Top of the Lake – China Girl: Season Finale

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 6
Directed by Ariel Kleiman
Written by Jane Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
Pic 1Robin (Elisabeth Moss) and Pyke (Ewen Leslie) have gotten much, much closer. Very intimate. Then Dt. Sgt. Griffin gets a call from Mary’s (Alice Englert) cell. Nobody says anything, voices yelling in the background. This freaks the parents out, not to mention they’ve been drinking so it’s not easy to think. Then Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) calls to tell her about the shooting at Silk 41. It’s all a bit much. They head out as quick as possible to the scene. No information’s available readily. One thing’s for sure: Mary is alive at least.
But the situation’s dire. Brett (Lincoln Vickery) has gone off his fucking rocker. No wonder he kept telling people to watch the news. At Silk 41, Miranda and Robin check the place out. Dang (Ling Cooper Tang) tells the police what happened, or at least bits and pieces. Cops are crawling all over, looking for evidence. Puss (David Dencik) is nowhere to be found, though there’s footage showing him leaving, without Mary like a coward. The footage also shows Dang’s partner shot. Except his body’s missing. They passed it on their way to the brothel, moved to a bench on the street after the fact. Now the hunt for Brett and his hostage begins.
Pic 1AMother Robin is worried. And still quite drunk. Her medical examiner friend poetically helps to give her hope, that Mary will be okay: “As youre my Queen, I am your servant, I tell you, she is not going to die.” Just a touch of hope.
Pyke goes to see Julia (Nicole Kidman) to tell her about the hostage situation. The parents are distraught, each worried for their girl and what could happen next. This springs them into action. Although there’s not much they’re able to do, it’s up to the police at this point. There’s also bit of information Julia doesn’t know, either. She hasn’t discovered the full extent of what Puss has been doing to Mary, pimping her out, shocked to hear the words “sex worker” linked to her daughter on the news.
The police are still trying to track down the room connected to the brothel, the one on the security camera where the Thai girls are being kept. Meanwhile, Julia and Pyke plead to the girls at school that may have information, anything useful at all. One of them tells the parents about Stasi Cafe, a place they used to go, where she met Puss.
The cops head to the beach where they suspect Brett might have gone, possibly hiding in plain sight. Robin and Miranda go out in plain clothes while Adrian (Clayton Jacobson) and the others wait in a surveillance vehicle. So many people on the beach in Sydney, it’s like a fleshy needle in the haystack. They find a case of beer from a photo of the beach spotted. Underneath is Brett, buried in sand. Before Miranda draws her weapon properly, he shoots her. Then Robin puts a gun to his head, demanding to know where he’s hidden her daughter.
Pic 2
Mary wakes up. She’s in her basement. She goes upstairs to the surprise of Julia, saying she isn’t able to stay long. Won’t let her mom call the police, either. Won’t talk. I worry for them, their relationship. No telling what Mary’s going to do from one minute to the next.
Either way – off she goes on her own again. And she took her passport.
At the hospital, Robin goes in to see Miranda, lying in bed unable to speak or do anything, unable to breathe on her own. Such a tragic way for this to have gone. Our detective sergeant blames herself, taking it all on her shoulders. However, she told Constable Hilmarson to draw her gun, Miranda didn’t listen, she hesitated. It’s a tough thing to accept, but true.
In the back of Stasi Cafe, Robin finds Puss hiding out. She slices him across the chest with a knife for pimping her daughter. Then he goes on a rant about Cinnamon, saying he did nothing, that his partners were the ones who put her in the suitcase. Things change with his faux masculinity, chauvinist bullshit when Robin puts a gun to his head. She sets him straight about a few things, like the fact Mary isn’t in love with Puss, she’s afraid. And the look on the man’s face afterwards is worth a million dollars; his ego shattered like fragile glass.
Pic 3They’ve tracked down the surrogate apartment, stashed away in some building. Inside is left a DVD marked PLAY ME. Simultaneously at the airport, Mary and the Thai girls with their big bellies are heading elsewhere, away from Sydney, away from the brothel. Not away from Puss, though. He’s pulled another greasy trick again, corralling all the girls toward the plane like he’s walking dogs, the misogynistic garbage that he is; nor does he offer Mary any apologies for how he treated her during the shooting. He slaps her across the face, prompting her to anger. She decides not to follow them, staying behind.
The DVD shows Puss talking about “vaginas” and “the West” exploiting Asian women. Exactly what he does. He talks like a cult leader in his thick German accent. This is why he shot the little movie, to put on a little show and tell the surrogate parents he’s flown away to Thailand, to a small village. Sadly the law is not on the side of the parents. The law says so, and the police’s hands are tied.
One good thing? Pyke and Julia have picked Mary up from the airport. She’s safe and sound, though you can still see Robin feels for the Thai girls swept away by that hideous, misogynist pimp under the guise of being their saviour. Sad, in many ways, not least of which is the fact those women, those girls, they believe in Puss.
Robin goes to see Mary. She also makes a bit of peace with Julia, if not tenuous. She also sees more of the fragility of relationships, how they’re messy; Pyke and Julia continue floating around one another despite all their troubles. No room for her, apparently. But the relationship that matters is the one involving her daughter. She takes pride in watching an old birthday of Mary as a little girl, seeing her grow up via video, better late than never. So all else pales in comparison when Robin’s discovered a ray of sunshine in the gloom of the world.
Plus a knock comes on the door for her as she sits alone in the evening. Is it Pyke? Is it Mary? Who knows.
Pic 4God, I love this series! I’d love to see another run, honestly. Maybe they could do another if Campion and Lee figure out a way to tell a last chapter in Robin Griffin’s story. We’ll see if there’s interest. Personally, I would dig it. Wouldn’t mind seeing her try tracking Puss down in Thailand or wherever they’re actually going.
For now, we have two fascinating seasons. This one went darker, more devious than the first, as well as extended that bit of Al Parker that came out in the final episode of Season 1 and put a cap on that plot very well. Cracking stuff.

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Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 5

