The Handmaid's Tale Season Premiere Review: Moving On

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A good portion of the season arc was set during the first three hours of The Handmaid's Tale Season 3.

The fate of June after her escape and Holly/Nicole's jettison over the country lines got revealed, and we caught up with most of the other characters before June had her internal call to arms at the end of The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 3.

At one time, June thought she would be better off out of the orbit of the Waterfords. Whether that is true remains a little unclear at this point.

Becoming a Martha - Tall - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

If you paid attention to the clues from The Handmaid's Tale Season 2, then the events of The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1 and The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 2 shouldn't have been too shocking.

Despite June's belief she was doing the right thing for everyone by sending her daughter to Canada with Emily, Serena Joy, who was onboard with the idea of her daughter's escape, balked when she discovered June failed to accompany their girl.

Oh, I'm Not Going Anywhere! - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

Serena trusted June. She didn't trust Emily or anyone else for that matter to take care of their daughter.

In an instant, all the progress Serena Joy made during the previous season and the possibility that she might one day fight back against the oppressive society she helped create circled the drain.

Fred: Serena, praise be. Everyone has lost their minds. Go to my office. Call 911. Let her pass son! This has gone far enough.
Serena: We should give her more time. To get away.

Who knows what Serena was thinking at that point. She genuinely seemed to want her daughter to have the best life possible, and she was willing to give her up for a better future.

But her anger with Fred got enveloped in her anger with June when the latter got returned to the family unharmed. 

The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Stumbles Out of the Gate

Serena's resolve got crushed, and all she could think about was a way out of her misery. That's when she set the house on fire, seemingly willing to go up with the place until June stepped in to pull her to safety.

Set Up and Humiliated - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

But it's hard to tell if safety is something Serena Joy cares about anymore. She's going head to head with her mother about motherhood, but she's still yet to bear witness to some of the most challenging times a mother faces.

With the Commander getting a demotion and their world in flux, will Serena be able to give up Holly/Nicole as easily as she thought she could when she believed she was going to be with June?

She had to imagine a world in which she would be a part of the child's life, and that got stripped from her when June passed the baby onto people with whom Serena has no ties.

If she doesn't get something else in her life to give her purpose, there's no telling what she might do.

Nick Looks Back - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

As for June, well, nobody could believe that she remained behind. Not Commander Lawrence, not Serena Joy, and definitely not Nick. Nick snapped angrily because he cares for her, but he also shared what many of us believe -- that June is not leaving Gilead dead or alive.

Nick: What is wrong with you? You know people risked their lives tonight to get you out? Jesus, June. You're so fucking selfish. There won't be another chance, you know that? You're never getting out. You're going to fucking die here.
June: I know that. Don't you think I fuckin' know that?

But the "spunky" June wanted, even for a minute, to believe that if she stayed behind, she could make a difference in Hannah's life and those others like Hannah and June.

And if the story continues as we dream, that could very well be true. But it's going to be a long road.

Handmaid in the Street - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

June's connection with Mrs. MacKenzie is much the same as her connection to Serena Joy. June has to acknowledge that another woman is caring for her child, so she doesn't rock the boat as much as she could if she wanted. 

Mrs. MacKenzie: This has to stop. You brought our child into the world. The Commander and I think you for that, God knows. She had nightmares for weeks after the summer house. Of course, she told me. I'm her mother. You're being cruel, confusing her like this.
June: I'm confusing her?

What Mrs. MacKenzie shared about Hannah was that she was happy and had a doting father who easily bent to her whims. Things could definitely be worse.

But June successfully got one of her children out of the country, and there will be no stopping her from trying to free Hannah even if it means she'll never see either one of them grow up.

Moira's WTF Look - Tall - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

Moira and Luke are caring for Holly, and they're caring a lot for Emily, too. 

Emily may have had a wife in Canada, but the idea of reconnecting with her was terrifying for Emily. What she's suffered at the hands of Gilead will be difficult for her to share with Sylvia.

Two people who were once very in love have spent time apart that so drastically altered one of them that their journey may continue for years to come. 

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Moira welcomed Emily with open arms, but Luke's reaction was a bit more withdrawn and caustic. I don't believe it had anything to do with Emily, but his own similar fears about things between him and June.

And it didn't help that he was now acting as a father to June's child that she fathered with another man. The audaciousness of the story is so fantastic that it's hard to put into words. Luke had trouble finding his.

Hauled In Again - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

Emily's reception in Canada was overwhelmingly positive to the point she felt strange getting treated like a normal woman again. The medical professionals treated her as if she were no different than any other woman which was both mystifying and awe-inspiring.

They matter of factly told her about clitoral reconstruction and shared that her health was great other than cholesterol that was a little high.

That made me wonder about the colonies. Why didn't Emily have a longer-term illness as a result of her time spent there? Women who spent less time there were dropping of radiation sickness, but Emily has no aftereffects at all. 

Does anyone else find that strange?

Glaring Commander Lawrence - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

June found herself with Commander Lawrence, the man responsible for the nuts and bolts creation of Gilead who also saved Emily and Holly.

To say he's an enigma is putting it lightly.

He's a sarcastic shit who plays with the women of his household. He demands the truth, but most of the women he cares for are too afraid to give it to him.

Joseph: Who's in the basement?
Cora: Just Beth. We saw a rat. She screamed.
Joseph: Liar. That's two.

That doesn't go for June who, at times, pushes the new man in her life a little too far.

June: Is Mrs. Lawrence OK?
Commander Lawrence: DO NOT PRESUME TO SPEAK TO ME ABOUT MY WIFE!!! I knew it was a mistake.
June: Sir, we did not know she would come back here.
Commander Lawrence: I mean taking you in. Clean it up.

