The Handmaid's Tale: Night
June 14, 2017 10:01 AM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Season 1 Finale. Moira continues to fight her way to the border. Offred and the other handmaids are confronted with an impossible choice.

Offred is only partially spared Serena Joy's wrath by finally conceiving. Serena Joy shows her a glimpse of Hannah, as combined punishment and threat. Offred opens the package and finds letter after letter from handmaids telling their stories and begging for help. Moria makes it to Ontario and finds herself processed as a refugee. Aunt Lydia calls the handmaids to execute Janine and they finally refuse outright, prodded by the new Ofglen and Offred. There will be consequences, which involve Offred being removed from the Waterford house by the Eyes. Martha finds the package left behind after Offred's arrest.
posted by Karmakaze (66 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a million thoughts about this episode and I'm still processing, but the thing that stood out so much for me, and maybe this speaks a lot to my mindspace lately, is that the person processing refugees asks if they have any relatives and when they answer no they reply "Well then great! I get to be your best friend." and it just made me cry.

(And then he hands her this bewildering freedom and autonomy, both tangible and intangible.)

(Also the ways June was punished for things she truly had no control over or a say in...it would be laughable if it wasn't so traumatic.)
posted by elsietheeel at 10:47 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


I was also struck by the refugee center. It wasn't unkind, but the process seemed almost as depersonalizing as Gilead, especially the part about how she might be moved to another part of Canada or another country. It wasn't until Moira heard Luke had listed her as family that she got to feel she was a person again, instead of a handmaid-shaped token, a jezebel-shaped token, a refugee-shaped token....
posted by Karmakaze at 11:04 AM on June 14 [18 favorites]


When she said she had no family I was thinking but Luke, Luke is in Canada! June told you!

I didn't realize until the scene in the hallway that was how isolated Moira felt. And then when Luke told her she was on his list, yeah I cried again. But I pretty much cried my way through the episode.

(Also is *rock drop* the new *mic drop*?)
posted by elsietheeel at 11:10 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]


"Well then great! I get to be your best friend."

And then just a short time later he rattles on "I'm your temp... you'll get a permanent caseworker in a week..." So, he's Moira's best friend until she can be moved far enough down the checklist, and then she's forgotten. It really hit me that even to the people who mean well, who are helping, who are as kind as they can be, still interact with refugees as a homogeneous mass.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:14 AM on June 14 [10 favorites]


Yeah. While it diverges from the book, I think the scenes in Canada (and refugee bureaucracy) really highlight that there isn't a simple escape back to normalcy.

Relatedly, as Moira was being "processed" in Ontario, I was projecting feelings of "why the fuck aren't y'all doing more? why aren't you invading? don't you know what's being done to us?" onto her in-shock face.
posted by sazerac at 11:51 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


Also obviously culpability is spread around, but the show did a better-than-i-was-expecting job of showing the complexities of relationships between women and how all of them, in the end, are fucked by the theo-patriarchy.
posted by sazerac at 12:02 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


Solid ep, sets us up nicely for season two which I fear will bring us further into TV-land with resistance and hope of rescue from the north etc. Shout out to "if thine hand offend thee" there, eek!
I would have cut the ep differently though and finished with the walking back to their houses, overing the quote from the begining, "If they didn't want us to be an army, they shouldn't have given us uniforms" as it would have echoed with the "preeeesent, wings!" commands etc.
posted by Iteki at 1:20 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


I was expecting much worse from the ultimate punishment than the guy getting his hand amputated under anesthesia.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:39 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Did they just drop the exporting-the-handmaids-to-Mexico story line?
posted by kirkaracha at 4:07 PM on June 14


1. Ultimate punishment should have at LEAST been both hands. He can always use his left hand.

2. Exporting Handmaids is going to be the big storyline for NEXT season?

3. Where's June going, anyway?
posted by elsietheeel at 5:06 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Is the episode title a reference to the Elie Wiesel?
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 6:39 PM on June 14


June screaming at Serena in the car wrecked me. The whole episode was going through a ringer.
posted by armacy at 6:40 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


One of the best parts of the show for me is the relationship between Serena Joy and June. There's so much anguish and violence between them, and it has almost no release valve except for these tiny moments. The lighting and June's half-smile when she said, "Do you think I prayed for this?" was beautiful. Beatific. The show and Strahovski did a great job of giving Serena Joy an interior life and another dimension.

