The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12 Review: Sacrifice

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The definition of sacrifice is "an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy." 

The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12 demonstrated exactly that as June stood idly by and let Eleanor become the sacrificial lamb.

It was hard to watch. 

Feeling Uneasy  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

There have been a lot of scenes on this show that have been hard to swallow, but Eleanor's suicide hit hard for me.

As someone who struggles with mental illness myself, I wanted to see Eleanor come out on the other side of this victorious.

We didn't get to see that though.

We didn't get to see Eleanor overcome her mental illness and live to fight another day.

We had to witness her succumb to her illness, and it was disheartening.  

Calm Before The Storm  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

Eleanor wanted no part of Gilead and resented Commander Lawrence for the role he played in its creation.

She wasn't a wife like Serena or Olivia; she didn't want her husband raping women in the hopes that she would be presented with a child.

Eleanor was a good person.

Serena In Canada - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

I understand how it got to that point, though.

Eleanor had been struggling, and without her medication, it was bound to go downhill.

Mental illness requires treatment, treatment that cannot be found in Gilead. She felt hopeless and guilty.

The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 11: Liars

She had no hope that she would ever see anything beyond Gilead, no hope that she would ever get better.

Commander Lawrence: Well, you're off the hook, or off the wall, I should say for now.
June: What happened?
Commander Lawrence: Lucky for you they think Winslow is just missing. That he got taken in a plot by those tricky Americans.
June: Taken?
Commander Lawrence: Captured, snatched, like the Waterfords. Who are now in custody in Toronto. They went rogue expecting to get your baby back, but they were ambushed.
June: They're in prison?
Commander Lawrence: Facing trial as war criminals. I guess they didn't bring 52 kids with them. What is the deal with the plane?
June: A week.
Commander Lawrence: Can't come soon enough.
June: Yes sir.
Commander Lawrence: Cheer up. Fred and Serena are toast and you just got away with murder. All in all, not a bad morning.

I do not doubt that she felt guilty for the ceremony forced upon June and for not fighting against Gilead in the beginning.

She felt partly responsible for what became of their world.

Those are big burdens to carry for someone that has a heart and a conscience.

Momma Bear Moira - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

Add all of that to her existing mental health condition, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I wish I knew how they ended up becoming such a large part of Gilead.

I would like to have seen their backstory.

Eleanor had so much potential as a character. She was smart, and she would have been a great asset for the resistance.

Betrayed By Serena - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

But she was a victim of her mind.

Eleanor was so determined when she was trying to leave; she just knew she was doing something right.

Her mental health had declined so vastly that she was not thinking clearly.

I know June was panicked trying to stop her, but I couldn't stop myself from cringing as she shoved her into the wall and screamed in her face.

Canada Welcomes Serena - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

I knew as she retreated up those stairs that she wasn't coming back down.

You could see her initial confusion slip into defeat, almost understanding as June screamed at her.

When Commander Lawrence tried to reassure her that everything would be okay once they left Gilead behind, she responded, "Can we really do that?"

Fred: Did they hurt you?
Serena: No. No of course not.
Fred: Tell them you've done nothing wrong. You played no part in any of it.
Serena: Fred, don't say anything to them. Listen, we don't have much time. Listen to me, don't give them anything they can use against you in the trial.
Fred: I won't. Gilead will demand our release.
Serena: No, but you have to be smart. This could mean life in prison or it could mean extradition somewhere that...
Fred: Look at me. I won't let anything happen to you.
Serena: You have to stop worrying about me now. You have to save yourself. I'll be fine.
Fred: What have you done? What have you done?
Serena: I wanna be my daughter.
Fred: How could you?
Serena: Please try to understand.
Fred: It's always been about you. What you want, what you need.
Serena: She needs me. My daughter needs me.
Fred: I pity the child that has you as her mother.
Serena: I will pray for you, Fred.

Whether it was true that they would never be free of Gilead didn't matter, because in her heart, Eleanor, believed they never would be.

I am curious to know where she got the medication from because on The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 10 Beth informs June that no one was able to get any more medication for Eleanor.

The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 10 Review: Witness

Had she stashed some away for this reason?

Had she planned on committing suicide for some time or was it an impulsive decision?

Luke Confronts Fred - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

Regardless, how did she get access to the medication?

Let's talk about June's decision for a minute.

As much as I would like to say June knew that she was struggling and maybe thought that Eleanor would be better off if she passed so that she would be done with their wicked world, the episode title tells a different story.

You're Not In Gilead Anymore - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

June liked Eleanor, but she had a bigger picture in mind.

June believed that if she tried to save Eleanor that Eleanor's suicide attempt would draw attention to them, and that would cause problems for her rescue mission.

She believed that even if Eleanor survived, she might still put them at risk by accidentally revealing their plan; just like she did when Olivia visited their household.

Luke  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

June wasn't going to take that chance.

When she first discovered what Eleanor had done, she started to go for help, but the realization of what was at risk hit and June decided against it.

That's where a sacrifice was made.

Although June cared for Eleanor, she cares more about rescuing the children.

In This Together  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

She weighed the importance of one life against fifty others, and in a split second, she closed the door -- literally, and spiritually.