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 5
Directed by Jane Campion
Written by Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 6, click here.
Pic 1Puss (David Dencik) comes to take Mary (Alice Englert) from Robin’s (Elisabeth Moss) place in the night. At the same time we see a surreal dream Robin has, of holding two tiny babies in her palms as she puts on a shirt, answering the door. She wakes, but the image sticks in her mind, as it does in ours. She has to break the news about their daughter leaving when Pyke (Ewen Leslie) gets there with food for breakfast. Poor dad is gonna snap soon enough. I’m surprised he hasn’t yet, he’s a good man; better than I.
Now they’ve figured out what’s going on, that Puss is prostituting Mary. Or trying to, anyways. Nearly too much for Pyke to bear. He and Robin have one another in the whole ordeal, even if Julia (Nicole Kidman) isn’t aware or into their closeness. Meanwhile, Robin’s trying her best as detective sergeant to properly put a case on the pimp, for Mary’s sake, for Cinnamon’s sake, for the sake of all the girls under his ’employ’ and those who might/will be in the future.
At least they’ve got Brett (Lincoln Vickery), he’s the only man who genuinely seems to care about the deceased China girl. He’s identifying specific marks for the police on the girl’s body, to prove it’s her, as well as to prove how well he knew her. He describes “a small gold cross” she wore constantly and some specific moles, among other specific details. Afterwards, Robin comes up against the creepy cop who wants to bed her, he’s insistent. We also see the casual misogyny of some men, as another detective says there’s “yes nos” when it comes to women; an example of the male gender not understanding that no means fucking no, full stop. Such good writing because it brings out that misogyny so many men don’t even understand is hateful towards women, erasing a woman’s right to make decisions for herself.
Pic 1ABrett is going absolutely crazy. He’s hallucinating Cinnamon, so much so he introduces his mother to her while clearly there’s not a soul there with him. That’s shocking, in such a sad way.
Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) is having troubles, worrying about her baby. Not getting much sympathy from her supposed mentor. This puts the big lady on a warpath, no time for anyone’s bullshit. She questions a woman about Cinnamon, revealing that she was a “sex worker” who’s wound up dead. Then the constable trips out, scared for her baby and making a scene. This puts the two women at odds once more, Robin and Miranda both butting heads.
Nobody ever seems to ask about Robin’s story. So she reveals a bit of herself to the constable: she’s been pregnant 4 times, 3 of those miscarriages. Through it all they become honest with one another. Miranda reveals she isn’t having the baby, right now she’s wearing a fake stomach. Shit, I didn’t expect that. We see that the whole emotional bit for the constable involves the fact she had problems getting pregnant. She went through IVF, and worried the baby in Cinnamon’s belly was her surrogate daughter until it was revealed the fetus was a boy.
Robin: “I will haunt you
The psyche of Brett is further crumbling, worse by the hour. He’s back with his friends around the table again at the coffee shop. He’s still acting like Cinnamon is alive. Not just that, he’s filming everything. Telling people it’ll be “on the news.” This sort of freaks me out. Could Brett have done something to Cinnamon? Or is he merely having a psychological break after her death?
Pic 2Miranda: “Fuck love, its a disease. People die from it.”
Despite all the shit, Mary is still in love with Puss. She seems intent on being a part of that whole lifestyle at the brothel, like she actually believes it’ll be good to be a prostitute. At the same time she’s noticing things around Silk 41, how they operate. I wonder what happens when Dang (Ling Cooper Tang) feels she’s too much a liability.
One of the girls is leaving, going to Thailand. Puss and Dang’s partner take her to go. I wonder if she’s really going, or if it’s the same way Cinnamon was leaving with a suitcase. Mary wonders, too. The rift beginning to wedge between her and the pimp, finally. I hope it’s soon enough.
Pixie, the woman from the doctor’s office where Miranda had her freak out, isn’t answering her door. Everyone is outside waiting. So they bust inside, only to find her lying in bed, stone dead. Apparent suicide. A letter left to Miranda, involving people who’ve lost touch with surrogates. Devastating, yet this will hopefully help with the police investigation, and surely very worried couples.
Pic 3Coming home, Robin finds Puss waiting for her. To apologise, he says. She’s of course got her back up immediately. Then he asks about Cinnamon, the case. He tries deflecting onto someone else, to make himself seem innocent. Except he reeks of guilt. “You should do your job,” he says. Also the girl is Thai, which I suspected but did’t know for sure. Goes to show you the label of China girl is a slight racism, in how white people just assume Asian is Chinese, or sometimes Japanese.
Julia (Nicole Kidman) isn’t overly happy to know Pyke (Ewen Leslie) is having Robin over for dinner. Nor that the birth mother’s been seeing the daughter a bit as of late. The adoptive mother gets her back up. The so-called feminist doesn’t care to know anything about Robin’s story, about what happened to make her give up her child. Luckily, the detective sergeant can laugh things off. She and Pyke have a nice little bit of wine, cheese, grapes, they talk about his past. She even gets a look at Mary’s room, the place she grew up. A touching, heavy moment. Giving her a window into her daughter’s mind, her identity. And also a pregnancy test lying on the dresser: negative. Dad worries her daughter isn’t being safe, Robin worries she’s invading her daughter’s privacy.
Pic 4Looks like Puss is trying to make himself a movie, making a set look like the jungles in Thailand. He directs women and a bunch of screeching babies, shooting with the camera himself and not letting Mary or her friend help, bossing them around. Everything he does, he’s a woman hater; misogynistic, through and through.
Meanwhile, Robin and Pyke are trying to get talking with Mary. They see the pimp waiting for her outside school like a creep. Finally, dad loses his cool, confronting the man, who pumps out his idiotic rhetoric while Pyke professes the fatherly love he has for his girl. Honestly? Broke me a bit. Ewen Leslie is a damn fine actor, man!
Together later, Pyke and Robin fall into bed. Finally. He treats her with tenderness, as opposed to so many other men in her life, almost every one of them. Across the city, Brett continues hallucinating Cinnamon. Then he heads out on the bus, telling more people to watch the news tonight. I’m starting to really worry about this dude.
At Silk 41, Brett walks in with his gun drawn. Heading for Puss. The cowardly pimp pushes Mary in front of him, heading into an elevator. Just as the young man shoots at him.
Pic 5Holy fuck. Will Mary take the bullet? If so, will she die? Oh. My. Laaawd. I’ve not been this twisted up by a cliffhanger in ages. What a powerful moment, a scary one that nearly stopped my heart.

Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 4

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 4
Directed by Ariel Kleiman
Written by Jane Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
Pic 1Although my personal feeling about prostitution is that it’s slavery, I feel bad for Brett (Lincoln Vickery). He clearly used her services, at the brothel Silk 41. But there was more of a relationship between him and Cinnamon, he obviously cared about her deeper than seeing her as an object like so many men do. Not excusing his use of a brothel, I still feel buying women is wrong, full-stop. It’s hard not to see Brett’s feelings as a positive, though. When so many of these young women indentured to pimps have nobody who care about them, whatsoever. Maybe his care will lead to justice eventually.
The Edwards family are together, Julia (Nicole Kidman) and her lover, Mary (Alice Englert), Pyke (Ewen Leslie) and the rest. It’s a dad and daughter dance, a big deal for Pyke who’s been looking forward to it a long while. Mary heads off to see Puss (David Dencik) beforehand. Not impressing her father in the least. The man’s still up in his room sulking, refusing to come out. In a depressed funk. Says he’s “ending it” between him and Mary. He’s a pastiche of tired philosophical cliche, telling his fiancee he’s “gazing into the abyss and Im going to keep gazing until the abyss gazes back.” Such an edgy, Nietzsche quoting pimp. Suddenly that she’s turning 18, Puss starts mentioning her becoming a prostitute. He keeps telling women about being victims, all the while victimising them. A nasty fucking piece of work.
Pic 1ARobin (Elisabeth Moss) is happily getting herself inked at a tattoo shop, she even has a big smile on her face. She seems almost happier today, after the business with Al Parker recently. She’s still dealing with that same nonsense at work, though. She doesn’t particularly like working with Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie), she doesn’t like that Adrian (Clayton Jacobson) and the constable are having an affair, nor that Miranda runs to him behind her back, or that she smokes and drinks while pregnant. Not to mention Robin knows about the relationship between her and Liam. Of course this leads to judgement about her own motherhood, without anyone knowing the real story of her pregnancy, that she was raped by several men at a young age. Man, this police partnership is tense.
Things get much worse over at the dad and daughter celebration. Pyke gets word Mary’s bringing Puss. So, y’know, that’s not gonna be incredibly awkward. You can see the utter disdain in Pyke’s eyes for the man trying to marry his daughter. The stares could kill. Immediately the pimp starts working his class war madness on one of Mary’s young friends. Always looking to get one over on women. Then he barges his way into a dance with marry, pushing dad out, as well as getting far too sexual on the dance floor. This starts a whole scene as Puss prances around like an asshole. When he gets tossed, she goes chasing him. Heartbreaking to watch.
Brett contacts the police about the “China girl” case. He tells Robin and Miranda about Silk 41, the connection between him and Cinnamon, that they had more of a relationship than a service provider and a customer. He’s actually got pictures of her at home, genuine clothes on pictures and sweet mementos. What’s more is that closer and closer Robin comes to Puss, the man trying to marry her daughter. Mary is actually brought up, Brett’s seen her with the violent pimp. The whole thing is a scary mess, between the prostitution and the illegal surrogacy operation. Fuck me.
Pic 2We see Mary has been brainwashed by Puss, trying to get Dang (Ling Cooper Tang) to let her work at the brothel. The den mother tells her that the pimp is a “sick guy” and she knows better, she knows the life, the truth of it; rape can easily happen in those rooms. Meanwhile she and her white dude partner know exactly what happened to Cinnamon, having pushed that suitcase into the ocean themselves. An ugly place. Mary’s basically begging to work, not realising the brutality.
Dang: “Once you choose this, its forever. No going back.”
Robin hits the beach with Pyke, they’re meant to be waiting for Mary, though the girl might not show. I wonder if the two parents might get a bit close. Nevertheless, Mary does arrive with the Chinese girls. As does Puss, which doesn’t thrill dad. He wants to run, but Robin stops him; he then sees the tattoo she got, Mary’s name and date of birth. Very interesting moment. Might be the start of a connection between these two. Pyke is such a caring man, it’s evident in every scene he’s onscreen.
Thus also begins the duel of Robin and Puss. His slick, pimp charm doesn’t work on a woman like her. She’s seen too much to fall for that bullshit. Then he cuts right at her heart, bringing up what Mary told him about her rape. He talks openly to her about it, she tries her best not to tear his face off. After that he bites HER face, clamping down onto the nose. Holy shit! Yet again misogyny, male violence rears its head on our poor Detective Sergeant Griffin.
At the hospital, Robin tells Pyke about Puss, the brothel, that the Chinese girls are prostitutes under him. This freaks the father out completely. Rightfully so, their daughter’s hanging around with a dangerous man, one who conspired to drop a girl’s dead body in a suitcase to the bottom of the ocean. Who knows what else he’s capable of doing.
Pic 3Felicity and Mike, the surrogate couple, are moving from their home after putting time into a baby room, which they won’t need now. Strange: there’s two beds. Where exactly was the other child coming from? Well, they’ve got several illegal surrogates. To make sure they have themselves a family. Turns out the baby in Cinnamon’s belly doesn’t match the hopeful parents. And there’s a middle man in the process of the surrogacy. Someone is connecting all of this together in a nasty little web.
Over at the brothel, Mary still wants to sell herself even if Dang doesn’t want her to do it. Puss then encourages her to go to the street. Is she blinded totally by love? Will this help her realise that this pimp cares nothing about her, that he’s only looking for a way to make money? I hope so. He’s already starting to hit her in the face, saying this is no worse than what “the Johns will do” to her. Typical sleazy misogynist, acting as if he’s empowering women while stripping their power, their identity, turning them into nothing except skin on sale. Horrifying stuff at this point with Mary caught in the middle.
She misses her birthday dinner being put out on the streets by Puss to prostitute herself. While Pyke, Julia, her lover sit home reminiscing on better days, their girl is out trying to force herself to do disgusting things for men.
Instead she’s kicked from a John’s car. She calls Robin to pick her up, the only one who’ll likely not judge her or rant and rave in anger. In the car, Mary comes across a picture of Cinnamon. This begins leading our young lady in the right direction, starting to discover the truly vicious side of life in the brothel. Perhaps the beginning of her understanding about Puss. Let’s hope. Roundabout Robin tells her daughter what to start doing, how to get away from the violent pimp safely. Only problem there? Love. But it’s clear Mary wants to get away. She’s like a junkie, knowing it’s bad for her and yet stuck in the inescapable undertow of it all.
Pic 4What a whopper of an episode. So many things happened, and the story’s really opening up into its full potential after the past sort of comes full circle, in many ways. Plus, after the Al Parker chapter of Robin’s life closed, she has a sort of freedom of spirit that’s not been present in awhile. Problems arise when there’s so much at stake now, her daughter in the mix heavily.

Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 3

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 3
Directed by Ariel Kleiman
Written by Jane Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
Pic 1At the station, Robin (Elisabeth Moss) gets called in about a supposed confession concerning China girl. A man named Toni (Damon Herriman) has turned himself in, telling the cops about being in a brothel encountering some trouble with one of the girls. Wound up in the backseat of his car with her. Says she stabbed him, so he started choking her. Then she’s dead. Only issue is his story, he doesn’t mention putting her in a suitcase. His confession’s bullshit, a waste of time.
Not the only waste. She’s got male colleagues wanting to bang, even though she barely has time for some of them on a working level. At home in her building, she hears Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) across the hall getting it on. Everywhere around her it’s all about sexuality, one way or another. While Robin just wants to do her job. Seems like the one over at Miranda’s place was actually Adrian (Clayton Jacobson). Good lord! They’re “an item.”
So now Robin is trying to figure out the whole surrogate angle of Cinnamon’s death. Too young to be a legal surrogate, which means this is something darker, more devious. Robin wants to find people “neurotically fixated” on having a child or their own, who’ve failed at IVF (in vitro fertilisation). One doctor mentions the risk with illegal surrogacy, in Sydney, Australia is dangerous; the law lays down that if a surrogate changes her mind, she can then keep the child. That could drive someone to murder, no? I wonder if somehow Julia (Nicole Kidman) and Pyke Edwards (Ewen Leslie) play into this? Or is that too dark and devious?
Pic 1ASpeaking of the Ewards’, sans-Mary (Alice Englert) and along with Julia’s new girlfriend, they’re out at dinner to eat with Puss (David Dencik). They want to figure him out. Dad says if he finds out anything untoward, they’ll expose him. The pimp is a weird man. The entire dinner’s confrontational, especially once Pyke and Julia fully realise this guy is full of shit. They’ve found out bits of his past, that he’s “a bigamist” and he has a wife from long ago, still married.
When Mary turns up afterwards she isn’t happy with her parents, choosing to ignore the truth of her soon-to-be husband. She doesn’t take much stock in what any of them say, as they’re all married while moving on, too. Christ. Poor Mar’s hypnotised, like a worshipper under the leader of a cult. Willing to die if rejected by the pimp. Casting off her adoptive family.
Puss is in a dark mood. All the women at Silk 41 try soothing him, as does Mary. He won’t eat, he won’t talk or come out of his room. Then Mary gets a call from her birth mother. Robin wants to meet up, having heard from Pyke. Wanting to help the girl. They go out for a bit of food together, eating burgers on the floor of Robin’s apartment and slowly getting to know one another. It’s tragic to watch Mary slip into a dangerous life with Puss, it’s even harder to see the mom who had to give her away watch her daughter feel torn in so many directions by life.
In a dark set of hallways a woman wanders toward a crying baby. She finds it on the floor, tiny, frail. It collapses in her hands like a balloon. Then in the streets, a woman stumbles around in a nightgown, crying about her missing child and unable to remember anything. Terrifying, chilling moment. Turns out, she doesn’t have a baby, she wasn’t pregnant. She wandered off from a psych ward.
Pic 2Robin goes to see the woman, Felicity. The woman’s domineered by her husband Mike, answering personal questions for her instead of letting her answer them herself. She keeps saying “its lost” and that someone won’t return her calls, so on. The husband reveals they’ve got a “guest mother,” and she’s nowhere to be found: our poor China girl, Cinnamon.
The husband’s no angel. He’s got a bit of a record. Now they’ve all got to provide DNA, Felicity and Mike, as well. It’s clear their marriage has been torn to bits over her inability to conceive. But enough to murder if Cinnamon wanted to keep the child? Perhaps, though can’t be sure. Yet.
A familiar face returns – Al Parker (David Wenham). He’s now in a wheelchair permanently. He deserves worse. His civil suit is making Robin’s life hell, particularly in a profession where the misogyny runs rampant, and any shred of doubt on the part of male cops towards her is like a goddamn crucifixion.
Today, Robin comes face to face with Al. Before their official meeting, the man finds her alone. They talk, he acts like a nosy weirdo. Then he whips off his belt, as if to try assaulting her again. But it’s to try strangling her to death. The only thing she can do is start a fire with her lighter. People come to the rescue, though she nearly kills Al before they do. What a fucking mess.
Pic 3Wow! This was a wild ride of an episode. Fits right in, even if some may find it out of place. I wish she’d have killed the man, the nasty pervert. Excited for whatever comes next, it’s sure to be exciting.

Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 2

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 2
Directed by Ariel Kleiman
Written by Jane Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
Pic 1Flashback to the day Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) is meant to be married. That very day Johnno is arrested by the police. So they have the ceremony through the bars of his cell. Problem is Johnno was out having a bit of fun with a young blonde in the woods when he was picked up. His bride-to-be knows it, too. So the rumours of her walking away on her wedding day aren’t entirely true as others now see it. She walked away. Because of him and his untrustworthy cock, his unfaithful mind. Heartbreaking, considering all they went through up to that point. But not entirely unforeseen. Don’t forget, he let horrible things happen to her when they were young, in love. She took him back after all that, yet he was willing to throw it all away.
This sent Robin off, away from home. There’s nothing left, really. So why stay? Tui, everyone else, they’re moving on. And in present day, not long later, she and Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) are facing a horrific, misogynistic murder. A young Chinese girl, Cinnamon, washed up on the beach. We know she worked at Silk 41, a brothel at least in part run by Alexander ‘Puss’ Braun (David Dencik).
Not only the crime reeks of misogyny. The cops both Robin and Miranda deal with are full of that shit, which they only take because this garbage world forces women to choose either their pride or their job in too many situations. The “China girl” is nearly unrecognisable in her decomposition. Robin begins uncovering whatever possible, along with the medical examiner. Strangulation is a possible cause of death. It’s early, but Puss is a clear front runner suspect. On top of that, Cinnamon was pregnant with a little boy; “1720 weeks” is the estimate. Double murder. Whoa.
Pic 1AThe great thing about Top of the Lake is it takes the whole damaged police officer angle and turns that concept on its head. We never get to see such a fragile, wounded cop played by a woman, at least not often, and certainly not this well written. A woman’s perspective is illustrated with such depth here, unafraid of getting dark, dangerous, not scared of exploring territory on the edges of morality. At times it’s almost suffocating: what I imagine it’s like to be a woman, day in, day out, unfortunately.
Sussing out to the crime offers nothing any more positive. The male police haven’t a clue. Meanwhile, Robin’s got a better grasp on sexual assault and other sex-related crimes, as well as a personal understanding of it in her own traumatised past. She’s tough, smart; usually the smartest one in the room, if not a bit stubborn at times. Her character’s great to take the journey with, especially now with her sniffing around her daughter Mary (Alice Englert), wanting to make contact. If even just for one conversation. Juxtaposed with the lost and lonely girls forced into prostitution amongst the brothels, Robin doesn’t want her daughter to wind up damaged because of her bloodline baggage.
The lads at the coffee shop, Brett (Lincoln Vickery) and the others, continue on trying to one-up each other over foolish chauvinist nonsense. Brett starts to worry, though. He sees the report about the Asian girl found on the beach. The rest of the idiots are full-on misogynists, casual woman haters masquerading as nerds wanting to get laid. But Brett seems a bit different. He loves Cinnamon, the fact she may be dead is too much for him to bear. He goes to Silk 41 hoping she’ll be there. Of course she’s not. I wonder if Brett is the father of that unborn child, or Puss, or someone else. So goddamn tragic.
Puss and Brett meet at the brothel. The pimp’s not entirely thrilled to hear he’s “in love” with Cinnamon. You can tell there’s something not right with Puss. He knows something, whether he’s the murderer he knows SOMETHING.
Pic 2We all look the same to you
At work, Robin gets a call about the letter she left at the Edwards place. They’ve agreed to meet. Simultaneously she and Constable Hilmarson are tracking down leads on Cinnamon, where she may have worked, in a brothel or otherwise. They get a bit of help, though surely it’ll be a tangled web to unravel. Thus begins their dive into interviewing women around the various brothels and sex dens in the city. This brings her directly to the women with whom we recently saw Brett talking, the very place where Cinnamon worked at Silk 41.
One of the disheartening things we see – not that most of us didn’t know – and watch Robin learn, is how so many men frequent brothels, all types, even the sort you’d never expect. More of the underlying casual misogyny that overtakes our society.
Robin goes to meet Pyke (Ewen Leslie) and Julia Edwards (Nicole Kidman) for the first time. Naturally they’re a bit sceptical, particularly the adoptive mother. They sit together, to talk about things before Mary’s brought into the situation. Doesn’t help that the Edwards’ are fractured with Julia going lesbian, their relationship crumbling. But Julia levels with Robin, about how difficult the daughter’s been. She also scolds the birth mother, for not replying to Mary’s letter. Blaming her for all the problems. Saying the girl is “violent” at times. Just a rough first experience together.
Luckily, Pyke is laid back. Perhaps a bit too much, though it helps when he and Robin talk together. He’s more willing to listen. Funny how Julia is such a feminist, yet her fierceness in adoptive motherhood blinds her to the possible reasons for Robin having to give Mary up, whereas Pyke actually bothers to listen. He thinks it’s necessary for the daughter and her biological mother to meet.
Could it quell the fire burning inside the girl? Or will it drive her further into her rebellion?
Pic 3Later, Robin gets a call from Mary. They agree to meet one another. In a restaurant they meet: “I believe we share a gene pool,” the girl starts off with a funny quip. Although I think she’s insane for being with Pussy, there’s a maturity about Mary. The way she talks is very adult, and direct, too. It’s an awkward meeting, though the girl seems happy enough to be there with her mother. She goes on about getting married to Puss, which Robin questions, knowing the darkness of men and the vulnerability of young women amongst such horrific predators. One thing’s certain, Mary also understands her real mother, she knows there are reasons why women make the choices they do, it isn’t always selfishness like society (and men) wish to believe. Mom levels with her girl about being raped by three men. This is why she couldn’t bear to keep her child; the ugly story of far too many women.
The medical examiner calls Robin – the fetus’ DNA doesn’t match that of China girl. Very, very odd. What could it mean? Robin figures it out: “Shes a surrogate.” Oh, my. This changes everything.
Pic 4What a fucking killer follow-up to the first episode of Season 2. Lord, is it ever good, this return to Top of the Lake. Really rounds out Robin’s character while offering up such new, exciting, dark, wild things.

Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 1

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 1
Directed by Jane Campion
Written by Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
Pic 1After a fantastic Season 1, which I’ll eventually get around to reviewing, Jane Campion and Gerard Lee return with Season 2, China Girl. We open on a few people sitting together to eat in a small apartment. The feeling is there’s business to discuss. In a back room are a bunch of young women, crammed together on a bed. A white man and a Chinese woman take suitcases with them, out into the night. They bring one down near the ocean, it’s heavy and hard to carry. After some trouble they toss it into the ocean. Is there a body in there? I’d be willing to bet yes.
Then we switch over to see Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) once again, after all this time. Although she doesn’t appear much better than she was the last we saw her. She’s got a letter with her, one she literally holds close to her heart. Is it from Johnno? Or Tui? Who?
Regardless, Robin’s still an officer of the law. In fact she’s higher up nowadays, a bit. teaching cops how to do their job properly. When a young officer laughs at her, things get a bit tense when she has him up as an example for the others and he asks a question that does not sit well, about her shooting Al Parker. While Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) admires her for all her work, the men are full of misogyny, piss, and vinegar when it comes to our kick ass detective. Her superiors think she’s being an “asshole” instead of standing up for herself. Ah, nothing’s really changed, has it? Men, they never change.
Pic 1AAll the while, below the ocean’s waves, a suitcase sits still in the water, a long bit of dark hair sticking from out of it. Soon, it floats to the top. You can be sure our Dt. Griffin will end up hearing tell of this case.
Adrian (Clayton Jacobson), Robin’s boss, takes her out for a drink, to chat about things and how she’s been doing. She says she’s “celibate now” after so much bullshit, nearly getting married; then, whatever’s happened between her and Johnno. He isn’t around anymore, from the looks of it. Just wonder why. Meanwhile, Parker’s putting a civil case against Robin, saying her shooting of him was related to personal issues between the two of them. The “circumstantial evidence” may not cut it, though she believes it will. Also she mentions being drugged, waking up in his bed. What we’re seeing, more and more, is the misogyny from all angles women face. Robin’s merely a microcosm of that symptom.
We also see the man from the apartment earlier, an East German named Alexander ‘Puss’ Braun (David Dencik). He’s eerie. He waits around a school for a young girl to come out, escorting her home, yet it doesn’t feel like a father-daughter relationship. Feels sleazier than that. Either way he’s no good to be around, he’s helping to run a brothel called Silk 41, full of Asian women of various ages. And now there’s a girl missing, the others worry, knowing she didn’t take her passport with her. Puss passes it off as her running off for a bit. Seeing that suitcase, we know different. He uses his pimp charm to ease his ladies’ minds. His own history’s riddled with brutality: the bastard product of a rape.
What could be worse? The young woman he pals around with is Mary Edwards (Alice Englert). And who’s she? The daughter Robin gave up for adoption.
Puss: “No one ever gives away power. Power has to be taken.”
Pic 2We hear roundabout of a girl at Silk 41 named Cinnamon, from a bunch of men who frequent the joint. The same girl the others at the brothel worry over. She’s apparently a favourite. What we witness is the undercurrent of how so many men view women as disposable, as objects, as a “transaction” and a means to an end. Whereas one guy Brett (Lincoln Vickery) actually seems to care about the girl, the others see her only as another piece of meat. He cares so much that it bothers him thinking Cinnamon would leave without telling him. A glimmer of hope amongst the shattering misogyny: at least someone cares about her, enough so it may help figure out what’s happened to her, how she wound up in that suitcase at the bottom of the ocean.
Things are shit shit shit for Robin. She’s been living with her estrange brother Liam, but things are getting too much. Oh, and that letter from before, the one Robin cherishes so dearly? It’s from Mary, the daughter she gave up. Her adoptive parents are Pyke (Ewen Leslie) and Julia Edwards (Nicole Kidman). The relationship between the Edwards family certainly isn’t picturesque. Mary and Julia do not get along, the daughter calls her a “lezzo” and doesn’t want to even hug her. Pyke is sort of caught in the middle, an easy going dude who plays referee. Makes things all the more uneasy for the fact Mary wants to bring Puss over, calling him a “professor friend” instead of that pimp she’s dating from the local brothel.
They have him over for dinner. Chatting away about Puss’ supposed research, sussing out who he is, what he’s about. Stark contrast between a pimp and Julia, a self-professed feminist who studied in great places, taught politics. Plus the pimp busts out his bullshit chauvinist rhetoric while calling himself a feminist. Enough to want to make her jump down his throat. All the while Mary thinks her mom is trying to hit on the guy. Poor young girl’s indoctrinated, like so many today in real life, into believing feminism is out to hurt women, when it’s out to help everyone, men alike.
Worse still, Puss is asking to marry their daughter. Christ almighty. Not to mention Robin’s semi-stalking the daughter she gave away to adoption, lurking outside the house and likely regretting the decision she made.
Julia: “Im just trying to survive
Pic 3 (1)Robin ain’t doing well. She has horrible dreams, so much so it wakes Miranda across the hall from her at her new place. She checks in on Dt. Griffin, who isn’t happy to have a fellow officer hear her screaming in her sleep. Nevertheless, Constable Hilmarson is hilarious and ridiculous and weird enough to make Robin feel comfortable.
Simultaneously, on the shore that suitcase drifts in, and a lifeguard pulls it onto the beach. Where it’s horrifying contents are all but clear. This sends Dt. Griffin and Constable Hilmarson down to investigate. Inside the suitcase, of course, is the body of a young Chinese girl. Surely our Cinnamon.
Pic 4Fantastic opener to Season 2 of Top of the Lake! God, I love this series. Was so thrilled to hear Campion and Lee were going to bring it back, and with a few additional talented acting talents to boot. Excited to watch where this goes. I have a feeling we’re going to go even darker, deeper than Season 1, as well.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 10: “Night”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 10: “Night”
Directed by Kari Skogland
Written by Bruce Miller

