloth on her face and waterboard her. The danger this man poses is even more succinct when his tone when he speaks is very sweet, but acts out in a very dangerous manner. Aunt Lydia, who has removed herself from this, sits outside the cell, doing embroidery, visibly concerned about what’s going on inside. Yet, that concern hasn’t caused her to act out from her role in Gilead.

In Canada, Luke finds out that June has been captured, but that there will be no public trial or sentencing for her. The authorities in Canada are unable to do anything to help her, and because of that, Luke feels absolutely helpless. He has heard of all the things that his wife has done and what has happened to her, but he is safe, far removed from all of it.

June’s torture is continued when she is brought into a separate room. Aunt Lydia comes in with a worried look on her face, but she shifts back into “character” when she starts talking to June. She says that the Handmaids’ lives are in danger. June responds by telling her that Aunt Lydia told the girls that they’d be okay, but then sent them out to be raped, beaten, and humiliated, and by doing so, she failed them all. That statement seems to hurt Aunt Lydia’s ego, so she calls the Lieutenant back in, and he threatens to pull out June’s fingernails. As he is about to pull one of them out with pliers, June shouts out that the Handmaids went to Vermont, and are waiting at a library to cross the border. This is in fact a lie, but her captors don’t know that yet. She’s trying to buy her friends as much time as she can.

Returning to Canada, Luke is with Nicole, and Moira comes over to talk about June. Luke things that June chose to get caught because she chose to stay in Gilead and continue fighting, instead of escaping and reuniting with him and her daughter. You can see that he feels betrayed about this, but he tells Moira that he has to respect her, and respect her choice. Moira agrees, and says that God has been looking after her so far, so she believes that she will be okay and be with them again some day.

June’s lie doesn’t last long, as Aunt Lydia comes in the cell, knowing that what she had said before wasn’t true. She is taken by two cloaked men and brought to the roof of the building, where two other Handmaids are standing, hands tied, on the rooftop ledge. The Lieutenant asks June once again where the Handmaids are, and one of the Handmaids on the ledge yells out to her to not say anything.

That outburst of defiance causes the Lieutenant to go over to her and push her off the roof. He then takes June and brings her face to face with the remaining Handmaid, who is taken off the ledge. The two women hold hands and share a quiet moment.They know they have to stay strong, that they have to protect the other women. They know that this Handmaid will surely die for her silence. And she does, as both women refuse to say anything, and the Lieutenant pushes her off the rooftop. He speaks to June, a little more firmly than the way he’s spoken in the past, and tells her not to lie to him again. She is then brought back to her cell and placed in a small box.

We then go to Nick and Commander Lawrence, who are sitting by a fireplace and having a discussion about June. Commander Lawrence tells Nick that she’s smart but stubborn, and that he doesn’t think she will ever go back to him. Nick wants June to stay alive, and can’t move on from her. He makes Commander Lawrence an offer—that he can help him keep his house that he has begun to feel comfortable with again if he helps him with June. Commander Lawrence owes him.

June isn’t doing so well being isolated in the box, as she softly sings “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” In this incredibly sad scene, we hear her singing this as it shows us Luke and Nicole on the steps of his house and planting fruit in the front yard. We don’t see that for too long as it returns to June being let out of the box. She crawls out, looking almost like she’s been defeated. A bag is thrown over here head and she is brought to a large room where Commander Lawrence is sitting on the opposite side of a table filled with a lot of food. She’s almost surprised to see him, saying that she didn’t think he’d end up there, however he says they needed him, and he did as they asked. She begins to eat as he begins to talk about June’s latest stunt that has left nine commanders in the hospital, and six dead. He then asks her where the other Handmaids are. June stops eating, worried about what was to happen next. Commander Lawrence then uses her daughter, Hannah, as a ploy to get her to talk, telling her that Gilead will hurt her if she doesn’t tell them where the Handmaids are. June doesn’t believe that they would do anything to her since Gilead values children so much, but Commander Lawrence disagrees. He says they only value and care about tradition. June still doesn’t believe him, so he motions for the guards to take her to another room. In that room, encased in a big glass cage, is Hannah. When Hannah sees June, she runs to the opposite corner, scared. June slowly walks over to her and sits down next to her on the other side of the glass. You can see that Hannah doesn’t fully recognize June as her mother, and is fearful of her. It is this moment, however, that June knows she has to tell them about the Handmaids. Seeing her child and recognizing that Gilead will harm her, she has to sacrifice her friends so her daughter is safe. The Lieutenant comes over to June and she immediately tells him the truth about where the Handmaids are. Aunt Lydia then pulls her away from Hannah—who knows when she will see her again.

Elsewhere, Janine and the other Handmaids wake up to the sound of Gilead soldiers outside where they’re hiding. Them being caught is inevitable, with no way to escape. They stand up in confidence, together and holding hands, as the soldiers come blasting through the doors.

In the prison facility, Aunt Lydia comes into June’s cell to tell her the other Handmaids have been retrieved. June, who at this moment has lost hope, tells Aunt Lydia that she’s ready to be killed. But, she won’t be executed, according to Aunt Lydia. Instead, her and the other Handmaids will be sent to a Magdalene colony and live out their days in service—aka, becoming a breeder in the name of Gilead. Aunt Lydia tells her that everything that has happened is her doing, her responsibility, her fault, and her choice. She then leaves June to get cleaned up, and we see every bruise and scar on her skin, showing the anguish and pain she has been in at the hands of Gilead. Yet, these are just physical marks. We are yet to see the mental and emotional marks, and we might not see them fully until she is free or separated from Gilead.

Aunt Lydia dresses June in her red Handmaid dress and white bonnet, and she is put on a van that drives out to the middle of nowhere, to a bridge. The guards tell her to walk down the road to the bridge, where she sees Nick. He tells her that Hannah is safe back at home. June vents to him about how she wasn’t scared of Gilead guards, but scared of her. She begins to cry and Nick

consoles her and tells her that he loves her. They get close, and on the other side of the bridge another car drives up. She begins to walk away from him, but runs back and kisses him, in a sweet 360 moment, and tells him that she loves him, too. They let go and she walks to the van, her head held up high.

The other Handmaids are in the van with Aunt Lydia, and they begin to drive off. The van gets stopped at the train tracks, as a train is about to come. The driver takes this time to get out and go to the bathroom, leaving Aunt Lydia alone with the Handmaids. June uses this moment to her advantage and holds her down as the other Handmaids escape from the van. In a powerful moment, they all run towards the train tracks, to their potential freedom. The driver realizes they have all escaped and begins to shoot at them. He shoots a couple of them, but the rest of the women continue to run for their lives. They run, as the train is coming down the tracks at full speed. They run, crossing the tracks. Janine makes it across. June makes it across. Alma and Brianna are seconds away from making it over, when in a jaw-dropping moment, the train hits them and they are gone. The train continues along, with June and Janine on one side, safe, and Aunt Lydia and the driver on the other.

Following that absolutely heartbreaking moment that literally had my mouth agape in absolute shock, we are brought into a flashback to when the Handmaids had first met in the beginning of this whole thing. In this gym where they had been brought post-capture, they learned to whisper and lip read so the guards couldn’t hear them communicating. We see June, Moira, Emily, Janine, Alma, Brianna, whisper amongst each other and hold hands, comforting each other, not knowing what was to come. If only they had known.

Isabel Maina

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