Even when he's apologizing to Serena, the writing makes it clear that Fred is only concerned for his own skin (or hand). He realizes that Serena can reduce him to Warren with just a few words to the right commander, even if she doesn't know that yet.

Elisabeth Moss's performance in the car was gut-wrenching -- that mixture of fury and begging hurt to watch.
posted by gladly at 7:02 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


I will pay attention on rewatch but I did not see unkindness in the refugee center. I was thinking here's a part of Canada that probably manages a lot of refugees, they have a system set up with supplies and records of lost relatives. This is how this horrid culture of Gilead effects it's northern neighbor. The people that must come through there are in various stages of trauma so I imagine professionals working there must contain their own emotional responses in order to help the traumatized. In the same way emergency rooms are staffed with people who keep their emotional responses inside in order to best manage and assist those in need there.

I also cried through so much of this episode. The end walk through the street reminded me of the Handmaid protests in real life in Ohio, Missouri and Texas that go on now.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:14 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


I wanted to throw up during the scene with Janine's (non)-stoning. It just felt so tense emotionally -- like it could go horribly, horribly wrong at any moment. I kept waiting for it to. I'm really glad it didn't because I don't think I could have taken it.

I didn't see unkindness in the refugee center -- just that this is commonplace to them and maybe they don't quite understand what these people have been through. Moira's been through some unspeakably awful things and I can understand why she'd be a bit distant with people showing her every-day kindness and treating her like a human being. She's just had three years (or thereabouts, we think) of being treated as lesser. Her contact there seemed to genuinely care but this was also just his job.

The scene between Luke and Moira was amazing. I got the feeling they weren't really close before -- she was June's friend but not necessarily his -- but there's just something beautiful about acknowledging because she's June's family, she's also his. I absolutely understand that.

Serena Joy is such an amazing bitch. I admire her and hate her. It's a great case of that she built this trap for herself and can't get out of it (her whole "yes, I know, I wrote it" bit was amazing). She hates her life but can't do anything about it, really, so she takes power where she can (the whole scene with Hannah). I don't know how much she cares if June actually has a baby. She just cares she has authority over someone so absolutely.

I guess we'll see where season 2 leads us. I've really ... appreciated the experience of watching this show ("enjoy" isn't a word I'd use) but I'm sort of glad for the break. It was a lot to take.
posted by darksong at 8:42 PM on June 14 [12 favorites]


Is the episode title a reference to the Elie Wiesel?

It's a reference to the chapter titles of the novel. Several chapters are titled "Night."

1. Night
2. Shopping.
3. Night
4. Waiting Room
5. Nap
6. Household
7. Night

...(etc.)
posted by dnash at 8:43 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


the refugee center. It wasn't unkind, but the process seemed almost as depersonalizing as Gilead,

To me it was more like RE-personalizing. Care for her welfare, inquiring about her family and connections, providing with phone for contact and money. I see what you mean about the sort of institutional nature of it, but faced with an overwhelm of refugees it makes sense they'd have to create a process, and as much as we'd all like such a process to be super warm and fuzzy that's just not likely. But it really did feel to me like each step was handing Moira back her autonomy.
posted by dnash at 8:50 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


I wanted to throw up during the scene with Janine's (non)-stoning. It just felt so tense emotionally -- like it could go horribly, horribly wrong at any moment. I kept waiting for it to. I'm really glad it didn't because I don't think I could have taken it.

Wow, yes. This. Like, after all these episodes we've hit this point, and I was like "c'mon we can't do this. This isn't happening. Either she's throwing the rock at Aunt Lydia, or she's dropping it, right?" I think they made the right choice in the end - the shots of June dropping the rock in front of Lydia were fantastic. SUCH a relief for us viewers.

(Although the march down the street to "Feelin' Good" might've veered a little towards the campy side, but, ok.)

Playing with the power of male parentage is interesting. Serena flaunts to Fred that "it's not yours," because she knows she set up June & Nick as a substitute. But she doesn't really know that, she just assumes, and uses the assumption as a pawn in the power game of their marriage. June assures him the fetus is his, because how would he know otherwise, and it helps preserve her position. That he suspects her of lying suggests maybe even he understands that, yes, it can be the man who's the infertile one.

