More to the point, is that actually what they deserve? This week's episode, titled 'Testimony', opens with June placidly cutting her own hair and freeing herself from just about everything that's left of Gilead, except the trauma of living through it and trying to make sense of it all.
How would any of us try to move on? Sure, you'd probably go to therapy and, as we see in the opening scene, June is doing just that with other survivors of Gilead. They're all sharing their feelings, yet June freely admits to Moira that it's not for her. If anything, the very concept of trying to "journal" your way out of that kind of trauma seems a remote possibility. This plays out when Emily/Rory Gilmore is accosted by a former Aunt who's desperate for forgiveness from her. June urges Emily to confront the Aunt because it's the only way you can move on - by confronting it.
June works on her testimony for the ICC while Moira and Luke talk about where June's at in her head, with Moira correctly pointing out that getting over trauma is "a bumpy f*ckin' road". The next day, June finally gives her testimony to the ICC, reliving basically all of the horrors of the first three seasons of the show in blank, unfeeling terms. When it's all laid out like that, you really grasp what a slog this show has been and how it's made for some truly uncomfortable, disturbing viewing. It's no surprise that June looks straight down the lens and out to the audience when she talks about other women who didn't make out of Gilead that are suffering, much in the same way that there are women trapped right now in abusive relationships, domestic violence, and they too have no voice.
Yet, right after this, Fred Waterford pipes up with his own defence - that what they've done has helped to solve the global fertility crisis, and that Gilead is the only country on the planet that's seen a rise in birth rates. This is something that 'The Handmaid's Tale' has never really fully explored in any great detail. Sure, there were flashbacks in the last season or before that where we saw Serena going around being a media personality and stuff, but the impact of the global fertility crisis was never fully explained or shown. Maybe that's a choice, because the idea that ritualistic rape is somehow solving it is completely nuts. Not only that, you've got to wonder is humanity worth even saving if that's what it takes?
Meanwhile, back in Gilead, Aunt Lydia is struggling to fit in with the other Aunts, going so far as to strike one of them with her cattle-prod thingy which lands in her in the principal's office with Commander Lawrence. "People don't like you," he bluntly states, adding that people don't really like him either. Yet, what's so interesting about Aunt Lydia as a character is that she has absolutely no remorse and no qualms about what she's doing. As Commander Lawrence, again so bluntly, points out to her, she enjoys hurting people. So it's no surprise then that Jeanine - who's been found and recaptured - is now being put into her charge. Later on, there's a moment when the two of them finally meet and Jeanine begs not to put back into service as a Handmaid, much like June had gone through before when she'd happily have died rather than go through it again.
The episode also goes back to the idea of revenge and anger, that June is dealing with her pain by fully embracing both of them. It's why she brings the former Aunt to the therapy group and basically hijacks the whole thing with Emily being put face-to-face with what she's been through. There's a tense moment when the former Aunt begs for forgiveness and pleads with Emily to find a way that she can make things right. How can you make something like Gilead right? Moreover, would you want to? When you've suffered that kind of abuse, that kind of torture, why should anyone have to make those who carried out feel better? Catharsis doesn't always include forgiveness. In fact, it's almost always about providing relief through extreme emotions. Therefore, when Emily goes to the former Aunt later and finds that she's killed herself, we don't see any kind of reaction from Emily. She's completely blank, until later in the episode when she's back in group and opens herself up to them.
"I feel amazing... I'm glad she's dead, and I hope I had something to do with it." June's gentle smile, the therapy group's embrace of that rage, all while Moira tries to regain control - if this week's episode was about testimony, then what comes after that? Testimony is a formal statement of fact in a court of law, but what kind of justice can any of them hope to get? Is June basically turning her therapy group into a vigilante squad? Because let's face it, this is a long time coming and it's badly needed if this show is going to wrap up sometime soon.
- Couldn't June have just gone to a hairdresser instead of trying to cut her own bangs? Is the pandemic a thing in Canada?
- OF COURSE there are religious nutjobs who love the Waterfords, of course there are.
- Now that June has come clean with Luke about Hannah, the question now is how exactly are they gonna get her back? Will the therapy group/vigilante squad spring into action?