The Handmaid’s Tale (S03E08) ‘Unfit’

I’m not sure where this show is going.  June has become the least sympathetic character on the show, and I don’t even find her interesting anymore.  She’s essentially untouchable, (she says so herself,) which takes away any sense of urgency.

The episode opens with lots of Handmaids attending Ofandy’s labor.  )Who is Ofandy?  Why have we never heard of her?  And why is she Ofandy and not Ofandrew?  Why isn’t June Ofjoey?)  Ofandy is less a character than a plot device giving a reason for all the Handmaids to gather and demonstrate how totally they’re shunning Ofmatthew.  Janine, being Janine, is the only one who feels sorry for her.  In the end, the labor turns out to be a false alarm, and all the Handmaids are loaded back in the Birthmobile.  Instead of going home, they go back to the Red Center, where they have one of those shame circles.  June is the one in the middle, and she is being blamed for Hannah losing a person in her life that she cared about and having to relocate.  That clearly hurts, but she then says she knows that Ofmatthew doesn’t want her baby.  That, of course, is a terrible sin, and suddenly Ofmatthew is in the hot seat instead of June.

Ofmatthew are first denies it, then admits she felt that way but just for a second.  Well.  That’s enough.  She says she fells,like this baby might be a girl, and she’s worried what her life might be like in Gilead. (Martha, Jezebel, Handmaid, Wife…)  She’s crying, and everyone clearly relishes pointing to her and chanting “Crybaby!  Crybaby!  Crybaby!”

Finally!  Aunt Lydia’s backstory!  Lydia Clemens is an elementary school teacher talking with a boy named Ryan.  He is one of her students and his mother is extremely late picking him up, much to the concern of the principal (who has a totally flirty vibe going on with Lydia).  She’s about to take him home with her when Noelle, Ryan’s mom, finally arrives.  Ryan is hungry (he only had potato chips for lunch) and doesn’t want fast food again.  Clearly, Noelle isn’t going to win any Mother of the Year awards.  So Lydia asked both of them to come to her house for her famous chili with some judginess on the side.  Next thing you know, the three of them are having Christmas together, and Ryan is calling her ‘Aunt Lydia.’  Noelle is no longer a waitress but is selling makeup, and has bought some for Lydia.  She gives her a little makeup lesson, saying it’s time for Lydia to get back out there.  (Lydia is divorced, and I’d love to know what happened there.)

Back in the present, the Handmaids are being dismissed, one by one, and Lydia thanks June for informing on Ofmatthew.  When June gets back to the Lawrences’ house, she asks Lawrence if he knows anything about the MacKenzies.  He doesn’t, he says, and then tells her not to ask again.

Ofandy is in labor, for real this time, but the girl is stillborn.  Everyone is mourning, except June, who looks like she couldn’t care less.  Back at the Lawrences’, June is asked not to mention the stillbirth, as it would upset her.  June then lays into Lawrence, saying living in Gilead is killing Eleanor and that he could get her out but won’t.  

More Lydia flashback.  It’s New Year’s Eve and she and Principal Jim are having a date!  It’s super cute (except for singing ‘Islands in the Stream,’ because some songs should not karaoked) and end up at her place.  They start to make out, but Jim says he’s not ready. She’s immediately embarrassed and when he says he’d like to see her again she says she’ll see him at school.  Her embarrassment seems way out of proportion, as does her act of salami her fists against the bathroom mirror until it shatters.

The next thing we know Lydia, now with her hair pulled back and a severe expression on her face, has called CPS for Ryan’s emergency removal from his mother.  Jim, who she now addresses as Mr. Thorne, thinks this is overkill, but CPS doesn’t, and they talk about how many people are interested in adopting.  Wow, one meeting with a teacher and they’re willing to terminate his Noelle’s parental rights.  This is, of course, not yet a Gilead, but it’s a USA that’s having serious fertility issues.  Remember when CPS was called on June because Hannah went to school slightly ill?  This is the flip side of that coin.  Noelle shows up screaming at Lydia.

Interesting.  A meeting of Aunts, who are sitting at a round table discussing which Handmaid to assign to which Commander.  Lydia mentions that one Commander didn’t want a Handmaid of color.  Huh.  There’s also discussion of the problematic Lawrence household.  There’s also a decanter of port? sherry? other? that circulates around the table.

It’s snowing.  June awaits Ofmatthew, who seems to be crying when she approaches.  June doesn’t care.  In fact, she’s rather enjoying it.  At Loaves & Fishes, Aunt Lydia wishes to speak to June.  I think Ofmatthew thinks they’re discussing her, and I also think June wants her to think that.  Janine approaches Ofmatthew and asks if she’s okay.  Ofmatthew demonstrably is not okay.  She snaps, and beats the crap out of Janine with the canned lobster in her hand.  A Guardian intervenes, and she smashes a jar on his head and he goes down.  She grabs his gun, waving it around.  Everyone is on the floor except June and Aunt Lydia.  Ofmatthew looks at June, who smiles and nods, and Of Matthew turns the gun on Aunt Lydia.  A shot rings out, but not from her gun.  Ofmatthew‘s bloodied body goes down, and Guardians drag her out, leaving a trail of blood behind,

Okay, I’m getting concerned about the show’s handling of race.  In the book, all persons of color, referred to as the Children of Ham, were sent off to the Colonies.  Had the show producers done that, the cast would have been entirely white, which would certainly been a problem in another way.  However, racism and sexism do tend to co-exist.  I think we were supposed to accept that Gilead wanted babies, of any color, more than they wanted to be a white race.  But two recent characters who suffered unpleasant fates were both women of color, which might have given the showrunners pause.  Did no one consider that casting a woman of color to play the one Handmaid who seems to consider it her duty to live as a slave might be problematic?  And then there’s that throwaway line about a Commander who didn’t want a Handmaid of color.  Racism, it seems, is still alive and kicking.

 

Quotes:

“I’m dressing for tips, a**hole.  I don’t actually like you.”

“I bet that felt good.”

“It’s an acquired taste, seeing others in pain.  Like that smoky Scotch Luke got as a gift once.  I grew to like that.”

 

Other things:

– Aunt Lydia knew that June had reason to hate Ofmatthew, but seems to immediately believe her when she says Ofmatthew doesn’t want her baby, even though tattling in a fellow Handmaid is completely out of character for June.  She had to know that June was doing it maliciously.  Does she maybe consider this an opportunity for the Handmaids to get their hostility out of their systems?  Kind of like the Salvaging whe the killed a man with their bare hands?

– I have a theory that Lydia is gay and despises herself for it.  She punished Jim for not being able to ‘cure’ her and punished Noelle because she (Lydia) was attracted to her.  Thoughts?

– I wonder if Ofmatthew is really dead.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Guardian had just wounded her.  After all, she’s pregnant.  All they need to do is keep her on life support until the baby is born.