Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 2 “Unwomen” (B+)

One of the things that makes this show so excellent is how terrifying and disturbing it manages to be in its portrayal of how the world got this way. All of the handmaids being paraded into a stadium with nooses is surely frightening, but it doesn’t feel nearly as real as the sight of ICE and ACLU vests at Logan Airport as people lined up to be cleared for flights to Canada and the abandoned and trashed offices of the Boston Globe where June is currently going stir crazy. John Carroll Lynch’s fellow professor who was gay quietly warned Emily about being publicly out, and the horror that she felt when she saw him hanging outside wasn’t even the most agonizing part of the episode. We only first met Clea DuVall’s Sylvia at the airport, but as Emily discovered that things like speaking to a supervisor or demanding a lawyer don’t mean anything when “the” law suddenly decides that your marriage isn’t recognized because it’s forbidden, their painful separation was extremely emotional. In this new world, standing up for what you believe in means helping those who have been wrongly sent to a forced labor camp to survive by bartering for medicine and exacting revenge on those whose crimes are no longer punished in the horrific society that has come to exist. I didn’t expect to see Marisa Tomei guest-starring on this show, but she delivered a memorable turn as the wife who got her rightful punishment from Emily. Janine’s arrival is one glimmer of hope, since perhaps they can find some comfort in spending time together. I had forgotten that Nick was likely saving June in part because she’s pregnant with their baby, and this salvation isn’t one that comes quick, with June surrounded by ghosts of what used to be and taking comfort in a very unnatural act: watching an episode of “Friends” that has no place in this despicable new world.

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