What’s this show called? Is it called The Husband’s Tale? Derp Derp Derp Chronicles? NO. It’s called The HANDMAID’S TALE. So why are we spending a whole episode gallivanting around Vermont and Canada listening to my favorite James Taylor song with derp derp derp Luke? In my book, this is the first major misstep the show has made. Should we start calling this show Lucky Luke?
In the flashbacks, we follow Luke, June, and Hannah as they try and fail to escape Gilead. It’s mostly them fleeing and fighting a little. It’s clear that June wanted to leave sooner. MEN, so TYPICAL NEVER LEAVING ON TIME. They meet up with a cool fellow and bwaah bwaah bwaaaaah bwah! JUNE’S MOM ALERT: June’s mom “fixed” this fellow after it was illegal. So June’s mom was around! And a badass! They hide in a trunk and in a cabin, making pancakes and just fucking relaxing, which REALLY REALLY REALLY? Not a vacation, guys. They meet a dude with a dog. Luke is like, I have this gun. June says, show me how to use it. The dog dude comes back and June holds him at gunpoint like she is Terminator 2’s Linda Hamilton. The dude with the dog is like, that guy that was helping you is dead as fuck. But I’ll help you! Shit is messed up. We know this doesn’t work out because we’ve seen the show before.
The episode begins with a familiar scene: Luke, June, and Hannah trying to escape Gilead in their car. Derp derp derp Luke crashes the damned car (MEN CAN’T DRIVE) and June and Hannah run off into the woods. Luke prepares to do battle for his females as the Eyes swarm. But he’s derp derp derp Luke so he’s immediately shot. FURTHER BUT he’s Lucky Luke so he does not die, as one might have imagined for somewhere between 6 weeks to 25 years. Instead, he wakes up in an ambulance as the EMTs of Gilead work to save him, so he may be “questioned.” And then, the ambulance crashes (MEN CAN’T DRIVE)! Lucky Luke is strapped down to the gurney and his EMTs are thrown about the cabin.
So here’s the thing about Lucky Luke: his luck is others’ misfortune. Is he just #blessed? #cursed? #damnitfeelsgoodtohaveapenis? #privileged? #screenwritingishard? IDK.
These shit driving EMTs are dead ass ducks, so Luke climbs out of the ambulance after pilfering some supplies. He hikes back up the road and finds the Volvo (?) and his females’ belongings scattered about the forest. OH NO THEY WERE TAKEN! Lucky Luke survives. #particularsetofskillz. Jokes aside, he does grieve quite profoundly and it makes me feel PTSD from the opening scene of the show, which I found terribly upsetting.
So, this Lucky Luke, who is shot, by the way, wanders into a town that is in bad shape. There is terrible graffiti of the kind you find in dystopian narratives and on Westboro Baptist signs. GENDER TRAITORS and F-WORD DIE. Cars are crashed. It’s just a general mess. He breaks into a house and passes out. Lucky Luke strikes again when he is discovered by a ragtag bunch headed to Canada. They first think he is an Eye because he is wearing a coat he took from the EMT, but he clears up the miscommunication. Luckily, one of the group is a medic, and she patches his bullet wound. So, we have an Army medic (lady), a nun (lady), a gay (man), a red tagged catatonic (lady), and maybe somebody else? IDK and also who cares. The gay guy looks a little like young Jonathan Franzen, so I’ll call him Franzen. The Army medic lady is real butch, so I’ll call her Facts of Life’s Jo. The nun is cool. The red-tagged catatonic has choppy blond hair, so I’ll call her Red.
This ragtag band is driving around Vermont in a short bus that they lifted from “Scarlett Woods Assisted Living.” HUM WHAT DOES THAT ALLUDE TO? ALSO WHY IS THE SIGN HANDMAID’S RED? This is so very on the nose. Also, from a practical standpoint, what sort of name is Scarlett Woods Assisted Living? Who is going to put their annoying parents in a place with a name like that? Usually, they are named after rivers and shit. Lucky Luke finds out a bit about the group. Facts of Life’s Jo was holding down a literal fort when she started hearing rumors of what was being done to fertile women. So she and a bunch of her comrades tried to liberate a Red Center but only got one woman out: Red. The Aunts slaughtered the rest of them. Now Red doesn’t talk at all. She just fingers her red tag and flips out. After I finished watching this, I thought about how they should have said that her tongue was cut out. Why isn’t this used more in Gilead? Why does a Handmaid need a tongue? (Except to eat). If I were a rapist, I’d rather do it to a woman with no tongue than no eye. SIDENOTE: I don’t buy all the face mutilation that’s done to the Handmaids. Even though it is strictly procreative sex, I can’t imagine that the Commanders are cool with the eyeless/scarred Handmaids. I guess if you don’t do well in your annual performance review you are assigned One Eyed Janine. Also, call me Serena Joy because I’m 100% architecting Gilead right now.