He's at once hilarious and horrifying. Using phrases like, "Yep. Aces. Praise be," in response to Aunt Lydia's probing about the Ceremony with June make him seem like he's not too bad of a Commander.

But shouting at June when she dared speak to him about his wife and the way he treated Sienna shows he doesn't wear his intentions on his sleeve.

Marthas on the Street - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 2

During a visit from a recuperating Aunt Lydia, the woman seemed genuinely concerned about June's new placement.

Aunt Lydia: What's wrong with her?
June: I don't know.
Aunt Lydia: If there is something unseemly going on in this house with Commander Lawrence, you know you can always tell me. Emily was here only two days, and God only knows what he did to her.

But, oh, how Aunt Lydia is suffering. She imagines herself a benevolent soul there to train and protect the mothers of the next generations, and the way Emily turned on her left her reeling with an untapped rage.

June got the brunt of her feelings for Emily, but it was Aunt Lydia who paid in the end, as she coudn't even drag herself up that staircase of bad memories.

But June is always pushing people past their limits because she forgets her place. I would be exactly like her. She treats everyone as she always did and expects people to earn her respect.

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Unfortunately, that's not the world June lives in any longer, and she could come to regret her actions one day if they hinder her progress within the movement.

It's not surprising that June niggled away at Commander Lawrence until he begrudgingly agreed to her running the Martha Underground out of the basement. 

In the Kitchen - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

And then a Martha died in that basement, and he wasn't very pleasant to be around anymore making June pay for gaining his trust a little too soon by allowing her to bury the dead in his backyard.

Mrs. Lawrence appears to either have spells of weakness and confusion or she's putting on one hell of a show for company. Maybe in acting this way, she gets the opportunity to help the movement in whatever way she can -- like planting a garden over a dead body.

June is also taunted by Commander Lawrence in front of his peers and Fred when they all join him at his home for a meeting. 

It's hard to know where he stands because he stands all over the place when it comes to Gilead. How much of his actions such as saving Emily are as meaningful as his stance with the Commanders?

Lawrence: We know women can inflate their abilities and think they belong in places they don't, but they can also be put to use. They can be fun. OfJoseph? We're puzzling out how to assess an invididual's value in the world as it pertains to gender. Weren't you a book editor once upon a time?
June: Yes, sir.
Lawrence: Are there any books on the topic?
June: Yes, sir. Many.
Lawrence: Sex Differences and Cognitive Abilities. The Descent of Man. That's what you were thinking of, right? An oldie but a goodie. I think I have it here somewhere. Would you get it for me? It's on the top of that bookcase to the right of the door. The stack on the left, third book down. Yellow lettering. Good job.

I almost yearned for the days when Fred was looking at June with puppy dog eyes and taking her to the whore house for a night on the town. But even in taunting her, Commander Lawrence was protecting her in front of the others by verbally pointing her to the wrong book in a stack.

If she had acknowledged her ability to read, there could have been grave consequences.

Fred at the Lawrence House - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

June's experience with Fred gave her the courage to ask him his thoughts on Commander Lawrence, and I think he was truthful in what he revealed -- he's hard to read and doesn't like to be bored.

The way Commander Lawrence runs his house, he'll never get bored. 

Commander Lawrence doesn't think highly of Fred, but he also doesn't know that Fred did his part in allowing his women to share a modicum of freedom.

Commander Lawrence: Speaking of the Waterfords, you really mucked up that house, didn't you? Fred demoted. Serena defingered. Baby baby-napped. You left the place literally in ashes. Do you think they got what they deserved?
June: No one in Gilead gets what they deserve, sir.
Commander Lawrence: How could they not realize how transactional you are?
June: I did what I had to do.
Commander Lawrence: You think if you get me to like you, I'll help you.
June: I think you might try. I think you might try to do the right thing.
Commander Lawrence: What do you know about the right thing?
June: I know you let Emily escape with that baby, and I know you let the Marthas run a resistance network out of your house.
Commander Lawrence: You have to let the rabble-rousers blow off a little steam or they'll smash everything to bits.

Out of town excursions continued for June as after a particularly heated argument between them in which she threw as many jabs as he did, he took her to the processing center for women going to the colonies.

If the inventor of the colonies was trying to get June to feel bad about the choices he has to make when he snags an extra Martha or two from the bunch before they're hauled away, June wasn't going to give him that pleasure.

Is Commander Lawrence Scared - Tall - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

It's not her responsbility to save lives. She's right about that. She didn't put them in danger.

Her initial reaction to his proposal was to walk away. But a conversation with the distraught Serena Joy about Holly gave her more ammunition for her anger and her "spunk," so she returned five choices to Commander Lawrence.

June: We have five new Marthas for the resistance; an engineer, an IT tech, a journalist, a lawyer, and a thief.
Beth: How do you know?
June: Because I chose them.

Making those choices had to be a lot easier when she wasn't standing in front of the women who had been deemed useless to Gilead.

The tiitle fo third episode was "Useful," perfectly fitting in light of Commander Lawrence's conversation with the Commanders and how June spun around the tragic fate of three women to help her and her new allies.

June is building an army, but there are enemies at her door. They might be closer than she thinks.

What did you think of the three-episode premiere of The Handmaid's Tale Season 3?

What do you think lies ahead for the group given what you've seen so far?

Drop a line below and share your thoughts!

Night (Season 3) Review

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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1 Quotes

June: The could put you on the wall. [pause] Even a commander.
Commander Lawrence: Spunky.

  • Permalink: Spunky.
  • Added:

Are you insane? You didn't get in the truck.

Commander Lawrence