So. On The Handmaid's Tale we've got a new Ofglen, what happened to the first? Was it about the resistance? Is Offred in danger? I have so many questions! Let's roll S1:E3 Late after the break.
We open watching OG Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) being led down an extremely bright hallway to her cell; I’m surprised she’s alive. I didn’t think they would show that mercy to a member of the resistance.
Offred (Elisabeth Moss) walks with the new Ofglen (Tattiawna Jones) to get groceries; she’s awake now. She was sleeping before, that’s how they were able to create this world. One shock after another, a gradual process that eroded their liberties in ever-growing leaps. First the slaughtering of Congress, which lead to the suspension of the Constitution, never re-instated. Blamed on terrorists, of course, nobody noticing as they were led along the path. Offred thinks you would boil to death in a slowly heated bathtub but Imma have to disagree with you there, June.
She sees it all now, though, the men with guns, the ubiquitous black vans.
She remembers running with Moira (Samira Wiley), showing just the tiniest bit of cleavage in her (baggy) running clothes : WHY DO I FEEL THE NEED TO DEFEND HER CLOTHING CHOICES?? Because of the look a woman gives her walking in the opposite direction.
And the barista who calls her and Moira “f*cking sluts” and kicks them out because June’s debit card doesn’t work. Why doesn't anyone in the coffeeshop say anything??
June calls the bank the next day at work, but a group of armed men draws her attention away. A coworker tells her their boss Roger needs to see everyone right now. All the women are being let go. It’s against the law to employ women, I bet it’s also against the law for women to own property or control their own funds. Roger keeps screaming "I HAVE NO CHOICE!!" instead of answering anyone's questions. I'm watching how the men react; most seem dismayed but some are avoiding eye contact.
The women walk out of their offices surrounded by armed young men; that’s the first time we hear “under his eye” and it startles June as much as it does us. One of her former colleagues asks why they sent the army, but this ragtag but well-armed group doesn’t look like an actual army. It’s more militia.
I do not want to see many more of these scenes; it’s hard enough as we are, knowing how much more difficult it is to be seen for women, now we getta see it exaggerated. Dunno, man. It’s like the 13th Doctor Who being female; some people really think that’s taking something from men. But the first twelve were all men, how can that be unfair that one out of 13 isn’t? For all the people screaming about the gimmicky Ghostbusters that was all women: where were they screaming at the first one that was all men? It’s all perspective and when you have everything…sharing can seem frightening. "It's always been this way!"
Offred gets back to the house to be positively fawned over by Rita (Amanda Breugel), what’s going on there?? Stewed apples with swapped cinnamon? Ahhhhhh, they think she’s pregnant because she “hasn’t asked” for her napkins this month. Jeebus wept: they have to ask for sanitary supplies? I guess it makes sense because Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) comes in just then and starts asking a bunch of too-personal questions about whether Offred’s breasts are tender.
It’s interesting how much younger Offred acts in the presence of Serena Joy. Wherein the real world, Offred as June had a baby and a husband and of course she would know the signs of pregnancy; she was quite worldly.
Serena Joy snaps at Rita and all is as it usually is in the world, except that then she asks Offred if she’d like to go visit baby Angela with her. Erm of course.
Oooh and Offred gets to hold the baby! Serena Joy brings Angela over and for a minute, everything is awesome, then a sour faced Commander’s Wife comes over and grabs her back, without even supporting Angela's head. Offred and I are upset.
More so when Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) shows off a bruise on her hand, Janine (Madeline Brewer) bit her when she took Angela from her. Go Janine! Naomi can’t wait until Angela is weaned (you know how they get!) and Janine is out of her house.
What happens to the Handmaids after they give birth?
Offred finds Janine in her room, alone in this massive boudoir lit only by a huge window by the bed.
Offred: did you bite Mrs. Putnam?
Offred struggles not to laugh: Janine, you can’t bite people.
Janine has a secret: she can do anything she wants, she had a baby! A good one! She can have all the vanilla ice cream she wants, does Offred want some? YEAH SHE DOES. Janine has named Angela Charlotte, and I could not agree more. Sorry, Angelas of the world.