As June leaned forward and gave Eleanor a literal kiss of death, she was signifying her betrayal of Eleanor.

She could have saved her, or at least tried.

Commander Lawrence: Sweetheart, where are you going?
Eleanor: The Salinger's house. There is that sweet little boy David. We can get him out.
June: Mrs. Lawrence, it's okay. You don't have to do that, okay. Because we're taking care of all that.
Eleanor: There is that blonde girl that lives down the street. I can tell her parents.
June: You're not gonna tell her parents. Come with me.
Eleanor: Hannah! What about Hannah?
June: The Mckenzies' have moved and I don't know where she is.
Eleanor: But the children! What about the other children? Let's go back to that school!
June: Stop it! Stop it! Stop!
Commander Lawrence: Watch who you're talking to.
June: No, you should've kept your mouth shut! You cannot say anything! Do you understand? You cannot! Do you understand?
Commander Lawrence: Enough! Enough.
Eleanor: No Joseph she's right. I wasn't thinking.
June: Okay, I know. I'm sorry.

I wonder what that decision will ultimately mean for June.

Will she be forced to leave the Lawrence household?

Perhaps Eleanor's death will cause more problems for June than a suicide attempt would have.

Serena And Nichole - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

I'm curious about what would happen to a wife that attempts suicide in Gilead.

Would Eleanor have been sent to the colonies or put on the wall?

Do they have any mental health facilities there?

Surely Commander Lawrence will be greatly affected by her death.

I'm not so sure that June's decision to let Eleanor pass won't backfire on her.

A Somber Fred - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

Commander Lawrence seemed entirely driven by his love for Eleanor and his desire to keep her safe.

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With her gone, what is the point? Maybe he will continue with the mission and see it as honoring her memory.

He failed her in life but felt like he can make it up to her in death.

I feel like Commander Lawrence will end the season joining Eleanor in death, but I may be wrong.

Commander Lawrence: Sweetheart. Sweetheart, all you need to do is think about our life when we are out of this place.
Eleanor: Our life?
Commander Lawrence: Yes my love. We'll leave all of this behind. All of it.
Eleanor: Can we really do that?

I could see him sacrificing himself to save someone else and being at peace with it because he believes he will be reunited with his love.

I assumed June covered her tracks and no one knew she was ever in the room, but some of the looks from Commander Lawrence made me question that.

When June joined him at Eleanor's grave after the burial service, they shared a strange look.

An Unwanted Reunion  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

The way he looked at her was like he knew what she did, and she responded apologetically.

It was more than an "I'm sorry for your loss" look. It came across as "I know what I did was wrong, and I'm sorry."

Another sacrifice to note was Fred Waterford.

Serena betrayed Fred so that she could receive visitation with Nichole.

And as much as I despise them both, Joseph Fiennes was magnificent in the scene where Serena reveals to him that she was behind his arrest.

His anger was palpable, and if looks could kill, Serena would have been reduced to dust.

What Have You Done  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

His beady eyes and quivering lip unnerved me.

I wish that they could stay locked up, but I'm sure they will be released somehow.

How happy are we for Moira and Luke though?

Moira got to tell Serena exactly what she thought of her, while Luke finally got to take a swing at Fred.

As happy as I was to see Luke's fist connect with Fred's jaw, Fred wasn't lying.

A New Woman - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

Gilead has changed June.

She is not the same woman anymore, and if they ever do reunite it will be just as difficult as the reunion was between Emily and Sylvia.

Yes, Luke has lived in turmoil without his family, but June has been through more than he could ever imagine.

She has seen and done things that he could not even begin to fathom. He survived, but she had to become a warrior.

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Moira Confronts Serena  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12

All in all, I'm conflicted about June at the moment.

I understand that she's fighting to survive, but I am really upset that she let Eleanor die.

I'm gonna try to keep an open mind until the season finale, and hopefully, everything will come together then.   

Will Serena's plan backfire on her in Canada?

Will Eleanor's death affect June's rescue mission?

How will Commander Lawrence deal with his loss?

And last but not least, is Nick ever coming back?

Sacrifice Review

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Tonya Myers is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 12 Quotes

Commander Lawrence: Well, you're off the hook, or off the wall, I should say for now.
June: What happened?
Commander Lawrence: Lucky for you they think Winslow is just missing. That he got taken in a plot by those tricky Americans.
June: Taken?
Commander Lawrence: Captured, snatched, like the Waterfords. Who are now in custody in Toronto. They went rogue expecting to get your baby back, but they were ambushed.
June: They're in prison?
Commander Lawrence: Facing trial as war criminals. I guess they didn't bring 52 kids with them. What is the deal with the plane?
June: A week.
Commander Lawrence: Can't come soon enough.
June: Yes sir.
Commander Lawrence: Cheer up. Fred and Serena are toast and you just got away with murder. All in all, not a bad morning.

Commander Lawrence: Sweetheart. Sweetheart, all you need to do is think about our life when we are out of this place.
Eleanor: Our life?
Commander Lawrence: Yes my love. We'll leave all of this behind. All of it.
Eleanor: Can we really do that?