Tag Archives: The Handmaid’s Tale

How Social Media Is Changing the Rules About Spoilers

Those of you who have been following me for years might remember my post from 2014 about hating spoilers.

Since then I’ve been paying attention to how social media – especially Twitter – has been changing the rules about if, whether, and when it’s okay to share spoilers.

It was especially interesting to see how people reacted to The Handmaid’s Tale a few months ago because of how much faster that show was released in the U.S. than it was in other parts of the world.

Canada was always one or two episodes behind the United States depending on which day of the week you were on. Other countries were even further behind us.

People in the States were sharing spoilers before or right after the latest episode there ended. Even mainstream news sites were leaking plot twists as they discussed what had currently happened and what was going to happen next. I had to mute the hashtags for that show and avoid reading all news articles about it until I’d finished the whole series.

While I still believe that it’s rude to share spoilers for a show that has just aired, not everyone agrees with me and not everyone who does agree with me has the same rules about how to go about sharing them after a certain amount of time has passed.

The Old Rules

This varied according to which parts of the Internet you spent time in, of course, but I remember the old rules being as follows:

  • Always put a spoiler warning before sharing anything that mentioned even mild plot twists.
  • Don’t discuss the latest episode of your favourite show with people who haven’t seen it yet unless they tell you they don’t mind.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

I do not remember the mainstream media releasing spoilers back then the way they do now. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s because I watched fewer shows at that point or if the rules have since changed for the media as well.

The Controversy

If cats knew what spoilers were, they’d disapprove of them.

I’m going to be doing some generalizing and simplifying here for the sake of brevity, but people who have an opinion on this issue seem to fall into one of two camps.

The first camp believes that everything is up for discussion the second a show has finished airing in their time zone. While some of them do warn everyone about their discussion of spoilers ahead of time, many others don’t bother to mention it at all.

Interestingly enough, my own mother belongs in this group. If I read a book or watch a movie that she hasn’t tried yet, she genuinely doesn’t mind hearing spoilers about it. This blows my mind sometimes, but I’m much less cautious about discussing how stories end with her than I am with almost everyone else I know.

The second camp is against all spoilers. We want to be warned of potential spoilers well in advance so we can avoid them. We often also want everyone to use the official hashtags for that show or movie so that we can mute them before any of the plot twists are revealed.

The New Rules

  • Always use the appropriate hashtags when discussing your favourite shows on social media.
  • Give people fair warning if you will be sharing spoilers.
  • Find likeminded people to discuss (or avoid) spoilers with.
  • Respect the rights of others to make different decisions.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

From what I’ve seen, the Internet hasn’t yet come to a conclusion about how long everyone should wait before spoiler tags are no longer necessary.

I take a conservative approach and add spoiler tags to almost everything. Just because a book was released a few decades ago doesn’t mean that everyone has read it. While I do occasionally share spoilers about old movies, TV shows, and books, I warn people first in case they don’t want to know what happened.

It’s going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out over the next few years.  Is giving spoiler warnings for everything no matter when it was released the best way to handle it? I honestly don’t know. This is something I do as a courtesy for others, but I don’t think it’s currently realistic to expect everyone to follow this rule given how unwilling they are to wait even a few days to dissect current shows.

With that being said, I would like to see people become more aware of the fact that their favourite shows have global audiences and that not every country or time zone gets the latest episode simultaneously.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Night


This post includes spoilers for “Night”
 (Season 1, Episode 10) of The Handmaid’s Tale. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes.

Wow.

Just wow.

It took me longer than usual to write this post because of how much I loved the season 1 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale. It set up so many possible storylines for season 2 that I don’t even know where to begin.

First of all, I never expected Offred and the other handmaids to refuse to stone Janine/Ofwarren for attempting to murder her child in the previous episode. Aunt Lydia’s horrified, angry expression was priceless when she realized that the handmaids weren’t willing to murder someone who had clearly been pushed past the breaking point a long time ago.

It’s going to be interesting to see what the punishment is for that for all of the handmaids. I’ve heard rumours that Janine is going to be back next season, but I have no idea if that is true or how it might happen.

The only spoiler I’d accidentally read for this episode had to do with Moira making it safely to Canada. At first I was a little disappointed that we barely saw any of her journey north, but there were so many other things going on in the plot that I understood why that part had to be shrunken down so much.

It was fun to see her brush snow off of the license plate of a car and realize that she’d made safely it to Canada! I’m going to assume that the people who owned that car found her, treated her kindly, and gave her a nice, hot meal before letting the authorities know that another refugee had made it across the border.

