The Handmaid's Tale Examines Mother-Daughter Relationships in "Baggage"

(Episode 2.03)

TV Reviews The Handmaid's Tale
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<i>The Handmaid's Tale</i> Examines Mother-Daughter Relationships in "Baggage"

Women are so adaptable. It’s amazing what we can get used to.

Two months into her solitary confinement at the Globe offices, June’s (Elisabeth Moss) thinking about her mother (a pitch-perfect Cherry Jones), with whom she had, as mothers and daughters often do, a mixed-bag relationship. She’s “gotten used to” solitude, for instance, jogging up and down the stairs, and keeping her altar to the people hanged and shot in the building.

She spends her days clipping photos and articles from before, lingering over a photo of a protest rally in which her mother’s face is clear in the foreground. “She said we were going to feed the ducks,” she says over a flashback of Mom taking her to a Take Back the Night rally where women are burning papers with the name of their rapist. “So many pieces of paper… It was like snow.”

Nick’s (Max Minghella) visiting when he can. Someone might be able to get June out… but not with Hannah.

June’s mother was a firebrand feminist who was given to sustaining head wounds while defending abortion clinics. That seemed to be her calling. June remembers being proud of her—and that it didn’t cut both ways. “Are you really fulfilled by that lame publishing job? I don’t think you should marry Luke. I mean…”

The transport arrives. Something seems to be going wrong, but June stands in his headlights until the driver makes the decision to take her home, which his wife doesn’t appreciate. They’re what would have been working- to middle-class people before; their uniforms are gray. They leave June while they put in an appearance at church, but they don’t come back.

Then there’s the flashback. The Red Center. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) showing slides of Human Atrocities That Destroyed the Planet and how they have to heal the planet, which they are doing with a combination of forced ritual rape and slave labor in the toxic wastelands of the Colonies. In a nasty echo of the picture from the Globe, June sees her mother in the foreground of a slide, hoisting a sack of soil.

She runs for it, in stolen clothes. She knows she’s leaving her daughter. But there’s nothing for it. June’s realizing that between mothers and daughters—perhaps without exception—there’s nothing for any of it, other than a good faith effort to forgive, and to ask forgiveness.

In Ontario, Moira (Samira Wiley) has bathroom sex with a stranger. At the end of the night, she comes back to the apartment she’s sharing with Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) and the escaped Handmaid, Erin (Erin Way), who’s staring intently at a cereal box.

“Blessed be the Froot Loops,” she says.

June makes it to the airstrip. They almost get off the ground before the guns start blasting.

Things are once again going super sideways.

Read Paste’s complete coverage of The Handmaid’s Tale here.

Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.