The Handmaid’s Tale (S03E03) “Useful”

A group of marthas are hanging, though not on the wall.  Heresy is the official verdict, punishable, as well see, by death.  June is looking up at them, and is join by two other Handmaids.  Hey!  It’s Alma and Janine!  Hi!  They’re moved along by some Guardians.

Back at the Chez Lawrence, there is a new martha, a cowed young woman named Sienna.  The doorbell rings.  June offer to get the door and Lawrence asks her what the punishment is for a Handmaid who opens the front door.  It seems that Lawrence is hosting a gathering of Commanders, including a demoted Fred and a promoted Nick, who is now officially a Commander himself.

Serena is visiting her mother, who lives in a beautiful house on the ocean.  The Cape or someplace like that.  Mama wants Serena to come to the prayer circle she’s hosting.  Serena is less than enthusiastic.  

Lawrence is on one of his weird power trips, and wants June to refill the wine glasses.  (OMG, I want that wine decanter!)  The men are discussing women and individual value based on gender.  He tells June to get his copy of Darwin’s ‘The Descent of Man’ from the bookcase, which she does, while everyone watches in silence.

Clara, Mama’s martha, has made a prosthetic pinky for Serena.  Serena goes to the prayer meeting, but it’s pleased when the group starts to pray for her, her marriage, and the return of her child.

Fred seems to want to patch things up.  He has a heartfelt and very moving speech prepared.  Of course, he’s practicing his speech with a sex worker, so there’s that.

June brings tea in to Lawrence’s study while he works.  He thinks she’s trying to manipulate him, which she probably is, but you do what you have to, amirite?  He thinks she’s buttering him up to get him to help her escape.  He tells her he helped Emily escape because he thinks she’s unnaturally intelligent (which is a peculiar turn of phrase, n’est pas?) and in June were smart she’d have left on the truck too.  They end up having an argument, and he tells her they’re going for a drive.

He takes her to a warehouse full of cages.  In the cages are people, women, who he saved from a Salvaging but are being shipped off to the Colonies.  Except for five.  Five will stay and become marthas, and June may pick who they will be.  If she doesn’t, they all die.

Serena tells her mother that she shouldn’t have told all those people about her problems.  Mama tells her that without Fred, she really doesn’t have a place, and that she needs to suck it up.

Nick arrives at the Lawrences to tell June he’s being sent to Chicago and wanted to say goodbye.  Wait, what?  Later, June has another visitor.  It’s Serena.  They talk about Nichole, and June tells Serena that only a mother could have done what she did, and tries to convince her to help the women who have had their children forcibly taken from them.

June has made her choices, and puts their files down on Lawrence’s desk.  She tells Beth she’s chosen an engineer, an IT tech, a journalist, a lawyer, and a thief.  It’s like a resistence Dream Team!

Serena leaves her prosthetic finger on the sea wall and walks into the water.  Like the scene with the fire, it looks like she may be about to kill herself, but she doesn’t.  She walks back out, sees Fred, but walks by him without a word.

Well, perhaps not quite so dramatic as the previous episodes, or rather it was dramatic without much really happening.  I’m more interested in what’s happening in Canada right now, and there was no Canada scenes.  But early in the episode, June says she needs allies with power, and her best bets are Lawrence and Serena, and much of the episode involves watching her slowly cultivate what are referred to in some circles as assets.  June’s playing a long game, and so must we, and appreciate the build up.  It’s only episode three, after all.


Other things:

– The episode title is ‘Useful’ and I’m curious as to what it means.  I’m thinking it refers to June closing as marthas the women who would be the most use to the resistence.

– Collective nouns for Gilead?  What do we call a group of Commanders?  A piety?  Yes, I like the sound of ‘a piety of Commanders.’

– What is the deal with all the blazing fires?  How much firewood gets used in Gilead, anyway?  Everyone seems to live in houses with a working fireplace in every room.



“See?  Women can be useful.”

“Does this really work in Fred?  Not exactly an intellectual giant, but then again neither are you.”

“Blessed be the fruit.”  “Hi.”