Wednesday, April 28, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Handmaid's Tale' - The Torture Grows More Agonizing and the Sacrifices More Dire for the Handmaids in 'The Crossing'

Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale - Episode 4.03 "The Crossing"

Captured by Gilead, June faces a vengeful Aunt Lydia and endures a torturous interrogation. Nick and Lawrence collaborate to protect June. In Toronto, Luke struggles with how to help June and Hannah.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale.

"The Crossing" was written by Bruce Miller and directed by Elisabeth Moss

A lot of big and dramatic things still happen on this show. However, do any of them come with any semblance of emotional significance? In an episode like this, it's all about embracing the misery and suffering. It's incredibly overindulgent without offering anything new. This show is fundamentally about the harm inflicted upon women's bodies. That's at the core of the conflict. Gilead serves as an oppressive regime trying to force a specific ideology onto an entire group of people in the name of saving humanity. Some are true believers while others go along in order to obtain power. June has fought back against the system every step of the way. The show has depicted many forms of trauma both psychological and physical across the seasons. It doesn't need to serve as a necessary and frequent component in order to reaffirm the storytelling of this world though. It's not something the audience should expect otherwise we would stop watching. The show has stretched this story out because it was an immediate cultural and critical hit. But it went past the point of diminishing returns in terms of the violence a long time ago. Now, it's all entirely empty. No meaning comes from seeing June waterboarded, deprived of her senses and having to witness others dying right in front of her. It's not a dramatic escalation of everything that has happened before. It's more of the same. The show feels the urge to try to increase the stakes and tension. It doesn't want to repeat itself. It does. It actually does that all the time. The characters are wildly inconsistent in the process as well. Characters can certainly evolve season to season. That's the point of a television show. The audience keeps coming back to see the evolution. That's a requirement for any kind of successful format in this genre. The journey has to grow over time. This show isn't one that can produce the same scenario over and over again hoping to remain relevant. That just makes it seem like it has one idea that popped and no ambition to do anything more. The show was hailed as a searing political allegory for the despair and oppression of the world. That is no longer the case. It's just misery on top of misery. Again, the characters must be consistent within that. They aren't here. The execution is severely lacking. That also pulls the audience out of it. The premiere featured Lydia proclaiming that no justice would come following the Angels Flight until June was hanging on the wall. She was adamant that June led the other handmaids done the wrong path. Without her, this society can function as intended once more. And now, Lydia is right back to seeing June as indispensable because she can still get pregnant. It makes no sense whatsoever. Meanwhile, the drama now operates as if Nick has some sort of power in this world. He can apparently make things happen. No one is suspicious at all about his close connection with June. He is given the freedom to do whatever he wants. That isn't earned. The show doesn't even offer up some explanation of him being heroic on the battlefield. It's just something that is now apparently a part of the story. He wants to save June. She rushes back to kiss him in a grand, sweeping way. It doesn't work. This romance has no real depth to it. Characters can be apart for a long time and the audience cheers when they finally reunite. That even seems likely in this show. It will be a massive relief if June ever gets to interact with Moira and Emily again. Those relationships have meaning. June and Nick don't. The show thinks they do. It's all an empty gesture. June acting as if this is something also makes the audience question her judgment elsewhere. She and Janine escape in the end. The other handmaids die. It's tragic. It proves that they are all willing to run and risk death instead of being forced back into servitude. They are willing to make that sacrifice. The show just spells it out in a way that diminishes the importance of this action. It's more trauma to throw on the pile. June freaking out about Hannah now being afraid of her is a potentially interesting note. The show barely has any time to play around with that. That's striking because of how elongated so much of this episode is. It easily could have been cut down a bit without losing anything significant. It certainly didn't need the segment where Lawrence mansplains misogyny being a conduit for power dominance elsewhere. June understands the costs of this world. Others are starting to question the meaning of it all. That threatens to unravel the basic tenants of the show as a whole. If everything falls apart, then the show has nothing to offer. That seems like the desirable outcome at this point. That is so strange. Questioning the premise can often be necessary and compelling. It can make for introspective stories. Here, it only contributes more to foolish decisions that don't have much thought behind them. Characters are sad and inflict violence on others. That's all that this show has become unfortunately.