Moira’s reaction to being given simple life choices in Canada was heartbreaking. She couldn’t handle the thought of being allowed to read a book, decide what to eat, or choose what she wanted to do in general. The only thing I enjoyed more than seeing her realize how much freedom she had was watching her reunite with Luke after she told her social worker that she didn’t have any family in Canada.

The fact that Luke has marked her down as a family member really brought their friendship full circle. They’ve had more than their share differences in the past, but I’m pleased that she’s going to have someone looking out for her as she deals with all of the emotional fallout from her experiences in Gilead. The way Moira was acting reminded me of many of the symptoms of PTSD, so I can’t imagine that she’ll have an easy adjustment to life in Toronto.

It was Offred’s storyline that kept me on the edge of my seat this week, though. The revelation of her pregnancy was a bit of a surprise. The final scene of the book mentioned it as a possibility, but I wasn’t sure if the creators of this show were planning to explore that part of the plot so early on. At this point, I’m going to assume that the pregnancy goes full term and she has a healthy baby. This show doesn’t seem to be willing to harm babies that come from main cast members, so I’m guessing that trend will  continue despite the fact that 80% of pregnancies in this universe don’t turn out that way.

The last thing I was expecting was for Offred to see – but not touch or speak with – her daughter again this episode. How did Serena Joy figure out where Hannah was? I was surprised that she’d threaten to harm Hannah if anything happened to the fetus Offred was carrying. Serena Joy has done abusive things in the past, but this seemed beyond the pale even for her.

This did give me hope that we’ll see Hannah again next season. It will be fascinating to see how much she remembers about her parents and what the authorities told her about what happened to them. I have plenty of memories from the age of five, but three years is a long time for a child to be separated from her family. Who knows how much she’s changed since then!

I was thrilled to see that the last scene in this show was exactly the same as it was in the book, from Offred’s thoughts about what would happen to her to the description of her climbing out of the light and into the dark shadows in the van. The fact that Nick whispered, “just go with them. Trust me.” to her before The Eyes lead her into the black van was taken straight from the book as well.

I think I trust Nick on this one, although I’m not too sure that this is going to be how Offred gets out of Gilead. It seems too simplistic after all she’s been through.

Final Thoughts on Season One

While there were a few minor things I would have tweaked in season one of The Handmaid’s Tale, I was thrilled with  it overall. The writers clearly understood the source material incredibly well, especially when it came to Offred’s quiet grief and desperation in a household that denied her the ability to ever express those emotions openly.

One of my biggest questions when I first heard that this series was going to be made was, “how will they flesh this world out?” The book itself didn’t always explain how certain parts of Gilead like the Colonies worked because they weren’t things that Offred had seen and her perspective was so limited.

It was wonderful to see this world expanded. I loved almost every single change the writers made in order to expand the original material. It was especially nice to learn what happened to Luke as this was one of the biggest unanswered questions in Offred’s life.

The people who made this show couldn’t have done a better job at bringing Offred’s story to the small screen. I am incredibly happy with their work, and I can’t wait to see what happens in season two next year.

In the meantime, posts here will go back to their regular rotation of topics. If you haven’t read the book or seen this series yet, I highly recommend doing so.

Previous posts in this series:

5 Things I Want from The Handmaid’s Tale

Introducing Offred’s World

Gender Treachery

Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

Faithful

A Woman’s Place

The Other Side

Jezebels

The Bridge

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Bridge

This post includes spoilers for “The Bridge” (Season 1, Episode 9) of The Handmaid’s Tale as well as for the book this show is based on. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes that have aired so far. 

Wow, this week was intense! I think it’s my favorite episode yet in this series because of how beautifully everything is coming together.

I’m going to discuss “The Bridge”  by breaking it up into the experiences of certain characters. This is something I did a few weeks ago for “A Woman’s Choice,” and I think it’s a good way to gather my thoughts about everything since there were a lot of exciting and scary things happening.

Aunt Lydia, Ofwarren, and Angela

Aunt Lydia, the woman in the picture on the left who ran the Red Center where Offred and the other Handmaid’s were trained before they were sent out into the world, showed up again this week.

I’ve spent the last eight weeks not having any sympathy for Lydia at all. She has always come across to me as a true believer, and that makes her much scarier than she’d be if she were simply sadistic.

One of the things I’m hoping we get in season two is an exploration of her background. I want to know what could make an ordinary person cling so tightly to a belief system that they know is destroying people’s lives. This happens all of the time in real life, too. It wasn’t something that Margaret Atwood or the other writers had to make up to help the story flow. People behave that way sometimes for their entire lives without ever choosing – or being able to, if you don’t think it’s a choice – to ask hard questions about the things they see going on around them.

