The Handmaid’s Tale’s third episode, entitled “Baggage,” aired on Hulu on May 2nd. Canadian viewers of the Hulu original based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name had to wait until the following Sunday to catch up when the episode aired on bravo and subsequently Bell Media’s CraveTV. But whether you were north or south of the 49th parallel when it aired, “Baggage” was another tense episode that continued to show June’s struggle to flee the theocratic state of Gilead for the greener pastures of Canada.
In addition to this episode’s The Fugitive-style action that shows June riding from safe-house to safe-house relying on the kindness of strangers, viewers found out some information about June’s past and motivations and also got a brief glimpse of how things are going in Canada for Moira and Luke.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – “You can jog, but you can’t hide.”
Jogging around her now-familiar dwelling, the abandoned offices of The Boston Globe, that she’s lived in for the past two months, June has adapted well to her temporary home. She regularly visits her shrine to the fallen “gender-traitors” and has also been collecting information on the rise of the Sons of Jacob, the militant order that violently overthrew the US government and founded Gilead. June continually finds articles printed about her own mother, Holly, and June’s voice-over remarks that her mother was there all along though no one noticed her.
A flashback shows June as a girl attending a Take Back the Night rally with her mother. June sees the rallying women throwing pieces of paper into a fire, and Holly explains that the pieces of paper bear the names of the women’s attackers. June reflects that there were so many that they looked like snow. She also reflects that she used to love seeing her mother, strong and defiant, at rallies like those.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – Unsafe-house
June’s daydreaming comes to an end when Nick walks into the room and tells June that she should be ready to go to the next safe-house. June asks about her daughter Hannah, and Nick replies that he is trying to arrange something. Nick insists that it will be better for everyone if June gets across the border safely, but June reminds Nick that better never means better for everyone.
Later, June waits on the loading dock for her delivery of supplies, but this time the driver, who viewers recognize as the same man who brought June here, tells her that he’s here to take June to her next destination. June is reluctant to leave but eventually she climbs in the back of the driver’s truck, taking one last look at her temporary home.
The elderly driver drops June off at a warehouse full of old road-signs and tells her someone else will be along to pick her up. While June looks at the town sign for Salem, Massachusetts, a voice from the shadows asks if June is a good or a bad witch. The voice belongs to Omar who gives June a map and tells her that after one night in a safe-house, he will take her to an airstrip where a pilot will fly her to Canada. But as the two rebels make their way to Omar’s van, he receives a text message, abruptly tells June that the safe-house isn’t safe, and tells June she can’t come with him.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – “You shall not pass!!!”
Taking a cue from Gandalf the Grey, June defiantly blocks Omar’s exit. This hard-headed defiance quickly melts away to a plea, and a frustrated Omar acquiesces and opens the door for June.
With the prearranged safe-house compromised, Omar, against his better judgement, brings June to his home. Omar’s domestic situation is obvious to June: they are econo-people, the social caste of labourers of which June would have been a part had she not been identified as an adulterer, because she is Luke’s second wife, by Gilead officials.
Initially reluctant to help, Omar’s wife eventually agrees to put June up. The two econo-people have an econo-son who June graciously plays fire trucks with until his mother puts an end to it. Having learned that June is a handmaid on the run, she tells June that she would die before giving up her own baby. June replies, “I used to think that too,” which shuts the ungracious hostess up pretty well.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – Take Me to Church
Omar and his wife and son head to church. Omar’s wife tells June to keep quiet, saying that everyone listens there. The son knowingly agrees, and as they leave their cramped apartment they tell June they’ll be back by 2 o’clock. A somewhat reckless June watches through the window as they leave but thinks better of it when she hears someone knock at the door. She runs for the bedroom and hides under the bed. When the inquisitive neighbour leaves and June is able to relax a bit, she finds a Koran and a prayer mat stuck under the box-spring.
