‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3, Episode 11 Recap: Karma Comes for Commander Waterford
Last week on The Handmaid’s Tale, June (Elisabeth Moss) started hatching a plan to sneakchildren out of Gilead, while the Waterfords refocused their efforts on getting Nicole back. High Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni) and Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) turned their attention to Commander Lawrence’s (Bradley Whiford) household, which made him realize he needs to get his wife, Eleanor (Julie Dretzin), out as soon as possible.
But what happens next? We find out in season three, episode 11.
We open on June contemplating how she’s going to get 52 kids out of Gilead in ten seats when she hears Commander Lawrence yelling in the study. When she enters the room, she sees Eleanor pointing a gun at her husband and yelling that June was raped (aka the ceremony) because of him. June reasons with her, saying that we can’t always do what we want and that they need to keep him alive so they can make things better. “I need your help, Eleanor. Help me make it mean something,” June says. Finally, Eleanor gives her the gun and falls into her arms crying.
Later, June comes into the study and tells Commander Lawrence that his wife has settled down. He offers her a drink and thanks her for saving his life. She tells him she found the kids they need to get out of Gilead safely and the Marthas who will help him. He, too, is shocked that there are 52 and jokingly questions her mental health. He eventually agrees, even when June asks him for more trucks. “Wouldn’t it be funny if you actually turned out to be a hero?” June muses.
That afternoon, Beth (Kristen Gutoskie) tells June it’s time to meet the Marthas who promised to help her get children out. Beth tells her to just answer their questions and not to do anything stupid. June does that, but before long the Marthas tell her they’re shutting her down because they have plans of their own. They’re peeved that she didn’t ask for permission to set this plan in motion and threaten that they could poison her and make it look like a suicide if need be. So, she asks for permission, and after some back and forth, they agree to allow her to move forward…but only because Beth vouches for her. If June’s plan goes wrong and the Marthas die, then their blood will be on her hands.
The next morning, June and Beth go over details of their save-the-children-of-Gilead operation. But then they realize that the Lawrences aren’t around. They enter the study only to find shreds of paper everywhere and a note that says, “sorry.” They’ve left. June wants to salvage the operation, but Beth says there’s no way.
After some time, Commander Lawrence returns, claiming that he had “an attack of conscience.” He explains that there are new ordinances stating they can’t even go between districts without formal approval. Their plans are ruined. So, she asks him to take her to the city.
June arrives at Jezebels and finds Billy, Beth’s contact who’s good at getting things out of Gilead, at the bar. She tells him she needs transportation for 52 children, Commander Lawrence and his wife. He’s befuddled and says no, so she offers him all of the art in the Lawrence household (Picassos! Rembrants! Cezannes!). He says maybe. But before she can go, High Commander Winslow calls her name.
Commander Winslow takes June to a private room and asks her what she’s doing at Jezebels. Thinking fast, she tells him that Commander Lawrence brings her here so she can have sexual escapades and report back. He says they should do something to tell him about. Commander Winslow begins to order her around, then physically assaults her. He tries to rape her, but she stabs him repeatedly. The last thing he says before she kills him? “My children.”
June sits in the room, covered in blood, until a Martha comes in and recognizes her. She was one of the women from Chicago that June saved in episode three. The Martha gives her a key for the service elevator and tells her how to escape. Ultimately, June climbs in Commander Lawrence’s car, bloodied, and tells him to drive.
The Marthas of Jezebel go into action ridding the room of any evidence. They incinerate High Commander Winslow’s body and eliminate every trace of what happened.
The next morning at the Lawrence household, the Commander gives June a gun and says, “They’ll be coming for us.”
Meanwhile, Serena prepares for a trip to “take a more personal approach” to getting Nicole back. Rita brings her the luggage and Serena thanks her for loving Nicole so much. Commander Waterford arrives with a car and off they go. While they drive, they talk about how their dedication to the cause has helped return the earth to its natural beauty. Then, Commander Waterford suggests Serena drives (which is expressly forbidden). Since they’re in the middle of nowhere, she agrees, puts the top down and speeds down the road.
They eventually arrive at the home where they’ll spend the night. While the family who lives there sings songs on the porch after dinner, Serena walks off into the yard and Fred follows. He says he knows she’s nervous about bringing Nicole back to Gilead. He apologizes, saying he didn’t realize how much Gilead would cost Serena; that it would strip her of her rights and her career. They dream about how their lives might have turned out had they not become a part of Gilead. Fred says she probably would have divorced him in favor of a more virile man. They agree that neither of them need the pomp and circumstance of Washington, D.C., and that they’d be satisfied with being able to see Nicole take her first steps. Later, they make love.
The next morning, they meet Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) at an abandoned gas station and follow him to a private place he claims is “just up ahead.” They drive for a long time and the Waterfords begin to worry. Finally, Mr. Tuello stops in the middle of a road in a heavily wooded forest and they all get out. Mr. Tuello informs Commander Waterford that they’ve crossed into Canada and that he’s being arrested for war crimes, human rights violations, torture, kidnapping, slavery and rape. He and Serena are separated and we’re left to wonder if Serena knew this was going to happen.
Is Serena being arrested, too? Will anyone find out that June killed High Commander Winslow? Will June’s plan to get children out of the country come to fruition?
The penultimate episode of the season airs next Wednesday, August 7.