‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Offers a Brief Breather (TV REVIEW)

“Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum”

From the depths of sorrow, sprouts a glimmer of hope. As Offred continues to find her way in her new home with the Watersons, she begins to wallow in the situation. She has been stuck in the room for two weeks, left only with her thoughts. Without fresh air and sunshine, she’s losing it. When women were diagnosed with hysteria and stored away in rooms, this is where they would truly lose their minds. Someone needs to slip these oppressors a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper.

While at first Serena Joy’s reaction to Offred’s getting her period seems a little overblown, one has to consider the psychological trauma she’s facing in this new society. She’s barren, and because of it is forced to share her husband. We saw this episode that “Fred” wants nothing to do with her sexually, so not only does she have to share her husband, but she also gets to watch him fuck another woman in their bed more often than he probably even looks at her.

Serena also has the advantage of living as the wife of a Commander, but must betray her entire gender on a daily basis. That can’t be good for anyone’s psyche. It’s apparent from episode one that Serena is threatened by Offred’s presence, reminding her that Fred is her husband. She must have noticed his affection to the last Offred, and with that in mind she’s doing her best to assert her authority, knowing full and well that Offred could easily pull the strings. All that aside, Serena is a mega bitch and it’s going to be impossible not to wish her ill.

Offred’s revelation regarding her predecessor is eerie, but also deceitful. The Martha’s terrified reaction to her laying on the ground makes more sense, and perhaps sets up a flashback where we see the last Offred meet her fate. We know she had been meeting with Fred because of her carving in the closet, but there had to have been something that pushed her over the edge. As miserable as her life had been, there would have been several times she could have killed herself. What was it that finally helped her make up her mind?

The latest flashback shows Offred and Moira escaping from the Aunts, walking through the occupied territory as they realize that this was the city they once called home. Bodies litter the sidewalk, carted away by those leftover to do the bidding of their overlords. The horror is real, and this serves as a reminder to the audience that there’s no true escape from it. Moira and Offred making it down to the train platform is devastating. As Offred is questioned by authorities, she knows the only thing that will keep her sane will be the thought of Moira making it to freedom. Seemingly she freezes, but truly she is sacrificing herself for her friend.

Through the tiered ranks there seems to be a camaraderie that keeps the women going. Though, after Ofglen is carted off, Offred knows she no longer has the safe option of confiding in her would be friends. So where can she turn to? The obvious answer will be Nick the driver, though it seems Offred may be able to find some solace in Fred as their relationship evolves.

The main twist we were treated to this week was the fact that most of the Commanders are sterile. While the doctor’s advances were super sleazy, he was also doing his best to help. This begs the question of whether or not women are the problem in the first place. Are women being sent to “The Colonies” based on their being sterile, when in fact it is the men that’s the problem in the first place? Scratch that, because that’s absolutely what’s happening.

The fact remains that the problems arose throughout this world because of the men who control it. If the women were in charge society would be still be intact, and while there would likely still be a sterilization problem, there would be an infinite amount of better ways to handle it than to divide women into subservient classes. Hopefully we get more from Ofglen soon, but it was nice to end this week on a hopeful note rather than with visceral horror. This was like our breather, because there’s no way things aren’t about to get way heavier.

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