The Handmaid’s Tale (S02E03): “Baggage”

The title of this week’s episode is ‘Baggage,’ and boy, is there a lot of that.  Physical baggage.  Psychological baggage.  Emotional baggage.  More psychological baggage.  This episode is brutally manipulative, not unlike Gilead itself.  By the end of the hour, I was screaming at the screen.  But, I get ahead of myself.

The episode picks up a couple of months later.  June is still hiding out at the Boston Globe, spending her time running in the building, to build up her strength, and working on her memorial for the people who died.  And having sex with Nick.  Probably watching more ‘Friends’ episodes.  Waiting to make her escape.

Flashback: young June is with her mother Holly (hi Cherry Jones!) at some kind of demonstration or rally.  There is a fire and women are writing the names of their rapists on pieces of paper and burning them.  There are a lot of pieces of paper.
Nick arrives with two things: coffee he stole from Rita (does he actually still drive for Waterford?) and the news that June’s escape is at hand.  Also, she has to prepare herself for the reality that she may have to leave without Hannah.

Hey! It’s Moira!  She’s living in Canada with Luke and Erin, the mute-is girl and helping at the refugee center.  You see her talking to a guy who looks a little shell shocked.  He was in the military, and suddenly finds himself a Guardian, hanging people on the wall for being Gender Traitors, including a guy he himself was involved with when they were in college.  Damn.  Moira tells him it gets better, but not in a really convincing way.  Baggage!

The guy who normally delivers supplies for June arrives saying he’s taking her to deliver her somewhere else.  Baggage!  So starts June’s trip north.

Flashback: June is now an adult, working at a publishing house where she’s just been promoted to assistant editor, and preparing to marry Luke.  She’s telling this to her mother’s friends, none of whom seem terribly impressed.  Holly then tells them that Moira is designing a website for a queer women’s collective, and that gets them excited.  It’s pretty obvious that June’s mother is a bit disappointed in her, and June knows it.  Baggage!

The truck stops and the driver tells her that someone else will be by to pick her up.  The new guy, Omar arrives, but receives a call that all is not well.  He tells her he has to leave without her, but June refuses to let him.  Clearly against his better judgment, he takes her home to where he lives with his wife and son.

Interestingly, this is our first exposure to the Econo-people.  The Econo-people were not powerful enough to rate Marthas or Handmaids, so the wives had to do all of that, hence the term Econo-wife.  They are briefly touched on in the book, basically they are the lower classes, laborers and farmers and the like.  They do work necessary to keep the world going, in a practical sense, and as long as they attended some kind of church, they were mostly left alone.  Omar and his family live in an apartment in a building that seems to be kind of an Econo-family dormitory.  Omar’s wife is not at all happy.  The family leaves for church saying they’ll be back at 2.  

Flashback: Handmaid School. Aunt Lydia is showing them a slide show of the damage that pollution had done to the Earth.  One of the slides shows a woman in the Colonies.  It’s Holly.  June realizes her mother was right, she should have seen what was coming and fought.  She can’t be passive anymore.

So, when 2 comes and goes, and the family doesn’t return (I suspect they never will), June steals an Econowife outfit and a map and leaves.  There are a surprising number of Econowives out and about.  She boards a train and manages to make it to the airfield outside Worcester without incident.  Really?  Could it be that easy?

Moira is in a gay bar where she picks up a girl.  They have sex in the bathroom.  The girl introduces herself as Caitlin, Moira calls herself Ruby.  Baggage!

The plane lands, and June proves she’s who she says she is, and gets on board.  Also looking for a lift is a guy, a driver for a Commander Wells.  (Do we know him?)

Flashback: June and her mother are driving in June’s car, a cute convertible.  (Note: no one who is an assistant editor at an academic publishing company could ever afford a cute convertible. Trust me on this.)  Holly is singing along to ‘Hollaback Girl.’  She asks June to reconsider marrying Luke, afraid that June is settling for less of a life than she wanted.  She said they need to be out fighting, not settling down for a quiet domestic life.  June is angry, but she admits now, her mother was right.  Not about marrying Luke, but about the fighting.  She also knows she needs to leave Hannah behind.  She forgives her mother and asks Hannah for her forgiveness.  At first I thought it was forgiveness for leaving her behind, but now I think it’s at least as much for June’s failure to be part of the fight that might have prevented Gilead from happening in the first place.

In a devastating moment, there is gunfire.  The pilot is dragged out of the plane and shot.  The driver is dragged out, and so is June.  NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Another amazing episode.  It’s a credit to the show that they were able to convince us that June might actually get out.  They had to, for the gunfire to have the effect of making the viewer scream and cry and curse the universe at the top of their lungs.

Other things:
– We see June’s mother, but nothing about her father.  While they were are the anti-rape demonstration isn’t occurred to me that June might possibly be the result of rape.  Thoughts?
– Is it possible that the pilot and other passenger were dirty, and the gunshots were actually the Resistance there to save June?
– What happened to the Econo-family?  Did they get caught?  Just delayed for some innocent reason?  Or did they leave the apartment with absolutely no intention of ever returning again?
“Welcome to Canada.  Here’s your maple syrup.”
“Someone brave, or stupid, or both.  There’s a lot of both.”
“Blessed be the Froot Loops.”