Previously, on The Handmaid’s Tale: June gave her victim impact statement in court, and encouraged her fellow refugees to unleash their inner fury. In Gilead, Aunt Lydia was scolded by Lawrence for her brutality, then ‘given’ Janine to use as a whipping Handmaid. Here’s my recap for episode 8 if you missed it!
This week: Brace yourselves, because men are coming, and they have plans. What can Lawrence, Luke, Nick, Fred, and Mr Tuello bring to the table? Is it a sensible table? And what is Aunt Lydia going to do with Janine? We’re in the home stretch of season 4, with one more episode to go, so it’s time to start pulling those threads together. We even see a few familiar faces that haven’t been around for a while now, AND we get to see which one of the show’s dudes is secretly an Evil Genius. Spoilers are ahead for episode 9, but I’ll give you a clue for free now: it’s probably not this guy. Evil yes, genius no.
What can June do in Canada to try and save Hannah? The strategies she tried inside Gilead failed and are even more impossible now, but if she and Luke are to find and rescue her, they need a new plan.
“Let me show you what I’ve tried so far.”
Luke hasn’t been idle in Canada; he’s compiled a dossier of info, gleaned from news sources and an impressive range of contacts. He has been lobbying hard, so hard that people at the embassy run when they see him coming. Now that June is with him, he has a “VIP” on his side, plus, as Moira points out, the lauded saviour of 86 children has some power. June also realises that she has her own contacts within Gilead that might be of use… So, over to you, chaps. What have you got for us?
Man With A Plan 1: Commander Lawrence
Mr Tuello sets up a call to Lawrence, to see what he can offer. But it’s mostly snark, with a side of mwahaha. He tells June the ‘good news’ that Janine is ‘safe’ at the Red Center. He offers a trade: Hannah in exchange for 10 of the rescued children. He’s amused enough to offer to haggle, but it’s an impossible choice, and when she turns him down, he says she’s “gone soft”. There are a few shots where Lawrence looks briefly conflicted (Nick, is that you?); he indicates that he’s not in a position to look weak, tells her to move on, and hangs up.
Rating: D. Useless. NEXT!
Man With A Plan 2: Luke
Luke’s plan hurts him to say out loud, but made me cackle like a harpy. Nick’s your plan? NEARLY POINTLESS NICK?!
Luke: So you think Nick would help?
June: I think he would do anything for me and for Nicole, yeah.
HAS SHE MET HIM? HONESTLY…
Luke’s struggling with this, but it’s for the all-important Greater Good of rescuing Hannah, and so even though he really doesn’t want June to see Nick face to face, and this whole scene is awkward as arse, he suggests it anyway.
Here’s the funny thing though: Nick comes through! Sort of. He’s gone for the Suits model of saving the day with a fat manila folder, and he’s done some solid research in advance, just in case. HUZZAH! Not only did he DO SOMETHING but he did it without even being asked! But wait…
“Getting her out is impossible. There’s Guardians everywhere. At least you know where she is now. And I’m here. I’ll do what I can.”
Ah, there it is. I’m counting this as a victory for Luke though, because they got good information! Nick was a valuable source! Well done, Luke! (And you too, Nick, I guess.)
There are some important developments that come out of this meeting with Nick as well: June smiles — actual genuine smiles rather than vengeful smirks! Nick has apparently re-married but didn’t mention it! And the unlikely star-crossed lovers get to have a nice goodbye. Aw.
Rating: B. Solid, emotionally fraught, probably fruitless in terms of progress, but points for effort all around.
Man With A Plan 3: Fred
Until the arrival of the Putnams, Fred is still Team Gilead, milking the very weird support of his new fans, yet encouraging Serena to write a book, because he picks and chooses the Gileadean rules that he wants to follow depending on how convenient they are at any given moment. When Naomi visits Serena, and Warren visits Fred, Gilead’s attitude to the Waterfords becomes startlingly clear.
Gilead’s not coming to save them. Gilead will leave Fred there to rot, reclaim Serena as a Handmaid, and take possession of their child. Fred and Serena are on their own, and suddenly the odds are stacked against them. Fred’s loyalty to Gilead will get him diddly-squat in the end, and so he needs a new plan. His only remaining play is to make a deal. This brings us to…
Man With A Plan 4: Mr Tuello
Ah, the American man in the shadows, moving the pieces around to get what he wants: the contents of Fred’s head. Every move he has made has been in service of this moment: encouraging Serena to defect and turn Fred in, manipulating the Waterfords into relying on each other again, scaring them with June’s testimony… It’s a masterclass in puppetry. Unfortunately for him, June might rip his face off before he can enjoy his success, because in exchange for Fred’s intel, Tuello will have Fred released, and there will be no justice. Damnit, Tuello, you devious chin-dimpled knave! And welcome to June’s Kill List. Pray you don’t wake up in a circle surrounded by angry former Handmaids, because they will literally tear you a new one.
I blame Nick. If he had decided to defect at the meeting with June, and returned to Canada with her and that plump dossier, Tuello could have had all of Nick’s secrets for free and wouldn’t have needed Fred’s. DAMNIT, NICK!
Rating: an Evil A for Tuello and Fred. F for Nick.
Great work all ‘round, chaps. Slow claps for you.
Meanwhile, in Gilead:
It’s hard to see Janine in those Handmaid robes again after she said she would rather die than go back into service, but she is not out on a new ‘posting’ yet, and seems to be finding a new role at the Red Center as she helps with the latest ‘difficult’ Handmaid-in-training: Esther Keys, aka Serena Junior from the farm at the start of the season. Esther was a scary and imperious Wife, a wannabe rebel, and the victim of unspeakable brutality, all at the age of just 14, and now she’s going to face further horrors as a Handmaid. Sob.
The Aunts have their own terribly impractical table, where they discuss business over dinner and in front of Janine, who is pouring drinks and can’t contain her horror at the Aunts’ suggestions of ‘corrections’ for Esther. Lydia’s facing pressure to send Janine off to ‘do her duty’, which she sees off by both protecting Janine and praising her. Interesting…
Janine is making herself very useful though; she succeeds in ‘managing’ Esther where everyone else failed, which could go a few ways. The depressing way to read it is that Janine becomes the Good Cop of the otherwise unchanged Red Center, thus encouraging greater levels of compliance. Will we see Janine in Aunt garb soon? I don’t know how to feel about that… But let’s be hopeful instead: maybe Aunt Lydia is softening, and she’s making changes by stealth. Maybe she will keep Janine a Handmaid in name only, rather than sending her out again. At the very least, Esther gets to live another day without having her tongue cut out. Yay? I guess?
Next time: Judging by the trailer, things don’t look good for Fred!
Until then, maybe watch this gif a few times to take the edge off…
Header Image Source: Sophie Giraud / Hulu