The Handmaid's Tale: Late
April 26, 2017 9:20 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Offred visits Janine’s baby with Serena Joy and remembers the early days of the revolution before Gilead. Ofglen faces a difficult challenge.
posted by Fizz (40 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just binge watched all three episodes and...jesus. Some of it stroked uncomfortably close to home (replace fundamentalist Christianity with Malay-supremacist Islam and the Red Centre lessons might as well have been my school years). I feel like some of the Powers That Be (not just Trump & Co) will see this not as a dystopia, but as a utopia.

I've been seeing criticism of the world being white-washed, but I think it makes some sense in context. The few women of colour we see are Handmaids or (more commonly) Marthas; WOCs are only ever good as breeding stock or as labour, if they weren't already being shipped off or killed. None of the Commander's Wives is WOC. No immigrants; I wonder if all diplomatic ties were broken off, and if so by which side - Gilead's or the rest of the world? Probably a lot of sanctions, or maybe some other countries want to borrow that style of governance, kinda like how you don't exactly see a lot of Muslim countries speaking up against Trump despite his Islamophobia and the Travel Ban and such...

Also the melding of contemporary music and the dystopia - not even a gritty cover! but the original! - just adds to the creepy "this is real right now" feeling.

It's been a while since I read the book but I am hoping the resistance is something like ILU-486, red handkerchiefs and all.
posted by divabat at 7:18 PM on April 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


I wondered how they were going to do the scene from the book where Ofglen JUNE has her internal monologue about (to spoiler/summarize) how her husband can't fully understand what's been taken from her because the problem didn't touch him directly and so he's already. I was worried it was going to be an internal monologue - I mean, that's still a core mortar to the structure here, and so I assumed that was what was coming - but nope.

Like, even when he comes close to getting it he... just can't get it. Because it's crazy out there so don't sweat that you need a dude to walk you to the station. It's just chivalry or whatever.

Nevermind that, like... there's no good reason it should be crazy out there to begin with, right?

As to whitewashing, I agree that it's necessary to some degree. I am not sure where race did and didn't come up in the book, not because I don't see race but because mentally I don't see anything when I read - but I like to think that casting of PoC in basically every element of the backstory was an intentional choice because of how relentlessly white the casting in Gilead would be by necessity.

Also, also - I know it's from the last episode and all, but that fucking baby-sympathy-pain ritual was just horrible and grotesque and just brutally uncomfortable. And it went on so.... so.... long. "Slow TV" is certainly an approach and I think it's one that really works here. Like, you want the scene to end. Why hasn't it ended? I get the point. End the scene.

You don't get to turn away just because you get the point and are ready to move on. Why should the viewer get escape this just because they're ready? Nobody gets that choice.

Well, almost nobody.

And maybe not even then.
posted by absalom at 7:34 PM on April 26, 2017 [10 favorites]


Also: Kudos to whatever designer came up with that Fascist Jesus symbol for Gilead. Like, it's only shown up a couple of places (behind the Aunt at the Particicution*; on her lapel this episode) but it certainly works.

Like, it's all Jesus and no cross. What does that say about the Republic of Gilead, eh?

*Jesus Christ - Particicution? Could there be any more blunt reference to the horrible fuck-job the current political an media sphere does with language. Again, last epsiode, but... yikes.
posted by absalom at 7:46 PM on April 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'll try not to crowd this out. That trial scene is wild and scary. The defendants are fucking *gagged* and the entire trial is "Do you swear this is true?" Terrifyingly plausible not only because it's a shockingly common norm for trials in history, but because if we're being honest its probably a shockingly common norm today one way or the other in various places around the globe.

Martha: (#?)6,715,301
Handmaid: (#?)8,967
Woah, yeah.
posted by absalom at 7:55 PM on April 26, 2017 [10 favorites]


Luke is such a clueless asshole in the dinner table scene, which I like. Also noted that he didn't attend the march with Moira and June. (Asshole!) Alexis Bledel is so amazing as Ofglen. The scene with the hanging and when she discovers how she's been mutilated just wrecked me. I'm so happy that Atwood is a consulting producer on the series. They're lifting huge chunks of dialog directly from the book, it's fantastic.

