The Handmaid's Tale continues to fan the flames of rebellion in Season 3, Episode 2, and it does so by introducing fans to the secret weapon of the resistance: the Marthas.
While Emily adjusts to a life free of Gilead in Canada and Serena Joy reckons with all she's lost, June begins making allies in the Lawrence house and finding an inroad to the revolution in the most unlikely of places.
Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse here and, like the women on The Handmaid's Tale, we're ready to dig in and get some work done this episode. Join us.
A New Post
Jessica: It’s a brand new world on The Handmaid’s Tale, and nothing hammers that idea home quite like the fact that June is no longer stationed with the Waterfords. I was wary of how the series would handle such a huge change, considering June’s play for power within her old house always drove the best kind of tension, but I have to admit, Bradley Whitford’s turn as the enigmatic Commander Lawrence is the perfect foil for Elisabeth Moss this season. There’s a real sense of mystery and an element of danger that’s been missing from this show — we’ve always known Commander Waterford was a douche and Serena Joy was, at best, a reluctant ally. With Lawrence, we still have no clue as to his true motives or what the hell his endgame is, and that kind of tightrope he’s forcing June to walk — pushing her to try to understand his seemingly illogical thinking while also fight for her continued survival — is thrilling to watch.
Alyssa: Yes! I am very ready for the change in Commanders. Partially because Bradley Whitford has become a total silver fox, but mostly because Lawrence has such a different vibe than Waterford. Everyone is wearing a mask in Gilead, but occasionally, it seems like Lawrence’s starts to slip. After helping June almost escape, he seems like an ally, but this is also a man that was formative in setting up Gilead. That is not a role to be taken lightly even if he does seem to have flashes of guilt. I think June is going to be forced out of her very relative comfort zone in this new house because she is now navigating somewhere where the alliances aren’t as clear. I am also hoping that she can be a source of comfort to Mrs. Lawrence because she is clearly GOING THROUGH IT.
Jessica: Poor Mrs. Lawrence. If anyone needs some vacation time from their oppressive theocracy, it’s this girl. But Commander Lawrence is the real puzzle here. Like Serena Joy, he seems to be an ally only when it suits his interests. He helped Emily, as he’s said many times, only because he liked her. He’s willing to throw poor Marthas to the wolves if it benefits him, and his cavalier attitude towards June and her predicament proves to me he’s going to be a source of headaches this season. He’s not the good guy here, but maybe June can use his mercurial nature to her advantage? Right now he just reads like an old white dude with so much power and nothing to do. He’s bored, probably disinterested with his life, looking for some excitement. Maybe we can weaponize that? But can we pivot a minute to talk about the return of Aunt Lydia? Because homegirl is not looking good.
Alyssa: Oh my god, I should have known that it would take more than a knife in a back and a trip down the stairs to kill someone as poisonous as Aunt Lydia, but I physically recoiled to see her back in the fold. Truly, what a hateful woman. She has worked so hard to maintain this dreadful status quo, and she is clinging to that power with every fiber of her broken body at this point. I’m not sure what to expect from a show like The Handmaid’s Tale, but I am desperately hoping for June to get her moment to end her. I know that an epic showdown isn’t really this show’s style, but the heart wants what it wants, and mine wants June to get to murder Aunt Lydia.
A Rebellion Of Marthas
Jessica: While Aunt Lydia pokes June with a cattle prod, she can’t quell the revolution that’s brewing in the Lawrence home. I for one was so pleased to see more screentime for the Marthas. They’ve been a wholly underrepresented group over the course of the show and it felt oddly empowering to see these women whispering in the kitchen about escape and secret information networks and the like. The handmaids obviously have the worst time of it in Gilead, but they’re a relatively small selection of the populace. The Marthas outnumber them and they suffer in their own ways. It makes sense that the best form of resistance would rely on the kind of access and freedom — however limited — they’re granted. And damn, was it nice to see June throwing her weight around and leading the charge a bit here. I’m ready for this team-up.
Alyssa: I was so happy to see these women getting a chance to do something. It was discouraging to see June’s new shopping partner Ofmatthew being so hostile to her fellow women, so I started out the episode extra sad for June. (Side note: Ofmatthew is a link between our shows! She’s played by Ashleigh LeThrop, who is in the new season of The 100 as Delilah/Priya!) But June was pretty immediately shown what the Marthas were up to and found her new cause. June hasn’t ever been a coward as long as we’ve known her, but she isn’t often given a viable channel for her rage. Getting in on this underground railroad of sorts is what she needs right now. She needs to know that she did the right thing to stay behind and try and blow up Gilead from within, and I think seeing the Marthas in action gives her that. Between this and her covert conversations at the grocery store with her fellow handmaids, June is making things happen.
Jessica: June needs something to do and working with the Marthas is that something. Plus, she seems a bit more hardened than her fellow rebels so maybe she can prove valuable when it comes to missions like the one they undertook this episode. I knew we weren’t going to get this Martha out of Gilead, but it invigorated me to know that they weren’t helping her escape, but wanting to move her deeper into Gilead to make bombs for the resistance. This proves there’s a larger, more complex nature to the rebellion than I previously thought, which is good news for June.
