Gilead gets more and more bizarre. I keep wondering, how did it sink this low in such a short time? How did the will of what had to be a fairly small minority get imposed on the larger majority so quickly and so thoroughly? Who designed all those dresses and uniforms? Whose house are the Waterfords living in? And what happened to the owners? So many questions, and so few answers.
All those ceremonies, all that protocol. Rules, and restrictions, punishment but few rewards. June has had to suffer through all of it, carrying a huge load of guilt, deserved or not, for (in no particular order, and this was all explained last week): letting go of Hannah; taking someone else’s husband; disappointing her mother; knowing her mother has been sent to the Colonies; cheating on her husband with Nick – and liking it; causing the other Handmaids to be tortured; the possibility of bringing a child into this awful world; getting Omar killed, his wife turned into a Handmaid and their child being taken from his family; surviving when the pilot and driver on the plane didn’t; and on, and on, and on. Is it any wonder that she couldn’t take it any more? She’s a strong woman – but even strong women require rest.
And so we have Offred, June’s guilt-free alter ego. Offred is blameless. All Offred has to do is keep this child alive, and yes and no Mrs. Waterford. And June, shoved into the back somewhere, will survive. But June, with her survival instincts, is REALLY far back. And right now, the pregnancy is in danger. How much of a shock was it to see the blood in her underwear? And she didn’t seem all that concerned – she didn’t call for help, she didn’t tell anyone. This was completely off for me. She’s coherent, she recognizes people, she’s managing basic tasks, and she’s not panicking at the bleeding? And there’s a LOT of it. Red bathtub, dripping on the floor and she just keeps zombie-ing along.
This was really disturbing, not from a “gee, she’s really in trouble” standpoint – I think this was a real problem from a story-telling perspective. Rita washes the clothes and cleans the rooms, right? In a home as fussy as the Waterfords’ seems to be, I’d be surprised if the bathrooms at least aren’t cleaned every day, and that kind of blood leaves marks. But Elizabeth Moss is doing a terrific job – you couldn’t see anything going on behind Offred’s eyes there. (And I realize I’m using Offred and June interchangeably at this point – I think we can agree that June is the strong woman who is going through this hell, and Offred is the personality shell she’s become to survive.)
The walk that Mrs. Waterford and Offred take was a wonderful scene, though. I truly dislike Mrs. Putnam, and it’s obvious that Serena has little use for her as well. I liked the normalcy, in the midst of the weirdness, of Serena responding to Mrs. Putnam calling baby Angela’s crying “a trial,” by remarking to Offred, “She never loses an opportunity to complain about that baby.” No, Mrs. Waterford. I don’t get the feeling that Serena has ever been the type of woman who had a lot of female friends – too smart, too outspoken, too critical. And for a moment, you got the feeling that she and June might have actually had something in common there, if June hadn’t been a slave in a patriarchal, pseudo-Biblical scary society that Serena helped create.
Emily & Janine
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this – I’m going to try to talk more extensively about the Colonies later in the season. But Janine, who is definitely not completely all there, has taught Emily, who is very bitter, about grace and the importance of love, even in the worst of circumstances. The little bit of joy that Janine is able to create for a dying woman and her partner is beautiful and touching. Janine has certainly lost quite a bit in Gilead – her child, her eye, and now, most likely her life – but she’s able to find a bit of beauty in a weed, the touch of the hand of a kind God, the comfort of love. More than any other character in this bleak and depressing story, Janine seems able to rise above, if only a short hover, and maintain something of her own heart.
Well, that was a surprise! To us, and to the new bridegroom. This wasn’t what Fred initially had in mind when he asked Commander Pryce to help find a new place for Nick, that he had so much “potential.” Sure, after seeing what happened to Putnam, and his vengeful wife, Fred may have been thinking that NIck’s potential was to get him in the same position, and wanted him out of the house – nicely, so Nick wouldn’t be tempted to rat him out. So when did this opportunity come up to marry him off to a VERY young farm girl? Will it be effective in getting him to 1) leave June alone, and 2) keep Fred’s ass out of the fire?
The wedding ceremony was more than a little creepy. It reminded me of the mass weddings held by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon many years ago – brides and grooms have never met each other, and are serving a cult of some kind. But the look of barely concealed horror on Nick’s face, as he opened that little box and realized what the “honor” was that was given to the Guardians – perfect. He knew that he couldn’t protest in any way – he may not be a Gilead believer (and we really have no idea if he is or not), but he had told June he loved her, and was beginning, at least, to understand the horror that these women are being put through. We’ll continue to see Nick struggle with little Eden, his baby bride – I’m sure they’re marrying them off young to maximize their baby-making years, and get them indoctrinated while they haven’t quite learned to think for themselves or discover the true horror of Gilead. But Eden is definitely a believer.
You could see just a glimpse of life returning to Offred as she watched Nick being issued a wife – even if she wasn’t complete conscious of it, the June part of her knew that the little bit of comfort she had in this life was about to be snatched from her.
What really happened to her at the end there – did she fall from the window? Did she leave the house looking for Nick? In any case, it was a very good thing Nick saw her laying there in the puddle! We know he’s been concerned about her recently. It was a risk for him to confront Serena in the kitchen and ask if Offred is alright. “I’m worried about the Handmaid,” he says to Serena. “I mean her mental state… Maybe you should take her to a different kind of doctor.” Serena has an idea, I’m sure, that there’s more between Nick and June than just the one quickie that’s produced the pregnancy. “Did she ask you to talk to me?” she responds. “No, Mrs. Waterford. She doesn’t have anyone to look after her.” “It appears that she does,” Serena says. “The Handmaid is not your concern.” Sorry, Serena – it appears that she IS Nick’s concern.
At least this crisis seems to have returned June to sanity – when she wakes up in the hospital, she’s back. She knows where she is, she remembers enough to make sure she hasn’t lost the child, and that she needs to be careful in what she says because it could be overheard. How will June be able to keep her promise to her unborn child?
You’re tough, aren’t you? Now you listen to me, OK? I will not let you grow up in this place. I won’t do it. Do you hear me? They do not own you. And they do not own what you will become, do you hear me? I’m gonna get you out of here. I’m going to get us out of here. I promise you. I promise.
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