Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 3, Episode 12: “Sacrifice”
Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Written by Eric Tuchman
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Liars” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, “Mayday” – click here
June (Elisabeth Moss) is waiting for whatever comes, should it be the boots of the Guardians or otherwise. She receives Eleanor (Julie Dretzin) at her room’s door, telling her there are men who need to be looked after downstairs with her husband Joseph (Bradley Whitford). The Handmaid heads down to help Beth (Kristen Gutoskie). The Martha says she deserves “a day off” after bloodily taking care of Commander Winslow at Jezebels. Plus, there’s good news: Beth’s bartender-pilot pal Billy’s chartering a flight for them in one week.
Commanders talk of launching an attack in response to Fred’s (Joseph Fiennes) capture in Canada, hoping to “send a message.” They’re trying to get Joseph’s help. After the men leave, Commander Lawrence tells June that Winslow’s only assumed missing, she isn’t suspected of murder. He lets her know what’s happened to the Waterfords. A decent morning, indeed! Nice to hear June laugh genuinely for the first time since she’s been subjugated into the hideous society of Gilead.
At Loaves and Fishes, she tells Alma (Nina Kiri) of the plan. She and Rita (Amanda Brugel) have a chance to catch up, as well. These two women have endured much suffering side by side in the Waterford home. Now, Rita will help the other Marthas help June get the children out.
In Toronto, Fred and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) are being held as “war criminals.” He’s assuming Gilead will get them out, whereas she’s worried about life in prison, or potential execution in another country. He keeps trying to play the saviour for her. She insists he needs to look after himself. He now sees she’s been angling to get to her fake daughter. Fred is by far the worse of the two, yet Serena is hard to pity because she’s helped oppress / rape women alongside him. It’s nevertheless wonderful to see the world crashing down around Fred. He whines about “political theatre” while Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) tries to get him to spill the Gilead beans for the world to hear.
At the Lawrence home, Joseph, Eleanor, and Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) pray for Commander Winslow, as the man’s wife Olivia (Elizabeth Reaser) worries about where her husband has gone. The Handmaid attempts not to gloat. Olivia says “she can‘t be a woman alone with six children,” leading Eleanor to suggest they bring the children there. It’d make for a perfectly convenient getaway later.
In Canada, Moira (Samira Wiley) and Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) reluctantly go to the facility where the Waterfords are held. Serena, dressed like a normal person, awaits their visit. Once they’re all together it’s incredibly awkward. Moira has to hand the baby over, not without a few awesome choice words for Mrs. Waterford: “YOU are the gender traitor.” Simultaneously, Luke meets with Commander Waterford. He tells Fred they have much in common, despite the fact they’re vastly different men with different morals. Things become tense fast and Luke throws a punch, ending their chat.
“What did you do when our values eroded?”
Poor Eleanor has been falling apart worse lately. She nearly goes mad over trying to get more children out, requiring a stern talking to from June. After the Handmaid and Joseph see her off to bed it all goes wrong. June brings tea later, discovering the wife has taken a bottle of pills. She’s about to rush for help then stops. Maybe she feels it’s for the best, to let Mrs. Lawrence fade and escape her horrid existence stuck in that house like the protagonist in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Question is, how’s this going to affect the rebellion if Joseph’s going to be grieving?
In the aftermath, Joseph prepares to bury his wife. He’s devastated, but he’s “kept the border open” to fly the plane out as planned. Although June afforded Mrs. Lawrence a small mercy, did she anticipate the council would go easy on Commander Lawrence because of his wife’s death? That’d be particularly cruel, rather than the euthanasia-like escape from fascist misogyny it seems otherwise. Something about June’s reaction says she knew. Even if she didn’t, she feels guilty for having to let the woman die.
At the grave site, June offers her hand to Joseph in comfort. It’s almost as if he can tell.
Father Gore worries.
With Joseph’s wife gone now, does the Commander have any real reason to keep helping June? What if he starts to suss out she let Eleanor die without trying to help? Oh, there’s much to be concerned about here. That’s why it’ll be especially exciting to see what goes down in the finale.
“Mayday” is next time. Thankfully Season 4 is already confirmed, too.