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The Handmaid’s Tale Recap, Season 4 Episode 4: ‘Milk’

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If there isn’t already a reputation for these sorts of episodes, I’m going to dub them “Barbie Dreamhouse Setups” after the hours and hours of group and dividing of products and home-décor composition that my sisters and I put ourselves by earlier than we really performed with the Barbies. One couldn’t merely play; one should first arrange and have the whole lot in the proper spot. “Milk” is principally about shifting some items on the board, each actually (June and Janine from the Northeast to Chicago) and figuratively (Rita spilling Serena’s being pregnant secret to Fred). After the plentiful trauma of “The Crossing,” Bruce Miller has tossed us a breather.

Rita hasn’t at all times been given her due as one of many extra complicated ladies of The Handmaid’s Tale. Way again in season one, there’s a scene through which Serena comes into the kitchen late at night time, claiming she is in search of chamomile tea. Rita presents her one thing stiffer, and because the two sit collectively, she discloses that she as soon as had a son, Matthew, who was killed within the battle after the Commanders launched their coup in opposition to America. Serena assumes he fought for Gilead, however Rita by no means confirms it. What sort of “patriot” was he? Each time Rita strikes in opposition to the grain, I take into consideration that scene and surprise about Matthew’s, and Rita’s, loyalties.


Rita is respectable, upstanding, reserved. Amanda Brugel performs her like a placid physique of water — no ripples on the floor however certainly with plentiful life preventing and coexisting beneath. But she has at all times been gradual to take huge dangers, and he or she has acted like a help system for each June and Serena, a position almost as unimaginable to take care of as friendship with Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots. (She can also be shot on this episode with essentially the most glowing, heavenly mild on her, as if she is the Virgin Mary herself, ascending up into the puffy clouds whereas God beams a highlight on her.)

Serena and Fred each greet Rita the identical means: that it’s good “to see a friendly face,” a line designed to melt her. But her resolve adjustments between the conferences. Despite Moira’s pep speak (and the truth that we all know Rita already spilled all of the beans on the Waterfords to the federal government), she approaches Serena with quiet anxiousness, calling her “Ma’am.” It’s an ingrained feeling by now, the concern of a scarcity of deference, of not citing the variations of their Gileadean stations. Serena’s child information (and her ivory silk charmeuse maternity set, an actual discover in a jail for battle criminals) warms her up, reminds Rita of their bond over child Nichole, and hearkens again to that chat within the Waterford kitchen. Any child, for a spiritually devoted girl like Rita, is a blessing.

Serena assumes Rita will transfer into this Hague x Amangiri and take proper again up as nanny, assistant, and soother-in-chief, there to make Serena really feel that if this one girl is content material (or not less than not overtly suicidal), then her reflexively patriarchal oppressive tendencies can’t be so unhealthy. But it’s Serena’s blatant try to make use of Rita for her personal self-defense that pushes her away. She nonetheless calls Fred “Sir” and stands at consideration when he enters the room, however then she drops a little bit data bomb: the sonogram. There goes Serena’s plan to maintain the being pregnant secret (though, alas, I’ve a sense this may convey the Waterfords again collectively). By the episode’s finish, Rita is fortunately consuming sushi in an Alex Mill sweater I additionally occur to personal, bathed in that celestial mild.

Now it’s time to get severe, to speak overtly concerning the absolute nightmare zone of illogical and unimaginable habits that surrounds June and Janine’s experience on the Pasteur Express. June’s instincts aren’t the issue right here — get west, head for the entrance traces, and discover Americans who’re preventing for the nation (and likewise get your self onto Lake Michigan, the place you pull a reverse-Prohibition and smuggle your self into Canada). But each step alongside the best way is a bursting piñata of absurdity.

First, on the practice depot, June and Janine scamper up simply as a employee is yelling, “We need this stuff in Chicago!” Do freight loaders typically level out exactly the place the products should go mere seconds earlier than the practice begins shifting? I’ll not know a lot about choo-choos, however it appears to me that there are manifestos and timetables and that one is aware of the place a practice is headed lengthy earlier than the loading course of begins.

Then, June chooses a tanker automobile with an open prime. Like I stated, all my data comes from studying The Little Engine That Could to my 4-year-old, however I’d think about that a few of these tankers are full of issues like gasoline and that dropping feetfirst into one at midnight might pose well being hazards. Of course it’s milk, as a result of we wanted a maternal metaphor to bop us over the pinnacle. But do tanks of milk sit with the tops open like that, in order that any stray particles can simply float on in? I’m assuming the FDA has been disbanded together with the remainder of American forms.

Next, confronted with 36-degree liquid and missing a useful door to climb onto Titanic fashion (or, ahem, Rose fashion), June merely feels round for seven seconds after which pulls a plug to empty the milk. The opaque milk, in an enormous container. And no alarms sound. Apparently, this little chugger doesn’t have sensors to let the conductors know that the burden has simply drastically dropped or that each one their cargo is leaking out onto the rail ties. Seems bizarre!

(The dialog on the best way there appears about proper: Janine has a degree, June has a degree, Janine is just not a mushroom, and so on.)

But then, upon arrival (a.ok.a. gunshots fired by the resistance), Janine provides June a leg as much as the highest of the automobile, and June then reaches down AND SIMPLY PULLS JANINE UP WITH SHEER STRENGTH. Maybe it’s as a result of I couldn’t climb the rope in fitness center class, however actually? Really? June has sufficient bicep heft to easily pluck Janine out like a little bit minnow on a fishing line? The subsequent automobile down had two completely good Jeeps they might have lay down in for the all-night experience! Why, why, why. (Which additionally jogs my memory: Are these ear trackers not in use in any respect in Gilead?)

In smoking, bombed-out Chicago, issues aren’t as hopeful as one may think. Not as a result of town is any worse off than I anticipated however as a result of the extent of human degradation has sunk (or risen?) to grotesque ranges nearly on par with Gilead. It’s a sensible subversion of the standard battle story, the place one aspect is the Third Reich, out to destroy humanity for the sake of a brand new world order, and the opposite is the courageous Allies, leaping into carnage to save lots of innocents. The unnamed group that picks up June and Janine is on the proper aspect, raiding Gilead trains for provides. But its chief, Steven, sees a chance for himself — these “sex slaves” have to be used to performing for males in trade for favors, proper? So why not purchase one for himself? His deputy, Theresa, stands by and watches as he tells June and Janine that certainly one of them can be staying with him — both one, he doesn’t actually care. Another man who sees his trigger as righteous and his rights as superior.

Janine has sneakily grown right into a becoming counterpart to June; she is discounted as a result of she wears her hopes so overtly. June places out brute energy, at all times volunteering for management, assuming she will deal with greater than nutty, pig-naming Janine. But on this episode, their roles are reversed. We see Janine in a flashback, working by an undesirable being pregnant (which, surprisingly, is just not along with her son, Caleb, however with one other child after him) and pushing for an abortion, despite the fact that a type of predatory being pregnant “crisis” facilities pushes each button to enchantment to her tenderness. What the counselor at that middle says is correct: Janine would make an exquisite mom; she is an exquisite mom. Part of that job, she is aware of, is recognizing that as a single girl with a job at Denny’s, one other little one will drag down any momentum she has stepping into her and her son’s life.

It’s difficult to explain Janine sneaking off to present a blow job to Steven as courageous, however it’s the type of management she’s able to. Janine has deep shops of resilience, a capability to search out meager bits of happiness within the worst moments. “It wasn’t so bad,” she tells June. “He thinks my eye patch is cool.” The underlying thought right here is that she can assist, that June shouldn’t have left her behind, that she will deal with what June can not.


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