ANYWAY, the ragtag band wants Luke to come with them to Canada. He’s like, NO! I must find my females. So Facts of Life’s Jo asks him to take a little walk. They go to a church and inside the whole town, minus the fertile women, is hanging from the rafters. It smells real bad, y’all. You see, this town decided to fight back against Gilead and defend the fertile women, so they were all hanged. Gilead really likes hanging people. I was also thinking about this last night. If you want to terrify the populace, hanging is second only to crucifixion in bang for your buck. You can let the dead bodies hang for a long time as a reminder of who is in charge. That’s clever. Facts of Life’s Jo is like, you see, these fucking dudes are not playing around. They will kill you. Lucky Luke is like, yeah, you’re right. Let’s go to Canada!
These hapless fools meet the Canada boat in front of a massive bank of lights and I was like, what? Why? Bad spot. Lucky Luke has to barter with the boatmaster (I’m not a seafarer!) for a place on the boat. Luckily he has opiates and a wedding ring. Lucky Luke steps on the boat with Red and then BANG! Gilead is shooting all their tracer rounds at our poor dead meat ragtag band. BANG BANG BANG goodbye Facts of Life’s Jo, Cool ass Nun, Franzen, other people! You are dead and Lucky Luke survives! Get along little dogies, it’s your misfortune and none of his own. #cowboysongs
Cut to: three years later. Toronto. Little America. (I bet Little America is the most annoying neighborhood. Those Americans blasting their country and western music and bbq-ing constantly.) Lucky Luke is trotting down the street, holding what looks like lattes (don’t worry, they’re not). Red is perched on top of an arch, and it’s clear these two are living together and that Red still doesn’t speak. Lucky Luke’s phone rings and he is excited to hear he’s going to the American headquarters.
Inside, we see about a million pictures of missing women and some men on the walls. We see the new American flag, with only two filled in stars (the rest are just outlines.) What are the two states still claiming to be America? We know Alaska is one. Hawaii? If I were the United States I would not waste my budget on new flags. I’d keep the old ones and say, “Other 48 states, I’m keeping you on the flag because you belong to me! You’re going to stay on this flag.” Anyway, Luke wants to talk to the important lady about where the Handmaids are trained. Instead, she hands him a note from June: I love you so much. Save Hannah. BOOMSKI.
So what is the point of this? World building? Okay. We get to see the impact of Gilead in Vermont. I bet Bernie Sanders is pissed. Are we supposed to connect with Luke? Because here is what I see: a man escaping while everyone around him dies or suffers. Wow. Is that a metaphor for FUCKING EVERYTHING? For life itself? I mean, a whole squad of cool people (Facts of Life’s Jo, Cool Ass Nun, Franzen, and the other person) died so Lucky Luke could get on the boat. His body count is astounding: like, seven people by my count. Isn’t that great? You know who else suffers so that Luke can survive? His wife and daughter. I get the distinct feeling that June wanted to leave much sooner than they did, and Luke’s complacency kept them there. He was complacent when the women lost their jobs and money. I’m sorry, but I would have gotten the fuck out when they fired on the protestors. He is not an ally. In this episode, he’s being cast as the Liam Neeson man rescuer. Fuck that shit.
I’m literally seething with anger right now. The writing here is just useful coincidence after useful coincidence that serve Luke and keep him alive at the expense of everyone around him. And that, my friends, is bad fucking writing. This feels like a mediocre episode of The Walking Dead. You know, the kind where we focus on a minor character and get to know them so when they get zombie chomped we feel bad about it? That kind of Walking Dead episode. Gauzy flashbacks to pancake making don’t do anything for me, partially because we’ve already walked this road with Offred.
I’m going to be honest. This episode does not fill me with much confidence about the series continuing after this season because this is the first major departure from the book and it is not skillful or illuminating. In fact, it feels like a betrayal of the ideas.
What’s next? Commander Fred Waterford’s day at the office? Will he have a wacky coworker? Will he lose an important evil PowerPoint?
FUCK THAT SHIT. GIVE ME MY HANDMAID’S TALE. KEEP YOUR LUCKY LUKE PATRIARCHY FUCKING OUT OF IT.
DON’T CALL US WE’LL CALL YOU.