The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 10: “Night”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 10: “Night”
Directed by Kari Skogland
Written by Bruce Miller

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Bridge” – click here
Pic 1We cut back to when the women were first being introduced to Gilead. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) laments the “parade of sluts” in their regular attire. Even though they’re all dressed normally. This is a hyperreality of misogyny.
They’re instructed to clasp their hands, look downward. June a.k.a Offred (Elisabeth Moss) reminisces from her present situation, about the look in the eyes of the handmaids now, sentiment only previously known in spurts, never prolonged. Now, it is all they know. They’re indentured to the patriarchy.
June is brought to a dark room. Where Aunt Lydia and other aunts insert some kind of tracking device into her, blasting it from a nail gun-like contraption into the flesh just above her ear. Such nasty stuff.
But remembering, not forgetting is important. It fuels the determined rage which June continually feels, hopefully leading to her escape from all this someday. Right now, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is taking out her frustrations on the handmaid. The lady of the house knows what’s been going on with her husband and their servant. She forces June to take a pregnancy test, after beating the shit out of her.
Whatever empathy I tried feeling for Serena is gone. She’s fully complicit in ways that go beyond any fear for her own safety. She is awful. Not as awful as the men, though. Never.
And now June is with child.
June: “They shouldve never given us uniforms if they didnt want us to be an army
Pic 1APoor June, she has to remember her first pregnancy, a much happier and safer time when she and Luke (O-T Fagbenle) were able to feel excited for the coming of their child. These days, it’s ugly. Nothing to feel good about.
We find out more of what Serena’s discovered when she confronts her husband Fred (Joseph Fiennes). There’s further evidence Serena also helped write some of the laws used to enslave women in Gilead. The same laws and misogyny her husband uses to keep her down, to literally make her feel as if she’s at fault for his lust. Like he wasn’t wretched enough already. Serena then blasts him as “not worthy” to father a child, telling him that Offred’s baby is not of his creation. Christ, I can’t imagine what this will cause.
Later on Nick (Max Minghella) discovers June is pregnant. He reacts with tenderness, though I still feel it’s very problematic. She did feel something for him when they had sex. However, the fact she even had sex with him in the first place is STILL forcible. She would’ve never otherwise done so if she weren’t shackled by the patriarchy in that nation-state. Every decision which led her to those moments in bed with Nick were forced by misogynist law. Therefore I find it difficult to find this meant-to-be-touching scene at all nice. It’s creepy.
Moira (Samira Wiley) is out in the cold, sneaking through the woods. She comes across a farm; she’s in Ontario, Canada. Across the border, finally! This is a bigger ray of hope than I personally anticipated.
Pic 2Off someplace unknown to her, June waits in the car. Serena heads into a house then comes back outside with June’s daughter, Hannah. Right there, where she’s unable to speak to the girl. This is one of the most cruel things Mrs. Waterford has done to the handmaid. Not THE most cruel; that would be holding her down to be raped. But this is so tragic, hurts the heart to see June so close to her daughter. Serena is despicable. And this has really pushed our woman over the edge.
June: “Youre fucking evil, you know that? Youre a goddamn motherfucking monster.”
Commander Putnam testifies to his sins, regarding the whole mess of a situation last episode with Janine (Madeline Brewer). The Council are sitting around discussing the offence. We see the hypocritical nature of them all, but most definitely Commander Waterford, whose own transgressions shine through clearly. Others aren’t so quick to forgive, such as Commander Pryce. So, what’s to be done? Putnam must offer a sacrifice to God, to show that he accepts his sins and the consequences. He gives over his left forearm to surgical amputation as a show of faith. Man alive, these fellas are some sick puppies. The lot of them. Bunch of perverted religious freaks.
That night, June goes to the Commander. Asking that he protect her daughter from Serena. She warns that Fred does not know his wife, the extent to which she’ll go, the depths she’s willing to sink to hurt one of her own kind. In her room June finds a packet of letters written by various handmaids, the postcards of abused and ravaged women calling out to the world for help. This is like viewing her own death, already written before her; figuratively and literally. It’s almost enough to make her want to give up. But she won’t, ever.