Janine has one more secret; her and her Commander love each other, they’re going to run away together with Charlotte! A clearly disbelieving Offred asks if he actually used those words; Janine sniffs that Offred doesn’t have to believe her.
Watching Janine in front of that beautiful window reminds me of when she stood naked in front of the window in the Red Centre, losing her mind.
Another awkward conversation with Serena Joy while they wait for a car; Offred forgot to ask for permission to visit with Janine, but Serena Joy lets it pass THIS TIME. She says Janine cracking up can happen, “to the weaker girls” you know, the ones that have to HAND OVER THEIR BABIES AGAINST THEIR WILL.
Offred is sent home with Nick (Max Minghella); she tries to talk to him, but he’s full of warnings and proclamations about how everybody breaks. We find out what he means when we get to their house and a black van is waiting.
We’re back in the past where as I thought: women are no longer allowed to own property or hold jobs. June’s $4,000.00 now belongs to Luke (O-T Fagbenle); she knows he’ll take care of her, right?
Moira LOSES it: this is exactly what they’re talking about! This is where all these problems came from! Men wanting to protect women because they are “lesser than” , from the hardship of owning property and so on and so forth. Moira keeps yelling at Luke (he doesn’t OWN his wife!) until he offers to cut his dick off; I have to note that Moira isn’t too upset to let Luke walk her to the station because it’s crazy outside.
I will just say that it’s only crazy outside because of the ideas around male ownership of female bodies.
Back in Gilead, the interrogation of Offred is off to a rolling start with Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) tazing Offred BEFORE she even gets asked anything. Come on! The Captain (Paul de la Rosa) wants to know all about Ofglen; what did they talk about? Did they go by the river? What did they talk about there? Aunt Lydia is more interested in what Offred thought about Ofglen’s physical beauty: I immediately thought: her eyes of course! Offred’s confused.
Ohhh, they found out that Ofglen was gay and Offred didn’t think fast enough to deny she knew. She didn’t report it to her mistress is the problem and THEN she called Ofglen gay instead of a gender-traitor so she got tazed again and a lecture about homosexuality being an abomination.
There are real life people who think this way and try as I might: I can’t understand it at all. How can you possibly care what an adult does with another consenting adult? How can it possibly affect you? I can’t wrap my head around it.
Offred didn’t report the conversation because Oflglen was her friend; that leads to a bible verses battle that Offred totally wins.
And then loses when Aunt Lydia starts to beat the shite out of her. It’s Serena Joy who saves Offred; screaming “she’s pregnant!” and rushing between Aunt Lydia’s tazer and Offred.
The Guardian Captain’s lame “congratulations on your blessed news” is almost macabre, it’s funny yet absurd. Nick is disturbed by the news as well.
You can see how much Serena Joy wants this to be a baby; how much she wants this DONE.
Ofglen is being brought somewhere; she spies an exit and makes a move on her lone guard, stroking him through his pants. He goes from shocked to enjoying to furious, throwing her up against the wall and then she’s dragged into a courtroom.
There is a Martha there, the one Ofglen was having sex with? They’re both found guilty, the Martha being sentenced to “common mercy” and lucky fruitful Ofglen is sentenced to Redemption. What do those things mean??
This sentence, delivered in a Casey Kasem voice, stuck out for me. “God has made you fruitful and by that we are bound.” So they can’t hurt her, because she can still procreate.
The women are placed in the back of a black van together, watching them cry and hold hands around their handcuffs…oh.
And Martha is to hang, that’s what the common mercy means. They do it right there in front of Ofglen and then drive away as though it was nothing.
A knock at Offred’s door and then Nick is in the room; he’s dripping because he’s brought ice for her bruised and bloody face. “I should have just driven away with you” he says and we stop breathing.
We don’t start breathing again until after they don’t kiss, but they get very close. I was very much looking forward to Offred’s first consensual act, but is anything un-coerced in this society?
He leaves with a “pfft” of disbelief.
So terrible, so wounded and frail but full of rage. Cowed but feral, consumed by that almost fatally useless anger.