The ending - wow. It's been a year since I read it, but I feel like the book leaned more heavily on the likelihood that Nick is indeed part of the resistance and June's removal at the end is her being rescued. It feels like the show has kept Nick's real motivations/"side" more vague, so we really don't know where she's being led to - punishment for helping instigate the non-stoning? Or rescue into the Resistance?

Last - about the stoning, again. As June was holding out the stone to Lydia, about to drop it, I imagined what if her next line was "you want her dead so bad? Do it yourself." Because this whole "outsource the execution" thing seems like a good weak spot to push back at. You really believe this, Lydia? Then throwing the stones yourself should be easy. What's that you say? It's not?? Why not? Got some doubts, Lydia?
posted by dnash at 9:06 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


dog food sugar: I will pay attention on rewatch but I did not see unkindness in the refugee center.

Not unkindness, but a certain bureaucratic obliviousness. Like my first thought was: maybe you should have a woman do intake for the handmaid refugees fleeing a brutally oppressive patriarchal dictatorship?
posted by bluecore at 9:24 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


We've seen Handmaids punished, and Commanders punished...have we seen Wives punished yet?
posted by elsietheeel at 9:27 PM on June 14



We've seen Handmaids punished, and Commanders punished...have we seen Wives punished yet?


I admit I was half expecting to see Serena Joy step into the stoning circle--for a split second imagined a scenario where the commander makes sure to keep both his hands by turning in his own wife first on trumped up charges of "threatening" June's daughter's welfare.

I also expected/wished June had handed Aunt Lydia the stone but I guess a "let she who is without sin cast the...." would be too cliche (and harder to coordinate group resistance action around).
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:37 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


The reminder above about the scene in the car brought back to me how much I feel their relationship mimics that of a mother and teen daughter living with an abusive man. By turns conspirital and antagonistic. Serena abuses on down the line, interspersed with random acts of compassion, June lies and sneaks and tries to exercise power through tiny things like the knowledge of the scratched graffito. The breaking point in the car was wonderful and miserable in its powerlessness, she was a step off calling her a poppy head by the end. Go ahead then, get it out, it makes no difference to me, but it goes on your tab all the same.
posted by Iteki at 10:45 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


All good points. I agree that maybe a woman should've intook Moria.

I just can't wrap my head around how they determined Moria was fertile? I know it's possibly a minor thing, but I wonder what their "testing" involved for someone like her, who is far as we know have no children.

And I was wrong about the package. It was not what I thought it was. It was a letters from Handmaids and Jezebels. Maybe even Martha's.

I figured everybody was going to stone aunt Lydia, and I was glad to be proven wrong. This just proves I'm not imaginative enough for revolution. I would've stoned Aunt Lydia.
posted by tilde at 4:23 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Ann Dowd is so layered as Aunt Lydia. There were moments where she gave us extremely complicated and conflicting emotions with one or two functional lines of dialogue.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:02 AM on June 15 [13 favorites]


I see what you mean about the sort of institutional nature of it, but faced with an overwhelm of refugees it makes sense they'd have to create a process, and as much as we'd all like such a process to be super warm and fuzzy that's just not likely.

That's just the thing. There is no perfect way to handle refugees in such a messed up-situation. The refugee center is doing everything as right as they can. But as in the real world, part of the tragedy of having to flee home is the loss of autonomy that comes with being at the mercy whoever is at the destination.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:04 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]


"Sisters of Bilhah", a fanfic about the book version, is about a UK organisation working with refugees from Gilead, and includes, for instance, the POV character (a woman) feeling bad for forgetting, on her first day on the job, that wearing red would be a really bad idea.
posted by brainwane at 6:41 AM on June 15 [7 favorites]


Serena Joy is such an amazing bitch. I admire her and hate her. It's a great case of that she built this trap for herself and can't get out of it (her whole "yes, I know, I wrote it" bit was amazing). She hates her life but can't do anything about it, really, so she takes power where she can (the whole scene with Hannah). I don't know how much she cares if June actually has a baby. She just cares she has authority over someone so absolutely.

