The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 4: “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 4: “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Leila Gerstein

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Late” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Faithful” – click here
Pic 1After Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) being subjected to genital mutilation, and Offred (Elisabeth Moss) not yet pregnant, suffering the misogyny of fellow woman Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), some might think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale couldn’t get any worse. Right?
Wrong.
Offred’s been banished to her room, “thirteen days so far.” She is under lock and key, worse than usual. She likens herself to an explorer in the room, rather than getting too carried away with memories. She explores the closet where her uniform is, but then lays there on the floor. There she discovers NOLITE TE BASTARDES CARBORUNDORUM scratched in the door’s frame. Translation: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Flash to Offred and Moira (Samira Wiley). We get bits of their lives in the well-scribed dialogue, including that the handmaids aren’t allowed to write. Another piece of the patriarchy’s dirty puzzle.
Pic 1ACommander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena don’t have much of a relationship, which isn’t exactly a surprise. “Weve got good men working on it” is his answer when she tries to give valuable input; albeit input into the patriarchal madness. Still, that divide between her place in that society and where she believes herself to be is always clear. More and more to herself, as well.
After fainting Offred is taken to the doctor by Serena, the first fresh air and sun she’s felt on her face in nearly two whole weeks. Even the rain is a delight to her after such isolation. She remembers Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) giving a lecture to the handmaids about possibly getting pregnant, moving in with their “new family” and such. They speak of “the ceremony” where the handmaids must have a rapey threesome on their fertile days. What we’re seeing is a lesson in complicity, in normalisation. Lydia and the patriarchy are conditioning these women to accept this hideous assault, justified with the Bible in perverted wisdom.
Aunt Lydia: “That is his word, dear. And we shall abide.”
At the doctor’s clinic Offred prepares herself for an exam by the doctor. It’s eerie, as he stands behind a sheet and her lower half is obscured. Far too clinical in an oddly puritanical manner. Doctors can’t even look at their patients, they must keep a sheet between them; not while peeking at the lady parts! Disgusting and weird. This adaptation of Atwood is chilling. Offred’s narration tells us that “sterile is a forbidden word” because their society of men has convinced themselves they are infallible. Even worse, the doc suggests he impregnate her because if the Commander’s sterile – many of them are apparently – then it’ll all be blamed on her, of course. Yuck.
Just viciously ugly. A stark look at the nation of Gilead. A place threatening not only the physical lives of women like Offred, it threatens their sanity even worse than today’s society (which is bad enough).


