Original Title : The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 9: Heroic
Title : The Handmaid’s Tale
Season : 3
Episodes : 9
Episodes Title : Heroic
Genre : Drama, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Air Date : 2019-07-17
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Overview : Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship. A TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel.
There’s a weird condition called “alarm fatigue” that hospital personnel sometimes develop. All these bips and beeps and boops start to fade into the background after a while, so when the pumps and machines start to indicate there’s truly a problem, doctors and nurses aren’t always able to pick up on it.
June, even after 32 days — and then, apparently, several months — in a hospital room, with ventilators and EKG readers dinging mercilessly, all day and all night, still hears the beeps. “Ohhhh baby, do you know what that’s worth,” she mouths along with the chimes, calling up Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” before she turns straight to the camera and, in a move that breaks the fourth wall a little more thoroughly than her prior stares and grimaces, tells the viewer, “You’ll hear it.”
And you do. Or at least I did. It’s the sort of oddity that at first might make you giggle but then feels suffocating, a form of auditory torture. I found myself mildly relieved every time Ofmatthew (or Natalie, whose real name we learned at the end of the last episode when Aunt Lydia screamed it in Loaves and Fishes) seized or slowed her breathing and the pitch and tenor of the beeps would change. That song is cruel in any circumstances (besides when it’s used in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion) and downright maddening here.
For June, who has no relief from the dings, the white glare of the room, or the smells of antiseptic and shit and encroaching death, it’s enough to push her around the bend. As punishment (for taunting Ofmatthew, possibly, or for just generally failing to comply with any of the rules governing handmaids for the last two years or so), June is forced to kneel in supplication all day long, praying that her walking partner will heal. Wait, scratch that, she’s praying that Ofmatthew’s baby will make it to viability so the mother, who is a great uterus but of little other value to Gilead, can just die already.
Along with June’s descent into madness, that’s the big takeaway of “Heroic”: the shudder-inducing reality of what happens when the life of the baby is valued that much more than the life of the mother, when the fetus, an unknown being, is considered more important than its creator by dint of society’s obsession with the “innocence” of babies. Ofmatthew, who we should honor as Natalie with her real name, has become just a vessel for the safekeeping of this other human, a womb that just so happens to have a human attached. Could Natalie have been saved when she was brought in? Most likely not, as the doctor explains that she’d lost a tremendous amount of blood. (It also didn’t help that two Guardians dragged her out of the market after she was shot like she was already dead. Which makes me wonder why a government so hellbent on making more babies wouldn’t take better steps to mark pregnant handmaids. They’re already wearing scarlet robes and wings, for Christ’s sake, just tie a “Baby Onboard” sign to their heads or something.) But still, Natalie is stripped of every dignity, made to lie there helpless and maybe suffering so that her sick society can produce its next generation.