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Bridge” – click here
Pic 1We cut back to when the women were first being introduced to Gilead. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) laments the “parade of sluts” in their regular attire. Even though they’re all dressed normally. This is a hyperreality of misogyny.
They’re instructed to clasp their hands, look downward. June a.k.a Offred (Elisabeth Moss) reminisces from her present situation, about the look in the eyes of the handmaids now, sentiment only previously known in spurts, never prolonged. Now, it is all they know. They’re indentured to the patriarchy.
June is brought to a dark room. Where Aunt Lydia and other aunts insert some kind of tracking device into her, blasting it from a nail gun-like contraption into the flesh just above her ear. Such nasty stuff.
But remembering, not forgetting is important. It fuels the determined rage which June continually feels, hopefully leading to her escape from all this someday. Right now, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is taking out her frustrations on the handmaid. The lady of the house knows what’s been going on with her husband and their servant. She forces June to take a pregnancy test, after beating the shit out of her.
Whatever empathy I tried feeling for Serena is gone. She’s fully complicit in ways that go beyond any fear for her own safety. She is awful. Not as awful as the men, though. Never.
And now June is with child.
June: “They shouldve never given us uniforms if they didnt want us to be an army
Pic 1APoor June, she has to remember her first pregnancy, a much happier and safer time when she and Luke (O-T Fagbenle) were able to feel excited for the coming of their child. These days, it’s ugly. Nothing to feel good about.
We find out more of what Serena’s discovered when she confronts her husband Fred (Joseph Fiennes). There’s further evidence Serena also helped write some of the laws used to enslave women in Gilead. The same laws and misogyny her husband uses to keep her down, to literally make her feel as if she’s at fault for his lust. Like he wasn’t wretched enough already. Serena then blasts him as “not worthy” to father a child, telling him that Offred’s baby is not of his creation. Christ, I can’t imagine what this will cause.
Later on Nick (Max Minghella) discovers June is pregnant. He reacts with tenderness, though I still feel it’s very problematic. She did feel something for him when they had sex. However, the fact she even had sex with him in the first place is STILL forcible. She would’ve never otherwise done so if she weren’t shackled by the patriarchy in that nation-state. Every decision which led her to those moments in bed with Nick were forced by misogynist law. Therefore I find it difficult to find this meant-to-be-touching scene at all nice. It’s creepy.
Moira (Samira Wiley) is out in the cold, sneaking through the woods. She comes across a farm; she’s in Ontario, Canada. Across the border, finally! This is a bigger ray of hope than I personally anticipated.
Pic 2Off someplace unknown to her, June waits in the car. Serena heads into a house then comes back outside with June’s daughter, Hannah. Right there, where she’s unable to speak to the girl. This is one of the most cruel things Mrs. Waterford has done to the handmaid. Not THE most cruel; that would be holding her down to be raped. But this is so tragic, hurts the heart to see June so close to her daughter. Serena is despicable. And this has really pushed our woman over the edge.
June: “Youre fucking evil, you know that? Youre a goddamn motherfucking monster.”
Commander Putnam testifies to his sins, regarding the whole mess of a situation last episode with Janine (Madeline Brewer). The Council are sitting around discussing the offence. We see the hypocritical nature of them all, but most definitely Commander Waterford, whose own transgressions shine through clearly. Others aren’t so quick to forgive, such as Commander Pryce. So, what’s to be done? Putnam must offer a sacrifice to God, to show that he accepts his sins and the consequences. He gives over his left forearm to surgical amputation as a show of faith. Man alive, these fellas are some sick puppies. The lot of them. Bunch of perverted religious freaks.
That night, June goes to the Commander. Asking that he protect her daughter from Serena. She warns that Fred does not know his wife, the extent to which she’ll go, the depths she’s willing to sink to hurt one of her own kind. In her room June finds a packet of letters written by various handmaids, the postcards of abused and ravaged women calling out to the world for help. This is like viewing her own death, already written before her; figuratively and literally. It’s almost enough to make her want to give up. But she won’t, ever.
Pic 3Moira experiences a culture shock, going from the US to Canada. She is now an American refugee in the land of freedom, where women are still people. The biggest difference is just dealing with men, seeing a man that doesn’t treat her as an object. He processes her into the country, welcoming her to Ontario, and offering all sorts of things she hasn’t been able to do in so long. One of the basics? Read a book. So fucking sad to hear, and at the same time glorious. (Also feel good being a Canadian.)
Alone together, Fred and Serena hash out their issues. He’s looking to the future, the expectancy of a child coming to them. She is, of course, devastated that it isn’t her having a child. Just like a typical abuser, Fred plays sweet right now. He talks a good game about being “a family” after the baby is born, and after June is gone.
All the handmaids are out listening to Aunt Lydia, performing one Gilead’s many strange rituals. They take off their “wings” – the blinders on their head gear – and proceed to each pick up rocks. They bring out Janine, punished for the crime of endangering a child. Set for a fatal stoning. Ofglen refuses to comply, and she’s cracked in the mouth with a rifle. After that none of them move. Until June steps out of the line, the men draw guns on her. The handmaid drops her stone. Next is Alma, then the others, all of them. Each replying: “Im sorry, Aunt Lydia.”
Will this start a revolution? Is this the beginning of their rebellion, or will this cause something worse? I feel it’s one of the first acts that will help liberate the women. Every revolution must begin with small steps.
Pic 4In Canada, Luke and Moira find each other. She was on his list, as a family member. It’s a bittersweet reunion without June there, yet still wonderful. Just to know she is safe for now, that she isn’t alone.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 10.52.00 AM
All the while June remains in her room, under lock and key. Suddenly, men come to take her away. Although Nick says to trust him and go. The Waterfords protest, but the men take her regardless.
She’s put into the back of a vehicle, carted off. To who knows where. Punishment, or being saved? We’ll have to wait to find out.
What a spectacular finale, loved it! We know there’s a Season 2 coming, and I think that helped me with the ambiguity of the ending. I’d still have enjoyed it, anyways. There’s a lot of character development, plenty of things to get excited over for next season, and the tension was unbearable during a couple moments. Love the writing, can’t wait for next season already.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 10.58.52 AM

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 9: “The Bridge”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 9: “The Bridge”
Directed by Kate Dennis
Written by Eric Tuchman