I am fascinated by Serena. The juxtaposition of Serena and June waiting for the pregnancy test in their respective positions -- one supplicant, one beaten into submission -- was beautiful. Serena cares so deeply about becoming a mother but has no empathy for actual mothers, no understanding of the relationship between mother and child. I wonder if the lives of the wives are so empty that without a baby, she really has nothing. Or, maybe she's desperate for something to love her now that she knows Fred is horrible monster.
posted by gladly at 6:46 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Well, I mean, Serena Joy got taken at her word and gave up all her autonomy for this thing she supposedly wanted, so I guess that just makes her want it more, since she's only allowed to care about being a mother in this world she helped make.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:21 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Those blue and green recycle bins outside on the street. The whole world has gone to hell but they are still recycling. What a mind fuck.
posted by cazoo at 7:32 AM on June 15 [9 favorites]


I didn't see unkindness in the refugee center -- just that this is commonplace to them and maybe they don't quite understand what these people have been through.

See, I thought the scene demonstrated that they know exactly what people have been through. They've taken in enough refugees by now that they know what's happening. The intake guy doesn't ask Moira whether she was a handmaid or Jezebel or Martha or... she's a person who needs help. I actually read that scene as an overall hopeful one.

One ever-so-slightly sinister thing that did stand out to me was the poster at the refugee center with (? some celebrity?) and the words "I support refugees" or something. If you've just entered a country and you see a sign like that, what it really does is put you on notice that there are a lot of people who are not so welcoming. Because if everyone supported refugees, you wouldn't need to print full-color posters...
posted by mama casserole at 8:27 AM on June 15 [13 favorites]


We heard about them being good stewards of the Earth back with the Mexican ambassador, right? Sure, Gilead has no children and its social dynamics are well and truly fucked, but their carbon footprint is way down!

Right before the "it's not yours" exchange, Fred says something to Serena Joy about "you brought lust into this house, on your back and on your knees". Am I reading him right, that he blames her for leading him astray for having the audacity to still have a sex drive and want her husband post-theocratic revolution? Talk about fucked up dynamics.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:29 AM on June 15 [12 favorites]


My first thought when Serena and Fred are in the baby room together, with him talking that they can finally be a family & her still upset that she's not the one pregnant, was that adoption would have been alot easier than overthrowing the government.

Anyways, I do wonder if Serena would do it again if she could go back. Seeing all that she lost, that her husband became, was it worth it for her?

Janine!!! That whole scene was spectacular. I also like that the first one to refuse was June's partner who seemed intent on keeping her head down and going along, I guess until they tried to make her cross a line she wouldn't. Also kind of surprised that they would actually kill Janine instead of forcing her to reproduce medically or something.

Is the Martha going to get radicalized from reading those notes? That smirk on June's face was nice.

So the wife who asked for her husband's hand, did she do that so that she might be spared any fallout from his misdeeds?
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:36 AM on June 15


I just can't wrap my head around how they determined Moria was fertile?

Maybe they asked her.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:01 AM on June 15


I admit I was half expecting to see Serena Joy step into the stoning circle--for a split second imagined a scenario where the commander makes sure to keep both his hands by turning in his own wife first on trumped up charges of "threatening" June's daughter's welfare.

Me too.

The whole episode was incredibly intense, making me feel that at any moment things could go horribly wrong for any of the characters - any of them - even the Martha finding the letters behind the tub. I even thought Moira had died when she was on the garage floor in Ontario.
posted by essexjan at 12:11 PM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Depending on where the second season goes (like, if they continue with the flashbacks), I'd be curious to see what Janine's life was like before all of this. I just rewatched her scenes from the first episode (mouthing off before losing her eye, her shaming in the circle, her crying "I want my mom") and just thinking about some of the childlike naivete she's displayed since becoming a handmaid -- believing the commander would run off with her, her excitement over the party (that she didn't get to go to because she was damaged), even her little "hi, everyone" when she was put in the stoning circle (also, nice call back to the first episode there).

She just is so broken. While they did a lot of that in the Red Center, I think much of that already happened before she ended up there. But I want to know what she was like before all of this.

(How old do you think Janine is supposed to be? The actress is 25. I'm guessing she's supposed to be late teens or early 20s but I'm not really sure.)

