The Handmaid's Tale Liars Review

The Handmaid’s Tale is rolling the dice toward its finale with one of its uneven, but serviceably suspenseful, episodes. “Liars” runs too fast, stops, then pants, then runs too fast toward the horizon. This episode both accelerates and coasts toward its season finale with “what comes around, goes around” vibes.

June (Elisabeth Moss) must transport 52 children to the safety of Canada, but it will take more than trucks to smuggle children out of Gilead. Meanwhile, the Waterfords (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski) take matters into their own hands to retrieve baby Nichole from Canada.

The Waterfords’ Roadtrip

It’s shaky ground to humanize architects of the totalitarian Gilead: a rapist Commander and his rape-condoning (and instigating) Wife. Their moments of humanity are disconcerting and it can be easy to pity the humanity buried beneath their pitiless dogmas. 

At Serena’s insistence, the Waterfords have gone rouge to go on a road trip to meet with Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger). Those sequences are almost idyllic with a touch of dissonance, much like their waltz back in “Under His Eye,” where their personal serenity contrasts with their inhuman deeds on the world.

Fred permits Serena Joy to drive in the privacy of the sparse countryside. While this season has seen him repairing his relationship with her, it’s a bit unbelievable that he is amiably acquiescing to his Wife’s request considering his guardedness over his power. The privacy in the countryside does allow them to unravel from their Gilead shells. Here, Fred is not a patronizing Commander and has a sensible dialogue with Serena. Fred admits to his shortcomings as a husband, his insecurities about his virility, and fathoms what-could-have-beens. They reckon with how their desired utopia of Gilead degraded their marriage. Even for a night, they revive a moment of sexual pleasure for their marriage.

Then, their road trip goes to Hell when Mark lures them to Canada territory, where a squad arrests the Waterfords. From the Waterfords’ point of view, their arrest at the border is a tragedy, but for the world, it’s a reckoning. Their personal marital reckoning would never be enough. They must reckon with the world they have designed.

The Lawrences’ Struggles

“Wouldn’t it be funny if you actually turned out to be a hero?” June tells Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford).

Commander Lawrence is easier to humanize than the Waterfords, as he does conscientiously hinder the worst of Gilead’s policies. It’s tempting to believe that Joseph Lawrence’s humanity would win the day and he would help June’s mission as promised. But he attempts to weasel out of June’s scheme to rescue children. 

Joseph ditches June’s mission, leaving a “sorry” note, but then returns claiming he had an “attack of conscience.” Bullshit, June knows. This is no Big Damn Hero moment. As he points out, he only serves himself and his wife (Julie Dretzin), but really, being a protector to his wife is a masculine ego stroke. He may be one of the “kind” Commanders, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a privileged guy who prioritizes himself. Mayday is a fair-weather ally to him. He returned because a situation disadvantaged him and revoked the powers that allowed him to escape, not because of his conscience.

June Returns to Jezebel

With Lawrence’s help, June ventures to Jezebel to speak with a contact who can provide a plane, in exchange for the Lawrences’ art. 

Some happenstance occurs to force one of the show’s most bloody shocks. After she proposes the deal, she runs into a familiar face: Commander George Winslow (a disconcerting Christopher Meloni), who, not surprisingly, is a lecher. He orders her into a hotel room. The scene dissolves into soul-sucking disorientation as June attempts to numb herself to Winslow’s rape attempt, but then she fights back, which has relieving yet consequential outcomes. 

Before June strikes the deathblow to his skull, the rapist High Commander utters his final plea, “My children.” Unlike the time June betrayed a smile when she sees the High Commander play with his (stolen) children in “Household,” she allots him no sympathy. 

Marthas in Action

The Marthas are the stars of the episode as they try to smell out if June is steely and clear-headed enough for rebellion. I entertain the idea that the Marthas warrant their own spin-off show with their somber demeanors and devotion to a cause. 

And coincidence, the Martha who later covers for June was saved by June’s penwork for Commander. The Marthas are shown in action, cleaning up the bloody crime scene, all while housekeeping. 

Conclusion

June and Serena Joy are left with the incoming madness. June might face consequences for her self-defense against Winslow, while Serena Joy faces detainment and a trial. At the end, Joseph hands June a gun. “They’ll be coming for us.” The Handmaid’s Tale is asking its protagonist, how much more can they make the best of this?

Tidbits:

  • The Econodaughter remarks, “I love that color.” It’s a tiny bit that shows what young lower-class daughters aspire to in Gilead.
  • Considering that Serena Joy bade Rita (Amanda Brugel) a profound farewell, it seems the former may have instigated the arrest of herself and her husband… 
  • I find it unbelievable that there’s gun lying around the Lawrence’s household for the mentally unstable Eleanor to take (or Joseph might have thought to give it to Eleanor).
  • Favorite line: “You jump onto a train that was already moving and you’re fucking Che Guevara.”
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