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SYFY WIRE The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale Discussion: 'Liars' deals Gilead a major blow

By Jessica Toomer & Alyssa Fikse

Gilead's in trouble on the latest episode of The Handmaid's Tale

"Liars" sees June moving full steam ahead with her plan to rescue children and ship them across the Canadian border but to do that, she must visit Jezebels once again. Nothing good ever happens in that place and June learns this lesson the hard way. While she's organizing a revolution, the Waterfords take a brief road trip in an effort to get Nicole back but their mini-vacation ends in disaster. 

We're Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse here to remind you to turn on your GPS, keep a pen handy, and follow along as we recap the latest episode of The Handmaid's Tale


Martha Mafia

Jessica: Well, here we are. Another episode of The Handmaid’s Tale that I didn’t hate. No one’s more surprised than me. There was enough forward-moving action to make this episode feel useful like it had a purpose — something this season, in general, has been lacking — and we got a full-on Godfather moment with that Martha meeting in Lawrence's basement. Am I disappointed that these ladies didn’t leave a severed horse head in June’s bed as a warning to not f*ck with their well-laid, carefully thought-out plans? Yes, but at least we saw some sparks of rebellion other than June’s half-a**ed fever dream of rescuing children.

Alyssa: I didn’t hate this episode either! I’m not ready to forgive the sins of this season, but this was another step in the right direction! I liked the Martha showdown as well, and it showed a glaring fault of June’s: it’s her way or the highway. She is NOT a team player. She may be attempting to do a good thing, but she always wants the glory that comes with it. Rather than agree to work with the Marthas, who raise some very valid concerns, she insists on doing things her way. Which, historically, has not gone super well.

Jessica: Those Marthas give off serious “don’t f*ck with us” vibes so I’m surprised June didn’t show a bit more respect. And, as noble as the idea of saving 52 children of Gilead is, I found myself incredibly more interested in what the Marthas had planned with that cargo plane. These women have been IN it, doing the hard work while June was limping around hospital rooms and Mean Girl-ing her fellow handmaids. I feel like, whatever they had planned, was most certainly the more effective, bigger-picture plot this show should’ve been focusing on. But, June’s a white woman with privilege and pretty hair so, here we are.

Alyssa: I agree. I think the show suffers by focusing on June so much. I want to see these Marthas doing the damn thing, but Elisabeth Moss is the marquee name and she’s got to get Emmy nominations somehow. Yet pretty much immediately after going toe-to-toe with the Marthas, there’s a wrench in June’s plan already: the Lawrences are gone. After talking Mrs. Lawrence down at the beginning of the episode, it seemed like June had the commander right where she wanted him. He’s tired, he’s desperate to save his wife, and June offers him an answer to at least one of those dilemmas. But of course, he wants to try and get out the selfish way first. Classic Lawrence.

Jessica: Did we expect anything more from the guy content to horde high-end art in his basement, sipping scotch, and let the rest of the world suffer under a tyrannical theocracy he created? I knew at some point, Lawrence would try to worm his way out of his own mess — he’s a coward at heart — but I was surprised he came back. I mean, he was forced to, which was the surprising part for me. It seems that little show during the monthly ceremony wasn’t convincing enough to restore Lawrence’s clearances so not only is he f*cked, June’s plan is too. I love to see powerful men reduced to sniffling babies but just this one time I would’ve liked for Lawrence to prove more useful to the cause.


A Night at Jezebels

Alyssa: Well, he does have a massive collection of priceless art that can potentially be parlayed into access to a cargo plane. Using Beth’s connections (seriously, June needs to be more grateful to the Marthas for this thing), June heads to talk to bartender Billy at the Jezebels club in an attempt to get the 52 kids and the Lawrences across the border and out of Gilead. Like all of June’s plans, things go south pretty quickly. What’s the worst that could happen to her at the Jezebel club? Well, running into Winslow has got to rank pretty high on that shit list.

Jessica: Contrary to what the Commanders think, Jezebels is never a good time — at least not for the women forced to endure unwanted gropings and pushy propositions from Gilead perves. June’s confidence this episode, while inspiring, also left me uneasy. The last time she came here, the circumstances were so different, she was so different. It felt odd to see her power walk in high heels into this particular hellhole where so much changed for her and Moira seasons ago. There’s growth there sure, but there’s also a kind of hardening and recklessness that has me worried.

Alyssa: At least it seems like her kneeling induced injuries have healed? You can’t really strut in Louboutins with a pronounced limp. But you’re right about June’s recklessness. That’s been a hallmark of her behavior this season especially, and now that she’s drawn more people into her plan, she has to pay a bit more attention to consequences. It can’t just be her against Gilead to save Hannah anymore. However, that confidence definitely paid off tonight, even if it will force their escape plan into action much faster than anyone anticipated. I am, of course, talking about the fact that June beat Winslow to death. Did I fist pump during an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale? Reader, I did.