Pic 3Moira experiences a culture shock, going from the US to Canada. She is now an American refugee in the land of freedom, where women are still people. The biggest difference is just dealing with men, seeing a man that doesn’t treat her as an object. He processes her into the country, welcoming her to Ontario, and offering all sorts of things she hasn’t been able to do in so long. One of the basics? Read a book. So fucking sad to hear, and at the same time glorious. (Also feel good being a Canadian.)
Alone together, Fred and Serena hash out their issues. He’s looking to the future, the expectancy of a child coming to them. She is, of course, devastated that it isn’t her having a child. Just like a typical abuser, Fred plays sweet right now. He talks a good game about being “a family” after the baby is born, and after June is gone.
All the handmaids are out listening to Aunt Lydia, performing one Gilead’s many strange rituals. They take off their “wings” – the blinders on their head gear – and proceed to each pick up rocks. They bring out Janine, punished for the crime of endangering a child. Set for a fatal stoning. Ofglen refuses to comply, and she’s cracked in the mouth with a rifle. After that none of them move. Until June steps out of the line, the men draw guns on her. The handmaid drops her stone. Next is Alma, then the others, all of them. Each replying: “Im sorry, Aunt Lydia.”
Will this start a revolution? Is this the beginning of their rebellion, or will this cause something worse? I feel it’s one of the first acts that will help liberate the women. Every revolution must begin with small steps.
Pic 4In Canada, Luke and Moira find each other. She was on his list, as a family member. It’s a bittersweet reunion without June there, yet still wonderful. Just to know she is safe for now, that she isn’t alone.
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All the while June remains in her room, under lock and key. Suddenly, men come to take her away. Although Nick says to trust him and go. The Waterfords protest, but the men take her regardless.
She’s put into the back of a vehicle, carted off. To who knows where. Punishment, or being saved? We’ll have to wait to find out.
What a spectacular finale, loved it! We know there’s a Season 2 coming, and I think that helped me with the ambiguity of the ending. I’d still have enjoyed it, anyways. There’s a lot of character development, plenty of things to get excited over for next season, and the tension was unbearable during a couple moments. Love the writing, can’t wait for next season already.
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The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 5: “Faithful”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 5: “Faithful”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Dorothy Fortenberry

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Nolites Te Bastardes Carborundorum” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “A Woman’s Place” – click here
Pic 1 (1)Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) continue playing Scrabble. They have a drink in front of a fire. “He likes it when I flirt,” she tells us, discovering this for certain after 34 games. They’re certainly spending quite a bit of time together, which you can also be sure pisses off Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski).
If only she knew her husband was giving the handmaid presents, such as a copy of Beautify magazine that were thought destroyed with all the other supposed feminine things in society reaching out to women. What we see is how Waterford breaks the rules for her, he has feelings for Offred underneath all the patriarchal horror. As she looks through the magazine the women all appear foreign to her in this new world, like “zoo animals” unaware they’re heading into extinction shortly.
Fashback. Moira (Samira Wiley) and June a.k.a Offred debate the merits of Tinder. This is when they first meet Luke (O-T Fagbenle) on the street, as Moira asks him to help pick out June’s profile picture. A cute little meeting at that.
Luke (to June): “You look invincible
In the present, Offred’s helping Serena in the garden, worrying if the wife’s found out one of her several secrets. At the same time our handmaid sees the men around her, from the Commander to Nick (Max Minghella), vying in sly ways for her attention, just like Beautify and Cosmopolitan tell ladies via 10 Ten lists. But more importantly Serena worries her husband may be sterile, she whispers of it in the garden with Offred; she wants to help her get pregnant, via another man. You know exactly who, too: Nick. That’s a lot of conflicted feelings. And is Serena doing this for real, or is she luring the poor handmaid into something worse? I’m inclined to believe the former. For now.
Pic 1AOffred runs into Janine (Madeline Brewer) and others at the eerie, white-walled grocery store. Moreover, Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) – Ofsteven now – has returned, genitals mutilated and her soul crushed. She’s adjusting to the new life. Offred wants to know about The Eyes, whether Nick is one of them. Then she discovers something called “Mayday” before being pulled away by her latest handmaid partner, Ofglen #2 (Tattiawna Jones).
