Tonight we're going back to The Handmaid's Tale and Gilead for some respite from the real life abominations being carried out (Google Charlottesville Aug.12-17) and so we can talk about some imaginary horrors. They just aren't that far apart, are they? Rolling S1:E5 Faithful after the break.
We open with Offred (Elisabeth Moss) relaxed and playful in The Commander's (Joseph Fiennes) study, having a drink even! What has she learned of his weaknesses over 34 games? He likes it when she flirts, she digs it when he lets her win.
He fits into her like a hook into an eye, rather that's a "fishhook into an open eye" and HEY, I know someone who lost an eye to a fishhook, that shit isn't funny, man!
Commander Waterford has a present for our Handmaid and watching him act coy before popping it out is an gag-worthy as it comes. Can you see any similarity between another society that owned people and acted as though their petty leavings were gifts? Just me? Okay
It's a beauty magazine, strictly verboten in Gilead and all presumed burned. Offred is so unnerved that she forgets to flirt back, she's not even allowed to touch it. Ah, but she is with the Commander and seriously, I'm going to gag. He watches her read, and oh, no need to thank him, the look on her face is thanks enough.
Offred remembers to flirt in between pages but we're flashing back to her and Moira (Samira Wiley, whom I adore) in the past, flipping through possible mates on a dating app at light speed. Then she's checking out June's (also Elisabeth Moss, we'll use that name while we're flashing back, shall we?) online profile and jumping at Luke (O-T Fagbenle) because he looks heterosexual.
He's not on Tinder, but he likes June's pic, it's nice! June is going to kill Moira later in her sleep. "Nice is chump-bait!" Somehow Luke ends up with June's phone and flips through her pictures until he finds just the right Tinder profile snap.
He scoots after that while we're all awwwwwing, Moira laughing: "he does not act married." They never do, bro. They never do.
Offred is enjoying some lovely invisible soup when Nick (Max Minghella) wanders into the kitchen to eyehump her in between sips of tea and washing his hands when Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) RUINS it by asking for Offred's help.
Serena Joy needs help out in the garden, but what she really wanted was time alone with Offred so she could suggest...something different. While Offred ponders how easily she could kill her mistress with gardening shears, Serena Joy posits the same thing the doctor brought up, what if the Commander is sterile? What if they (WHAT DO YOU MEAN "THEY" PALEFACE?) tried another way? With someone they trust, like...Nick.
*cue Offred and I staring and me making a "whuuuuuuuuuuuuttttt?????" noise*
"He's already agreed."
So. Nick the chauffeur has agreed to knock up the Handmaid so the Commander and his wife can have a baby that is in no way physically related to them whatsoever but that they will raise because they have money and privilege and that's who gets to hold onto life these days.
Offred and I are all of a sudden worried about The Commander, he has been working hard on his game lately and this might throw him of again. How insane is it to worry about that???? But we do. And what about if Nick is an Eye or not? We never really found out. We don't have much time to dwell on that, Serena Joy's set up the illicit romp for this afternoon after shopping.
At the grocery store, Janine (Madeline Brewer) is just as oblivious as can be, talking about her daughter Charlotte as though she weren't Angela. Alma (Nina Kiri) warns her, but Janine thinks she's just jelly.
Lookit, OG Ofglen Emily (Alexis Bledel) is back and Offred is headed in her direction before Ofglen 2.0 (Tatitawna Jones) can follow. Oh, she's Ofsteven now and she doesn't want to talk about whether Nick is a spy. She's been kicked out of the Us because she's to dangerous, she can't even participate in Mayday. What's Mayday?? We don't find out because Ofglen 2.0 gathers Offred just then.
They walk home in silence until Ofglen rounds on Offred; she is not going to mess this up for her. She mocks Offred's comfortable former existence, she was a junkie whore and she's happy and fed now. Gurl. Sex work is sex work is sex work, behind a dumpster or in between a Commander's wife's legs: at least in the alley you getta choose who blesses your fruit.
Offred is nervous, pondering the Nolite Te Bastades Carborundorum in her closet before being taken to Nick over the garage. This time she feels like she's cheating on Luke, which she didn't feel about the Commander because of two crucial things.
- She actually likes Nick and is attracted to him
- It's not like she could choose to NOT have sex with The Commander. Okay, well, she COULD choose to die
We're back to Luke and June having a date and discussing whether her and Moira ever messed around back in college, a completely random question that June deflects hilariously. In his experience, it's likely that two such attractive women could end up falling facedown in each other's babydoll nightgowns during a pillow fight in college.
And now we're to why Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd - who I called completely underutilzed when I saw her on Girls at the end of season 6 because apparently I don't own a TV - the woman is everywhere) called June an adulterer. Luke is very much married and hasn't been telling his wife about his and June's totally platonic lunches. Coz they're just talking, right? Sure. Their chemistry is palpable and Luke is ADORABLE.
He's circling in, though, no longer just joking but in actuality planning their move to the next level, at the Hyatt. I'm sorry, he is just so sexy, June and I don't know where to look and we keep laughing unnecessarily.
Serena Joy leads Offred upstairs and stands to the side as Nick unzips his pants. In contrast we see June and Luke the first time they made love, it's wonder and joy and love and lights and not this drab little apartment over the garage with an automaton standing watch as Nick makes his move.