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Jezebels” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Night” – click here
Pic 1Ofwarren a.k.a Janine (Madeline Brewer) goes through the ceremony of passing over her child to the infertile wife and her husband, as Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) watches on. Nothing goes as smooth as imagined, of course. The wife is a lot less understanding than the husband, even Lydia. But Commander Putnam (Stephen Kunken) manages to get Janine to hand over the baby. Such a tragic thing to watch. Every bit of this existence is tragic; to see this type of thing happen is even more emotional. She’s forced to carry a rapist’s child to term, to grow attached, then hand it over without so much as a whimper.
When they’re carting Janine off, Offred a.k.a June (Elisabeth Moss) asks Aunt Lydia if Janine is okay. The old woman says she’s fine. That this ought to serve “as a lesson.” A lesson in silence, obedience, in subservience to the patriarchy.
Afterwards, as the handmaids leave, June talks to Alma (Nina Kiri) about helping with Mayday. Receiving only a cold shoulder.
Pic 1AMeanwhile, Commander Daniel and his wife are receiving their new handmaid: Janine. She is Ofdaniel now. Another identity laid upon her like a wreath. Lydia, using a bit of old Victorian imagery, tells her to “go like an open flower” to her latest captors. Yet in these few scenes, much as this old woman is complicit in the patriarchy’s authoritarian rule, she has the well of tears in her eyes. As if it’s all getting too brutal, even for her. Hmm… I wonder…
Out for a walk with her new baby, Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) is totally ungrateful for the gift she’s been given, by another fertile woman. She longs for a more obedient girl, such as Offred apparently. And all the while she bitches to Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who still is without a child of rape to raise as her own.
Mayday does need June; so says Alma. She says they need her to go back to Jezebels, there’s a package there for them. But how will she get herself there? Will she go to Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and finagle a way to the club? This is exciting, and frighteningly intense.
She does indeed go see Fred, alone at night. Telling him of how thrilling their adventure outside Gilead’s walls was for her. She’s got a great poker face, I love it. Like playing a game of chess, she baits him. He takes it; hook, line, and sinker. She plays eager for him, and he sees eager. So, they plan for another trip late in the night once the house is asleep. And away they go, with Nick (Max Minghella) driving them as usual.
Pic 2While her husband is away, cheating and raping, Serena is at home with Rita (Amanda Brugel). The lady of the house continually worries whether Offred is with child, if she’s having a period. Not only is it all rapey, it is so invasive, so creepy and ugly. Serena may be in distress herself, she doesn’t do any favours for herself playing into the patriarchal society of Gilead. Slowly, as she realises her husband’s more buried faults, I imagine she won’t be so eager to keep chugging along complicit.
At her new home, Janine heads to the bedroom with the wife and they await the Commander. Another rape night. They go about their business and it’s even more mechanical than anything we’ve witnessed before. The wife chastises Janine when she fights it – “Be still” – before she pushes them off. Her identity is collapsing, she can’t let herself go from one man to the next, required in her hideous duty as a handmaid.
At the same time, June suffers through another rape herself. All to try getting to the package at Jezebels. She plays to his ego, talking him up. Although he believes she’s there to meet somebody, for which he’s made arrangements. In comes Moira (Samira Wiley), though under a different name working at the club. He acts like a suave lover, like he’s done them a favour and earned a few brownie points.
In the kitchen, Nick is asking questions about Offred. The woman serving him knows he’s got feelings, warning it’s a quick journey to hanging on the wall a corpse. Simultaneously, Moira is pissed at June for coming back, for spying and being part of Mayday. It’s as if this brutal new world has broken her, changed the fundamental part of who she is – a rebel, a fighter. Moreover, June thought she was dead, and that devastated her. This all puts the two women at odds, with one wanting to keep fighting and the other feeling like giving up.
Moira: “Go home and just do what they say
Pic 3When the Commander gets home Serena is, naturally, curious as to where he’s been all night. You can see the bond between them breaking, further every day. It’s a good thing, I think. Because there’s hope that Serena may someday see the light, perhaps step out of the patriarchy’s shadow and start thinking for herself again. Will she see the error of her ways? Or will Gilead swallow her whole entirely?
June is shaken awake in the morning by Serena. They take her out to the bridge, where Janine has fled with the baby. She stands at the edge above the water, child in arms. When the Commander protests, she yells about the “freaky shit” he wanted her to do and how he promised they’d run away, just the two of them. June is called in to talk her down. Janine hands over the child, then plunges into the river. She’s later carted off to the hospital and left under the care of Aunt Lydia.
Naomi: “Men dont change
Pic 4When June goes to pick up meat at the butchers, she’s given more than a cut of beef – she’s given the package meant to be picked up at Jezebels. And it’s a man handing it over. A trap? She isn’t so sure, paranoia runs high. Rather than not looking inside she curiously spies a card tucked into it; signed by Moira. YES, GIRL! YAS! Not only does she have the package for Mayday, she has hope again that her friend has not given up.
Poor Moira’s trapped at that club, her new identity as Ruby. She’s got a few little tricks up her sleeve, all the same; literally. She manages to get herself free, into a car, and out on the road. Where’s she heading first?
Pic 5Fuck yes. Great penultimate episode, so excited for the finale! Last up is “Night” and I’m hoping they’ll get our adrenaline pumping for the end of this amazing, nuanced, and brutal Season 1.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 8: “Jezebels”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 8: “Jezebels”
Directed by Kate Dennis
Written by Kira Snyder

