‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Tests Audiences’ Patience with “Heroic,” A Hospital-Set Bottle Episode

/Film | 7/18/2019 | Caroline Cao
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After The Handmaid’s Tale‘s arguably most scattered and exasperating episode in last week’s “Unfit,” “Heroic” is straightforward with tracing its narrative goals while also testing its audience’s patience. “Heroic” opens on boredom and the tune of “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” After the shopping incident, June (Elisabeth Moss) is forced to keep vigil for a comatose Ofmatthew/Natalie (Ashleigh LaThrop) for weeks, maybe a few months on end – “until there’s a baby,” according to Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd).

Lydia has essentially condemned June to a dull clinical whitescaped purgatory to cleanse June of her sin. Time lapses reveal more bodies coming and going to occupy the white space around the stiffly poised June and Natalie’s body, whether it’s the Wives praying over Natalie’s womb or the Handmaids forced to pray for the baby inside it. As Gilead souls pass in or out of the hospital room, June’s mental state deteriorates under the stagnancy of events and the coma patient’s repetitious heart monitor.

Vigil - June - Voiceover - Prose - Point

During the soul-sucking vigil, June’s bored voiceover ruminates with purple prose to the point of parody, contemplating things like Natalie’s **** or singing in her head. I was afraid it was just going to be Moss’s voiceover purple prose-ing the whole time, but pulses of (attempted) action build to an emotional revelation that prevents the episode from dissolving into a cycle of tedium, grappling with June’s unsavory behavior last episode and providing a revelational turn for this season.

Observe how June stares at Aunt Lydia in a bargain to leave the room, wrecked in a light that illuminates her atrophying countenance. Her decaying sanity leads her to steal a scalpel from the medical bin to end Natalie’s life. By miracle, Janine, who is in the hospital for her infected eye, interrupts June’s attempted murder with a visit. June tries to...
(Excerpt) Read more at: /Film
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