I do feel like Janine's fate might turn darker, though -- what if she becomes an Aunt? Aunt Lydia seems to feel some affection for her.
posted by darksong at 1:46 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


Isn't Janine the one in the red center who was forced to describe her gang rape while everyone else yelled at her that she was the one to blame?
posted by Karmakaze at 2:27 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


At first I thought Janine was being stoned because she had tried to kill herself and her baby. Then I realized it was because she had "committed adultery," most likely. That hit me like a ton of bricks, for some reasons. I think part of it was because it was handled in a really unnerving and (sorta) egalitarian way. The husband had his hand removed because it had "offended him," so that his soul would be saved (Matthew 5:30). Janine, I think, was being stoned because she slept with a married woman's husband (John 8:1-11). What was surprising to me is that it was not only more egalitarian than you might expect (I'm not sure what to make of the general being punished himself, if it's so patriarchal), but that in each case, it was a compete bastardization of religion. You feel this tension when Fred asks for forgiveness based on scripture, and it just doesn't fly at all and is deemed inconsistent with the way the punishment was actually meted out in court. Removing the hand, most every interpreter would argue, is not a literal command of the passage. And Jesus rescues the woman was was going to be stoned, due to all having sinned, and in that case, the patriarchal culture at the time only blamed the woman, not the person she was caught with. So this society is a weird case of intermingling the worst abuses of the Old Testament with a clear misunderstanding of the New Testament. I'm not convinced at the end of the day that this show is about religion gone bad, but how power is used, under the guise of religion, to control people with fear. Women absolutely suffer in this show in heinous ways with a distortion of the Bible; but it is at least trying, in part, to say that this sucks for just about everyone, except for a handful of people who sit in judgment of all the others, and whom themselves would lose body parts if their lives were fully exposed for who they are.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:14 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Aunt Lydia introduces Jeanine's planned execution by saying, "There is no greater miracle than the miracle of life, the miracle of a child. And there is no greater sin than harming a child or putting a child in danger."

So Jeanine was most definitely going to be punished for threatening to hurt the baby.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:46 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


Well, you don't necessarily have to take the system itself at its word that this was why. But for me, I think Aunt Lydia at least was 100% sincere.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:54 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


(How old do you think Janine is supposed to be? The actress is 25. I'm guessing she's supposed to be late teens or early 20s but I'm not really sure.)

Something like that? There isn't that much to go on IIRC.

In the book, Janine was gang raped at 14 and then she had an abortion. But she was old enough to be a waitress pre-Gilead. Baby Angela (who is the doctor's baby, not Warren's) is borne of her second posting -- in the first she had a late-term miscarriage.

In the show and book, June has just arrived at her second posting, the Waterfords, so she'd been with her previous commander for three years and then however long she was at the Red Center before that.

Hannah is six? Gilead has been functioning for about four years? Maybe five if you factor in the initial warning signs?
posted by elsietheeel at 6:45 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


elsietheeel, IIRC! June says that Hannah is eight.
posted by essexjan at 12:32 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Wow. There is so much to unpack here I don't even know where to begin. So much happens in this episode it feels like a week of Trump. I'm just emotionally drained by it. Just a few of the many things that jumped out at me: the brutality & humiliation of the pregnancy test; June going unhinged over her daughter; Fred having a rare (for him) moment of feeling trapped by the system he helped create; the attention to detail in setting the scene of the star chamber - did anyone else notice the two silhouetted figures in the balcony behind Warren? the pure antiseptic white of the operating room juxtaposed with the bright red of his spurting blood; the many shocks of the stoning scene - Janine's reveal, again the brutality of knocking Ofglen's teeth out & the horrible perfection of the slo-mo shot as they fly out of her mouth; the visual metaphor of her lonely blinder left behind hammering us with the handmaids' isolation. So much more but I need to step back & put it aside for a while. This is not an easy show to watch.
posted by scalefree at 1:04 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Oh, one more thing I wanted to say. Moira's overwhelm is caused by her regaining choice, freedom, autonomy after so long without any of that. It's the paradox of choice compounded by a sudden return to normalcy - money, ID, a phone, all symbols of a normal & functional society. All of that on top of the singleminded determination to escape starting with at least injuring & more likely killing a guard for his car. My only surprise is that she didn't retreat into herself completely & suffer a break with reality.
posted by scalefree at 1:18 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


That refugee system is hella kind, probably more so than actual refugee processing systems. Also those of you complaining about the "I Support Refugees" sign - do they not exist where you are? They're super commonplace, especially now that there's rising anti-refugee sentiment. You'd be a fool not to realise that people are anti-refugee; it's almost notable to be pro-refugee.

