The Handmaid's Tale: Faithful
May 10, 2017 12:31 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Offred learns more about the men in her home. Another handmaid fights back.
posted by roolya_boolya (31 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think we're all speechless.
posted by mochapickle at 10:04 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

That scene with Emily. Wow.

Not Ofglen anymore, nor Ofsteven, nor of anybody else now. No doubt hell to pay, but for a moment, invincible and free.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 11:12 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was creeped out by the scene at Emily's new posting and the way the wife kept putting her hand on Emily's shoulder until I realized oh, she is trying to show kindness, maybe even a maternal instinct. Give her time, let her play with the dog, delay the ceremony as long as possible while she recovers. This show has me primed to see ominous subtext everywhere but I really think she is just trying to be nice in the small ways that are still allowed.

The final scene started out weird and rapey. I'm not sold on real attraction between Nick and Offred other than they are similar ages and haven't been getting any (consensual, satisfying) sex post-Gilead, so it just felt like she was imposing her will on him the same way the men have done to her. There was table turning and power reclaiming and all that but with an uncomfortable revenge fantasy component. If a male character had entered a female's room, locked eyes, and silently started undressing her, it would be a much different scene.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:47 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I liked the way her conversation with the Commander after the ceremony made her remember that he's not her friend. As sort of ridiculously entertaining as her Scrabble nights have become, that conversation ended up being quite chilling.

Emily's driving scene was incredible. Firstly, because as a non-book invention, it keeps the theme of only calling out things that have or do happen in our world - it totally made me think of Saudi Arabia, where women aren't allowed to drive, and the occasional women-driving protests that happen. Secondly, because of what it said. It was amazing! She was free! Except... she couldn't go anywhere and literally just drove in a circle, wreaking what havoc she could.
posted by olinerd at 7:48 AM on May 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

Oh, Emily!

That scene was so thrilling and sublime! That shock and bemusement on her face when she actually got into the driver's seat, her enormous eyes and twisted mouth as she drove in circles. It was shocking and hilarious and one-eyed Janine's giggling like a deranged toddler and you knew it wasn't going to end well and then suddenly SPLAT and broken windows (really, how did they do that? was it watermelon and TNT? omg) and it was over as suddenly as it started.

Emily is like the human embodiment of a free radical. She's lost her former life and family, her lover and source of comfort has been hanged right in front of her, she's been the victim of a forced FGM, the resistance movement won't come near her so she has no organized way to move forward. The scene with the dog and the sympathetic Wife giving her a moment of genuine kindness was important because it shows that even with the comparatively nicest of situations, it's still dire. She is unpaired and about to set off a chain reaction.

I worry for Emily, though. People lose eyes and fingers for small infractions. Fertility is so rare that they wouldn't kill her. They will do something worse.

Other things:
- When I first saw the casting for Serena, I was confused. But it makes perfect sense now. I love how Yvonne Strahovski has these microexpressions that just telegraph everything going on in that seething, quieted brain.
- Wait is Serena really going to stay in the room while June and Nick...? Oh, she is. Oh, that's so awkward. Oh.
- Nick confesses to being an Eye. I'm still holding out for him being a double agent.
- Nick and June aren't even remotely in love and for me, that scene wasn't about their passion for each other. They're just surrogates for each other for other lovers, other lives, a moment of desperately clinging to something being normal.

That early scene with the commander was terrifying. It's a reminder how how things can feel normal, even jovial, and then you remember how warped and dangerous someone is.
posted by mochapickle at 9:00 AM on May 11, 2017 [12 favorites]

The driving scene with Emily reminded me so much of the scene in OITNB where the women break through the fence just to go swimming. Like: they still can't escape, but they're getting that tiny little taste of freedom in whatever way they can. Even the Handmaids witnessing the drive seemed to get some life from it. It's what gives June the courage to go to Nick in the end — she saw the worst happen to Emily and it still didn't dampen Emily's fire.

I liked the slippery slope parallel between June's aultery with Luke and her sleeping with Nick. She says to Luke, "We're only going to do this once," which of course isn't true. And then with Nick it's like: we've already put ourselves at risk for breaking the rules once. Might as well do it again.