Offred sees Serena Joy look away for a minute and she uses that opportunity to touch Nick's arm, which brings him over the edge.
Serena Joy sneaks Offred back into the house, how does she feel? Any different? Offred snaps back "you don't feel pregnant 30 seconds after a man comes" which earns her a bible study class instead of a beating, so...progress? Or Serena Joy really does believe you can get pregnant that fast.
Ofsteven listlessly throws a ball for the house dog at her new digs, her new mistress is surprisingly supportive in a way I don't understand. She suggests she might be feeling ill, they may have to skip the ceremony this evening. Ofsteven reminds her: her mistress can't be sick every month. There's a kindness there that I don't get.
Keerist, the Ceremony is this evening? So the Commander will be rearranging chairs on the ship Nick has already brought down?
Oh but it's all different, the Commander looks angry while he's thrusting and when he sees that Serena Joy isn't watching he slides his hand down Offred's thigh before he climaxes. Ack! Panicked, Offred shakes her head and tries to make out whether Serena Joy can see or not, jaysus.
Offred heads straight down the Commander's study after in a fury, he can't do that again! He thinks she liked it, and he did too. Otherwise, it's so impersonal. Her "ya think?" makes him carefully warn her in the offer of a drink and she remembers her place. She can only push so far.
He dangles another beauty magazine (seriously dude, you'd get farther with a Rolling Stone or a New York Times) then sits to read it, mocking their made up problems and false conventions.
Nah, now she gets respect! And she and the other women can fulfill their "biological destinies" in peace. YOU'RE WELCOME.
Offred and I are completely grossed out, you play 34 games of Scrabble with someone then you find out he thinks you're a test tube. What about love? The Commander pshaw's love as "lust with a good marketing campaign."
Offred says it wasn't like that for her and all of a sudden we remember disguy also has the power of life and death over her. He reminds her of Ofglen and now Offred understands what has been done to her friend.
They "just wanted to make the world better, but better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some."
Just in case we weren't sure whether or not the Commander was a good guy or not, you know, because of the scotch sharing and Scrabble playing.
Offred leaves then but the last sentence hangs in her head and makes her throw up in the sink. Oh look, Nick's here too.
This is the longest day ever.
She asks him point blank: is he an Eye? He apologizes without answering, he couldn't say no when Serena Joy asked him. She asks him again, pressing that small advantage of remorse until he finally says yes, he is an Eye. So go to bed before he reports her.
Ah damn. But maybe it's good if he's the only one watching her?
We're back in the hotel room with Luke and June, she wants him to leave his wife. He says "okay."
June and I:
He's in love with her, what else is he gonna do? They cuddle, she's in love with him too.
Fraught. Can a relationship that starts like that come into the light?
We're at the market with Ofsteven (who was Ofglen, right? You remember. Let's call her Emily instead) who Offred manages to talk to for a second. Mayday can't use Emily, but they can use Offred, she's got to find them.
Emily seizes an opportunity then, jumping into a waiting car and driving madly in circles as Janine and the Handmaids laugh and clap. They aren't laughing once Emily plows the car over and over into the armed men. Emily is dragged out of the car and taken away. I can't believe she's still alive.
An odd meeting in the sitting room with Serena Joy while Offred stares at the shears and Serena Joy wonders why her power is not as strong as it was. Because Offred has seen someone else resist. She looks invincible
Offred leaves the house that night, where is she going?
Ohhh, she's going to see Nick and with no words, she uncovers her hair and takes off his clothes. It feels as though I've been waiting one million years to see this woman be kissed and as soon as she bares her breasts, we see Max swoop in for her lips. They make love and it's everything that's been missing from the last ten times she's had sex.
*cold shower break*
Choice is so sexy.
And we're out! You know I watched that last scene again.
Once again, I made most of my comments above, but I'd like to touch on a couple of things.
Serena Joy repeating the bible verses to Offred about sensing the presence of life before there are biological signs stuck with me, she's clinging to what has been promised, hoping her faith is enough to pull her through this nightmare. It's not just the "girls" who crack up in Gilead.
I tend to see the Commander's role as sort of a nameless power, to me he's that boss whose sexual overtures must be deftly handled. A little bit of feigned playing along while looking for another job while arranging mitigation strategies with friends so you're never left alone in his office. You know the type.
That is one kind of experience, another was explained to me by a friend. His wife was born on another continent, one where women do not have access to education as easily as we do here. She was able to go to school, but while trying to complete her high school equivalency exam, she ran into some problems. As in: the instructors were male, and some of them would insist that the women pay to attend the class with sexual favours. The women who didn't have to do that, what do you think the price was for actually receiving their marks? And so it goes.
It all goes back to the male ideal of ownership and protection, which the Commander alluded to. The problem is that everyone wants women to be protected, perhaps even to the exclusion of making their own choices. Perhaps even women are on that vanguard. Read Unwanted Advances by Laura Kipnis and see what I mean. Until then, I shall shut up and go back to watching the news and worrying about the white supremacy uprising in Virginia.
LAST THING: Offred has been forced into this life of Lesser Than because she is considered an adulterer and that is Bad. Except that part of her state-assigned duties are to have sex with a married man. How does that make sense??
Until next time!