Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 3, Episode 1: “Night”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Bruce Miller
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “The Word” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Mary and Martha” – click here
Emily (Alexis Bledel) is on her way out of Gilead while June (Elisabeth Moss) has turned back, unable to leave when she’s “got work” back there. She can’t leave her girl Hannah a.k.a Agnes. On the road, June sees a set of lights pull up in front of her. It’s Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), trying to get her out of there. He thinks she ought to leave and not look back. She can’t walk away from her child. She’s prepared to do whatever it takes, even if she has to sell Commander Lawrence out to the others.
At home, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) isn’t well. She’s devastated over the child being gone, despite knowing, deep down, it was the right thing to do. She tries to talk with her husband Fred (Joseph Fiennes), telling him she did “what was best” for the baby. This is going to open a whole new dynamic in their tortured marriage.
At the home of Commander McKenzie, June quietly tells her sleeping daughter how much she loves her. Outside are the sounds of sirens. All the mother can do is tie a little thread bracelet on her child’s wrist. After that she surrenders herself to Gilead’s Guardians of the Faith.
She’s brought in to Mrs. McKenzie. The woman chastises her for “being cruel” and “confusing” the child. This barren lady’s brainwashed by all the misogyny and madness of that nation state, convincing herself she’s not a kidnapper. She does give June a bit of info about the little girl— what she’s like, how she’s growing up.
Fred’s tripping out, and Serena is, too— the wife is incredibly mixed up. When June arrives back at the Waterford home, she’s greeted with only rage. She doesn’t care. She’s without BOTH her children. She nonetheless holds Serena in her arms to comfort the woman. She assures the child is “going to be free.” Meanwhile, Nick (Max Minghella) is disappointed she didn’t take her chance to leave. But June knows all too well what she gave up by doing so, and she’s willing to give it all for her daughter.
Out in the woods somewhere, Emily’s with the baby, avoiding drones trying to find them. She has to cross a river, wading in up to her armpits all while making sure they stay out of sight. She’s washed away in the tide. She manages to save little baby Nicole from drowning thankfully. A Canadian officer finds them on shore, offering asylum from “being persecuted based on being a woman” in Gilead.
At home, Fred believes he’s driven Serena to what she had a part in, plus he’s already fucked up a bunch and doesn’t want to do anything further to make himself look stupid. He’s determined not to let anything happen to his wife, and, in turn, June. His wife’s in a bad place psychologically. She’s unravelling. She used to be— most the time— a relatively composed person. All that is coming undone.
Smoke billows through the Waterford house. June follows it. Serena’s lit the bed on fire— that ceremonial rape bed where she and her husband held the one they call Offred down and inseminated her to bear a child they’d ever have on their own. June takes Serena away from the blaze before anything horrifying happens.
Soundtrack note: “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats plays as the fire explodes
“In flaming fire,
Thou shall take vengeance—
burn, motherfucker, burn.”
In Canada, Emily and the baby are brought to a hospital where Dr. Chung and a few women greet her, hoping to help. People clap for Emily, applauding her for escaping and saving a child. Clapping melts into the sound of the water putting out the Waterford home fire. June sits nearby, half dazed, half happy to smell the smoke from the burning of what amounts to a rapist’s torture chamber. In the aftermath, “God requires penance” of June, even if the McKenzie family forgives her. She’s brought to a dungeon-like room, where they strap her down to a table and make her feel Gilead’s wrath.
Moira (Samira Wiley) and Luke (O-T Fagbenle) get some important mail: a picture of Hannah. Her father’s heartbroken to see his little girl growing up without him. Then he meets Emily, who tells him about how June saved her life and got her out of there.
Word arrives back with June. She’s on the floor scrubbing, whipped feet and all. She knows her baby, as well as her friend, are safe across the border. In spite of all the horror she’s experienced, and continues to experience, there’s hope. A tiny glimmer of it lurks behind her devastated eyes. June’s got a “new posting,” too. She’s been assigned to Commander Lawrence. Whoa. Game changer.
Soundtrack note: The final song over the credits is “Good Day” by Greg Street ft. Nappy Roots. Big fan of all the needle drops in this series. They’re weird, and totally fitting.
Very strong start for Season 3. This show has its ups and downs, like any other. It feels like this new season’s going to move in a slightly different direction, hopefully to rein in some of its less effective elements and amplify its best. Although Father Gore wishes there were more women writing and directing.
“Mary and Martha” is next.