The Handmaid’s Tale (S03E09) “Heroic”

Praise be, this Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Storyline seems to be over.  (Did you see what I did there?)

Belinda Carlisle’s song Heaven is a Place on Earth is heard, as the episode opens.  (Someone in production has a sick sense of humor.). I think it’s mostly in June’s head.  This episode was what I believe is referred to as a bottle episode, which means it took place (virtually) entirely in one room.  The effect is to emphasis Gilead’s claustrophobic atmosphere.  The room in question is Ofmatthew’s hospital room.  She is brain dead, but being kept on life support until the bun in her oven in done baking.  Ofmatthew is now just a vessel for Gilead, which is all she’s even wanted, so…good for her?  I guess?  June has been forced to stay in the room with her.  She’s been there for a while now, and is beginning to lose whatever grip on sanity she had left.  But Ofmatthew is June’s walking partner, Aunt Lydia says, so she must be by her side until the end.

Wives come to pray, including Mrs. Calhoun, who is the Wife of Ofmatthew’s Commander.  Handmaids also come, brought by Aunt Lydia, and the editing is cleverly done some that you’re not absolutely sure what is in June’s head and what is really happening.  June must kneel on the floor and can barely stand up.  When she does, her knees are abraded and bloody.  The doctor (Gil Bellows!  Hi!) is examining Ofmatthew (I can’t make myself think of her as Natalie) and she begins to have a seizure.  Aunt Lydia is alarmed but June just looks at Ofmatthew with the level, cold look she’s recently decided to specialize in.  But she’s beginning to crack, and pleads with Aunt Lydia to be allowed to go home.  Nope, not happening.

Late that night, June digs a scalpel out of the sharps disposal bin.  She plans to kill Ofmatthew, but Janine appears at the door.  It seems that the eye wound she received from Ofmatthew has become infected and she has been hospitalized.  Janine wants Ofmatthew to get well, but that’s not possible, so she changes it to wanting Ofmatthew to find peace.  Janine is appalled by, then angry at June for what she planned to do, and convinces her not to.  Seriously, we are now in a place where Janine is the sane, reasonable one.  Think about that.

The Calhoun’s are visiting when a group of daughters walk past.  They are there for their monarchy exams, Dr. Gil tells them.  Ewwwww.  The girls will be examined regularly now, to keep track if their pelvic development, so they’ll know the second they can be considered safely able to carry a child.  I. Can. Not. Even.

Hello, what have we here?  Serena has arrived to visit, for reasons that are not adequately explained.  June asks to speak with her privately.  Seneca agrees, annoyed, but she becomes concerned when she realizes that June is not well.  June takes a swipe at her with the scalpel.  In the end, all that happens is that June ends up with a nasty gash in her hand and Serena tells the doctor that she injured herself.  As he stitches up June’s hand, he tells her he had not been in favor of June spending months cooped up with a breathing incubator.  She tells him her mother was an obstetrician.  It turns out he knew Holly, and that she was really scary.  June agreed that she was scary.  Or is.  June isn’t exactly sure.  He asks how long she’s been suicidal, because she must know that killing him, or Serena, or Ofmatthew would mean she’d go to the Wall.  (I guess he hasn’t been watching the show.)  June says it was when she realized she’d probably never see either of her daughters again.

June is in bed and the machines start beeping faster.  Ofmatthew has started bleeding.  The doctors perform a Caesarian section, and Ofmatthew is now going to be allowed to die.

June is dressed to leave, and she now looks like she may have found her way back to being the June we knew.  A Commander’s daughter offers to carry her bag and tells her she’d been judged ready for marriage and babies.  When June asked if that was what she wanted, the girl assured her it was all she wanted, but she sounds as unconvincing as she does brave.  

June meets Aunt Lydia and says she wants to stay with Ofmatthew until the end, a decision Aunt Lydia clearly approves of.  She also seems a bit relieved.  I think she was also wondering what had happened to June.  June stands by Ofmatthew’s bed and speaks to her.  She apologizes for how she, June, treated her, Ofmatthew.  She tells her that she got a little lost, but she’s found her way again, and has decided her mission is to get as many children out of Gilead as she can.  Because they all deserve better.  She begins to sing Heaven is a Place on Earth, as the beeps begin to gradually slow down.  They get slower, as we go to the credits, and even slower.  We hear a final breath being exhaled.  And silence.  Janine’s prayer was answered.  Ofmatthew has found peace.

Okay, while I didn’t hate this episode, I did hate this storyline.  I hated what they did to June, for no really good reason.  I hated the careless treatment of women of color.  And most of all I hated the fact that no one could be bothered to treat the character of Ofmatthew as anything other than a plot device.  There was no growth, no development, she was given no background, no motivation, nothing the show why she was so devoted to being a Handmaid.  She was less a character than she was a prop.  Both Ofmatthew and Ashleigh LaThrop deserved better.

But, at least it looks like the June we knew is back, with a new mission.  The doctor asked her how she would honor her daughters, and this is how she’s going to do it, by saving as many children as she can from Gilead.  We only have four episodes left.  They need to make the most of them.


Other things:

– They left June alone with Ofmatthew and the sharps container?  Who thought that was a good idea?

– Why is June wearing those boots?  She never leaves the room.

– What was with the star on the doctor’s shoulder?



“When did you get to be so selfish?  Everything is always about you now, your problems.”

“They flowered.  How lovely.”

“You were supposed to be one of the strong ones.”