There was sooooooo much sexual tension in this episode. Neither sex scene (with the Commander nor with Luke) was particularly sexy to me, but it felt like the second one HAD to happen to release the steam, you know?

I am also holdng out hope that Nick is either a double agent or lying about being an Eye. He's just as much at risk for sleeping with June as she is, right?

I was never a big Gilmore Girls fan, but Alexis Bladel's acting has been so phenomenal here. The difference between her in past episodes and her in this episode — it's like the life literally left her eyes.

Aso, every time I see Nick I think he looks like Billie Joe Armstrong.
posted by Brittanie at 11:06 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

One more parallel I liked: June saying Emily looked invincible, which is the same thing Luke says about June's Tindr picture.
posted by Brittanie at 11:08 AM on May 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

I thought it was a nice touch that when June & Luke are discussing going to a hotel room, all the little girls playing in the snow outside are wearing identical red coats.
posted by scalefree at 11:21 AM on May 11, 2017 [24 favorites]

I've been meaning to put this out before, on the decision not to include racism as a major factor in Gilead. While it does make it a bit less realistic I think the narrative would suffer. The central fact of Handmaid's Tale is the subjugation of women's bodies. Introducing another factor like racism obscures or interferes with that to the detriment of the primary narrative.
posted by scalefree at 11:28 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Typing as I watch.

Oooh, the Tinder thing is jarring. It freaks me out, but I'm glad they're setting it NOW because... *gestures expansively*.

Serena Joy is such a complex character. She was wonderfully written, and even more wonderfully acted.

Oh Luke. Luke, Luke, Luke. I sort of hate him in this, more so than in the book, but he also reminds me of my mister, who I really do love dearly. Except the mister wasn't married before we started dating.

Wait, does SJ WATCH? That's creepy. And so intense.

"We're not without compassion." I actually prefer cynical opportunists to true believers. The Commander has his cake and eats it, too. I'd puke, too.

There was so much literal darkness in this episode. All silhouettes and shadow.

Emily. Oh, Emily.
posted by Ruki at 11:44 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

There's something more about the invincible picture -- it's not the one June had up on Tinder, the one she picked to show the world. It was on her phone, a photo she hadn't picked. And she was surprised to discover someone thought she looked that way.

Emily doesn't look invincible at all in the car, not in the traditional sense, not in the Wonder Woman arms akimbo way. She actually looks kind of shocked and terrified. It wasn't the face she'd put on a Tinder page. But to June, Emily did look invincible.
posted by mochapickle at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

The dumb magazine, held out as a treat but really cements the commanders "low" opinion of her. The dumb top ten lists, still rattling around her stressed-out head...

I know I spend too much time reading online, but the overwhelming boredom of living in Gilead without books or things to do is so terrifying. I was surprised Emily was even allowed to play wtih the dog.
posted by armacy at 12:42 PM on May 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Actually I think Serena Joy being there is less prurient and more for cover - if they are discovered visiting Nick, she can say she was the one visiting and Offred was just accompanying her. It's practical considerations- plus she's been desensitized to watching already, as Offred has been desensitized to being watched. Serena even tries to look away at first, but can't help herself from stealing her eyes to them to make sure it's happening.
posted by corb at 1:16 PM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

"There's something more about the invincible picture"

I think it also says a lot about how the people who love us see us. No matter how many selfies I try to take, the pictures my husband takes of me are always the most flattering.
posted by Brittanie at 2:24 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm not sold on real attraction between Nick and Offred other than they are similar ages and haven't been getting any (consensual, satisfying) sex post-Gilead, so it just felt like she was imposing her will on him the same way the men have done to her.

- Nick and June aren't even remotely in love and for me, that scene wasn't about their passion for each other. They're just surrogates for each other for other lovers, other lives, a moment of desperately clinging to something being normal.

I am also holdng out hope that Nick is either a double agent or lying about being an Eye. He's just as much at risk for sleeping with June as she is, right?

All of those are interesting and accurate readings but we have left out something. June is being strategic. If Nick is (or isn't) an eye , that was the first step into Mayday.
posted by roolya_boolya at 4:41 PM on May 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Serena Joy being there is less prurient and more for cover

I agree
posted by roolya_boolya at 4:43 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Good goddamn.