Will Aunt Lydia suffer this same fate? She’s a character that I like even less than I do Serena Joy or the Commander, but I still want to see if she ever wakes up and realizes how many lives she’s helped to destroy. Aunt Lydia was present when Ofwarren ceremoniously handed baby Angela over to Warren and his wife before being transferred to a new home. She also showed up later on in the episode after Ofwarren ran away from her new home, kidnapped baby Angela, and stood on the edge of a bridge threatening to jump into frigid water to both of their deaths.

Angela died in her early infancy in the book, so I was genuinely expecting her to meet the same fate once I saw her mother holding her and deciding whether or not to commit suicide. It would have been a darkly appropriate plot twist given how easily people die in this show, but I was glad to see that Angela survived that scene. Whether Ofwarren will be okay depends on how you interpret the final scene she was in. I’m guessing that she’ll live, but it’s honestly hard to say what will happen to her next or whether Aunt Lydia will soften her views at all as a result of this near-tragedy.

How can she deny just how traumatized Ofwarren has been by all of this? We’ve all seen this character’s mental health decline severely over the course of the show.

Moira

Moira’s fate seems much more certain to me at this point.

I was shocked and thrilled to see her again this week.This was something I wasn’t expecting to see until season two, if it even happened at all. I loved the fact that Offred convinced her to stop giving up and start fighting for her freedom again. Those two are platonic soulmates. They are so good for each other in every single way.

I silently cheered at the final scene of this episode, too. It was wonderful to see how quickly Moira came up with a plan to escape Jezebels. Here’s hoping that the final episode of this season will show her arriving in Toronto or some other safe place. Moira’s suffering hasn’t been shown on camera as much as Offred or Ofwarren’s has, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s had some horrifying experiences.

Offred

Offred’s development this week wasn’t quite so interesting to me. Of course I’m glad that she’s decided to join Mayday and fight back, but that’s something that’s been building since the first episode. I’d argue that we all knew it was coming. I’m only surprised that it didn’t kick off a lot sooner.

What I was expecting to learn about Offred this week was that she was pregnant. There was a short conversation between the Martha of the house and Serena Joy about her monthly cycle, but it’s still too soon to say if Offred is expecting. When I wasn’t grossed out at the thought of people paying that much attention to something so personal and private, I was wondering if this wasn’t foreshadowing for episode 10.

Offred does wonder if she’s pregnant at the end of the book, so there would be canonical reasons to follow the same path. Then again, baby Angela is still alive and will presumably remain that way. It is possible that the writers decided to wait until a later season to dig up this part of the original plot. We’ll have to wait and see.

Next Monday can’t come quickly enough!

Previous posts in this series:

5 Things I Want from The Handmaid’s Tale

Introducing Offred’s World

Gender Treachery

Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

Faithful

A Woman’s Place

The Other Side

Jezebels

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Other Side


This post includes spoilers for “The Other Side”
 (Season 1, Episode 7) of The Handmaid’s Tale. It also includes spoilers for the book. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes that have aired so far. 

One of the things that always bothered me about the original version of The Handmaid’s Tale was that neither Offred nor the audience ever learns what happens to her husband, Luke, in it. She eventually did get some information about the fate of their daughter, but not having that same sense of closure for Luke was troubling.

After this episode, I’m so glad I’ve been avoiding spoilers for this show most of the time. I didn’t know that we were going to learn the fate of Luke, or that he’d get an entire episode dedicated to telling his side of the story after June and their daughter were kidnapped. I’ve been assuming all this time that Luke died during their escape attempt. To see him again was a wonderful surprise.

It turns out that Luke was shot in the stomach by the Guardians a few minutes after June and their child ran into the woods. Hoping to be able to interrogate him, the Guardians called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Interspersed between these scenes were flashbacks to when and how Luke and his family decided to try to flee to Canada.

While on the way to the hospital, the ambulance got into an accident that killed everyone in the vehicle except for Luke. Having him escape through pure luck made a lot of sense for his character because Luke’s previous life hadn’t given him any special training at all in stuff like hand-to-hand combat or the use of firearms. He had the average person’s understanding of how these things work, so I really appreciated the fact that the writers didn’t try to change this about him

After Luke escaped, he walked in the direction where his wife and daughter had fled. He found a few personal effects that they’d lost when they were captured, but he still had no idea where they’d gone or what had happened to them. Soon after that, he wandered into an abandoned town and was rescued by a small school bus full of a motley crew of kind strangers who were trying to flee the new regime and who described themselves as “an army brat, two strays, a gay and a nun.”  My favourite scene in this week’s episode was when Luke realized he’s just cussed in front of a nun and apologized for it while they were treating his wounds.