We see that #2 is brainwashed. Her life before was that of a junkie, now she’s clean and sees this place as where she’s been saved. That’s sad; you offer a measly little olive branch to the right, vulnerable woman, and she winds up complicit in the patriarchy.
Later that day Serena sneaks Offred out to see Nick; an unauthorised Ceremony Day. Our handmaid thinks about Luke, for the time it’s as if she’s “cheating” on him, though every bit of it’s forced. Flashback to her on a date with Luke. They’re getting to know one another, the first steps of falling in love. Although he’s still married; tsk, tsk. And gradually they teeter along an affair, slipping into the water flirtatiously.
An awkward meet of Serena, Nick, and Offred, as they start their hopefully baby-making exercise. Nick and Offred’s first time, almost as awful as she and the Commander, is juxtaposed with the tender first time of June and Luke in a hotel room succumbing to a waiting passion. Compared to that, the sex with Nick is horrible, between the silence and Serena watching in the background, them barely touching one another aside from the obvious penetration; it’s ghastly. Then they finish and Offred’s brought back home, put away in her room like a piece of fine China.
Pic 2 (1)Poor Ofsteven. Her life somehow got worse than it was previously. Now she adjusts to a life without a literal, physical part of her. We briefly see some woman to woman care, just a glimpse, as she’s offered a slight hand by her female keeper. But Ofsteven recognises the fact there is no escape from the nastiness of a handmaid’s life.
Another Ceremony Day commences at the Waterford house, though everyone’s hiding their respective secret – Fred’s falling in love with Offred, Offred had to have sex with Nick, Serena of course knows about what she helped happen. One of the more horrifying moments of rape, if that’s imaginable, so far in The Handmaid’s Tale. That night Offred confronts Fred about how he touched her during the ritual, with lust instead of merely carrying out the function of intercourse. Oh, the waters are muddying. Fast. Particularly with the Commander dangling things from life before Gilead in front of Offred, as they continue spending time alone together at night.
Furthermore we see that Fred doesn’t care about love, he only likes fucking her. He doesn’t believe in love, or much else other than the twisted biblical law of Gilead. Offred also finds out about what happened to Ofglen during her procedure.
Offred: “We had choices then
Fred: “Now you have respect. You have protection. You can fulfil your biological destinies in peace.”
Pic 3Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some.”
Flashback. June asks Luke to leave his wife, to which he agrees easily. They’re in love and they both know it, no sense in denying that. Again, juxtaposed with life in Gilead there’s an emotional depth these scenes reach that wouldn’t be seen if we only watched one portion of June/Offred’s life in long stretches. Edited in like memories, these flashbacks help build the core of the story, and it makes the character development shine.
Offred again talks with Ofsteven. She tells Offred to join with Mayday, to help them in her absence. For the first time Ofsteven tells her friend her name, Emily, but Offred’s pulled away before she can also speak her name. Suddenly we see Emily sneak into a car when one of the men hops out briefly. She speeds off.
An act of driving, something so simple, allows the other women to feel a strange sense of freedom. Women are no longer allowed to do the tiniest activities, such as driving. And even with an armed standoff outside the car, Emily gives them all spirit in her brief defiance of the patriarchal rule. Compounded by running over a man’s head, popping it like a watermelon in front of the crowd. Whoa. I worry for what they’re going to do with Ofsteven after that.
Offred: “Maidez. Help me.”
At home, Serena paints, and Offred comes back following the scene in town with her renewed spirit brewing inside. While Mrs. Waterford talks of a woman’s “requirements” Offred only eyes the sharp objects nearby. The murder of that man may have instilled her with something dangerous, but useful all the same. That night she goes to see Nick in his room, she gives herself to him only this time with much more passion and heated lust.
Thus begins the next step in her own personal rebellion.
Offred: “She looked invincible
Pic 4Another stellar episode, one that bridges the past and present in such a tangible way through Offred(a.k.a June)’s memories. I can’t get enough of the series, especially the acting and the heavy themes presented with such grace. It’s all around a fascinating show, coming around at just the right time in North America certainly.
Next episode is “A Woman’s Place” and I can only begin to imagine what we’ll see go down.

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.