I was probably was not a good idea to watch all three episodes in one sitting though. I'm sure I'll dream about this tonight. :(
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:36 PM on April 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


Oh my God, this episode was brutal.

That trial was horrific. Alexis Bledel's giant, terrified blue eyes say SO much. And then she and her girlfriend are holding hands in the van and sobbing, they can't speak to each other, they can just clutch each other's hands and cry and hope that's enough (it's not). And then they just unceremoniously string up the girlfriend. These brutal, nameless men, this isn't even a big deal to them, like, how many women did they murder that day? Oh God, and then what they did to Emily? I almost threw up. When the camera focused on her face, I was waiting for it to resolve into an expression of, like, determined rage and she almost did, but then broke down into hysterics instead. Poor Emily.

The storyline with Janine is going nowhere good. I like her portrayal in the show more than in the book. I always felt like the book was a little unfair to her (intentionally I'm sure, Offred is not a neutral party and we've all irrationally loathed someone on sight, I get it) and the show is a little more fair to her.

I liked (well, "liked") the touch with Janine biting the Wife when she tried to take the baby and the way the Wife tried to play it off as a normal thing. I guess things like that probably DO happen, you're interfering with biological processes here. If someone had tried to snatch my baby away at two days postpartum while I was feeding him, I probably would have bit them too.
posted by Aquifer at 6:49 AM on April 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


I cannot with this show. It is too amazingly done.

I posted this in the wrong episode (request to delete it pending) so I'm reposting here:

Ok, so, the most terrifying part for me, right at this moment, is the beginning of the 3rd episode, which shows the "normal" world being turned into the Gilead authority. The canceling of credit cards, the firing of women, the takeover of businesses.

Just, watch that and walk through your day and tell me you'd do anything against it. Think about how few people with guns that would take to actualize.
posted by odinsdream at 1:07 PM on April 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


I've been seeing criticism of the world being white-washed, but I think it makes some sense in context. The few women of colour we see are Handmaids or (more commonly) Marthas; WOCs are only ever good as breeding stock or as labour, if they weren't already being shipped off or killed.

In the book there are explicitly no PoC in Gilead because they've all been forcibly migrated to "National Homelands" in the West, and it's vaguely implied that most were probably just killed. There's an interview somewhere with the director of the show where he basically said that one of the biggest divergences from the book was the existence of nonwhite people in Gilead, which he pretty much did because having no PoC whatsoever wouldn't fly for a TV show in 2017.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:01 PM on April 27, 2017 [16 favorites]


I had an interesting conversation with a friend today about race on this show. I think they were stuck with a tricky situation, but I don't know if they handled it all that well. Like Itaxpica says, it wouldn't fly to have no POC whatsoever - but having some POC is a pretty significant change in the ideology of Gilead. So they went for sort of a half-measure, of having a lot of the Marthas and a few of the Handmaids be women of color and just kind of leaving it at that. It's a bit awkward. But the series is definitely doing more world-building than the book, so maybe they will get into it more later.
posted by lunasol at 9:04 PM on April 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Clearly looking back on it for evidence, I don't have any, but I came away from the book feeling absolutely sure that all the Marthas were black. Maybe something about the name itself? It sounded so perfectly like the stand-in "anyname" for a black maid in a Southern lexicon, and throughout the book I felt like a lot of Gilead was clearly influenced by Southern "hospitality" shit.
posted by odinsdream at 9:10 AM on April 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


Like, even when he comes close to getting it he... just can't get it. Because it's crazy out there so don't sweat that you need a dude to walk you to the station. It's just chivalry or whatever.

I screenshotted this moment because I felt it was so exactly perfect. This is what Luke says:

LUKE: We'll figure it out. This can't last.

I think this perfectly captures the character as presented in the book. This kind of half-assed never-really-getting it while also doing the chill-babe-we'll-fix-it thing. "We" my ass.
posted by odinsdream at 9:31 AM on April 28, 2017 [14 favorites]


I swear that scene with Luke was probably the realest part of telly I've seen in a while. I would totally have had that exact same argument with my straight besties dude. Jesus, smh. I'm loving the amount of queer content at the same time as I am exhausted at it being in this context. I love everyone in this show, I love watching an hour of telly with 4 lines for dudes in it.
posted by Iteki at 12:11 PM on April 28, 2017 [12 favorites]


I'm tired and had a long week but I got to the protest scene and started kinda ugly-crying and didn't really stop. Just...that conversation around the table, the whole thing. It's as hopeless as I've felt in several months, at least.

