Previously, on The Handmaid’s Tale: Everyone found out about June’s vigilante execution of Fred, but no-one really cared. Then Serena turned Fred’s funeral into an international PR coup so that she could one-up June by featuring Hannah in a key role. Playing with fire, Serena. Tuello’s eyeing up Nick as a potential new Spy BFF. Elsewhere, Aunt Lydia’s latest ‘recruit’ didn’t fancy the prospect of being in service to Creepy Warren Putnam, understandably, and poisoned herself and Janine (MEAN) with some contraband chocolates. Here’s the full recap for episodes 1 and 2 if you missed it!
This week: It’s all about choosing your allies. Serena’s going after some powerful but incredibly shady and unreliable dudes, while June has Team Canada locked in, but also picks up some new and powerful pals of her own. And Aunt Lydia is having a crisis of faith. Kind of. A bit. Spoilers are ahead for episode 3, so choose your teammates wisely and limber up, because a fight is coming…
In the blue corner: Team Serena
Serena is keen to keep Mark Tuello at a distance while she’s in Gilead, partly to protect her reputation from scandalous gossip, partly because he serves little purpose here, and partly, of course, because it’s a power play and she can. She’s on what she thinks is her home turf, armoured with her wifely garments, hair scraped back into its severe Gileadean ‘do. Tuello’s complete uselessness is underscored by having him literally standing outside in the cold while some of Gilead’s power players gather for a very uninspiring dinner party at Lawrence’s house. The Mackenzies are there; High Commander Mackenzie is, unsurprisingly, a massive douchebag, though he is not an idiot douchebag, as he has figured out that Fred was a wrong’un and that June killed him with help from the Americans. (Help is a strong word. They just looked the other way and whistled. If that’s help, then Nick is the most helpful person in the world.) The Mackenzies are also BFFs with Rose, the new Mrs Blaine, and it all starts to become clear. Nick’s definitely married up. Serena narrows her eyes at this, sensing that something is afoot.
Lawrence wants to capitalise on the PR from the funeral by making new trade deals, but is told to rein in the shop talk over dinner, and reminded that as a bachelor, he’s not valued as much as one of the marrieds. (How do you like them apples, Lawrence? Practically relegated to the kids’ table at your own house?) Serena saves him with a change of subject, turning the conversation to Agnes, aka Hannah, so that they can talk trash about June instead. Apparently, the Mackenzies have considered themselves generous to June thus far, wanting to protect June so that they don’t traumatise Hannah by murdering her birth mother, but Mackenzie isn’t so keen on that now, declaring that “Agnes is strong” and calling for June’s assassination. Nick kicks off at the very suggestion of that. LOL just kidding. He looks a bit constipated and says nothing.
Meanwhile out in the cold, Tuello tries to befriend Lawrence, presumably to recruit him. Lawrence LOLs hard. Nice try, Tuello. He has another catch-up with Nick, just long enough for Nick to say no to Tuello’s offer, before Mackenzie descends upon them. Mackenzie’s very suspicious of Nick as well. Nick is clearly rubbish at being sneaky. No one is surprised.
Serena then attempts her boldest play yet, suggesting a strategic marriage between herself and Lawrence that would benefit both of them. Lawrence promises that ‘they’ will protect Serena and her child, but also throws up in his mouth a little bit and doesn’t commit to anything. He’s an old romantic, that one. Serena’s confident that she’s won him over, and tells Tuello she’s going to stay in Gilead rather than coming back to Canada. She’s infuriating in her defence of what Gilead “has done right”, still refusing to see the horror she helped to design. “My place is here,” she declares. Yeah, it’s the bed she made, so she should lie in it, but that’s not what she means. Leave her there, Tuello! She’s only going to disappoint you!
She’s smug as can be when summoned to meet the council, which makes it all the more delicious when Lawrence awkwardly rejects her proposal and the council sends her crawling back to Canada with some vague gubbins job to spread the word of Gilead abroad. She covers her mortification with demands for staff, money, and protection from June, all of which are granted. The men breathe a sigh of relief when she leaves, and she joins Tuello on the plane after all, letting him think she had a change of heart. I am presuming that she sulks all the way home. Ner ner. She doesn’t crack a smile until she sees her usual crowd of Waterford Weirdoes holding their candles and grinning stupidly at her as she arrives back in Toronto. For a moment, she makes peace with the move. She has FANS. It’s not so bad. For a moment, she forgets who else is waiting to see her…
In the red corner: Team June
Team June, the Team formerly known as Team Canada, having wobbled somewhat with June’s murdery antics, is united again in its mission to rescue Hannah, though they have different ideas for the ‘how’ of it all. June is worrying about the colour purple, and wants to talk to Nick about it. Luke knows that calls to Nick have to go through Tuello, but they don’t trust Tuello any more, after seeing that treacherous chin-dimple on TV with Serena. Moira reluctantly confesses that she knows another way to contact Nick, that she knows of a group of women at the border. She kept this from June because the women there are traumatised and their missions practically suicidal, and that is absolutely not the sort of crowd that she would want June to be involved with. But she sets up a meeting anyway, and good thing too, because this group puts our other shady spy contacts to absolute shame.
