AN OVERINFLATED SENSE OF IMPORTANCE WILL ONLY GET YOU SO FAR (HANDMAIDS TALE RECAP)
Boobs are weird. I mean, they are, right? I don’t say this to shame boobs or boob-havers, being in that category myself, but this episode of the show really drove home the insanity of boobs.
We open on Offred at the Red Center, being milked. It’s been two weeks since she had the baby, and Aunt Lydia asks her how she’s doing in the undercarriage. Apparently, she’s a real hot commodity, having delivered a healthy baby all by herself after a “mixup,” and Aunt Lydia is living her true best life as number one Handmaid pimp in Gilead, reaping her reward in the form of bran muffin baskets. Like a good pimp, she even shares he spoils with Offred, but only after metaphorically back handing her for talking back.
There is a problem, though. Offred’s milk supply is drying up. It is suggested that seeing the baby might help, so of course Gilead’s number one pervert, Devil Fred, shows up with the baby and Nick in tow. The baby is named Nichole. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Like NICK? How rude and catty of Serena. Anyway, Aunt Lydia marches Offred in to see the baby and the instant she does, her boobs start lactating. (Boob weirdness #2) Devil Fred practically creams his jeans, staring at Offred’s wet boobs. He’s like a cartoon wolf with his tongue lolling. Aunt Lydia suggests proximity to the source might help the supply problem, so Devil Fred happily takes Offred home, much to the consternation of Serena.
Meanwhile, Eden (Nick’s baby bride) comes to Offred for advice about love. Offred basically tells her to follow her heart, which she does, by running off with the new Guardian and ending up charged with adultery. Nick is sort of worried, and Devil Fred is irate that another woman has run away from his household. They bring Eden’s parents into town, and they all talk about how worried they are about her sins. Of course they find her and the Guardian, and they are subject to a show trial on a diving board at the Gilead Regional Aquatic Center. Although she is given an option to recant, Eden refuses, even after Nick begs her to do so. She is set on following her heart and celebrating her love as the will of God. Keep in mind, Eden is fifteen years old, and the Guardian couldn’t be more than twenty years old. Eden quotes the Bible, and with Devil Fred, Serena, Offred, Rita, and Eden’s family watching, they push the two young people off the diving board, and they are pulled to the bottom of the pool by the kettlebells chained to their legs. The women are horrified, and Devil Fred is clearly aroused.
Also meanwhile, Emily receives her last chance handmaid’s posting, at the home of Commander Lawrence, played by the magnificently silver haired, bearded, and bescarfed Bradley Whitford. Commander Lawrence, we are informed by Aunt Lydia, is the architect of the Gileadean economy. I have to imagine the plan looks like this:
Step One: bloody coup!
Step Two: subjugate all women
Step Three: ???
Step Four: Profit! (and oranges)
He also created The Colonies. He runs a very unconventional household, in which his one eyed Martha (Cora, a familiar name from the book) talks back and straight sass mouths him, books and art strewn about all over the place, and a very unhappy and disheveled Wife upstairs. He also loves listening to rock and roll music at high volumes. Emily is like what the fuck, this place is weird. Lydia is like, bye! You better be good or we will kill you! Have fun! Anyway, she has a brief conversation with the Wife, who is like: this guy is horrible. He created The Colonies! He poisoned people! Commander Old Hipster gently shuffles her away, back to her crazy room. Emily peeks at his graphic novel collection (according to the Internet, the book she looks at is Maus by Art Spiegelman, a Holocaust memoir using mice as stand ins for the Jewish people. This is a very famous and amazing book) and Commander Old HIpster catches her.
“Tsk, tsk,” he says. “I remember when the punishment for a woman caught reading was to lose a hand. Now they just take a finger. Sure do miss the good old days!” He then proceeds to run down her entire backstory, and it’s clear that he chose her for some reason. What reason? Is it perversion? Or something else? (I know it is something else but let’s pretend.) Emily is like WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE? And at this point, no one knows.
Back at the Waterford manse, Serena and Offred bond, AGAIN, over Eden’s execution and Serena lets Offred breast feed the baby, because she is completely internally inconsistent. On this episode, Serena will be affected by the atrocities of the regime she helped create. ANYWAY, THE END.
Episode 13: The Word
To a certain extent, I’d like to apologize for my lateness and for stuffing two episodes into one recap. I was on vacation and “too busy” to write. On the other hand, I’m not that sorry, because there is not that much to talk about here, I think. This season closes out with more thunderingly illogical plot points and characterizations. I want to make an analogy that is so fucking geeky, but here goes: one time, on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the crew captured a baby Borg. Borg are these cyborg villains with a collective consciousness and a desire to subjugate the universe. Anyway, they figure out that they can introduce a logic fault to the Borg’s collective consciousness through the baby Borg, and that logic fault will spread through the Borg and make them go crazy and destroy themselves. If I remember correctly, it was basically like a crazy picture that didn’t make sense. Is it a beautiful woman or a crone? Two faces or a vase--that sort of thing. Double anyway, the crew of the Enterprise come to know and love the baby Borg and decide not to do genocide that day. (HOWEVER, because the crew of the Enterprise introduced the baby Borg to individualism/love/American democracy, he brings back those ideals to the collective consciousness and the Borg get all fucked up by that. TWIST.)
