The Handmaid’s Tale: Jezebels

This post includes spoilers for “Jezebels” (Season 1, Episode 8) 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 week’s episode was another unusual one. The plot returned to focusing on Offred, but Moira was definitely competing with her for this viewer’s attention.

For anyone who needs a refresher, Moira (pictured on the left) was June/Offred’s best friend before the Sons of Gilead rose to power. Both women were found to still be fertile, captured, and forced to become Handmaids. While June sort of accepted her fate, Moira fought against it at every turn no matter how badly she was treated as a result of her rebellion.

I didn’t talk about this scene in Faithful, but Moira and June attempted to escape the Red Centre. June was captured early on in their escape, while Moira’s fate was never verified.

These characters did meet up again in the book at a brothel where Moira was sent to work after she was captured again. While I’ve been avoiding spoilers for this show, I had a feeling that we’d see Jezebels at some point and find out for sure what happened to Moira. In order to talk about that, though, I have to first talk about why Offred ended up visiting Jezebels in the first place. It’s not a place that wives or Handmaids are allowed to go.

One of the things I like about this show the most is how it has handled The Commander. There was a time in the beginning of the series when I was a little concerned that they were going to paint him as a good guy who was either misunderstood or had been swept into this new society without having any input into it.

He wasn’t a good guy, and no one pushed him into anything. This week’s episode only gave us more reasons why this was true, starting with the Commander’s creepy urge to pretend like Offred was willingly having sex with him. The scenes where he sexually abused her were hard to watch, but they were completely necessary in order to understand how this character thinks. Women aren’t people to him. They’re possessions. So if the Commander wanted to shave his Handmaid’s legs, obtain illegal makeup and clothes for her, and then smuggle her into a brothel for a night, that’s exactly what he was going to do.

The sexist and disgusting way the Commander treated women has never been more clear to me than it was this week, especially when it showed the death of the previous Offred. Some of the other discussions I’ve read about this episode have wondered if her suicide was at least partially the result of the same abuse the Commander is now dumping on our Offred. I don’t know whether or not I agree with this theory, but there were at least three small hints pointing in this direction: our Offred’s dress was at least a size too big for her; the makeup wasn’t quite the right shade for someone with her skin colour; Nick gave the Commander a hard stare when the previous Offred’s body was being taken out of the house.

The only redeeming part of the strange excursion that took up most of the screen time was that Offred and Moira finally got a chance to have a quiet discussion about what happened the night they tried to run away. Sadly, we didn’t get many details about what happened to Moira after she was captured. All we know for sure is that her spirit has been broken and that her only other choices was to go work in the Colonies until she succumbed to radiation poisoning. She was not the same extroverted, confident person she used to be. She was quiet, sad, and resigned to being hopeless. The only sparks of life I saw in her were when she noticed Offred and when Offred later told her that Luke was still alive.

They were small sparks, though, and I could see how they would be easily extinguished. With only two episodes left in this season, I’m not expecting to see Moira again. I’m hoping we’ll revisit this character next year. Maybe she’ll get to have an entire episode dedicated to her point of view the same way Luke did last week? I don’t know if this is too much to ask from the writers, but I’d sure love to know more about what’s happened to her and if or how she’ll escape. It was wonderful to see Moira again, but I also felt like we didn’t get enough details about what her life’s been like.

Her body language was perfect for this episode. I simply would have liked a little more storytelling to go along with it.Let’s keep our fingers crossed for next week! We still have two more episodes to go in season one, so anything can happen.

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

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