The latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale “Household” saw us grappling with the dynamic between two women claiming maternal rights to the liberated Nichole, as well as exploring the wider reaching implications of a world where men’s authority goes unchecked, leading to a reality where women are treated as second-class citizens if they are lucky, and property if they are capable of bearing children. The imagery was haunting, the implications even more so.
Dearbhla Walsh showed an adept hand at portraying this stark reality; she transports the viewer into a dystopian nightmare through a lulled sense of security in the opening scene. In a stark monochromatic Boston, with only June’s red handmaid’s colors shining through the dismal black and white doldrum, the viewer must take notice, even if only subconsciously: the handmaids do not belong here. They are outcasts in their own world, as the bleak color palate will remind us time and again..
Sneaking a peek into life in Gilead outside the narrowed scope of Boston afforded us an opportunity to see just how fortunate June has been, and allowed us to contemplate the ramifications of her actions had she been in this inhospitable environment of a dilapidated DC this entire time. By broadening the scope of our lens, we are able to more fully appreciate the liberties June has been afforded in her internal fight against Gilead, however minute those privileges may be... for in the Capital, handmaids have zero liberties.
And from there we are steadily and constantly reminded that things can always get worse.
Hope can be desecrated. Voices can be silenced. Wills can be broken. Freedoms and liberties previously thought to be innate can be stripped away. Promises and vows can be broken. But what cannot be broken is June’s resolve, nor the resolve of those who continue the fight despite such dire and desperate circumstances.
We are reminded of this by the Martha who wakes June to rendezvous with Nick, in Aunt Lydia’s tears as she longs to return home, in June’s voice, ringing out against the hollow desecrated Lincoln Memorial that Serena will never be rid of her until her daughters are both safe. The path ahead may be dark and trepidatious, but still, hope rises, even in the most desperate of times.
As for the Waterfords, their resolve is renewed, with Serena realizing she is powerless unless she stands as a reflection of her husband’s ideals.. Fred is forced into an unfamiliar role of submission by High Commander Winslow, who shows Waterford, through a tactful thrust of his hips and an intentional shoulder caress, that he is very much under Winslow’s eye. Fred’s need to assert sovereignty over himself and his ideals comes to a head as he delivers a speech that hearkens back to the Quiverfull Movement, a very petrifying and very real movement in the United States. For those unfamiliar with the Quiverfull Movement, it utilizes Fred’s exact words on those steps as the cornerstone for its belief system, plucked from Psalm 127:3-5 from the King James version of the Bible.
The implications of a government dominated by the ideals of the Quiverfull Movement is, to put it mildly, horrifying. And in this moment, despite all the fear and control-mongering, we are reminded of the words emblazoned in the Lincoln Memorial: “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”.
And though we see Lincoln’s likeness completely shattered, we, and June, see his clenched fist remains. And just as that fist has survived a most brutal onslaught, so too shall June survive this affront to everything she holds dear but has seen stripped away. And just as she stood against Serena, verbally annihilating her, so do we hope she is able to obliterate the cornerstones of this dilapidated reality she finds herselSupport the show