What surprised me the most about “The Other Side” was how much I liked these new characters. So far, we’ve met a lot of folks who have been either openly supportive of Gilead or who are the biggest victims of it. Everyone else’s opinions of it were muted until now.

This episode showed how people who weren’t designated to become Handmaids or high-ranking officers in the new social order responded to the coup and all of the violent things that happened once the Sons of Gilead seized power. If you’re a sensitive viewer, don’t worry. Most of these scenes either happened very quickly or happened after people were killed.

I’m going to be honest with you here, readers. This whole time I’ve been assuming that a fairly high percentage of the people in what was once the United States were either neutral to or actively supportive of most of Gilead’s politics due to what life was like for Offred and the other Handmaids, so it came as a surprise to find out just how much resistance there was to the new government in rural areas.

One of the people from the bus was a former Handmaid who was so traumatized by her experiences in the Red Centre that she no longer spoke. No one even knew her name, and yet the entire group took care of her at the expense of their own safety.

There were other signs of resistance as well. When Luke, June, and Hannah stayed at a temporary safehouse in the middle of the woods on their way to Canada, one of their new neighbours discovered them there. I thought for sure he’d turn them in for a reward, but he kept their secret instead and later tipped them off right before the Guardians swooped down on their cabin.

In a later scene, Luke attempted to run away from the bus people and go find his family. One of his rescuers convinced him to keep moving towards Canada by showing him what happens to anyone who fights back against Gilead. The reason why so many of those small towns were eerily empty now is that they’d been doing things like hiding fertile women and fighting back when the Guardians attempted to separate families.

Gilead’s response to that was to hang every infertile adult from the rafters of the church. You can see a quick glimpse of that scene in the teaser for this episode:

Is it worth it to fight back against terror and injustice if doing so will only get you swiftly killed? I love the fact that this show asks that question but refuses to answer it. Every viewer must come up with their own response to it.

The rest of the journey to Canada was anything but safe. Only Luke and the mute woman made it safely across the border. Once again, I was surprised. I honestly thought that most – if not all – of the people he met were going to become at least semi-regular characters on this series. This is one of the few things I would have liked to see done differently about Luke’s story, although I understand why it was written that way. It matched the earlier scene in the church well. GIlead is not a forgiving place for anyone who steps out of line.

As someone who has lived in Toronto for many years, it was fascinating to see the last few scenes take place in my city. Of course U.S. refugees would pick Toronto as the place to set up Little America while they searched for missing loved ones! Many other countries and cultures have done similar things here. There are many neighbourhoods here where you can honestly feel as tough you’ve stepped into faraway places like Italy, China, India, or Korea.

I also liked seeing how this episode ended.  The note that Offred wrote to Luke in episode 6 was safely delivered. They both know that each other are live. Now we have to wait and see what will happen to them next. Will there be a rescue mission? Will we find out where Hannah is? I’m hoping that both of the answers to those questions are yes.

Previous posts in this series:

5 Things I Want from The Handmaid’s Tale

Introducing Offred’s World

Gender Treachery

Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

Faithful

A Woman’s Place

The Handmaid’s Tale: A Woman’s Place


This post includes spoilers for “A Woman’s Place”
 (Season 1, Episode 6) of The Handmaid’s Tale. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes that have aired so far. 

This post is going to be divided into two sections to discuss what went on with Serena Joy and Offred in episode 6. Both of these characters had a lot going on with them this week, so let’s dive in!

Serena Joy

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts about this series, Serena Joy has been an extremely difficult character for me to like. She has brief moments where she is bearable while she’s painting pictures or working in her garden, but the way she’s treated Offred so far has been unconscionable.

They are both women who are trapped in a violent, misogynistic world that values them only for the children they will either bear or be given to raise. No other part of them matters in any way. Up until this point, I’ve been assuming that Serena at least had a good reason to be so callous and cruel.

It was interesting, then, to have so many flashbacks of what Serena’s life was like before Gilead rose to power. We saw many glimpses of a happy, equal marriage between her and the Commander. Their home was filled with sunshine and joy. No one harmed them back then. If there were any skeletons in their closets, we saw no evidence of them at all.

This was a surprise to me because the current marriage between the Commander and Serena exists in name only. There haven’t been any moments of love, intimacy, or tenderness between these characters whatsoever in the present day. They fulfill their religious and social duties, but they might as well be colleagues or roommates when you look at how they speak to and interact with one another.