Today is breeding day. Offred’s been examined, cleared for what’s to follow. She goes back home and plays the part for Serena, asking to be let out from her room. No sympathy, though.
Flash to Moira and Offred. They trick Aunt Elizabeth (Edie Inksetter) into the bathroom where they take her hostage. They lead her through the building’s basement where they shock her, making her strip, so they can use her uniform. They tie her to a pipe then head off outside.
Back to the ceremony, breeding day. Except Commander Waterford breaks the rules a little. Things are supposed to proceed in a specific fashion. Instead he comes in to make another Scrabble date. Hmm.
Serena: “Blessed be the fruit
Offred: “May the Lord open
And so goes the ceremony, or at least it would if Commander Fred could stand at attention. He has… issues. Makes things twice as awkward having wife and rape mistress on his bed, so he walks out. Yeah, that’s no good for anybody. When Serena goes to help him out it’s like they’re no longer used to physical contact; sex has become no longer about pleasure, it is about power and breeding. He refuses a blowjob from her, too. Is Fred catching feelings? Ugh, gross. Either way, Offred doesn’t have to be assaulted for one night, at least.
Worse is how Offred internalises the misogyny, believing she is “not blameless” in that she could’ve shown him more affection, when he came to her before the ceremony. That is terrible. But what the writing does cleverly, in this not-so-hyperbole dystopian future, is outline how women internalise the hatred, many times totally unknowingly, and this happens TODAY. Not just in this terrifying Atwood adaptation. Remember that, men!
Flash to Moira in her Aunt costume taking Offred through the city. They see everything decimated, street signs removed and replaced, corpses brought through the square bloodied in a heap. In a subway station they look for a train to Boston. So militarised, every place they go. Then, as Offred talks to an armed Guardian, she lets Moira go off on the train by herself, as she’s taken back to the city. After her attempt to flee with Moira, Offred’s taken to Aunts Lydia and Elizabeth, who visit nasty tortures on her, whipping the bare soles of her feet like something straight out of the Old Testament.
Pic 3Pic 4Back to Offred, who uses Moira as inspiration to not let those bastards get her down. She goes to see Commander Waterford. They play Scrabble, he drinks and tells her of his trip to Mexico. THE MOST IRONY EVER: he complains a word she plays is archaic; such a perfect line for a man dominating an archaic society! On the shelf as she fetches a dictionary, she notices one for Latin, too (“knower of Latin, scratcher of words“). Once the game is finished they make a date again for after the next ceremony. And Offred does her best to try manipulating Waterford with that bittersweet element which at once gives her power and holds her down in Gilead: femininity.
Something that gradually comes out is the keeping of knowledge, how men and the patriarchy try keeping women down by filtering what they’re expose to and taught, or outright excluding them from knowledge (writing, language, et cetera). Of course that’s how authoritarian systems work.
We get a little montage of the power of women in the end. We see Offred recovering from her punishment having tried to escape. Other women bring her food at bedside, giving her strength and support. Through Waterford’s tale of the previous Offred, this Offred is given a renewed sense of life.
Offred: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.”
Pic 5Probably my favourite episode of the series so far! On top of that, Hulu renewed it for another season. How damn good can it get? Love so much about this episode, but as usual I’m excited for the next one. “Faithful” is next week; I wonder how much deeper we’ll go into the devastating patriarchal nightmare that is the reality for these poor handmaids.

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Quarry – Season 1, Episode 3: “A Mouthful of Splinters”

Cinemax’s Quarry
Season 1, Episode 3: “A Mouthful of Splinters”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy

* For a review of the previous episode, “Figure Four” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Seldom Realized” – click here
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A man shows up at Joni’s (Jodi Balfour) door in the middle of the night, looking for Mac (Logan Marshall-Green). He says he served with him and Arthur over in the Vietnam War. He seems fairly genuine, at face value. But there’s something not quite right. He’s been following Mac, casing the place. Still, Joni doesn’t know that. And she lets him inside. It’s Suggs (Kurt Yaeger), the one from the night Arthur died.
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Off doing his thing since discovering his wife’s betrayal, Mac has no idea about what’s going on at home. He’s all twisted up. At least he’s not putting a gun to his lips, as too many Vietnam War veterans did after coming home, as many veterans still do today, sadly. For now he has a beer, a couple Little Debbies. Just to try and feel normal for a while. Arriving home he discovers the place deserted. On the bed are the tapes he and Joni sent one another.
But in the bathroom is scrawled a terrifying message: I HAVE YOUR WIFE. Mac gets a call from Suggs. He wants explanations. More than that he wants money; a cold $20k. “A nice figure,” as he puts it. Like poor Mac isn’t already on the hook for close to $30K with the Broker (Peter Mullan).
The wonderful Ann Dowd plays Naomi, mama to Buddy (Damon Herriman). A good woman, taking care of her boy’s stitches. She’s a plain speaking type of lady. I dig it. They’re hilarious together. “Oh honey, our people dont die of gunshot wounds. Our people die of alcoholism and heart disease,” Naomi explains to her son. Not only does she stitch him up, she fixes a nice meal to go with his painkillers. Bless her heart.
As if Dowd wasn’t enough, fucking Tom Noonan graces us with his presence, playing Oldcastle, a dude with one righteous beard going on. By the looks of it, he keeps book of some sort, as well as does a few other things like take calls for the Broker. In fact, he gets such a call from Mac. This connects the chain to Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) in a nice blues club, where the Broker’s hanging with some ladies and jamming to the music. But he’s got to step off, there’s a “man in need.”
So Mac is understandably frantic. He wants to find his wife, although the Broker isn’t exactly helpful making Mac essentially beg for it. That’s how he does it, he sucks people in.
Over at the police station, Detective Tommy Olsen (Josh Randall) meets Sandy Williams (Kaley Ronayne). Their deceased lover, Cliff Williams, brother to Sandy, was high when he’d been working on the car, Olsen’s partner Dt. Verne Ratliff (Happy Anderson) thinks they ought to leave the whole thing alone now. No big deal. Good for Mac. Not so good for actual justice, I guess. Olsen seems like a straight arrow, he doesn’t want to let it go so easily. He actually calls Mac asking if he can come in to talk about Arthur’s murder. This sets him off trying to wipe down the creepy message in his bathroom.