This morning I read this article about race and the show: In ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ a postracial, patriarchal hellscape, which really takes the show to task for unrealistically diversifying a story that is partially about white supremacy. I didn't get it when I first read it, it's had to percolate for a while, but I am persuaded now.

While I don't want a TV show with no black faces on it right now because let's not make wish-fulfillment TV for Nazis right this minute kthx, it lets white people off the hook in a pretty major way to just scatter the cast with black people in a story about a highly granular caste system. Oh, we're all about diversity now in a society that literally uses terms like "econowife" and "unwoman"? We've redistributed the good uteruses as status prizes for the most important old white men but every second dude with a gun is black? There's still time for the story to clarify on this, but it certainly feels like diversity-because-diversity at this point. And it will be very hard to make the point properly without exploiting the black characters so my suspicion is that they won't go there.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:54 PM on April 28, 2017 [14 favorites]


The name Martha is likely a Biblical thing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_at_the_home_of_Martha_and_Mary
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Sounds like a good name for a woman who has to do all the housework.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:10 PM on April 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


Oh hey, I shoulda read that Wikipedia article first. But anyway, turns out I was right. I guess all that Bible study was good for something!
Marthas - They are older infertile women who have domestic skills and are compliant, making them suitable as servants. They dress in green smocks. The title of "Martha" is based on a story in Luke 10:38–42, where Jesus visits Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha; Mary listens to Jesus while Martha works at "all the preparations that had to be made".
posted by elsietheeel at 4:20 PM on April 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


I've been seeing criticism of the world being white-washed, but I think it makes some sense in context.

It's funny, but I was actually taken out of the moment a little when I saw the black man with a rifle. Like, I had to pause a minute and tell myself, 'Yeah, they'd probably make a few exceptions in the name of manpower.' I mean... of course Gilead would be pretty lily white. To me, that was part of the horror: I assume PoC guys like me would be rounded up and put in camps or forced labor if the MAGA guys took over. They're pretty clear about wanting that part, and it's not a minor piece of the platform. I was only expecting to see PoC women, and only in servile positions. (I haven't read the book, and also assumed Marthas were all black the second I heard the term.)

Sometimes race is totally part of the narrative. Like, similarly? I'm not really clamoring to see diversity in Nazi casting in WWII movies. IMO, the world doesn't really need a black Hitler.

I swear that scene with Luke was probably the realest part of telly I've seen in a while.

Yeah. I had that same thought, watching that - Luke's clueless reaction was so heartbreakingly familiar.

Alexis Bledel's giant, terrified blue eyes say SO much.

She's fantastic, and everything with her was so awful this time.
posted by mordax at 7:42 PM on April 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


Well I read the book when it first came out and apparently I didn't remember shit about it because I read all the Mefites saying they couldn't handle watching it and no fucking way were they binge watching it, and thought to myself, "Oh come on, let's not get carried away now," and spent today binge watching it. Mistake. Totally freaked out. And the part that hit the hardest was clueless Luke because that's what it's like at my dinner table. I know I'll finish watching it but I really don't want to.
posted by HotToddy at 9:27 PM on April 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


so good. I am thrilled to see Margaret Atwood's work get the treatment it deserves. I hope they do Oryx and Crake next.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:44 AM on April 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


June. Emily.

I just felt the need to say their names. That was soul-crushing. The week delay between new episodes after this is a kindness.
posted by Flannery Culp at 3:24 PM on April 29, 2017 [8 favorites]


The thing I found interesting is that, despite being a theocratic republic with a state church, we never actually see any of the characters in an actual church attending a service. It was this way in the book as well. I think the show made a good decision having Aunt Lydia confirming our suspicions that the people who run Gilead are a bunch of hypocrites by having her club Offred June with a cattle prod when confronted with a bible passage that undermines Gilead's regime.
posted by Pseudology at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2017 [12 favorites]


I can't stop thinking about Emily. Three years ago, she was a university professor in Boston with a wife and a son and an active academic career and she was traveling and publishing and now......

