With June (Elisabeth Moss) having been placed with the mysterious Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale is boasting a fresh new direction — and as a result, a more optimistic tone. The central handmaid found herself at the centre of the resistance network in the previous instalment, and with Lawrence’s character still incredibly tough to read, the third episode — entitled ‘Useful’ — delves further into his character — and what’s motivating him. Mind you, in addition to enlightening us a little, this trip inside his brain provides us with plenty of more questions as — like all the best characters — his motivations and actions aren’t cut and dry. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg where Lawrence is concerned, and there’s no doubt going to be quite a few more revelations about him over the rest of the season.
This commander might’ve assisted June and Emily’s (Alexis Bledel) escape attempt several weeks back, but make no mistake, this guy is no hero. In fact, in many ways, he’s just as villainous as all the other Gilead leaders. While he doesn’t partake in raping the handmaids, let’s not forget he created the horrifying colonies. Also, he was instrumental in the creation of Gilead — and while he’s exhibited doubts about the whole thing, his position on a woman’s place in the world appears to have more or less remained the same — unless they’re intelligent of course, which is why he helped Emily escape: as he genuinely believes her intelligence can contribute something to the world. June on the other hand, well, he wants her to prove herself — something that will no doubt become one of June’s primary goals throughout the season. An interesting dynamic is created between the two characters, for sure.
Lawrence’s eccentricities — and overall quirkiness — has given the writers’ a great way of bringing June’s old friends (I use that word lightly) back into her life. Due to his refusal to leave the house, the other commanders are forced to congregate at his place, and as a result, Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) turns up — which provides for an interesting conversation between him and June, as the latter tries to find out all she can about the mysterious Lawrence. Of course, another reason for this meeting is to highlight that Nick (Max Minghella) is now also a commander — something that will no doubt come in handy later in the season as June will need all the powerful allies she can get.
We also get the opportunity to see how Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) is coping. She’s staying with her mum — who’s even more brainwashed by Gilead’s laws than Serena is herself, which really says a lot about why the Waterford wife is the way she is. Serena’s mum is little more than a plot device — albeit a successful one — used to convey how the young woman’s mind-set about Gilead has changed following both her mutilation at the hands of Fred as well as losing her daughter.
With mommy dearest proving utterly useless on the emotional support front, Serena finds her way back to the only person who has ever really understood her since Gilead’s inception. Yes, June greets Serena with glee at her new posting, and — unlike before — Serena doesn’t argue with June’s suggestions about rebelling against their oppressors, which seems to suggest that an uprising from the show’s signature women could be on the cards. What’s more, with Serena out from under Fred’s control, it’s very likely we’ll see more of the powerful Serena — the Serena seen in the flashbacks during the second season — this year. It’s all shaping up to be an incredibly exciting season, especially with the prospect of a rebellion on the cards. Yes, the table has been set further for what promises to be an exciting future for telly’s most captivating show.
By Stephen Patterson
The Handmaid’s Tale continues Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4.