This season of The Handmaid’s Tale continues to struggle to find its footing. Something that might seem obvious about storytelling is that there needs to be a conflict; some obstacle the protagonist is trying to overcome. That problem lies at the bedrock of any story. The first few seasons of the show knew exactly what its conflict was. June (Elisabeth Moss) had to fight within Gilead to not only escape but also save people from the inside. Now that both she and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) are out, the show must find a way to create new conflict to keep the story going when it is possible for June to just be happy and live a life in Canada.
Serena was the primary focus of this episode as her journey back to Gilead continues. Instead of returning to Canada, she tries to forge a path within Gilead. She hopes to marry Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), but he has other plans and Serena miscalculated in her decision to stay. Also, Nick (Max Minghella) has to carefully navigate his rising star within Gilead with his love for June as well as his own conscience. This dichotomy makes him the most interesting character in the show.
It appears as if Commander MacKenzie (Jason Butler Harner) will rise as the show’s new antagonist thanks to adopting June’s daughter. The conflict is clear: June wants to continue to fight Gilead and try to pull her daughter from their grasp. Previous seasons have already shown that this is easier said than done. The problem comes not necessarily from that conflict itself, but how the show goes about orchestrating its pieces in order to have that conflict play out. Characters make bizarre choices that are out of the realm of logic or reason. The Americans had no reason to allow Serena back into Gilead and she had no reason to stay. All this makes for a show that is quite confused with the path it wants to take. But because the setting is so compelling, the show can still be pleasurable to watch; it’s just its plot needs a serious course correction.
The Handmaid’s Tale streams new episodes Wednesdays on Hulu.