The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 10 ‘Witness’ Recap and Review
July 24, 2019Tyler Unsell
It’s a rainy day in Gilead. June trudges through the rain while Aunt Lydia slowly guides her back to Commander Lawrence’s house. Its clear her knees are bothering her. Lydia tells her to head upstairs and take a snooze (how quaint, its almost like she is isn’t a sociopath). Before she heads upstairs they take a look at the downstairs parlor which has been redecorated. Commander Lawrence has been a busy man I guess. Lydia tells her it’s a city wide proclamation to prepare their houses for a child. Lydia informs her its just in time for this months ceremonial (you know a nice little colloquialism for the ritual rape the Handmaids are put through each month. Apparently I am angry this morning. Keep your heads down everybody). When there isn’t medicine for Mrs. Lawrence the powers that be send scones and there is a big ass basket of scones sitting on the kitchen table. Because June is slightly kooky post the hospital gig she just comes out and asks the head Martha if she knows anyone who will help her start up the kindertrain (I mean I don’t know much about creating underground railroads but this seems like a very on top of the ground move to me). The Martha tells her she is going to end up getting herself killed. So June eats a scone (reasonably response to most things). She can hear some screaming upstairs and Commander Lawrence is having a tough time with his wife. He walks into his office which seems to be the new library, if libraries didn’t have bookshelves. They have a conversation about his wife. June makes a plea to get her help out of Gilead. Her plan is for both of them to leave Gilead to get the help she needs (she doesn’t need help she just needs another scone. Seriously they looked good). Lawrence says “what do you know about how much someone can take”. I mean the line is horseshit. Of course June knows a ton about that and Lawrence would know that.
June heads into the whitewashed Costco from hell commenting she has managed to kill another walking partner. Gilead must think her a murderer or a terrorist. She comments not yet. She heads to the drink cooler where she asks one of the handmaid’s for help. The handmaid tells her she is acting conspicuous (no fucking shit), and asks her if she is ok. June says no with a smile (no fucking shit). There is a random inspection. There seems to be an amphitheater for just these kinds of inspections. There are special visitors. Oh look its Fred. June defiantly (or crazily) looks him in the eye. He brings with him the high commander. He offers to arrange transfer for June, and she reminds him his wife follows right behind him. The high commander is here to pick some handmaids to presumably bring back to Washington D.C. with him. He does not approve of Janine’s eye patch and asks when are they going to roll out the muzzle and ring (ok he calls it “the veil” but I love that there is no great way to cover up that they SEW THEIR MOUTHS SHUT). Selena walks over to June and asks her how she is feeling. June says fine and inquires about her arm. It’s a cold interaction. Both of the commanders inquire about Lawrence. June replies that she is respected there and very much likes her current house.
Lawrence is at a meeting so June goes digging through his shit in the makeshift library looking for baby stuff presumably (this feels very much like Hogan’s Heroes version of the events). Mrs. Lawrence comes in and offers to show her where to find them. She walks her right to them in the basement (in labor and resources….no pun intended I am sure). June goes to town looking through them. She finds her file. She has two living children. It lists Hannah’s new name. June does this batman whisper thing I don’t love. Why can’t she speak normal. She asks Mrs. Lawrence if she ever thinks about leaving with Joseph. In a moment of lucidity she comments that they can’t ever do that because he is war criminal and should be charged as such.
Now the high commander and Fred are discussing how the cities are implementing the new regulations. Fred mentions Commander Lawrence is a hot mess. That they may need to set an example. The high commander mentions Lawrence is a touchy subject and that they need to proceed with caution. Fred won’t leave it alone and the high commander agrees to some increased oversight.
June has everyone’s file and is looking at what happened to their children. Janine’s son was killed in a traffic accident one year after being taken from her. The head Martha tells her to go downstairs they need her in the sitting room. She walks into the sitting room, and she kneels between two chairs and awaits the rest of the ceremony. Mrs. Lawrence is lead into the room by Serena (oh for fucks sake). Now comes in Fred, the commander, and Aunt Lydia. Apparently baring witness is a part of the process they abandoned a long time ago but are bringing back (you know like acid washed jeans). The ritual begins and all of Gilead sits in the room to watch. Lawrence forgets a part of the ritual. The high commander chides him about it. June makes her way up to the bedroom (also there are a ton of guards downstairs). I mean this is not the ideal setting for anyone’s performance. Commander Lawrence and Mrs. Lawrence are waiting for her. He argues they will sit and hang out for twenty minutes. June mentions that there is a doctor downstairs who will check her at the end. June says they gotta do it. Mrs. Lawrence is losing it. She screams very loudly and as they try to get her calmed down she reminds them all they could be up on the wall if things don’t go well. This does not help Mrs. Lawrence mood. They get her calmed down (mostly June). June tells her it’s going to be ok. That she can do this. Its June that leads the ceremony now. I mean I don’t know how to feel about any of this. I get what the show is trying to do with June but this feels at best gross and maybe at worst a little lurid which seems really awful. June explains that he needs to detach himself from the act. It is only a transaction. She explains its easier if you close your eyes. June is crying now (this show feels like misery porn and this season is no exception. I felt like it was getting better but FFS this whole scene is pretty shitty).
The high commander and Fred wait downstairs. Serena comes into inspect (i guess). She asks where Mrs. Lawrence is. I mean what is the goal here? To make everyone as miserable as possible? I want this show to be a moving political allegory but sometimes it just gets caught up in doing as much awful shit as possible. The doctor asks a few questions and verifies that the deed was done. Serena tells the boys that they need to give the Lawrences back their privacy. Everyone loses here. Fred sucks. He asks June if she is okay, and she replies “at least it wasn’t you”. I guess that is something….I guess.
Later on at the Lawrence’s Joseph and June discuss Mrs. Lawrence. Someone left the stove on in the background. Joseph hands her some contraception. She reminds him the punishment for contraception is being torn apart by dogs (well fuck). June tells him that the ceremony will need to happen again. Joseph offers to get her a truck to get Mrs. Lawrence out. June says he can come to if he offers something to the host country. She mentions…the stolen children of Gilead.
June walks with Janine into Hell’s Price Chopper. Where she tells one of the handmaid’s where her child is now. Pretty effective strategy for getting some folks on her side. She asks what her plan is. June mentions the truck. Janine offers to help. The three start planning. Janine is now inquiring about Caleb (her son that died in the car accident). June creates a story for her about the family moving to California. He lives on the beach with a super nice mom. In a show that prides itself on abandoning mercy it was nice to have that moment.
Fred is having a cup of coffee and reading the paper. Serena comes in and Fred tells her he knows it was difficult. She mentions that they must be a united front. She then mentions it’s been months without Nichole and that he is prioritizing himself over the family. She mentions that she used to think Gilead was the only way to get Nichole back but an American would like his cooperation in return for Nichole.
The final scene of the episode see’s June walking into a kitchen full of muffins. The Lawrence’s Martha spread the word about the kinderexpress. Muffins meant that the other’s houses Martha was onboard. There are a shit ton of muffins. June interjects they are going to need a bigger boat. The episode ends and while the episode ends on a hopeful note. It’s a downer of an episode and the world seems as bleak as when it started.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.