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Tucked away somewhere, Suggs has Joni tied against the wall to a bed frame. He rages a bit before apologising: “I get low blood sugar, I get irritable.” Moreover, he tells Joni about her husband cheating. On and on he goes, telling her more about his missing legs (diabetes) and the night Arthur got killed. As well as the fact Mac killed a man, stuffing a sock down his throat until he choked to death. “You dont know shit about shit,” Suggs taunts with menacing carelessness.
Recovering from his little ruckus, Buddy laughs it up and drinks with Mama Naomi, whose humour just does not stop. They have a great time together. You can tell there’s some deep sadness in Buddy, though. He doesn’t like the work he’s into, not sure if he can do it anymore. I wonder does Naomi know the extent of his work? “I just feel like the inside of me is worn away,” Buddy says.
Suggs calls Mac asking for the money, threatening sexual violence against Joni. They set a meet for 11 PM.
The Broker meets with Moses (Mustafa Shakir) on a rooftop in the city. They chat about Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird), whom Moses had been checking out recently. Trying to find out what Arthur did with his money. It’s clear Ruth doesn’t have it, by the looks of things. This leads to Moses needing to “keep an eye on” Mac in the foreseeable future. The Broker has a relationship previous to all this with Moses; sounds like there was trouble at one time, to some degree, and Moses fucked up. He’s working his way back into the man’s good graces.
Well, at least Mac gets $20K to retrieve his wife. Karl helps out with that, or helps by bringing the money. He doesn’t help with the way he talks and Mac isn’t pleased with his nonchalant bullshit. Regardless, the plan’s going ahead. All depends now on whether Suggs lives through the whole experience, or if Karl will end up killing him. No matter what he does now, Mac is linked to murder for a long while in an escalating number of ways.
Joni makes a go of it and tries getting the upper hand on Suggs. Resulting in a nasty little fight between the two. She manages to get into his boat, speeding away. God damn right, Joni!

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In an underground gay club Buddy mixes pills with booze, reaching behind the bar and generally acting like a mess. He thinks he spots a guy named Gary (Phillip Daniel) with whom he previously had some sort of relationship, that definitely ended badly: “Glitter dont lie, bitch,” Buddy spouts off before leaving in a pissy, drugged up mood.
Joni’s far from the little cabin on the water and looking for help, some shelter. She winds up breaking and entering, technically, ending up in a country store somewhere. Meanwhile, Mac waits with a gun, all the money counted – and Joni gets a call through to him. Off he goes to collect his wife and get her out of harm’s way.
Getting away, Mac tries to assure Joni he’s taking care of things. But she’s finding life a lot more difficult now, more than when he was away in Vietnam. Because there are so many new things going on, from betrayal to crime to so much more underneath it all. Still, Mac will do whatever it takes to protect his wife, despite her cheating and his own cheating. Except tell her the truth.
And maybe, just maybe, that is the best thing. For the time being.
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Continually, each episode, I love the series more. The actors, the cinematography, the gritty story and its themes. Lots to love!
Next up is “Seldom Realized” and I’m sure there’ll be a good doses of action, intrigue, humour to hook us in further.