My point is: all of these illogical choices the show has made through this second season have come home to roost in this final episode. Serena is increasingly disturbed by the fact that the regime she helped create actually treats women very terribly. FUCKING DUH, BITCH. Offred and Rita clean the house of Eden’s stuff, and Offred finds a teen Bible in Eden’s things. Eden had highlighted basically the whole thing. She was engaged with the word of God, you see. Offred takes the book to Serena and asks her if she thinks baby Nichole will be safe in Gilead.
Serena is moved by her mother love, and gathers the Wives together, where they openly discuss their displeasure with the system. Are you seriously telling me that not one woman in that room ran home and told Commander Daddy all about this shit? Come on, show.
Meanwhile, Rita is struggle with a ton of guilt and shame about how she mean girled poor Eden. As my therapist says, guilt is yours to keep, Rita. She really examines her conscience. Devil Fred and Offred get in a knock-down, drag out, and he misquotes the bible at her and slaps her across the face. She then slaps him across his face, and is not immediately fucking super murdered. Again, come on, show!
Serena and the other Wives arrive at the Gileadean legislature to ask to be heard, as is allowed in the Articles of Incorporation, or whatever. Serena asks that women be allowed to read again, if only to have access to the word of God, via the Bible. The men are like haha Fred, your wife is a bitch. She then pulls out Eden’s bible and starts reading from it in front of everyone. One by one, the other Wives peel off, which, yes, this is a logical choice for them. If Serena is so smart, as the show asks to to believe over and over again (although if she were really smart, she wouldn’t have gotten herself into this mess OR needed Offred to edit her work) how in the hell did she think this was going to go over? Of course the regime wants to make sure women are illiterate because that is the best way to keep them subjugated. Repressive, theocratic systems are best served when the source text is only available through an intermediate that is the mouthpiece of the regime. That’s theocracy 101. Fuck, that’s European History 101! Why did we even have the Reformation? Because the printing press allowed everyone access to the Bible! And then they could start interpreting it in their own ways. Then it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to Martin Luther! Come on, Serena!
As we were helpfully reminded by Commander Old Hipster in the last episode, the penalty for lady reading is finger removal. Snip goes Serena’s pinky finger. Fred takes her home and coddles her, and very symbolically places her wedding ring on the bedside table. Perhaps their bond is in jeopardy, huh? Offred is aghast and also sees her opening, pressing the issue of female children’s safety in Gilead.
Meanwhile, Emily knows that the Ceremony is coming up, but when she goes to the study to start it, Commander Old Hipster is blasting rock and roll and tells her to get out. The next day, Aunt Lydia comes to praise Emily for her performance, and Emily goes nuts and stabs her, throws her down the stairs, and kicks her. Commander Old Hipster is like: oh shit. He bundles her into the car, and okay, this was my favorite thing that’s maybe ever happened in the show. He plays Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass” very loudly in the car. This diegetic sound is fucking brilliant, and is twisted and hilarious. I didn’t know what was going on with this character before: was he a creep? Guilty? Just weird? That song confirmed his guilt and his weirdness. He is the only character in the whole world of the show that has any sense of humor. Granted, it’s pretty cruel, and he is also in a position of complete power, but man, that was funny to me.
Back in the neighborhood, somebody’s house is on fire. Everyone is running around like the proverbial chickens, but Rita grabs Offred, and tells her that she can escape with the baby. It seems the Marthas have had enough, and they are taking action. Offred fucks around for about ten minutes because she is the worst, carving Nolite into the bedroom wall. She starts to leave with the baby, and Serena catches her. She begs for the baby, and Offred tells her that the baby will never be safe here. Serena, filled with mother love and finger pain, lets them both go. Fred finds Offred’s message, but Nick stops him. (Oh I forgot that Nick and Offred cuddled the baby and blah blah and I still hate them. Also, Nick, your baby bride’s blood is on your hands.)
Offred runs through the night, guided by Marthas. It appears that other houses are on fire? I’m not 100% on that. I would like to think that they are. It’s all very suspenseful. Offred makes it to a tunnel, where a car awaits. Who should happen to pop out but Commander Old Hipster and Emily. He’s getting her out, you see, perhaps because of his guilt or maybe because he was bored. Either way, he’s interesting. They load up into a truck, but at the last minute, Offred remembers that she is the worst and this show is supposed to go for ten seasons, so she hops out, gives the baby to Emily, and heads back into the night, to become Jedi June and fight Gilead to rescue her other daughter.
There you have it, folks. Offred squanders the bravery of the people who risked their lives to get her out. She makes an illogical and selfish choice. How is she positioned to fight back? She’ll be the most wanted woman in Gilead. What tools or weapons does she have? An overinflated sense of importance will only get you so far. The logic fault has spread, friends. As it spreads, the system starts to break down.
Things I liked: Annie Lennox, Commander Old Hipster/his house/his wife/his Martha/his stolen art collection/taste in graphic novels/scarves, Rita and the Marthas rising up.
Things I didn’t like: EVERYTHING ELSE
As adaptations go, the second season was always going to be a rough one. I can’t say that it was successful. They’ve turned June/Offred into an asshole, and they made Serena so inconsistent we don’t even know what to expect moment to moment. That’s not good writing, y’all.