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Other Side” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Bridge” – click here
Pic 1After last episode’s revelation where Luke (O-T Fagbenle) discovers June a.k.a Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is alive, we go back to Gilead with her, as she also knows her husband isn’t dead. She keeps going back with Nick (Max Minghella), she regrets that Luke’s memory is fading and she’s becoming “faithless” by the day. She accepts it isn’t a “fuck you to the patriarchy” like she imagined, but rather a genuine, budding relationship between the two. What happens when/if Luke is back in the picture? Likely, all that love June has for him will flood back. But what about Nick? I wonder how he actually sees her, if he believes she’s his property or if he sees her as a human, someone he can love.
Well, we go back to before the fall of American society, and see Nick in his previous life. He wasn’t exactly excelling, bouncing from one job to the next. A career counsellor named Andrew Pryce (Robert Curtis Brown) takes him out for coffee, they talk about Nick’s path since the economy took a hard downturn. Then they talk of the Bible briefly, of the problems facing America which are getting worse. This is where Nick’s first introduced to the Sons of Jacob, a group to whom Pryce belongs. Ah, the road ahead is opening in all its grim glory.
Back at Gilead, Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) shaves Offred’s legs. Usually this is done by the women, supervised so that they don’t commit suicide instead of shaving. However, something more intimate is happening here, and an odd tenderness in Fred is visible. I don’t like feeling that he’s human, because essentially he is not. He’s a monster. Part of what unsettles me in this scene is his monstrosity, juxtaposed against the small, intimate gestures he shows to Offred while she beautifies herself.
What’s most important? We see that, when it comes to his personal life, Fred is a hypocrite. He believes in the doctrine of Gilead, until it suits him not to and he’s got a woman around he likes to fuck. His misogyny shows more than ever. He likes to have his cake, and eat it, too. He doesn’t actually believe, he uses the authoritarian nation-state to empower his misogynistic whims.Pic 1AFred takes Offred out on a date, while Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) is away at her mother’s place. So the Commander takes her for a drive, showing her sights she’s not usually privileged to see. For the first time in so long, she’s out past one of the many security checkpoints of Gilead.
Commander Waterford: “Past the gateway, wives arent even allowed; women arent allowed.”
Cut to Nick again, before the fall. He drives Pryce, Waterford, other Sons of Jacob around, as they formulate their plans. They talk about the “violation” of the fertile women, how to brand the misogyny appropriately. Moreover, we see how these men don’t totally believe, they use Bible verse and the spectre of religion to bend women to their will. On top of everything, Nick didn’t push back. In a time of economic anxieties, he chose to be employed over being human. Like the infertile wives allowing other women to be existentially – and often literally – slaughtered, Nick is complicity as much as any other man.
Present day. Fred takes Offred in for a romantic evening at a strange private club where men in suits lounge with half naked women, Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” playing in the background. A surreal experience, going from the handmaid society to this den of iniquity. More and more, the very foundation of Gilead proves to be shaky, barely even there. Not that there was ever legitimacy to its horror, but at least before there seemed a righteousness about Gilead, in all its savagery. Now, we see the hypocrisy of the male gender bursting through the seams like never before. And it’s not sitting well with Offred. Especially not when she spies Moira (Samira Wiley) from across the room, smiling, sitting for drinks and a smoke with important men and dressed almost like a Playboy bunny.
The two women meet in the washroom quietly. Moira is devastated for having left her friend at the train that day, though June knows it wasn’t her fault. While she’s not in the position the handmaids are in, Moira isn’t out of the clutch of the patriarchy. Although it’s hope. Bittersweet hope.
Pic 2The last woman who held the position in the Waterford house where Offred is now committed suicide. She hanged herself in her room. Found by Rita (Amanda Brugel) and cut down by Nick. What’s most interesting is how after they send the body off, Serena berates her husband in hushed, angry tones: “What did you think was going to happen?” She knows of his misogynistic needs, his extra time with the handmaid serving him. At the same time, we see how this world in Gilead is wearing Nick down. Perhaps he’ll end up proving himself worthy eventually, by not allowing June the same fate as the previous handmaid.
One of the more disturbing moments: a man in a dark elevator vigorously licks the maimed stump of a previously punished handmaid, then scuttles away with her after June shows up. Yikes.
Back awhile ago, Commander Pryce instructs Nick in his duties as an Eye in Gilead. He must report on his own Commander. We see another Commander being led shakily into a building, having apparently slept with his last two handmaids; going off the rails. Something we know is happening back at the Waterford house.
Present day once more, Serena gets home from visiting her mother, and the place must return to its previous state of secrecy. At the same time Nick and Offred’s burgeoning relationship comes to a halt, he appears to have chosen duty to the patriarchy over human emotion. She tries appealing to his better sense, the humanity underneath. Not sure if there’s any left.
Pic 3Serena brought a little present from her childhood home for Offred. A locked music box with a tiny ballerina spinning inside. There’s a desperate connection wanting to grab hold between the infertile wife and the handmaid forced into breeding for the patriarchy. I can’t see it playing out well, not for them both, or for either of them. Yet I can see Serena does care, even the slightest, for the Waterford’s handmaid. She also knows more than she lets on.
Offred: “A perfect gift. A girl trapped in a box. She only dances when someone else opens the lid. When someone else winds her up. If this is a story Im telling, I must be telling it to someone; theres always someone, even when theres no one. I will not be that girl in the box.”
What I DO know? June ain’t taking this all lying down. She refuses to be the victim and each episode brings us closer to her power exerting itself. How, we’ll have to wait and see.
Pic 4Every episode is just fantastic. One of my most favourite television series’ to ever be, maybe. I just know this Margaret Atwood adaptation is fantastic. Next up is titled “The Bridge” and it’s our penultimate Season 1 episode. Buckle up.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 7: “The Other Side”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 7: “The Other Side”
Directed by Floria Sigismondi
Written by Lynn Renee Maxcy

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “A Woman’s Place” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Jezebels” – click here
Pic 1We begin back before Gilead, as Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and June a.k.a Offred (Elisabeth Moss) flee with their girl Hannah. They crash their car, but Luke sends his wife and child off running while he gathers his gun and some ammo. In come the black SUVs and one fires on him, right in stomach. He fades out, thinking of June and his daughter.
When he wakes there’s an ambulance taking elsewhere, until they flip off the road upside down into a ravine. He makes it out alive, though remains wounded. Packing up a few supplies, grabbing a gun, Luke heads alone out onto the road.
But he isn’t well, his gut holding that bullet. He makes it back to the car where he last saw June, then goes into the forest. Soon enough he comes upon the remnants of his family’s things, neither his wife nor his child are anywhere to be found. An impossible situation. Full of terrifying emotion. What does a person do at that point? Aside from fear the absolute worst, knowing where June is likely to get taken.
Unsure where to go, what to do, he concentrates on mere survival.
Flashback to before they fled and crashed. In the car, they try driving out of the city. Moira (Samira Wiley) already left crossing the border on foot and June wishes they’d left then. However, things take time. Passports, all that type of thing. They had to be sure, to try covering all bases. At a dockyard they meet a mane named Mr. Whitford (Tim Ransom); turns out June’s mother gave him a vasectomy after it was made illegal, so he feels he owes them. He’s helping smuggle them out of the county.
Pic 1AWhitford helps them out to the woods where he lives, and they’re safe. For the time being. Their trustworthy friend also shows Luke how to load and handle a gun. Furthermore, U.S. passport “doesnt mean shit” these days, so Whitford’s heading into Canada to get them passports. At a lake near the cabin a man happens across June, Luke, and their daughter. In this world they can never be sure if it’s just another friendly face, or if it’s someone who’ll alert the Guardians to a free woman roaming.
Then switch back to Luke alone, as he’s found by two women who first believe he’s a Guardian. When he explains himself one of the women takes a look at his gut wound, which will surely be fatal if he doesn’t get help. And they’re with a few people that are certainly helpful. He’s piled into their little school bus and they head off together in that dark, new world.
For a while in Whitford’s place at the cabin in the woods, life is okay. Not normal, but okay. All the more sad when Luke thinks back to it, now without his girls and cast adrift with strangers. Many of them with similarly brutal stories surrounding the search for fertile women, the patriarchy knowing it’s dying and attempting to secure the future for them and the world in the most misogynistic way imaginable. Luke’s friends are headed to Canada. He’s determined on going to Boston.
When the man from the lake comes back to the cabin at night, he warns them people are searching for them, they know the car and the license plate. So he offers further help, to get them over the border. “This is pretty fucked up,” he says; and boy, is that ever a huge understatement.
Pic 2One of the women shows Luke what happened at a place where fertile women were being hid. The town was trying to fight back. When the Guardians found them all, they were strung up from the roof of the church. She makes Luke look, to see what’s happening. To understand the grave magnitude of the situation, the depths of the male, patriarchal depravity at play. This changes his mind and he decides on going with them across the border.
But suddenly they’re attacked by gunfire, though they manage to get on a boat and speed away into the night.
Cut to 3 years later. Luke is living in a city of relative freedom. He and one of the women that escaped, Erin (Erin Way), are drinking coffee. A far cry from Gilead’s authoritarian nation-state security. Then he gets a call on his cellphone, another luxury of this place compared with the rigid law in the city of the handmaids.
He goes to a place littered with posters of missing women, cards, drawings, et cetera. There he meets a woman who asks him about June, she has an envelope for him. Inside, a note: the one she wrote him and gave to the Mexican trade delegate. Although it’s only a short note, written three weeks prior, it is one major thing to him: hope.
Pic 3Wow. This was an emotional ride. While I care more about the female perspective and characters, it’s nice to see the other people out there, Luke included. Now I’m wondering what he’ll do, now that he knows for sure she’s alive. Will he and others go searching for June and the handmaids?
Next is “Jezebels” and I love the name of the episode, I’m excited to see something intense!