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Reason A suicide attempt.

George Kraychyk / Hulu

A Change Of Household Helps Janine See Gilead More Clearly On The Handmaid's Tale

And then Batshit Crazy Janine does the sanest thing imaginable.

While Janine/Ofwarren has remained around the fringes of The Handmaid's Tale's story since her big moment of fulfilling her Gilead purpose back in the season's second episode, "The Bridge" brings her back to the spotlight. From a story perspective, focusing on Janine again serves a couple of purposes: it shows us how, structurally, a Handmaid's life proceeds after she gives birth to her Commander's baby, something Janine alone, as far as we know, has achieved since we arrived in Gilead; and it reminds us that, along with baby Charlotte Angela, Janine's about to have her primary coping method, snatched away too.

Dating all the way back to the Red Center, Janine has ably served as the object lesson for compliance with the new order. Her reflexive snorting at all the strange piety led to her immediate removal, torture, and mutilation -- and when she returned with one eye and one badly healed scar, the rest of the Handmaid trainees would have been in no doubt about how seriously they should take the rules of their new living situation. When she understood she could gain favour by denigrating her old life, she got into the middle of the circle of judgment and declared that she was to blame for her own gang-rape. When she woke up from one nightmare and into another and deluded herself into thinking she was back at her waitressing job, she could be Moira's object lesson, impressing upon June the importance of keeping one's shit together to survive. Now, having weaned the baby, Janine must leave Angela with her legal parents -- and time to be an object lesson once again, as all the Handmaids in the neighbourhood are arrayed in the Putnams' driveway as she processes to the van that will take her to her new posting.

George Kraychyk / Hulu

Aunt Lydia is also on hand to usher her success story to her next triumph, not knowing -- or willfully ignoring -- the fact that something in Janine broke at the Red Center and never healed, which is why she can stop on her way to the van and excitedly tell Offred not to be sad: "He's coming for me." She'd already told Janine that she and Putnam were in love and that he was going to run away with her and the baby -- that they would be a family. At this point in the episode, we don't know whether he's even promised any such thing; we know Janine believes it, which isn't dispositive either way, since to believe she's on the verge of a happy ending, any woman in Janine's position would have to be crazy, and Janine definitely is.

Janine hasn't kept all her shit together by Moira's standards, but she has kept herself alive, feeding herself on the hope that her state-sanctioned rape is something else entirely -- the first chapter of her love story. So when she gets dropped off with Commander and Mrs. Monroe, she doesn't quite "go like an open flower," as Aunt Lydia exhorts her; when the Ceremony comes around, her Red Center training fails her, and she darts from the bed to hide under a table, begging to know where Warren is and insisting that he's coming for her.

In the B-plot, Offred is continuing her transformation into Sydney Bristow: on assignment from Alma, a Red Center classmate, she wheedles Commander Waterford into bringing her back to Jezebel's so she can pick up a package from the bar, but of course he wants to go straight to their room this time. He also wants to exert his dominance over Offred in a new way: having noticed that, last time, she recognized Moira -- or, as he knows her, Ruby -- he's ordered her to their room. If his original plan was to make the two women have sex with each other (with or without him), he abandons it, but Moira's the object lesson this time: Offred is not as clever as she thinks, and she she shouldn't think she can make any moves outside his notice. When he excuses them for the shower, Moira and Offred argue about tactics: Moira doesn't want to help Offred with any package at the bar or be held to any promises she made about finding Hannah with her; she just wants to get through this semblance of a life without daring to hope for escape or salvation, not acknowledge anything she and June pinky-swore on. (And when Waterford gets home, Mrs. Waterford is awake and waiting for him; he's not as clever as he thinks, either.)

But Offred's vague notions of resistance -- participating in a plan she doesn't understand -- are about to be upstaged by Janine: Offred's startled awake by Mrs. Waterford and brought to a bridge where several black vans have clustered.


