The Handmaid's Tale 16+

Showing On: RTE Two

Season: 4

Episode: 3

Actors: Elisabeth Moss, Bradley Whitford

Release Date: Thursday 20th May 2021

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 62 minutes

With last week's episode leaving June captured by the Eyes and, more specifically, Commander Nick, you knew going into this week's episode that it was going to be rough.

Very, very rough.

What gets so under the skin about this week's episode, however, is a line from Aunt Lydia that has an all-too-familiar name for Irish people, Irish women in particular. We'll come back to that in a bit.

The episode, titled 'The Crossing' and directed by Elisabeth Moss no less, pulls June through a litany of tortures at the hands of a very nice - almost facetiously so - interrogator. He proceeds to waterboard her, shove her in a small box, throw two fellow Mayday members off a roof, and then finally gets a set of pliers and threatens to pull out her fingernails. It's worth noting, by the way, that the US military used a good few of these techniques in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram. The small box June is stuffed into, for example, was called a Confinement Box and was used extensively as part of the US military's "enhanced interrogation" methods. The European Court of Human Rights eventually ruled that these methods were tantamount to torture.

All of this is being directed by dear old Aunt Lydia, who wants to break June and is attempting to get her to reveal where the other Handmaids are. You just know that it's only going to be a matter of time before she breaks because, let's face it, this is 'The Handmaid's Tale' and there's never any limit when it comes to messed-up shit on this show. This idea is something that June herself has clung to in false hope - that Gilead would eventually stop somewhere short of hurting children. Yet, even in that, they can't be trusted. The scene in which June is brought to Hannah, after being told by Commander Lawrence that the Eyes are planning to hurt her, is harrowing because we learn that Hannah isn't afraid of the Eyes or Gilead, she's afraid of her own mother.

The most disturbing moment in 'The Crossing' came right after this. June, having given up the Handmaid's location, presents herself to Lydia, ready to die. With a laugh and a brush-off, Lydia calmly explains that she's going to a new posting, in a manner of speaking. Lydia describes a place called a Magdalene Colony, something that's a new invention in Gilead but just a little too close for comfort here in Ireland. An estimated 30,000 Irish women - described by the Catholic Church as "fallen women" - were brought through Magdalene Laundries here. A mass grave was found on one site in 1993. The last Laundry closed here in 1996. To date, the religious orders who ran these places have refused to pay any reparations. In fact, a few days after the McAleese Report that detailed decades of abuse was published in 2013, two nuns of an order which ran a Magdalene Laundry sat down for an interview with RTÉ and were completely unrepentant.

So it goes that June and the other Handmaids are about to be shipped off to said Magdalene Colony when a brief opportunity presents itself and they effect an escape, but of course, only two survive - June and Janine - while the remaining Handmaids perish, all of it set to Radiohead's 'Street Spirit'.

What's reinforced in this episode is that Gilead itself is never going to stop. 'The Crossing' in the episode's title isn't just in the final scene, but in how there is no line Gilead won't cross. Though Lydia initially told June that the Handmaids are precious, the Guardian had no problem opening fire on them as they tried to escape. They were prepared to hurt a child in order to get June to talk, and they were sending them all to a breeding farm.

Now that all this has been established, when does it actually start to be torn down? How long more does it have to go before something actually gets done about it all? Maybe it'll never be destroyed. After all, June had the opportunity to break Lydia's neck with her cow-prod thingy and she didn't take it. When is this show ever going to take the opportunity and let Gilead be destroyed as it deserves?