TV Recap: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3, Episode 9 – “Heaven is a Place on Earth”

Gil Bellows and Elisabeth Moss (Hulu)
Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” plays, then cuts out as we look down on Ofmatthew in a hospital bed. So we know she’s not dead. Well, not technically dead. In voiceover narration, which serves as the main source of information during this episode, June tells us that Ofmatthew (who’s real name is Natalie, we find out) lost so much blood that she’s brain-dead, but the baby she’s carrying is still viable, so the doctors are keeping her alive to take the baby to term. June knows all of this because she has been assigned to stay with Natalie until the baby is born, being her walking partner and all.

We join the action 32 days in, and notice that all this time kneeling in a cold and quiet hospital room, staring at an unconscious, brain-dead pregnant woman has left June a little stir crazy. Or maybe just crazy. A true showcase for Elisabeth Moss, the entire episode is made up of extreme close-ups of June’s face, revealing the slow and complete decay of her sanity and senses. This episode is designed to establish June’s state of mind and the depth of hopelessness she feels since losing both of her daughters. Her thoughts range from silly to homicidal as we realize how far down the rabbit hole she has fallen. Beside the internal monologue, only a few things of significance happen in this tedious and depressing episode, which, quite honestly, is the dreariest and most unpleasant one of the series so far:

June makes a couple of attempts to kill Natalie, but both times she is thwarted.
She steals a scalpel and, when Serena shows up to support Natalie’s wife and Commander, June makes an obviously delirious and weak attempt to kill Serena, only managing to cut Serena’s arm (and her own hand) instead.
June learns that, despite being a true believer, the doctor is compassionate and kind. Maybe he could be an ally?
Janine (who’s also ok, yay!), who is in the hospital herself to have surgery on her infected eye, catches June as she’s contemplating killing Natalie and berates her for being selfish. Janine tells June that she’s changed and that she doesn’t like it.

But, mostly, this episode is designed to set up the next chapter in June’s resistance. Hopeless from having lost her daughters and not knowing where they are, she becomes inspired by seeing Natalie’s healthy baby and by a conversation she has with a young girl as she’s leaving the hospital. This young girl, maybe no more than 13 years old, is one of the many girls that June has seen be brought into the hospital for their regular pregnancy viability check. Yes, in Gilead, young girls have only one purpose: to have babies. So, in order to maximize the number of babies each girl can have, Gilead insists they start having babies as soon as they are physically able. They are all brought to the hospital to have their pelvic region checked and, as soon as they are given the green light, they are set on the marriage path, after which they are expected to procreate. Did I mention these girls are barely teenagers?

As June had been planted in Natalie’s hospital room for all that time, she had seen these parades of young girls come into the hospital, and she quickly realized that Hannah will be one of them soon. So, after her conversation with this young girl, Rose, who steadfastly tells June how much she is looking forward to fulfilling her duty to Gilead, June has an epiphany: she must save her. She must save her and as many children as she can and get them out of Gilead. This includes Natalie’s newborn son, and this includes Hannah.

June now has a new mission. But how successful will she be? How mentally stable is she? Does she have any friends or allies left? Many questions—let’s hope we get some answers soon.

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