I was shouting FUCK YEAH HANDMAIDS at the end, though I did wish Offred would Hunger Games the damn thing and hit Aunt Lydia. But this was much more potent.
posted by divabat at 4:12 AM on June 16


I really really want an "I'm Sorry Aunt Lydia" badge or t-shirt, esp with art of a Handmaid dropping the rock.
posted by divabat at 4:39 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


I'd seriously expected Offred to hand Aunt Lydia the stone as in "let [she] without sin cast the first stone."
posted by Karmakaze at 5:51 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


No rock but here's your shirt. Could be done better but they're first past the gate.
posted by scalefree at 9:03 AM on June 16


In an episode of so many set pieces I thought the refugee center was the best. It just seemed so believable, so kind and generous and yet also awful and alienating and just overwhelming for poor Moira. I like how Moira's intake in to Canada echoed the first scenes of June's intake into the Red Center. I also liked that all the staff assigned to her were Black, like Moira, it felt like some sort of effort to make her feel a bit at ease. And a callback to a time when Canada was one route to freedom for American slaves.

I was also devastated by Fred and Serena's little rapprochement in the nursery, Fred saying "we are bringing a baby into this world". Literally neither of them have anything to do with making that baby other than creating a horrible system of rape torture pregnancy captivity. Serena's breakdown and saying that fact out loud makes the evil at the heart of Gilead all the more apparent.

And with the end of season 1 we're more or less at the end of the book as well. Very curious what they have planned for season 2. After the Luke episode (S01E07, The Other Side) I was worried about what a dumb thing this show could become, an action movie rescue movie. But the refugee center scene gives me hope that the showrunners know how to bring a wider world into the story in an intelligent manner. June's framing of the Handmaids as an army of conspiratorial smiles is what I hope to see at the center of season 2.
posted by Nelson at 7:31 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]




...(how did they) determine Moira was fertile?

I have a theory I've talked briefly about in a previous episode thread so this is all my assumptions, but I think with the emergence of Gilead, previous social and civic institutions had to completely fail. Patient information would have still been there after the public health community was destroyed, but their protections would not be. No such thing as US legislation like HIPAA to protect anyone's privacy anymore.

I bet they used peoples medical records to figure out where to divide them up too. Send all those with cancer history or current treatment, or any chronic condition, to the Colonies.

Anyone with work experience, such as a chef, gets placed in the role of a Martha.

Anyone who works in a medical field that contradicts Gilead's religious model? To the wall.

It's fun and terrifying to think of this world they've built.
posted by dog food sugar at 10:28 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Huh, the stone-dropping thing felt too pat – I was sure that there would be some halfhearted coerced stoning and June doing an angel-of-mercy thing. (Probably me conflating from a scene in the book where she did something similar to a man?). I get that we need to have hope and June has to rebel openly at some point – but there's no previous indication that all the handmaidens are rebellious enough to risk punishment for a symbolic gesture, and them doing this en masse seems implausible. (Recall how paranoid June was about trusting any of the other handmaidens)

Had aunt Lydia wanted to force a stoning she could have reminded them about "if thine hand offends thee" after Junes shopping partner refused. I don't think she refrained from doing so because she doesn't like threats, or that she honestly thought that the handmaidens would see the wisdom of scripture, but rather for dramatic expediency – which flattens the characters. The only moral ambiguity we've gotten from non-main-storyline handmaidens (afair) was Junes new partner who commented that she didn't have to prostitute herself any longer and preferred being a handmaiden.

The stoning scene also reminded me about one thing which bugs me with the staging: the overuse of men in black with guns everywhere. It's usually a sure sign that a dystopian sci-fi flick is unambitious – "How do we show that society is fascist/repressive? Guys with guns everywhere". The symbolism is too heavy-handed, and it's not as though they're being particularly effective but rather for (our) show. Regular sentry towers I might buy, but standing in a semicircle looking in one direction is just silly. A militia tasked with doing silly stuff is bound to complain, slack off and conspire, no matter how ideologically convinced they are.

