The Handmaid's Tale Under His Eye Review

Little is getting better in Gilead, which is pretty much the norm for The Handmaid’s Tale. But things are getting better for the selected few. Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is touring a potential new house in D.C. It’s an unrestored house littered with the remnants –smiling photos of a nuclear family, a crib, broken glass – of another family life, evidence of seizures. Despite her discomfort, the debris is only incidental to Serena, who will claim a space of those who were terrorized by Gilead theocracy.

But Gilead becomes worse for those at the bottom. “Under His Eye” opens with a hanging conducted by Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd). June (Elisabeth Moss) and her fellow Handmaids are forced to pull a three-way rope as a community to hang those deemed traitors. For those who absorbed the original novel by Margaret Atwood, the visualization of said hangings is chilling. The repetition of hangings spurs June to conspire with Hannah’s nurse to arrange a mother-daughter escape.

Wife Mrs. Lawrence (Julie Dretzin) receives an inadvertent, but risky, treatment when June drags her outside (since Handmaids walking alone looks suspicious). She even consents to ally with the Handmaid when June confesses the truth of her mission. The mission is botched. Other than June maybe, just maybe getting to hear her daughter play, the only success of the mission is that Mrs. Lawrence opens a little: Her odd behavior is a result of her bipolar struggles. Knowing how healthcare operates in the world of Gilead, it exacerbated her misery and it’s implied she has no access to medication. 

The Canada arc, which felt scattershot in previous seasons, has improved with a streamlined arc following Emily’s (Alexis Bledel) recovery. While fighting for baby Nichole/Holly’s safety against the wishy-washy Canadian government considering returning the baby back into Gilead, Moira (Samira Wiley) and Emily bond over their rehabilitation, just two lesbians chatting about acquaintances (Moira’s “How can we not have any gay in common? I’m pretty sure this is the first time this has happened in all of lesbian history” is chuckle-worthy). Both are haunted by their actions in Gilead despite knowing that they did what they had to do. One way or another, even the most functioning society will guilt trip them for surviving. In an affecting conversation through jail bars, Moira and Emily recognize that they are more functional outside of Gilead than before – even if they’re not free of their past.

Contrast Moira and Emily’s collective sorrow to the Waterford’s cushy transition into a festive and sphere of Gilead. Serena Joy finds her crowd with chatty Wives, who laugh almost in sync, and talk with Southern belle flare. She and Fred Waterford waltz in full view of Commanders and Wives. Their dance radiates with wholesomeness, their marital recovery serving as a holy spectacle, but the discordant score tells us differently: They are a couple rising to power, relishing privileges in a suffering world they designed.

And then despair sinks deep when chances are tossed into the abyss. Despite Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) confiding in June about her rebellious thoughts, the former’s rebellious thoughts does not stop her from meddling in June’s affairs and reporting Hannah’s Martha. The deed hits June hard, not just because it deprives her of contact with her child and forced the community to execute a person, but because it is instigated by one of Gilead’s oppressed, a fellow survivor. How can they move on?

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