Wednesday, May 5, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Handmaid's Tale' - June Arrives at the Battlefront While Everyone Continues to Dismiss Janine in 'Milk'

Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale - Episode 4.04 "Milk"

June takes a harrowing journey. Janine remembers a stressful experience in her past. In Toronto, Serena tries to manipulate Rita.

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.

"Milk" was written by Jacey Heidrich and directed by Christina Choe

The Handmaids were all completely devoted to June. They were no longer willing to be forced into sexual servitude. They would run any chance they got. That is the overall vibe of the season so far. June and her allies are on the run. They try to save each other for as long as possible. They were captured again by Gilead. They quickly mounted another escape. And now, June and Janine are the only ones left. Everyone else in their group has died as a result of trying to run away. They all shared the desire to do so. They couldn't be slaves to this system any longer. However, the narrative points out here that the power dynamics that rule Gilead existed long before this country was formed. Escaping to the warfront to find allies doesn't present a different dynamic whatsoever for June and Janine. They once more are viewed as sexual objects who can offer that particular pleasure and nothing more. June is an incredible woman who has accomplished a great deal of heroic actions. She is also a monster. She nurtures Janine and she cruelly teases her as well. She protects her. She also feels guilty for all that has happened to her. Of course, Janine has her own autonomy in this situation. She follows June now because there is simply no other path for her. They are on the run. They are fugitives trying to escape Gilead. June doesn't have a plan. Janine needs her to say that. Mayday may be nothing more than a myth. It's not an organized resistance to everything happening within Gilead. June looks to it for solace. Finding new allies is the only way she can make peace with the sacrifices she has made along the way. She isn't given that clarity though. Instead, she escapes from one sexist society to another. She finds America in this war. It's in shambles from what the country used to be. It's not like society up in Canada. June hopes to find peace and purpose in Chicago. Those dreams are quickly crushed. But again, Janine is willing to make different choices. She too has suffered. She has been abused by this world. People are repeatedly trying to tell her what to do. She doesn't need their words in order to validate her presence and choices in this world. People so often underestimate what she is capable of doing. And yet, she knows what's best for herself and her own agency in the world. Sometimes that does mean playing into these sexual power dynamics. It offers a small bit of comfort and protection to her. June is still scared for her. She fears that Janine doesn't fully understand the scope and trauma of her actions. She does though. This episode makes that overwhelmingly so. June has always treated Janine kindly. That gentle nature comes from not wanting to upset her with bad news. Janine's son is dead. He died in a car accident. She doesn't know the truth. June does. That will likely create more friction between the pair. But again, they are bonded together because they are the only support system they have at the moment. It may still be easier for them to make their way to Canada. That will provide them with true safety and protection. It would also signal June being willing to leave Hannah behind. She couldn't do so an episode ago despite the fear present in her daughter's eyes. Janine insists that she would have made a different decision in that moment. She wasn't put in that situation though. June is the one continually made to suffer. That defines her journey every step of the way. The audience can question how much of it is still necessary. And then, it becomes apparent that too many people in this world are blinded to just how heinous the structure of society is in Gilead. Serena Joy and Fred view Rita as a friend. She was their property. It's not her responsibility to care for their fragile egos as they go to war against each other. She has the freedom to say no to any order. She isn't beholden to what they deem important in this world. She has no family either. Moira can't find any information. That's tragic. Rita still finds a moment of peace. That's the first step towards a better life. It's acknowledging the twisted nature of the past. That confrontation occurs. It's not Rita telling off the family who abused her for years. She can't do that. She still finds purpose in her faith while separating herself from the Waterfords. That balance is capable of existing. She has the power and control over her life. That is freeing especially at a time when so many still struggle to survive with no good options to explore. They must be trusted to make the right decisions for themselves at the time. That is the overall obvious theme here. Again, it's probably too blunt with no real subtext. But it's not as glaringly bad or repetitive as the season has been to this point.