Their first meeting is with Lily, who knows June by reputation of course, but there’s more — Lily was one of the women saved by June when she traded Waterford back to Gilead. Saving the children and women like Lily makes June a kind of folk hero for them. They thought she “would be taller.” June tries to brush off the tales of her good deeds, saying she was just lucky, but Lily’s having none of it.
“Women always say that when they’ve done something extraordinary.”
Lily has a few ways of getting messages across, thanks to a network of people who work together in secret, and just like that, Moira’s ready to feel bad for her earlier description of them, because June’s not the only one whose reputation precedes her; Lily’s does too. This, my friends, is Mayday. When June saved those women, she inadvertently saved a Mayday Bigwig who now owes her a massive favour. That’s more than lucky. And also, huzzah that Mayday was real and not an urban legend after all. Turns out, Mayday was the friends you make along the way.
Mayday have a few things going on, including a plan to poison a Commander with arsenic smuggled across the border. We also see a refugee arrive at Mayday’s camp, escorted by a helpful Guardian, who promptly returns to spy another day. Mayday is alive, well and active, and not messing about. The Dude Spies are busy doing nothing, but the resistance network gets stuff done. Let’s hear it for Mayday.
Mayday gets a call through to Nick, who reports back to June that Hannah is safe, and that the purple outfit signals that she’s going to a kind of monstrous finishing school for the daughters of High Commanders, to prepare them for life as Gileadean Wives. He assures her that the Mackenzies love Hannah, but doesn’t warn her that they want June dead. That would be far too helpful. He also doesn’t tell her that he’s pretty much Hannah’s honorary Uncle Nick now. He does tell her about Rose, and that Rose knows about June, saying that she and Rose would like each other. Yeah, that’s totally how it works, Nick. Besties all round.
When June hears from Mayday that Smug Serena is coming back to Canada, it’s time to wipe that smile off her face with an ambush and a very clear and unambiguous message:
“Never touch my daughter again.”
June’s not in the mood for long games of strategy, or coded warnings, or official channels. She’s the terrifying face leaping out of the shadows now. She knows where the bodies can be left and no one will care. And she has connections. Sleep well, Serena. You’re on June’s list.
In the military green corner and kind of ruining my boxing analogy but hey, who’s counting corners: Aunt Lydia
Let your hearts rest easy for a moment, for
Tiny Tim Janine did not die. HUZZAH. She’s not well though, and is hooked up to lots of machines that go ping, watched over by Aunt Lydia. Aunty L also pays a trip to see Esther, hooked up to her own ping machines, but she’s in a more slappy mood with her. Lydia is broken at the sight of Janine in her bed, praying for her, declaring that Janine “does not deserve this” and blaming herself for the choices she has made. “Please do not punish her to teach me a lesson,” she cries. And once again, Ann Dowd is just incredible. Lydia has done so many terrible things, and she has regretted doing some of them, but she has always believed in the cause, that she was doing things for a reason, and that she had a purpose. The best villains don’t know they’re villains. This is a massive moment for her, and she does make it all about her in the wrong way, but there is a lesson to be learned here, and Lydia seems very close to figuring out what that lesson is. “I can turn things around; I will do things differently,” she vows.
She follows through, ‘requesting’ the presence of Naomi and Angela at the hospital. She reminds Naomi that Janine was there for Angela when she was unwell, and she hopes for a miracle, that Angela will hold Janine’s hand and wake her up. Naomi seems to think it’s a chance for Angela to say goodbye instead.
“I’ll make sure Angela grows up to know where she got her beautiful smile, and her sweet nature. You won’t be forgotten.”
It’s the second time we’ve seen some potential sweetness from Naomi this season, and this one’s a big one. This is a culture that erases the women forced into Handmaid roles, reducing them to nameless symbolic proxies. Naomi and Lydia are both tearing down the euphemistic veils that keep this process going. It’s a start.
Whether by the efforts of divine intervention, interpersonal kindness, or medical science, Janine wakes up. Lydia sees this as a message from God. She changed her ways, and her prayers were answered. What else she plans to change remains to be seen.
Next time: June and Serena’s teams go head to head. And Tuello looks uncomfortable about it. Hush, Mark, don’t fret your little chin-dimple about it. Just look the other way and whistle again, OK?
Image sources (in order of posting): Sophie Giraud, Hulu