One of the other things we learned through this week’s flashbacks was that Serena was one of the people who helped to create Gilead. The stuff she wrote and said about gender roles, traditional marriage, and how society as a whole should operate were used as scaffolding for Gilead.

No sooner were her ideas accepted, though, than Serena Joy herself was rejected and sent back home. The men who listened so readily to her in the planning stages of the coup locked her out of the conversation as soon as they got things rolling.

The disappointed and stunned faces Serena made when all of this was playing out clearly showed that she’d been expecting to remain part of the inner circle. I found it hard to sympathize with her once I realized exactly how much work she’d put into creating the society that eventually trapped her.

This was the world she argued was the best possible one over and over again. Did she really expect to be given a pass to keep writing books and giving speeches once she’d helped to recreate such a harsh place? Why did she think she’d be treated any differently or any better than any of the other women in their society? How could she turn her head away from other people’s suffering for so long and then act shocked when her own suffering was quietly brushed under the rug as well?

All of the questions ran through my mind during the banquet that Serena Joy organized for the Mexican ambassador whose visit framed so many of the scenes this week. While the Commander was trying to figure out a way to set up trade with Mexico before Gilead’s economy collapsed, Serena figured out how to seal the deal given the small scraps of power she still possessed.

She did it with their most precious resource: the children the Handmaid’s had provided and created for them. A few dozen healthy, happy children caught everyone’s attention as soon as they were paraded in front of the attendees at a banquet that was thrown for the ambassador, the high-ranking members of Gilead, and any Handmaid who didn’t bear visible scars of the tortures they’ve endured so far.

If Handmaids could give Gilead children, Mexico might just be willing to buy them to bear children for their nation as well. This was one plot twist that I definitely didn’t see coming. It makes me shudder to think about how the Handmaid trade would work and how Gilead would make sure they had enough Handmaids for both personal use and to sell for a profit.

My best guess is that Gilead will begin either dramatically expanding the types of “crimes” that will turn a woman into a Handmaid or raiding nearby villages for freeborn women to capture and sell.

I hope we get more opportunities to explore Serena’s past in future episodes. While I don’t like her at all right now, these glimpses of her previous life have helped me to understand her coldness and lack of empathy a little bit.

Offred

One of the things I disliked about Offred’s character in the book was how passive she was. Yes, she was no doubt horribly traumatized by the things she experienced. In no way am I trying to downplay how that can affect a person’s behaviour, but I always wished that she’d at least occasionally push back against her tormentors.

This week was a rewarding experience for me because of this part of her history. Our Offred is beginning to fight back in bigger ways than she ever has before.

Her first introduction to the Mexican ambassador was as stilted as you might expect. She answered all of the ambassador’s questions about what life was like as a Handmaid with diplomacy and pretty falsehoods. I desperately wanted these characters to meet again so that Offred could tell the truth about the severe sexual, emotional, and physical abuse that she’d experienced repeatedly over the past three years.

This was another point where the plot surprised me: the Mexican ambassador didn’t care about Offred’s suffering at all. Like Serena Joy, she was completely indifferent to other people’s pain. If institutionalized rape and torture was what it took for Mexico to begin having live births again, she was more than willing to sign other people up for that.

I spent so much time feeling confused and horrified by the ambassador’s indifference that it took me a second to realize her assistant didn’t agree with her at all. The message he passed on to Offred in the final scene made my heart skip a beat: Luke was still alive. If Offred wanted to, she could send him a message through the assistant.

Scenes like this make me glad I avoid as many spoilers for this show as I can. I never would have guessed this would happen, so it was wonderful to learn that Luke was safely out of the country at the same moment Offred did.

How did he avoid getting shot to death in the first scene of this series? Was he ever even shot? Who helped him get out of the country? Will they be reunited? What happened to their daughter?

I have so many questions and so few answers at this point. I love the fact that this show is pulling away from the book and forging its own path, though. Next week’s episode can’t come soon enough.

Previous posts in this series:

5 Things I Want from The Handmaid’s Tale

Introducing Offred’s World

Gender Treachery

Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

Faithful

Why I Love to Read Speculative Fiction

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for everything from science fiction to dystopians, fantasy to horror. I’ve been thinking a lot about speculative fiction in general since The Handmaid’s Tale began last month. This specific storytelling style has appealed to me for as long as I can remember for several different reasons. Honesty Books like 1984, Animal Farm,… Read More

The Handmaid’s Tale: Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

This post includes spoilers for “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum” (Season 1, Episode 4) of The Handmaid’s Tale. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes that have aired so far.  While this episode included several important world-building moments, it wasn’t as action-filled as the previous episodes have been. The picture… Read More