Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 3, Episode 4: “God Bless the Child”
Directed by Amma Asante
Written by Eric Tuchman
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Useful” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Unknown Caller” – click here
The Handmaids march towards a celebration of birth in Gilead. There are new babies born, so it’s a supposedly glorious day. Or, y’know, a mass celebration of rape. June (Elisabeth Moss) thinks back to before the fall of American society. She was readying sweet little “Hannah Banana” to be christened. Her mother Holly (Cherry Jones) and Moira (Samira Wiley) were there, each with their own problems concerning the Catholic Church. They were supportive, either way— there to see June and Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) celebrate their child.
Quite a stark contrast between then and now. Particularly given the fact June’s struggling with the “complicated” feelings she has for Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), who must attend church today without Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) at his side. Then there’s the fact none of these women actually gave birth to the children they stole. Ironically, Gilead is mourning a child they see as stolen, when it was simply Emily (Alexis Bledel) liberating a child born from brutal fascist rape.
“It takes a village—
and machine guns.”
Speaking of Emily, she’s finally reunited with Sylvia (Clea DuVall). It can’t be easy for Emily. In spite of being brought back to her wife, she’s experienced the authoritarian misogyny of Gilead, and she knows her friends, as well as many other countless women, are stuck back there. Still nice for her to go back home.
Father Gore wept when she saw her son again. Bawled.
Serena turns up later at the reception following the Dedication at the Putnam home. Things have changed for her. June offers hope, somehow, and Serena acts as if she’s the more oppressed one of the two. She’s lived a life of privilege, before Gilead. Natural to be disgusted with Fred. But she ought to be more grateful to June, who’s helped her at times when she didn’t have to help at all.
Fred gets the other Handmaids out of the kitchen while he sits with June. She’s like their therapist, bridging the gap in their fractured relationship. The Handmaid’s brokering a new relationship between the married couple, trying to get the husband to give his wife a “real voice.” Perhaps a way to manipulate things in her favour, making an eventual rebellion much easier if a woman’s on their side within the fascist state. She just has to convince Serena its in her best interest, too.
Things get ugly when Janine (Madeline Brewer) tries to hold her child again. People are worried. Except Mrs. Putnam hands the baby over so the birth mother can be close to her daughter. A slight slice of hope in a horrible world. Doesn’t last long. Janine tries to offer herself to Commander Putnam again, saying she’ll give them another child.
This prompts Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) to beat her mercilessly until June throws herself on top of Janine, saving her from more violence. There are many hideous women in Gilead working for the patriarchy— Father Gore’s inclined to believe Lydia’s the worst of them. Pretty rough when even a few Commanders are shocked.
Once the party’s over, Serena speaks briefly about “the system” while June seems done with her apathy. Mrs. Waterford gives the Handmaid some information about her daughter that could help her at least see Hannah again. Or, it might help her do more. More flashback to the past, when little Hannah was christened. Luke and June were optimistic about the future. They were thanking God for the gift they were given.
Where’s God now?
In Canada, there’s a rally in solidarity with Chicago. Video sees Luke in the crowd, which June is shown to confirm his identity. And he’s holding baby Nicole. Will this have repercussions for the Handmaid? Meanwhile, the baby’s baptised outside the walls of Gilead in the free world.
A great episode. Season 3’s been absolutely incredible. While the horror and terror still exists there’s a clear message of hope running in the rebellion of June. Things are becoming more hopeful that there’ll be an end to Gilead, though it’s going to be a long, hard road before we get there.
“Unknown Caller” is next time.