The Handmaid’s Tale: Faithful

This post includes spoilers for “Faithful” (Season 1, Episode 5) 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 my reaction to what happened. 

I was happy to see the pacing pick up this week after the slower storytelling we saw in Nolite Te Bastardes Carbundorum. Offred was finally back to her usual routine after her long punishment.

This episode has been my favourite one so far. None of the storylines have ever felt discordant, but they were woven together especially beautifully this week.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Offred run into Ofglen at the grocery store. Ofglen – who is now known as Ofsteven thanks to her reassignment to a new home-  wasn’t a character I was expecting to see again so soon after her clitoridectomy, so it was pleasantly surprising to have her suddenly show up again.

We knew there was some kind of underground resistance to the society that Gilead created, but this week we got to learn its name: Mayday. Now that Ofsteven is considered too risky for them to use to pass around information anymore, I’m guessing that Ofglen will take her place if she can figure out who else is part of Mayday and how to get an invitation to it. No, I haven’t been reading spoilers for future episodes. I avoid them as much as is humanly possible. This is pure conjecture on my part.

Speaking of Ofsteven, her character development was excellent. She was so quiet, stiff, and subdued in her first few scenes that I never would have guessed the violent turn she’d take later on in the storyline. After she stole the car of one of the men guarding the market and ran over another guard, I remarked to my spouse that I thought this was a suicide attempt instead of an escape. There was nowhere for her to go due to the tight quarters of the market, and she didn’t seem calculating enough to get away even if there had been a convenient side street for her to drive down.

I liked the contrast between Ofsteven and the new Ofglen. (I will call her Ofglen2 to make this less confusing). I never would have guessed that any Handmaid would be content in her position, much less be desperate to hold onto it. Ofglen2’s story about being a prostitute who had to scrounge up a few dollars to afford fast food after turning a trick was brutal. Was it true, though? At first I honestly wondered if she was an Eye who had concocted this story as part of a plan to gain intel on Offred. Offred has already been questioned and tortured, though, so at this point I’m going to assume that Ofglen2 is telling the truth until or unless new facts emerge.

The Ceremony was as brutal as ever this week. I genuinely don’t understand how Commander Waterford can perform sexually with a Handmaid who doesn’t consent and a wife who looks traumatized every time it happens. These aren’t scenes I ever want to watch again, but the acting in them is brilliant.

While I already knew that Offred’s husband was married to someone else when they first began dating, seeing them together in flashback scenes gave me mixed feelings. She is a character I’ve grown to love, but watching Luke cheat on his spouse with her made my stomach turn. They were so flippant and unapologetic about it. They also had a lot of chemistry. If that act hadn’t been a violation of Nick’s vows, I would have been cheering for them.

I’m hoping that this will be explored in more depth either in this season or in a future season. Will we get to meet Luke’s first wife, Annie, and maybe even find out what happened to her? I sure hope so.

My thoughts about Serena Joy remain as complicated as ever. She is stuck in what seems to be a pretty joyless marriage,  she hasn’t been able to get pregnant (although I’m pretty sure that the Commander is the infertile one at this point, not her), and she seems incredibly bored and frustrated with her life.

And yet she treats the other women in her household so coldly. Based on how she’s spoken down to and treated Offred in the past, I get the impression that she’d turn on anyone in an instant if it benefited her. There is no real sense of camaraderie among any of the women in the house unless you count Serena Joy arranging for Offred to sleep with Nick, the family driver, in an attempt to make a baby. Even this act was selfish, though, and would never have been allowed if Serena couldn’t gain something priceless from it.

The sex scenes between Offred and Nick were my last surprise of the week. I winced during the first one because Serena Joy decided to stay in the room while it happened. I suppose she did it to protect them from anyone who might have come to talk to Nick while he was inseminating her, but it made the whole thing almost as awkward and creepy as the Ceremony itself.

Then there was their late night tryst. After 5 episodes of Offred being raped, it was bizarre to see her having consensual sex. I also thought this scene was a nice complement to the first time she slept with Luke. Both of those experiences would have gotten her in deep trouble if anyone had discovered them, and yet both of them gave her a lot of pleasure.

We are halfway done with season 1 of this show now. I am so grateful that there is a second season in the works. As much as I like what they’ve done with it so far, I get the impression that there are going to be many loose strings remaining after the season finale.

Previous posts in this series:

5 Things I Want from The Handmaid’s Tale

Introducing Offred’s World

Gender Treachery

Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

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