While Offred was faffing around failing to retrieve a package for Mayday, Janine escaped her posting, somehow found her way back to the Putnams', kidnapped the baby, and brought it to this bridge; Aunt Lydia, knowing Janine and Offred were "friends" -- not quite the right word for their relationship, but the closest -- has summoned Offred to try to defuse the situation. The Putnams are also on site, and no help, lying that she can come back to live in their house and take care of the baby. But Janine's trauma as Ofdaniel killed her delusions. She's no longer interested in participating in Commander Putnam's depravity; she's here to put it in the street: "You said we would be a family!" "She's not well," stammers Putnam. "I was well enough to suck your cock!" spits Janine. "I did every fucked-up thing you wanted. All the freaky shit you'd never do, because you-- You promised me we would run off and we would be a family!" (This all seems to be news to Mrs. Putnam; evidently Putnam is the only sneak around who actually knows how to be sneaky.) But since Offred had a much less life-threatening version of this conversation the night before with Moira, maybe what she says is a version of what she wanted Moira to tell her.


"I know you're not crazy," says Offred. "It's a wonder we're not all crazy in this place, you know?...There's hope. All of this, it's all going to be over one day, and everything is going to go back to normal. And we are going to go out, we're going to go out drinking, you and me." Janine seems like she's warming to this idea: she wants to bring Moira and Alma and do karaoke, and June promises they can do it all. But when Janine was robbed of her illusions, her ability to believe in future happiness went with it, and has been replaced by determination: "No. Who would want to dance with me?" After a long pause, she extends June an invitation: "Come with me."


If Offred looks like she's considering it, who can blame her? "It can't hurt very much," says Janine. "Just for a second. And then we'll be free." But Offred says she can't, because of her daughter, something Janine needs to remember too: "Janine, you have to do what's best for your daughter now. You have to give her the chance to grow up."

Perhaps because Janine doesn't ask, and Offred doesn't try to guess, what Charlotte/Angela will grow up to do, Offred's appeal works. Janine squeezes the baby and says she loves her before carefully kneeling on the ledge, asking Offred, "Make sure she knows that, June, please." She hands Offred the baby. She kisses Offred's forehead. She says, "Bye."


And then she steps off the bridge.

In the short term, this act doesn't change much, other than to remove Janine from the Handmaid pool: the last we see of her in this episode is hooked up to machines in an infirmary as Aunt Lydia prays over her. The baby ends up back in Mrs. Putnam's chilly arms. But in this authoritarian regime -- unlike some others we might be living in right now -- there are actually consequences for hypocrites who flout the rules they claim to want to enforce: Commander Putnam is led away to a punishment of unknown severity, while Mrs. Putnam and her good friend Mrs. Waterford look on. "Let's pray you won't bear any of the consequences," says Mrs. Waterford -- who, it seems clear, is mostly there in the hopes of getting to hold that baby herself, and who seems to have forgotten that she also lost a Handmaid to suicide (it's not clear whether either Wife knows Janine survived her jump) -- though when her attempts to comfort Mrs. Putnam fail and she spits at Mrs. Waterford, "We all know what happened with your first Handmaid. Men don't change," it does look like this might be the first inkling Mrs. Waterford's had that the similarities between her situation and Mrs. Putnam's are more numerous than she realized.


As the episode closes, we see that June's speech to Moira was more effective than she thought: Moira's figured out a way to get her package to All Flesh, Offred's local butcher shop. Moira's also made another shiv out of a piece of toilet machinery, stolen another uniform (a Guardian this time), and fled once more toward (in a government SUV!). But Janine's self-sacrifice was also a revolutionary act that has challenged the status quo. A Commander is in custody. His crimes are putting under increased scrutiny the liberties taken by the other men in his highly privileged class. Janine leaps from the bridge in broad daylight in front of a couple of dozen witnesses -- who aren't likely to forget it any more than anyone who witnessed it forgot Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation. It can no longer be denied that some women conscripted to serve the cause of fertility would rather end their lives than comply.

Janine, admittedly, wasn't consciously thinking about any of the political effects of her action; the first thing she did upon recovering any consciousness of her life in Gilead was try to end it. But there has to be a reason she survived after her illusions were replaced by nihilism, and I hope it's so her next act of violence is directed outward -- at Commander Putnam, for a start. And then at a whole bunch of other men.

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