A Period Of Adjustment
Alyssa: While June may have found an ally in Beth, Emily is dealing with her adjustment to life in Canada relatively alone. Yes, she has a place to stay with Moira and Luke, but god, can you imagine how alone she feels? She’s free, she should “be happy,” but the kind of trauma that she endured in Gilead isn’t going to heal overnight. She still hasn’t called her wife, Luke isn’t being particularly welcoming, and on top of all of that, her cholesterol is high. GIVE HER A BREAK.
Jessica: Right? Like on top of all this trauma, she’s also got high cholesterol? The hits just keep on comin'. Do none of the “doctors” in Gilead understand what a diet of butter and red meat can do to a person? Maybe that’s the way to destroy the Empire — with excess amounts of fats and protein? Still, I’m actually relieved that Emily’s struggling to assimilate to her newfound freedom. It feels realistic, and therefore, of service. If Emily were to just resume her old life with her wife and son, if she were to suddenly appear happy and carefree, it wouldn’t be true to the experience so many trauma survivors have. And it poses an even bigger question when it comes to how we treat survivors like Emily and Moira and the rest. I think, like Luke, so many people expect Emily to just move on. Maybe, by showing how difficult that simple concept is, we can teach people a valuable lesson about being gentle and patient with those who have been through similar struggles.
Alyssa: I 100% agree. If we can learn anything from The Handmaid’s Tale it’s that we should treat people with more empathy. It is going to take a while for Emily to feel safe and ready to “move on” like you said, and I hope the show takes their time with her journey. Moira is definitely in a better place than she was last season — I feel like this is a common refrain for this show, but she has BEEN THROUGH IT — and she can be a real touchstone for Emily to see that healing is possible and worth it. It’s going to be hard, painful work for Emily to pull herself out of the hell that she’s endured, but she’s ready. She wants to live and she’s been given the second chance to do so. I’m hoping for a beautiful arc for her this season, and calling her wife at the end of the episode is the first step towards that. However, we also need to talk about Luke. He’s clearly anxious that June didn’t come with Nicole, so he’s having trouble bonding with the baby. The fact that he thinks that Waterford is the father (would it make it better or worse knowing it was Nick’s?) certainly doesn’t help things, but geez. Put on your big boy panties and help this baby, Luke.
Jessica: Okay, first, let me let loose some rage. Luke is a total d*ck, the worst kind of bro who thinks he's so woke but subversively contributes to patriarchial concepts that only serve to suppress feminine expression. He is not worth any stanning he may have earned over the past two seasons. I will die on this hill. At the same time, I understand how devastating and confusing his situation must be. He views himself as a failure because he couldn't protect his wife and daughter. He’s been separated from them, left to wonder what they’re suffering through. Now, he’s given physical proof of that suffering — believing Nicole was conceived by rape — and he’s learned his wife, who had a chance at freedom, chose to stay behind to do what he couldn’t, save their child. His emotions must be all over the place, and the show could illuminate the conflicting existence of the male ally in a world like this. We don’t see many men given layered, complex arcs that criticize and empathize with their position as both protector and persecutor of women in The Handmaid’s Tale. Right now though, watching Luke get drunk, yell at Moira, and shirk parenting duties of his wife’s child simply because he “can’t handle it” is just another expected disappointment.
Alyssa: I don’t take quite as harsh of a view of Luke as you do, but I definitely get where you’re coming from. I think the interactions between Moira and Luke also point out another weak spot in the show: The Handmaid’s Tale has often struggled with how to depict women of color, when they bother to at all, and by making Moira shoulder so much of an emotional burden with Luke and be the one who has to put aside her own issues to help him deal with his man pain is frustrating. While she’s right, they are “all f***ed up,” reducing her role to doling out pithy wisdom and making Luke realize that, gee, maybe he should care about his wife’s baby isn’t my favorite. Moira deserves to deal with her own sh*t without doing unreciprocated emotional labor for an unworthy man.
Jessica: THANK YOU! Other than his dismissal of Emily’s needed recovery time, his treatment of Moira felt the most insulting. You’re right, this show has not, historically, done right by women of color. It’s even more shameful considering what a gift of talent Samira Wiley is. I want to see Moira leading the revolution, using her experience to liberate others, coming to a place of acceptance and joy in who she is and what she’s been through. I do not want to see Moira babysitting a grown man-child who, relatively, hasn’t suffered a damn thing. Do better guys.
Alyssa: This may be naive of me, but I feel like The Handmaid’s Tale is setting up some optimism? June has more allies that are actually working to make things change instead of just surviving within the system, Emily is on the verge of reuniting with her family, and Luke is finally standing up and taking care of Nicole. I probably shouldn’t be as hopeful as I am, but damn it, I will not let this show break me.
Jessica: Personally, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t trust any goodwill this show builds, but I will enjoy it while it lasts. I also want to see what Serena Joy is up to. Where did the Waterfords go? Will there be repercussions for her actions? How will that affect June? As frustrating as her character is, I love seeing Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski act opposite each other.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.