I don't think Nick is an Eye. I think he saw an opportunity to gain some dominance over June through fear. The barest pause before he said "yes", the way he pulled his shoulders back overconfidently as he said it... And I think June saw right through it, and that he saw that she saw through it. The acting in that scene (on both sides) was incredible.

I love how...realistically complicated the gender dynamics are. We see how patriarchy pits women against each other. We see how how following the path of least resistance leads men to be complicit in patriarchy, and how even men get a shit deal from it.

Nick's an especially interesting character. He's low on the totem pole in this society (for a man), and we're seeing how he navigates sexual and romantic attraction. I think he does have some genuine fondness for June. At the same time, he essentially raped her, and then he was all like "sorry I raped you; I had to cuz the boss said so". But I actually believe that he felt bad about it. (Which, you know – you still raped her, dude.)

(That was perhaps the most darkly effective rape scene I've ever seen. June didn't need to scream or resist to make the scene horrible, and Nick didn't need to be violent or sadistic. Indeed, the fact that June couldn't scream or resist, and simply had to resign herself to it, only underscored the power dynamics at play. She wasn't just being dominated by one man; she was being dominated by the whole hierarchy of men which led to that moment. Nick was just the tip of the iceberg, as it were. And, of course, it was hella relevant to the entire theme of the show – which puts it in a whole different category than rape scenes which are thrown into other shows for shock value.)

I yelled "yes!" when Emily ran over the guy. I've been waiting five episodes to see one of those goons get their skull popped.

I dunno; I'm probably blathering. That was a stunner of an episode. Now that we finally see some glimmers of resistance, I am jonesing to see what happens next.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:43 PM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

There are a lot of reasons that June may have approached Nick for sex, most mentioned here. But in this episode where June keeps eying up potential weapons, could it be that she sees an opportunity in Nick to access his gun? Maybe it was subtle, but she spotted it on his nightstand the first time they had sex.
posted by amro at 5:43 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree with escape from the potato planet - I also thought Nick wasn't an Eye but wanted to have the power that came with claiming that status.

Something that struck me is the books in Nick's room. I thought that books were forbidden in Gilead and that the Commander's library was a secret for that reason. Unless men are allowed books as long as they keep women away from them? I was just surprised to see the books, especially in the room of a low-status man.

Speaking of reading, I was SO angry and insulted on June's behalf when the Commander gave her a freaking fashion magazine. She's been deprived of reading for so long and that's what you give her? Of course it all made sense when he went off about women's true purpose. It just rankled me so much!

I was also pretty wowed by the new Ofglen's take on Gilead - as nightmarish as the whole show has been, it stunned me to think of a handmaid who found Gilead an improvement from before.

And the thing that also strikes watching this series is how scared I get for June and the other handmaids when they rebel even in the smallest ways. I am always thinking, no, don't do it, what if you get caught! Of course it's worth it to them to get any tiny taste of freedom. But it makes me wonder what my own response to a totalitarian regime would be. Would I be too scared of punishment that I would acquiesce to whatever I was subjected to? I like to think I wouldn't but the idea shakes me up.

I so rarely watch a full series - Law and Order reruns are more my style - but this has completely gripped me and I can't stop watching and reading about the show.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 6:07 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was also pretty wowed by the new Ofglen's take on Gilead - as nightmarish as the whole show has been, it stunned me to think of a handmaid who found Gilead an improvement from before.

It's relates to what the commander had said about making a better world doesn't mean better for everyone. So worse for June, better for the junkie prostitute.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:21 AM on May 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I think there are a few motives for June to go back to Nick's shack:

- She's headed down this "IDGAF" road where the realities of her world are so awful and suffocating that she's willing to take risks just to feel alive, and to feel some semblance of the agency she once knew.

- She's shown some interest in / affection for Nick. And I think some of that feeling remains, despite the fact that he raped her. Because, well - *was* that rape? On the one hand, obviously yes. But on the other, it's true in a sense that June consented, and it's true in a sense that Nick had little choice. She was violated as much by Serena Joy, and the Commander, and the whole damn system as she was by Nick. And in this awful world, an illicit tryst with her sorta-rapist is the closest June can get to real, empowered sexual / romantic expression. So why not? It's a familiar dynamic in many abusive, power-imbalanced relationships.