Jessica: Blessed be the fruit, Alyssa! I too threw out some Jersey Shore dance moves when Winslow met the business end of June’s pen. To see him gasping on the floor, completely shocked that the woman he was about to rape actually fought back — it did something strange to my soul, it gave me hope. But I have to admit, I was a bit confused with the aftermath of Winslow’s death. I know killing another human being is traumatic — though it did look like June enjoyed herself just a bit on the 50th stab — but how long was our girl planning on chilling in that room? What if someone other than the Martha she saved when Lawrence brought her to the cages had found her? How lucky can June continue to be?

Alyssa: She’s definitely in a state of shock, so she got lucky there. I think June is running on pure adrenaline at this point, so when she got a release like killing a man, her body just shut down in the aftermath. Now that he’s dead and incinerated, I’m kind of left wondering what the point of introducing Winslow was? To get the Waterfords to DC? Is that it? That seems like kind of a waste of time in a season that wasted a lot of time.

Jessica: To that end, what was the point of killing him? He served little use outside of the D.C. story and the Waterford’s Canadian negotiations so I’m a bit puzzled as to why the show would waste a talent like Christopher Meloni. Still, I suppose this is setting us up for a more thrilling finale, one in which June, having gone so far already for her cause, is working as a woman with literally nothing left to lose.


The Road Trip

Alyssa: Another woman with seemingly nothing left to lose is Serena Joy. She and Fred hit the road to go talk to Tuello about smuggling Nichole out of Canada, and Serena gets a little taste of what it felt like to be an independent woman again. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised after watching so many women vote against their own best interests nowadays, but I have such a hard time reconciling Serena with the life that she’s gone all-in on in Gilead. She can’t write, she can’t drive, she is not her own woman. And that is enough for her as long as she gets the baby that she so desperately wants? Can’t relate.

Jessica: It’s a hard no for me as well. I’m also struggling to feel any sympathy — which feels like what the show wants from me at this point — when it comes to Serena and everything she “lost.” She took that away, from herself and others, and for what? A promised family that never materialized? As much as I love Yvonne Strahovski, I think the strength and nuance she’s brought to Serena Joy over the past two seasons has muddled the character for me, and not in a good way. I can’t reconcile this capable, bada** woman she’s proven to be with this wistful, wannabe-housewife the show tells me she was when Gilead was first created. There’s too much fire and rebelliousness there for her to ever convincingly portray a woman that desperate for a child she’d give up everything else to have one. I’m not buying it, do you hear me, Alyssa?!

Alyssa: Loud and clear! When it became clear that Tuello was leading them into a trap, I was kind of hoping for the reveal that Serena was part of the plot. I don’t think she can be rehabilitated at this point, but selling Fred out to Canada to be tried as a war criminal would have been pretty satisfying. Alas, unless for some reason she decided to play along, she has also been made. However, I cheered again to see them taken away in chains. After an agonizing season of failure on the side of the resistance, this episode really doubled down on dealing out more than a little justice.

Jessica: And in the most humiliating way possible. The Waterfords are that dumb, huh? I mean, there’s no way that fancy a** car that gave Fred such a boner didn’t have a GPS. And even if no maps were available, at some point, when the terrain starts to change and the forest gets denser, the air gets colder, you’ve got to realize, “Hey, we’re probably heading North. North is Canada. In Canada, I’m a war criminal.” I believe Serena was in on the scheme — I’m still not sure where the win is for her — although this whole bag and tag routine relied on Fred’s naivety and blind worship of his wife. The man is weak… and worse, he’s a terrible navigator.

Alyssa: I for one can’t wait to see him face up to his crimes, against humanity and against the rules of a road trip. However, I can’t help but worry that all of these powerful men going down is going to put the heat on June and her operation. She is the lightning rod at the center of all of this, and people are going to notice. But noooo, she couldn’t let the Marthas do things their way. No, she had to be at the center, and I think that’s going to be a costly decision.


What’s Next

Jessica: Too much is going right for June that it’s going to blow up in her face at some point this season. Probably in the finale, cliffhanger-style. Until then, I need to know where Serena and Fred are headed and what (if anything) Serena was promised in exchange for playing her husband. If she was part of this set-up, it had to be for baby Nichole right? Would Canada trade an infant for a war criminal if it meant gaining valuable intel on Gilead? Probably. And does this change things for June, not just her plan to smuggle children across the border, but her plan to stay behind? Could she still do that if she thought Nichole was also at risk?

Alyssa: I am still not sure about June’s endgame here with her girls. In her mind, she’s in a literal Sophie’s Choice situation here, and it would be doubly cruel if it all ends up to not help either of her children. But seriously, we need to see what is going on with everyone else ASAP. There is no way that Nick is just written off as “he’s a Gilead loyalist in the army now” and we are long overdue for a check-in with the Canadian crew as well. There are only two more episodes left in this season, and there is a lot to bring together. However, now that Season 4 has officially been announced, I am more certain that the finale will just leave us with more questions than answers. June’s suffering (and the viewers’) is far from over.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors', and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.