A flashback shows June at her mother’s house. Holly, a hard-line feminist activist, thinks that June is wasting her time working for an academic publisher and “playing house” with Luke when she should be putting her mind to fighting for her and others’ rights. June puts on a strong front but cries when her Holly can’t see her.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – “Hey! That’s my mom!”
In a flashback to her training at the Red Centre, a slideshow reviews the sundry ways that humanity has polluted the earth. Aunt Lydia describes the poisons that we subjected the earth to and as she preaches a photo of Holly toiling in the colonies comes up. June tells Moira that she told her mother it was dangerous. Moira tells June she was right, but June replies that her mother was right too.
Back in Omar’s apartment, it’s past 5 and there’s still no sign of the family’s return. Sick of waiting and fearing what might happen if she’s found, June steals the uniform of an econo-wife from the closet, puts it on, and marches out the door. A tense train ride later, and June is on the run. She has recurring doubts about fleeing without Hannah but continues nonetheless and eventually reaches the airstrip she was told to meet the pilot at.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – “How do I know you didn’t just chop part of your ear off for fun?!”
Night falls and the pilot lands his plane. June runs up to the apparent vehicle of her salvation and has a gun pointed in her face by the pilot. He wants some assurance that she is the handmaid he’s supposed to pick up. Showing him her mutilated ear, the pilot relents and allows her to board. A fellow defector, a young chauffeur, arrives and gets a a similar treatment.
Both pieces of human cargo are hurried into the small plane and the pilot starts to take off. June and the chauffeur, nearly out of the woods, share a quick smile as the plane starts its ascent. Their relief is short-lived, though. A blockade of Eye trucks stand at the end of the runway.
The soldiers open fire on the small plane forcing it to stop. The pilot is unceremoniously dragged out of his cockpit and shot in the head. The fleeing chauffeur, suffering a gunshot wound, is hauled out, and then so is June. Close but no Canadian cigar.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – Moira’s Night Out
Moira, living with Luke and working at a center for Gileadean refugees, is having some difficulties adjusting to life in Canada. Her social work is on point, but she has understandable struggles with intimacy after her ordeal in the former United States. A depressing bathroom hookup shows Moira exerting power over her partner rather than engaging in anything that could be called intimacy. Making matters even more upsetting, Moira introduces herself to her bathroom buddy as Ruby, the name she used when she was working at Jezebel’s, the brothel for commanders and other above-the-law types.
This rather depressing look at nightclub life precedes a wry interaction with Moira and Luke’s previously mute roommate, also a defector handmaid, who manages a “Blessed be the Froot Loops” when Moira returns after her debauched night out. The three share an uncommon laugh.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – Moms and Daughters
This episode, aside from being exceptionally tense at just about every possible moment, also offered fans of the novel some much desired content to chew on. The introduction of June’s mother shows that the second season won’t be a complete improvisation by the show’s writers. June’s mother was a key part of the novel’s narrative, so it was great to see her…even if she was working in the colonies.
In addition to enjoying that the writers are making reference to the show’s original source material, it’s been really refreshing to see a show that illustrates the perfect imperfection of most mother-daughter relationships. June’s struggle to keep herself alive makes her abandon her own daughter, and June’s relationship with her mother does little more than make her feel guilty about the small choices she made for her life before the fall. These imperfect relationships, difficult and disappointing as they may be, are still a great source of love.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, Episode 3: “Baggage” – Final Thoughts
The scene in “Baggage” that best illustrates this unique relationship showed June and Holly, pre-Gilead, driving with the top down. With June at the wheel, Holly relaxes with her feet on the dash, and sings along with the radio to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” A reserved June admonishes her wild mother but before long she’s singing along with her, coming in just in time for, “This my shit, this my shit.”
I was upset but not surprised that June’s plane got shot down. I admit that I couldn’t help but get my hopes up even though I didn’t really think that the rest of the season would show June living it up in Canada. This show is great at making viewers long for a win, and I sure got suckered in this time.