- Probably most importantly, she wants that gun. And I want her to have it.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

In the show I hate him and want to gouge out his eyeballs and eat them in front of him.

But then he won't be able to watch you eat them...
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:16 PM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

ok so just start with one
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:49 PM on May 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

and Emily! I am very much not a violent person but I really desperately wanted her to grand theft auto herself out of there, or at least get gunned down trying. I hate that she is in their custody again.
this show is amazing.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:52 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the show I hate him and want to gouge out his eyeballs and eat them in front of him.

Did you see Francine Prose's takedown of the show in the NYRB, Selling Her Suffering? I mean, I kiiiiiiiinda see where she's going — she's trying to make the same argument people very legitimately made about OITNB, but she seems to be approaching Handmaid's Tale from a not very nuanced understanding of either the show or the book. Among her many flawed arguments is that the viewer won't be able to properly process the trauma Offred endures during The Ceremony because Joseph Fiennes is too much of a handsome movie star to be considered a rapist.

I mean, wtf? HE IS CREEPY AS FUCK IN THIS SHOW. How could anyone find him handsome here?
posted by Brittanie at 8:58 AM on May 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

Nice find, Brittanie.... Come to think of it, Jamie Dornan had the same issue on The Fall... So creepy, and it easily overtook whatever handsomeness he has.

I dunno about Prose and the point she's making. There's an interview where she clarifies a few of the points she made, but then she launches into the casting of the commander again and says that having a young Commander in the ceremony/rape is more exploitative than having an old man. First of all WTF and 2) I'm not sure any of us, either on mefi or elsewhere, reeeeally want to go down a road where we assign values to which kind of rape scene would be more exploitative.

This show isn't easy to watch. And the violence isn't the reason we're watching. It's exploitative when the violence is the point of the show, but I don't think that's happened in this series just yet.
posted by mochapickle at 8:47 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

olinerd makes an excellent point, and one I hope is a conscious decision; that the things they have added, the new things, are all things that exist in the word right now. I think that is the only way to not fall on the wrong side of that line where you are inventing shocking, likely sexual, punishments for women. Sort of the antithesis of what they've done in Game of Thrones adaptation, adding random non-canon sexual violence as plot points or filler.

The scene with Nick at the end is so hard to unpack, I mean how much agency of consent does he even have in this, especially if he's not an eye. If she were to make an accusation against him even to say that he had spoken inappropriately or looked at her, he could be in grave danger. Is she deliberately asserting this power over him or just ignoring the dynamics in service of her own needs (cos she can't be oblivious to them).
posted by Iteki at 5:55 AM on May 14, 2017

I think actually they were trying to do something deliberately with having a handsome man in the place of the Commander, so that when he starts flirting, you can almost imagine this will be a traditional story where he will fall in love with her and save her but NOPE he is awful too! They waited until now to show us just how awful for maximum impact, but he really, truly believes in Gilead.
posted by corb at 7:59 AM on May 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just can't get past the fact that the Commander wiggles the magazine in front of June like a dog toy. Now there's someone who needs to die painfully and slowly.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:36 PM on May 14, 2017 [12 favorites]

Oh man, that's a good analogy! Because I think he genuinely does see her a little like a pet dog - he's glad when his pet Handmaid can do tricks, but that doesn't mean he wants to give her /rights/.
posted by corb at 10:23 AM on May 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

My favorite thing they're doing is showing up June takes more agency. She's starting to manipulate the people around her quite effectively: The Commander, Serena, Nick. I like the implicit message that even in this horrible rape slavery she is held in she can try to control her world. OTOH I fear it will all come tumbling down in an ugly way. Serena's not dumb, at some point she's going to realize that Offred is a threat to her.

Elisabeth Moss is a phenomenal actress, isn't she? As much as I love the TV show it's pretty lurid and non-subtle. She manages to give a lot of nuance and emotion to things, elevate the writing.
posted by Nelson at 4:49 PM on May 19, 2017

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