Series three brought us straight back to the thick of the action. Lots of storyline’s criss cross the underlying Gilead narrative. While regular characters return, there are some location changes, as some are now in Canada due to the underground network getting them out. Gilead life continues. Handmaids, Martha’s and Aunts, the women of Gilead all with their individual roles. Women who start to demonstrate a strength that is not previously seen.
The season premiere opens in dramatic style as we watch Serena Joy torch the Waterford home. Why, you may ask yourself? Let me tell you. Serena, having assisted in baby Nichole’s escape in the season two finale, is now feeling the walls of Gilead closing in on her. She asks herself whether she did the right thing? Commander Waterford is evidently frustrated and angry when he discovers that Serena helped her get out. So she sets the home alight. Not just a match casually dropped on a flammable rug. That’s not good enough for Serena. Her place of choice is the ceremonial bed. The location of those rapes, the memories.
Serena recouperates at her mothers house following the fire. When she returns to the Waterford residence, she has to rebuild her relationship with her husband. June assists her with this through conversations with them both.
June is moved to the Lawrence household. (Praise be, for all those West Wing fans who were screaming at the TV that it was Josh Lyman!). Things are unconventional at the Lawrence’s, they aren’t like other postings. Commander Lawrence and his wife Eleanor not only refuse to perform the obligatory monthly ceremony, but they also ignore the very obvious underground network functioning from his house.
June goes to see her daughter at her Gilead home and also attempts to see her at school. She uses Mrs Lawrence and the help of a Martha, to get this done but the end result is, her daughter being moved to a secret location and the Martha being hanged
June found out that OfMatthew, I should mention here that she is pregnant, was the one that was behind the Martha’s death. June convinces everyone, all the handmaids, to bully her. June herself gets the ball rolling by telling Aunt Lydia that OfMatthew doesn’t want her baby. OfMatthew is forced to admit this infront of everyone as a sin. Add in more bullying and the inevitable happens. OfMathew snaps, grabs a guardians gun and as a result is shot herself. OfMatthew is kept alive on machines until the baby’s birth. June is forced to stay with her, on her knees praying. June tells us “32 days so far”
The Waterford’s visit June at the Lawrence’s , and discuss baby Nichole. They start an international campaign to get her back saying that she had been kidnapped. They don’t ask her, they tell her that they need her to do something. That something, is to call her husband. The very man that they stole her away from. The very man that she believed to be dead for some time. She is told to call him and arrange for the Waterfords to see the baby in Canada.
Series 3 sees an ugly incident. Fred and Serena Waterford visit the Lawrence’s with the sole intention of pushing the limits. They suspect that Lawrence is not performing ‘as Gilead men should’ and so aim to do something about it. Fred and Serena force the ceremony while they are in the house. To ensure it’s completion, June suffers the indignation of a doctor ‘checking’ to make sure. The ceremony sets off the saddest event in the series. The overdose of Eleanor. This prompts Commander Lawrence to help June with her audacious plan to get children out of Gilead.
While Commander Lawrence organises a truck, June knows that a plane is needed. She gets Lawrence to take her out to Jezebels and it is there that a contact is met to arrange the plane. Commander Winslow sees June there and takes her to his room with the full intention of raping her. June fights back and kills him. The women of Jezebels ensure June a safe passage out of the establishment, and a clean up of Winslow’s body.
The Waterford’s go to Toronto to see baby Nichole. Serena meets with Luke Bankole, who will not let Fred near the baby. Mark Tuello (go on, who’s shouting now at the tele….isn’t he that bloke from Parenthood ?) , one of the newbies, controls the meeting. While in Toronto, Mark Tuello also gives Serena a phone and an option to defect from Gilead. A new Canadian life awaits and the chance to remain in Nichole’s life. This season also saw Serena and Fred arrested for war crimes. Fred, being very annoyed that his wife tricked him, gave information that saw Serena arrested too.
But the biggest moment of the season is the finale. Aren’t all finales good? Anyone watching Handmaids will know what I mean when I say “Muffins mean yes”. Well muffins cover the kitchen table indicating that there are more kids able to be got out than originally thought. As June herself says “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” (shameless movie line steal I know).
With the help of Martha’s and Handmaids we see 86 children fly out of Gilead into Canada. Our very own Waterfords Martha, Rita Blue among them. As Rita exits what is to be called “angels flight”, she reunites with Emily, a handmaid she knew. She also meets Luke. Hugging him tightly and crying, she says “she did this, your June”
To allow the plane to take off, a distraction is needed, and of course we all know June ain’t leaving without Hannah. June creates the distraction but ends up getting shot. She literally takes one for the team.
Series three ended up on the climatic Angels Flight and June shot in the woods. Emotional ambivalence in a form. The simultaneous excitement and happiness of getting the children out of Gilead and the shock and terror of Junes shooting. As the handmaids gather her up, the final shot leaves questions hanging in the air. What condition is June in? Will she die? Do the kids make it? Where do the handmaids take her? Are they caught again? Will June be put on the wall for what she is done? They are all questions that are left for the viewer to contemplate.
Elisabeth Moss, as usual, does a stellar job in the titular role as handmade June Osbourne. The award winning actress brings something special to the role. She embodies June. She has the desperation in her of a mother trying to reach her child. She is angry at the way she is treated. She wants revenge for the deaths of those she loved. She is willing to risk anything to get her child, as any mother would.
Ms Moss is admirably backed up by Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski. Added to the mix is Max Minghella, Bradley Whitford, Madline Brewer, Ann Dowd, Amanda Brugel, O-T Fagbenie, Samira Wiley, Sam Jaegar and more.
The Handmaids Tale is an absolute gem of a series. It most certainly has its ‘controversial’ moments in the way the Gilead way of life is portrayed, but It is well deserved of every award nomination and win.