Still a great show though…
posted by monocultured at 5:04 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Security theater has a long and proud tradition in the US, I can see that carrying over to Gilead.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:42 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


adoption would have been alot easier than overthrowing the government.

Adoption only "works" when you have a larger supply of healthy, unwanted babies and children than people wanting healthy babies and children. It is no accident that even in modern times, the adoption of a healthy baby skyrocketed up in both difficulty and expense once birth control and then abortion became legal and you didn't have an inexhaustible supply of "accidents". Even now, there are not enough healthy unwanted babies in the US for everyone who wants them.

Gilead is at its best when it branches off from our world, and this is one of the pieces. How many women are infertile and wanting fertility treatment that insurance won't cover the cost of? How many women don't have the tens of thousands of dollars required to use IVF or to adopt? Now imagine just a little tweak. What would people do? What would we be willing to give up? I think of the Marthas, who are so excited by the Handmaid's pregnancy just so they get to live in the same house as a baby.
posted by corb at 11:05 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]


monocultured, the symbolism may seem heavy handed to you, but you're not living in a place where it feels like you're two steps away from it actually happening.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:44 AM on June 19 [10 favorites]


Just Saturday I went to a local festival/carnival and then a movie theater, and in both places there were large men with handguns on their belts searching bags and otherwise, yes, just standing around. They were wearing polo shirts that had "SECURITY" printed on the back, not black uniforms. This was in Chicago.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 2:36 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


Yeah guards in military outfits with rifles guarding public places is not ubiquitous in the US, but it's also not uncommon. State fairs, subway stations, airports, etc.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:36 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


This episode was fantastic and just, gut-wrenching.
posted by odinsdream at 7:53 AM on June 20


I'm not saying that security theatre isn't a thing, and from the few occasions I've been to the US people sure like to dress up in uniforms and act accordingly so I understand if this seems more acute to people living there, but it's more that it seems overly theatrical, all the time, and it breaks the otherwise convincing worldbuilding.

For example in the stoning scene, if the dyscops were there to secure order (assuming that handmaidens are suspected of potential violence) why on earth are some of them standing so close that they could be rushed, while at the same time not being able to protect the aunts on stage? If it's intended to scare the handmaidens (and aunts?) then how about bullpenning like we see on demos today, standing on a line behind handmaidens also in a line so that they're limited in communicating with each other?

(of course, if someone who actually knows anything about tactics and psyops and whatnot would pipe in I might stand corrected, but it's just that this one thing is what HT has in common with some godawful sci-fi movies)

Right now it feels like picturesque geometry, and it bugs me.

If it's intended to be symbolism - for our sake, the viewer - it breaks with how I see the rest of the worldbuilding in the show, where it's heavily symbolic but for the sake of the inhabitants.

I won't belabor the point further, it's a minor annoyance in a good show, but season ending and all I hadn't seen it discussed elsewhere so thought to sound off.
posted by monocultured at 12:48 PM on June 20


I don't think The Handmaid's Tale benefits from trying to over-analyze stuff like the defensive formations of the armed thugs. There's a lot of world building that doesn't make much sense if you look a bit too close, starting with the way Cambridge has been transformed into an 18th century village. It's all symbolism and go with it.

But if we do go down the rabbit hole a bit, there's a whole parallel story that could be told about men in the world of Gilead. What do all these armed young men think, being paid to protect a religious elite few? They aren't allowed to drink, or socialize with women, and certainly not have any children. They probably outnumber the rulers 100 to 1. How are they held in check? Will they rise up? We get a bit of a glimpse of their world through Nick but it's not enough to make a complete story. Which is totally fine; I love the focus on the womens' stories. But a feminist story about men being oppressed in Gilead would also be interesting.
posted by Nelson at 1:02 PM on June 20 [7 favorites]


>Nelson

Yeah, not the most urgent spinn-off or parallellquel to produce, but I was wondering about that as well. We've seen briefly how Nick was recruited, and are inferring his motives on very few facts, but he's SS vs the others who are SA so it doesn't tell us much about how the militia functions. Goes without saying that there are stories there, but they've been dealt with in other shows, so not really necessary to expand into that I guess.