One of the things that I'm really finding hard to deal with is the usage of modern language.

"A few years ago we published a nine-volume series on falconry."
"That sounds kind of amazing, actually."
"Yeah, it kind of does."

As well as the casual references to Boston landmarks. "Davis is closed; she'll have to get on at Alewife." Oh hey, I get on the T at Davis every morning. That's not terrifying at all.

I'm really not sure if I can keep watching this.
posted by athenasbanquet at 11:07 AM on April 30, 2017 [10 favorites]


I didn't realize until I read a review of this episode that Alexis Bledel doesn't have a line of dialogue in the entire hour. Her face -- even just half her face -- is so expressive that I never doubted what she was feeling.

The names of the punishments, Redemption and the Mercy of the State, were so ambiguous that I had no idea what was coming for them. Of course, Gilead doesn't use a drop for hanging but strings up the Martha to maximize her suffering. The cruelty of Gilead is beyond Old Testament.

The tension of June telling Serena that she wasn't pregnant, and Serena's fury and feral crouch next to June was terrifying.
posted by gladly at 11:48 AM on April 30, 2017 [10 favorites]


Who knew Alexis Bledel had it in her?

This particular episode was a gut punch. I am really glad I cannot binge this show.
posted by jeather at 8:55 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


The series is moving slowly, but this episode really got to me. I like how Luke is "of course I'll take care of my wife" and then he winds up crashing the car and getting shot.

The overwhelming amount of guns is terrifying to me.
posted by armacy at 6:13 PM on May 1, 2017


> I think this perfectly captures the character as presented in the book. This kind of half-assed never-really-getting it while also doing the chill-babe-we'll-fix-it thing. "We" my ass.

My circles of friends are big into the speculative fiction. But I, cynically, suspect that very few of my male friends are watching this series.
posted by desuetude at 9:39 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


(I have to register my first complaint with the series. I can ignore the low-budget-ness of the protest march scene [not enough extras, ok, fine] but why in the hell was Blondie's "Heart of Glass" mixed into the soundtrack for that scene? I did not get that at all and it ruined the scene for me.)

The creeping, incremental normalcy of the flashbacks is what freaks me the fuck out. I only got through this episode by contemplating the possibility that the mere fact this show exists can help make it impossible to actually happen.
posted by dnash at 7:54 PM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


FYI: "‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Renewed For Season 2 By Hulu"
posted by bluecore at 7:28 AM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


Think about how few people with guns that would take to actualize.

That was actually the most chilling part of the episode. June's boss says, "It's the law", but when June questions him, "What law?" he won't say. And she's never even heard the "Under His Eyes" thing. It makes it much, much clearer that it doesn't take the whole force of the government, only one militia that people are really scared of.
posted by corb at 1:29 PM on May 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


That's one way this show is making me aware of my privilege: if I thought there was a chance that the government would fire into the crowd with guns or bomb the neighborhood, I would be too afraid to protest. Yet, I see what people of color were doing in Ferguson and Baltimore and in other cities around the country, and I see that people in those neighborhoods never expected to be safe from the government.

June's boss says, "It's the law", but when June questions him, "What law?" he won't say.

The rest of the men in the office are comforting their female co-workers, and it's clear that they're sympathetic, but no one is willing to stand up to the militia. That's what scares me, because I don't think I would be willing to do it either.
posted by gladly at 2:59 PM on May 3, 2017 [13 favorites]


This show is amazing if nothing else because my husband is currently fucking HORRIFIED. He'd be a Luke: loving and supportive and a peddler of "this can't last" and "we'll figure it out" while no. Fuck no.

We lived in Davis Square for six years. He literally blanched when they mentioned the subway being closed.

I'm not expecting him to intrinsically get the terror of it, but he's a damn sight closer than he was last week I can tell you that.
posted by lydhre at 6:59 PM on May 5, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm particularly liking all the time they're spending with scenes from Before. It lets the story stretch a bit, develop more. But mostly it hammers home the dystopian horror, the idea that this could happen here, to us. This isn't some distant planet of Space Patriarchal Society, it's Boston.

