Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 3, Episode 7: “Under His Eye”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Nina Fiore & John Herrera
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Household” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Unfit” – click here
Handmaids line off in a public square, led to their places by red-twined rope. The rope is being used to raise an execution stage. They all must be the “holy instrument” of God and put these people to death— a horrifying act of forced complicity in Gilead’s system of capital punishment. Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) doesn’t have much of a problem with hanging a supposed bad mother. June (Elisabeth Moss) refuses to feel the same way.
At Loaves and Fishes, the Handmaids see the veils have made their way from Washington, D.C. to silence them further. June’s attempting to keep her mind on her daughter, but she needs to remember Ofmatthew is heavily influenced by the internalised misogyny of Gilead and always watching.
There’s trouble for poor Emily (Alexis Bledel). All her so-called crimes back in that horrifying nation state are provided for the authorities in Canada. The woman asking all the questions knows what Emily experienced back there, it’s only procedural stuff. Sylvia (Clea DuVall) understands. She knows what her wife went through and stands by her woman. Later, Emily goes to a protest with Moira (Samira Wiley) as they try to convince a minister not to negotiate with Gilead.
In Washington, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is getting a tour around an empty house that could be hers and Fred’s (Joseph Fiennes) soon. Commander Waterford is with Commander George Winslow (Christopher Meloni), preparing to conduct more business in an attempt to get baby Nicole back. Winslow suggests, until they get all they want, to keep the child in Canada. Just for a little longer.
June knows her girl is at school up in Brookline. She needs to get out there. With few options, she gets Mrs. Lawrence (Julie Dretzin) out for a stroll. Not so easy for the woman, whose own struggles trying to have children prior to the rise of Gilead colour her life. She’s had, and continues to have, issues with mental health, part of which are tied to childbearing. June confesses why she asked Mrs. Lawrence to take a walk, in hopes of getting a glimpse of Hannah.
The Commander’s wife is willing to help. She’s “keen on an adventure.”
They get to the school, where Mrs. Lawrence goes inside for a tour. The Handmaid isn’t allowed past the walls, so she tries to sneak a peek anywhere possible. Problem is, the place is walled and barbed wired like a fortress, or, y’know, a concentration camp. Inside are the voices of children. June can only hear them, she can’t see above the high walls.
Back at the house, Mrs. Lawrence is put to bed in mid-hysterics. It leaves Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) angry at the Handmaid for taking his wife out. Nevertheless, June saw the woman “come alive” when not being shut up in that house, and she knows there’s a living woman buried beneath all the horrors of Gilead.
In Canada, Emily and Moira wind up in jail for the protest. The former mentions some of the more morally troubling things she had to do, but both these women know that what happens in Gilead must remain there. It isn’t even the real world— it’s a misogynistic fantasy land for white men, at the expense of women’s bodily autonomy, so any man who gets murdered, or anyone else complicit who’s killed, is really for the greater good.
Serena’s relegated to social things while her husband and Commander Winslow go do business. Afterwards, she and Fred come together further. They once came apart at the seams, their marriage fraying. Now it seems they’re truly returning to whatever eerie relationship they had before, where Serena remains subservient as necessary while her husband does what he does. The wife has fallen back under a spell she helped conjure. Fred leads— the dance and their lives— while Serena follows. And, of course, there are things she doesn’t know, being kept in the dark by her husband.
At the public square, the Handmaids are made to conduct another public execution. This time, the charge is for endangering “a sacred child.” One of the women up there is the Martha that June secretly spoke to at the store about Brookline.
A devastating moment for the Handmaid, forced to take part in hanging. The stage is raised, the platform set, then death. What a terrifying way for the nation state to make the Handmaids culpable in their violent tyranny. Shit gets real when June figures out Ofmatthew told on her. She nearly strangles her before the others pull her away.
Soundtrack note: “Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple plays at the end
“No one escapes her sacred duty”
Sometimes the series manages to surprise at how disturbing it can get without resorting to anything graphic. Truly a great show that’s gotten better in its third season, especially considering there’s more involvement from women behind the camera / in the writing.
“Unfit” is next time.