It’s all so dangerous. You see (perhaps like now) the men hold all the cards. They built the system. So should she encourage the lowly driver she’s attracted to, or continue to explore things with the Commander when he has time, who has more clout. Those are not really choices. Owning your own property and supporting yourself are choices.
Offred has her period.
She and Moira went to a march back at the beginning of the revolution but June noticed before many that this was not your usual peaceful demonstration and she pulled Moira back away just before the shooting started.
Hey, isn’t it now illegal to protest in some parts of the US? Those inconvenient protests slowing down trains for decent people: I see you on Twitter, defending your right to get to work on time while people are kept out of the country they live in because of the colour of their skin and / or where they were born. I see you. That is what complacency and privilege looks like. I learn more every day about the privilege I didn’t even know I had.
Now everyone’s running at the protest, the ones who aren’t dying. How can they do this? Because of the terrorist threat after that thing in Washington, right?
Moira and June hide in a store as more and more rounds are fired and an explosion blows all the glass in. It’s strangely beautiful.
Offred goes downstairs to find Mrs. Waterford preparing a room for the baby; she’s been trying for so long and she just wants this DONE. Offred is her miracle! Except she’s not. The change in Serena Joy is terrifying when she realises she won't be stealing a baby any time soon. She drags Offred upstairs by her arm and throws her onto the floor; things can get much worse for her here.
Offred cries as Ofglen Emily! Her name is Emily! Wakes up in a hospital with post-partum underwear on. What have they done? Aunt Lydia comes in to explain, sorta, Emily can still get pregnant, but she won’t want to have sex any more. Did they remove her clitoris??? And we're out.
I rambled quite a bit above, so I don't have much to add here except this: all of these things are happening. The loss of civil rights, the backlash against women and "gender-traitors", the paradox of how well pregnant women are treated, contrasted sharply with how they're treated when they're not thought to have full wombs of glory.
The non-choice of having to choose a partner between the lame duck and the oppressor: there's a lose-lose for you. Gentle Nick who is complicit in all that happens because whatever low status he holds is still 1 million times more than what Offred has. He doesn't help her, not really. Maybe he makes her more comfortable where she is, sure, good for you for helping to maintain the status male quo.
It's easy to let nonsensical bullshite cloud our view of what the real problem is on the show; yes the women are horrid (I see you Aunt Lydia) but they didn't arrange this system, they just found a way to live in it. Like those that commend exotic dancers and sex workers for making bank; I have no problem with how people make their own money as consenting adults with other consenting adults. But they're helping to further a society wherein woman are treated as second class citizens and reduced to the sum of their sexy parts and you can't ignore that either. So it's not just the women policing what other women wear or how much skin they show.
Related: the scene with Ofglen in the hallway with her guard is important for a couple of reasons: in a world where women are property and without rights, one of Ofglen's only choices was to commodify / weaponize her sexuality. Against her own sexual preference, even. The fact that the guard responded as he did shows the varying ways that can be viewed. I remember a particularly profane commentor on a website I used to frequent (far too frequently - it was before I realised I should be on Twitter!) hoping a 17 year old girl would have a really rough time of it in her porn career, which he expected to start at 12:01 on her 18th birthday. That's the disgust that the guard showed: this prisoner debasing herself, perhaps compounded by dismay at his body responding. Some people think that going into pornography at a very young age is taking the easy way out, but can you disregard the society that surrounds that choice?
Since I talk so much about the similarities, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the differences. It's jarring to me that race is left completely out of the equation on this show. I think it's a disservice to people of colour; I can only assume it's meant to streamline what we're supposed to be focused on hating? All women are equal on The Handmaid's Tale, equally oppressed for once! Yaaaay...?
As much as I think this show is bang on the nose about so many things, I can't picture a society wherein we would move so far back in time that we wouldn't be allowed property or jobs, or even to read. I don't know that I agree that the main war is against women, I think the war today is as it ever was: the overarching need for rich to control the poor. And now I will shut up because as usual: I've talked too much.
Until next time!