A key thing from the book that is working well on the TV show; the relative absence of men. The Commander, the Driver, and Luke from Before. That's about it. It's an odd setup for a story about patriarchy, to not have the oppressors front and center. It's a brilliant inversion really. Also it makes room for stories about how women can also enable patriarchal oppression. Ann Dowd is great as Aunt Lydia, I loved her in The Leftovers too. And there's just so much going on with Serena Joy. These brief moments where she almost empathizes with her Handmaid, which makes her oppression of June all the more cruel.

I hope they do Oryx and Crake next.

Darren Aronofsky Adapting Futuristic ‘MaddAddam’ Book Trilogy As HBO Series. Aronofsky! Apparently it was all written and then HBO pulled the plug last year. May yet pop up again.
posted by Nelson at 12:53 AM on May 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Clearly looking back on it for evidence, I don't have any, but I came away from the book feeling absolutely sure that all the Marthas were black. Maybe something about the name itself? It sounded so perfectly like the stand-in "anyname" for a black maid in a Southern lexicon, and throughout the book I felt like a lot of Gilead was clearly influenced by Southern "hospitality" shit.

In the book black people are enslaved to work the fields in the Midwest.

The series is moving slowly

Is it? At this rate they will run out of book by episode 6.
posted by Monochrome at 1:07 PM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


The thing I found interesting is that, despite being a theocratic republic with a state church, we never actually see any of the characters in an actual church attending a service.

What we do see in the previous ep is a gigantic yellow earthmover inside the husk of a cathedral. June's dad's parish.

They fucking erased it, Emily says.
posted by carsonb at 2:12 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


That's one way this show is making me aware of my privilege: if I thought there was a chance that the government would fire into the crowd with guns or bomb the neighborhood, I would be too afraid to protest. Yet, I see what people of color were doing in Ferguson and Baltimore and in other cities around the country, and I see that people in those neighborhoods never expected to be safe from the government.

I found this scene and the ones leading up to it sooooooo triggering. This episode was the hardest for me to watch because we've seen those exact scenes play out already in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

It's been a while (decade?) since I read the book and I didn't really remember what happened to Ofglen. Then I read an interview with the director who said he expanded her story because Alexis Bledel was so good that he wanted more of her in the story. He wanted to do that to America's sweetheart, Rory Gilmore, for the impact it would have.
posted by Brittanie at 9:11 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


the husk of a cathedral

I assume a key part of that is it was inside a Catholic cathedral. Both churches they mentioned being destroyed were Catholic. I took that as a sign it is some form of American Protestants that took over. Quiverfull is the kind of thing I imagine, more about social structure than spirituality.

I keep contrasting this TV show to the movie Children of Men, another sci-fi dystopia about a fertility crisis. Couldn't be more different, Children of Men is fundamentally an optimistic story and the religion there is a twist on the Nativity story.
posted by Nelson at 12:21 AM on May 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


It's taking me much longer to watch this than I thought it would. I need several days after each episode to process. It's traumatizing to see the change in society, the sudden enacting of awful laws, the men's lack of active protest, particularly clueless Luke.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:41 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's been a while (decade?) since I read the book and I didn't really remember what happened to Ofglen.

This isn't a spoiler anymore since they're clearly moving away from the book with regards to Ofglen, but in the book shortly after that salvaging where she was the one to knock out the "rapist" who is actually a fellow resistance member, she hanged herself when she saw the black van coming to their house. The new Ofglen is the one that told Offred this.
posted by numaner at 1:00 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


A moment of levity for an episode that has none: in discussing the show with a friend I said something about "Rory, I mean Emily" and she made a face and how did none of us notice they gave her Grandma Gilmore's name? I guess Lorelai would have been too obvious.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:21 AM on June 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


oh fuck you just blew my mind
posted by numaner at 4:54 PM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I keep contrasting this TV show to the movie Children of Men, another sci-fi dystopia about a fertility crisis.

It occurred to me that the opening newsreel from Children of Men where they talk about the collapse of the US and 'Day 1000 of the Siege of Seattle' could be in the same universe and be describing the founding and expansion of Gilead. It's not even that huge of a leap.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:39 PM on June 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


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