Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale 1x05 Review: “Faithful” (Post-Apocalyptic Character Development) [Contributor: Melanie]

Original Airdate: May 10, 2017

The episode opens with Waterford and Offred playing another game of Scrabble — this time far more casual and with romantic overtones. He gives her a beauty magazine from the time before. Offred recalls the day she met her future husband. Moira introduces her to Luke while they were waiting in line for hot dogs from a street vendor by asking him his opinion on June’s Tinder profile.

In the present, Nick comes into the kitchen and Offred believes he is trying to see her. But just then, Serena Joy comes in asking for her help outside with gardening. Offred believes she’s luring her outside to be arrested, having found out about Scrabble or the writing in the closet. Instead, Serena Joy warns Offred that her time to produce a child is running out and offers to get her pregnant by Nick and claim it’s the Commander’s. Offred agrees.

In the grocery store, Offred encounters Janine who is boasting about her child and informs her that Ofglen — who is Ofsteven now — has returned. Offred speaks with her and asks her if Nick is the Eye living in her house. Ofsteven says she can no longer be a part of Mayday but does not explain what it is before the new Ofglen whisks Offred away. Outside, Ofglen warns Offred to stay away from Ofsteven. Ofglen divulges that her previous life of prostitution and drugs has been curbed and she enjoys her comforts of shelter and food. She doesn’t want that ruined for her.

Later, Serena Joy comes to get Offred and take her to Nick. Offred flashes back and recalls an early date with Luke — after feeling that her tryst with Nick is the first time she feels as if she is actually cheating on Luke.

In the past, Luke asks if June and Moira ever had a relationship in college and she scolds him for assuming a stereotype. Luke notes that he has not told his wife that he’s been having lunch with another woman. They joke about renting a motel room to continue their meetings — and they eventually do begin meeting in hotel rooms. In the present, Offred and Nick have the similarly routine intercourse she had with the Commander, while Serena Joy stands guard.

Ofsteven speaks with her mistress while playing with the family dog. The wife suggests they skip the Ceremony because she is feeling sick. Ofsteven warns her that she can’t avoid the Ceremony every month, and Ofsteven's mistress seems sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Serena Joy and Offred are waiting for their own Ceremony to begin, which is punctuated by the Commander’s eye contact with Offred during and intimate touching. That night, she meets with Waterford and warns him that being cavalier and touching her could result in her being sent to the colonies. They discuss the nature of love and lust and he reveals Ofsteven’s punishment to Offred who excuses herself. The Commander claims they wanted to make the world better, but that doesn’t mean “better for everyone.” Later that night, Offred becomes sick while thinking about her conversation with the Commander. Nick finds her and she confronts him about Ofsteven’s punishment, asking if he’s an Eye. He says that he is. Meanwhile in the past, June tells Luke she wants him to leave his wife and he agrees.

The next day, Ofglen and Offred go to the market. She speaks with Ofsteven while another Handmaid distracts Ofglen. Ofsteven then steals a car and runs over one of the Guardians before she is captured and taken away. On her way home, Offred recalls the origin of the phrase Mayday from the French m'aidez meaning “help me.” She comes home to Serena Joy who asks if she was hurt at all during the scuffle in town. While Serena Joy is speaking to her, Offred considers killing her with gardening shears, but leaves the room. Later that night, she remarks that, despite mutilating Emily, they could not take everything from her. Offred goes to meet Nick and the two secretly engage in much less “routine” sex.

This is another episode that seems to be more about Offred’s character development as she learns to become an active player in her world. Many of the events depicted in this episode take place toward the end of the book — at a point where Offred decides to actually take some action in her world, though notes she feels like she lacks control. Here, she’s got all sorts of control as she goes back to Nick to engage in much less formal, Ceremony-like relations. This is catalyzed by Ofsteven’s hijacking of a Guardian car.

That particular scene, like much of Emily’s story, was invented for the show and was easily the most gruesome thing seen thus far. It seems poignant that several people have been shot, beaten, and mutilated, but the first instance of actual gore we get is the moment Emily decides to run the car over an injured Guardian to the effect of his head exploding. It’s a purposeful moment of justice. It’s also important: we don’t see much of the gruesome parts of the female violence, as is often in the case in entertainment media. But we do get a front row seat to one of the Guardians getting run over by a car, driven by an oppressed Handmaid.

It will be very interesting to see what becomes of Emily after this as I don’t think her functioning ovaries are going to get her out of this one. Likewise, the novel ends ambiguously as to whether Offred’s affair with Nick is discovered or not. But considering a season two is on the way, I imagine those actions won’t go unpunished. Offred also always believed Luke was still alive in the book, and he likely still is in the show, especially now that she’s expressed her discomfort with the feelings she has for Nick and what it means for fidelity toward Luke.

Check back for more recaps as the season unfolds!


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