"Every episode of The Handmaid’s Tale looks great, but even by that standard, this is an episode that stands out. It is stunning," says Allison Shoemaker of this week's episode, filmed at the Lincoln Memorial. "This is, visually speaking, an incredibly accomplished episode of television. The monuments are staggering. The ridiculous video in front of the statue is comically manipulative and grandiose. The new costumes, evocative; the details captured, deliberate and provoking." Yet, she adds, this week's episode was "also infuriating. Part of the reason I feel compelled to note that there are, as always, many things to admire about this episode is that it’s an incredibly frustrating experience to watch a show with so many talented people stumble in such a frustrating, baffling way. The great things are great, and they also make it somehow worse. A show like this one perhaps can’t help but stumble. It’s incredibly ambitious, and tackles some very delicate issues (and ignoring others). It’s not just the production values, either, or the great actors. There are some thoughtful, seriously effective moments of writing and direction....But the cheaply manipulative elements, as well as the bewildering steps taken by some of its characters, make it very difficult to appreciate those things."
The Handmaid's Tale would be so much better if it left its star behind: "I’m not convinced that making June exceptional, when her very ordinariness is essential to (Margaret) Atwood’s novel, does anything to enrich the story," says Judy Berman. "At worst, her heroism reduces The Handmaid’s Tale to a simplistic empowerment narrative or rape-revenge fantasy. June’s frequent voice-overs—almost all of which reiterate the same mix of sadness, determination and profanity-laced rage—reinforce that tone. Instead of being a person, this woman who’s spent the last few years in sexual servitude is now a quippy, unstoppable Feminist Badass (TM), a Strong Female Character like all the others. I groaned out loud at a luxurious shot of her in a recent episode, reclining a lounge chair with a cigarette, triumphantly blowing smoke at the camera."