So here, we are, at the penultimate episode of season one of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ I was particularly looking forward to this episode. Not because of anything about the episode that was exceptionally outstanding, though the episode was very good. No, it was just that I couldn’t wait to use the ‘penultimate’ in my review. It’s a favorite word of mine, and I don’t get a lot of opportunities to use it.
It was an excellent episode. It starts with a kind of christening ceremony for Angela, when Ofwarren officially relinquishes the baby to the Putnams and is taken off to a new assignment. Outside the house, Handmaids line the walkway, like some kind of honor guard. But she isn’t nearly as sad to be leaving as you might think, because poor, crazy Janine believes Warren is going to leave his wife and take her away and they’ll live happily ever after with the baby. Yikes! Offred tells Alma – I can’t remember her Handmaid name – that she wants to help the resistance movement, and is given an assignment to go back to Jezebels and get a package.
Offred pretty much has Waterford right where she wants him, and neatly manipulates him into planning a return visit to Jezebels. I guess when you live in a society that firmly believes women aren’t as smart as men, it becomes easier to play them. She isn’t able to get the package, but she does have a meeting with Moira, arranged by Waterford, who knows they were friends and thinks that’s why Offred wanted to return. It seems Moira didn’t get the memo about not letting the bastards grind you down. She seems pretty ground down. Offred is devastated by her friend’s broken spirit.
Meanwhile, Serena Joy Is having trouble sleeping, and Rita catches her rummaging for some chamomile tea. Has S.J. never even made her own cup of tea in this house? No wonder she’s bored. Rita pulls out a bottle of whisky, which seems to surprise S.J. Not at all, and S.J. invites her to have a drink too. They discuss motherhood, S.J. confiding that Naomi Putnam doesn’t really seem to care that much about the baby and complains that Angela cries and keeps her up at night. Rita tells S.J. about her own son, who fought and died in the war. S.J. seems to be under the impression he fought on their side, but I’m not so sure.
Really, it’s an interesting contrast, when you view these women through the lens of motherhood. Naomi Putnam has a child, but only wanted a baby as a status symbol and doesn’t actually care about her. Ofwarren truly loves the baby, but can’t be her mother. S.J. can’t have a baby, and really wants one. And then you have mothers like Rita and June, who were perfectly good mothers but still lost their children, one way or another.
S.J. sees Fred come in late and is suspicious, as well she might. We’ve already established that men in Gilead fondly believe themselves to be smarter than women, so it stands to reason Fred wouldn’t be too careful, secure in the belief that he could convince his wife of anything without much difficulty. But all that is forgotten when S.J. wakes Offred up in the middle of the night, to help talk Ofwarren – or Ofdaniel, as she’s now called – down from the rail of a bridge. She’s planning to jump, and to make matters worse, she’s stolen Angela and plans to take her into the river too, to save her from the misery that is a woman’s lot in Gilead. Offred manages to get the baby, but she can’t stop Janine from jumping, after she outs Warren about the kinky stuff he has her doing. We next see Janine in a hospital bed on life support. Well, I guess she found her means of escape.
Serena Joy is with Naomi Putnam when they arrest Warren for adultery. Naomi, who has already established herself as a class A bitch, taunts S.J. about Fred and what happened with their first Handmaid.
Speaking of escape, it seems Moira isn’t quite a broken as we thought. She manages to get the package to Offred. With a shiv made from what looks to be toilet parts, Moira kills a John, dresses in his clothes and drives off in his car, blood quite literally on her hands.
I liked this episode a lot, as we once again focused on how truly, deeply, mind bogglingly, horrible things are for women in Gilead. All women, really. I mean yeah, women like Serena Joy helped build Gilead, so they kinda deserve it, but it still sucks for them. I don’t have to like S.J. to feel sorry for her as she fills a chest with handmade things for a baby that doesn’t exist yet.
– When Offred and Waterford walk away from Nick at Jezebels, you can see Offred’s really muscle-y calves. She isn’t exactly allowed to work out, she just gets her regular walks to the market, so where are those muscles coming from?
– When Waterford says he knows Ruby, aka Moira, too, was anyone else waiting for him to suggest a threesome?
– I can’t imagine any reason to keep Janine – I can’t call her OfAnybody anymore – alive if she’s brain dead, but it occurs to me that her womb is still viable, and they can still use her basically as an incubator, if they can manage to get her pregnant somehow. Prefer not to think about that.
“Don’t be sad. He’s coming for me.”
“May the Lord keep you in His mercy, you stupid girl.”
“Praise be, bitch. Here’s your damn package.”