I'd be interested in a side-story of "the resistance" if it can be made to go beyond good-vs-evil. Joy is probably the only character that embodies the ambivalence ("did you imagine a world where women weren't allowed to read your book" clearly rocked her) as far as we've been shown so far? Pitting her against a fallen true believer handmaiden or aunt would be interesting to watch.
posted by monocultured at 1:35 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Not for nothing, but if you were blown away by Ann Dowd in her small but pivotal part here as Aunt Lydia and you haven't seen The Leftovers... holy shit, are you in for something special.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:38 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Finally got through the last episode. Not that I don't like the series, it's just so hard to watch that I could only handle them in small doses so it's taken until now to finish. I was a little disappointed that this episode seemed so triumphal at the end; it seemed a little too network TV to end on a high note like that.

I'm so impressed at how good the series looked for what was obviously a tiny budget for such an big show. The cinematography was just so good and the use of color was great. This interview with the director of the first three episodes was illuminating. Not surprising that she's mostly known as a cinematographer. She talks about all those huge closeups that feel like you're inside Moss's head.
posted by octothorpe at 6:47 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


That was very satisfying. I really don't see the point of another season.
posted by harriet vane at 7:57 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


How do we show that society is fascist/repressive? Guys with guns everywhere

I don't know. My parents told me this story about how they lived with my big sister (I wasn't born yet) in Northern Ireland in the early 70s. After they came back to the states some elementary school teacher called my parents in for a conference, because she told the kids to draw a picture of a war, and most of them drew knights in armor or whatever, and my sister drew a perfectly normal house with a family inside and a soldier crouching outside pointing a gun into the window.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:55 PM on August 21 [6 favorites]




Well, I finished watching and like some it was difficult because it seemed more real and visceral in this dark timeline. I have not read the book since I was 15 x *cough, cough decades ago* so my memories are hazy about particular details. I just recall that my initial read was the large theme, to me, of women oppressing other women even for the smallest amounts of power. Watching the series makes that theme apparent to me in the form of Aunt Lydia and the wives.

Here are some things in the world building of the show that caught my attention:
  • The paintings in the house, was it my imagination but were those from the Boston Fine Arts collection? A sign of material looting? What happened to the deviant art in Gilead?
  • Why would pregnancy tests be a black market item that becomes tradable between Nick and the Martha at Jezebel's? Would not any pregnancy be celebrated? Is there the thought that either the women in Jezebel's can get pregnant or are there Marthas that can get pregnant and are fearful of the consequences? Why would this be the case since all children are desired and birth control forbidden? I thought the prisoners in Jezebel's were sterilised but that could be foggy book memory. Also, if fertile women are so precious how is that Moira was put in Jezebel's while OfGlen was kept as a Handmaid? Both were guilty of a crime (escape and being a gender traitor) and yet inconsistent response. I am willing to accept that Gilead is just fucked up and there is no way to make sense of this.
  • If there is a reproductive plague, why are animals able to still reproduce? I can't reliably recall if the reproduction excuse of Gilead was actually legitimate or just an excuse to oppress/suppress the population. Again, my 15 year old self is not sure but at the time I thought it was false.
  • OfGlen after her surgical punishment was sent to a household where the wife was older and who was strategically "sick" so the ceremony could not proceed. This raised the question to me, are all the commanders and their wives expected to have children past the age where it is possible? The wife looked to be in her 50's and I am not sure of the dynamic.
  • If the human population is not having children, the wars waged by Gilead seem wasteful. You are literally, expending non replaceable human capital in various wars. You will reach a certain level of running out of prison guards for the prison of the former United States.
  • Why do the wives exist? Does all sex cease between a wife and commander if there is a handmaid? Why are wives not simply set aside, if they cannot produce children? The households seem to be maintained by Marthas as servants and here is the part of the conversations amongst the commanders, "the wives will eat that shit up." in regards to introducing Handmaids and that it needs the wives' approval to happen.
There are other things but these kind of stuck out to me. I will go and comment in individual threads. I am intrigued what they will do in season 2, I just don't know where they can go since the novel put OfFred's time as early Gilead which makes me dread knowing that Gilead has time for a middle and late period. The show was great, but wow, it was hard at times to watch.
posted by jadepearl at 6:01 AM on September 29


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