TV Recap: The Handmaid's Tale shifts from drama to horror

Overview:

Offred might be pregnant, but her association with Ofglen puts her and her child in jeopardy. Poor Ofglen.

The Story So Far:

In the episode “Late,” the flashbacks are to the point: Here, we see the collapse of Offred’s life as she knew it. She was a typical working woman, one who orders medium drip with a shot, until suddenly, she wasn’t. Women are instantly disenfranchised and relegated to second-class status. These scenes are too close to reality for my liking.

In the present, the maid—all maids are known as Martha—is strangely nice to Offred; in an amusing bit of business, she fusses over Offred’s food as Offred watches, mute and puzzled. It seems that she and Serena Joy have noticed Offred hasn’t started menstruating and are hopeful for a baby.

Not that having a baby solves every problem. Janine is defiant—and under the impression that her commander (egads, just typing that gives me the wiggins) will run away with her. “He said that?” Offred asks. Janine’s answer doesn’t give Offred clarity. I loved the decision to keep the camera on Offred's face as she composes herself. Even though The Handmaid’s Tale is full of silences, we can clearly hear what Offred is thinking.

Soon, Offred is interrogated over her friendship with “gender traitor” Ofglen, and a few hits with a stun baton causes Serena Joy to come to her rescue. No, not her rescue. The rescue of her baby. When she finds out that Offred has started menstruating, a brief intimacy turns hostile. Actress Yvonne Strahovski finally cracks Serena’s icy exterior with rage.

But that’s nothing, nothing at all, compared to Ofglen’s journey downward. It seems she had been arrested for a relationship with her Martha-girlfriend are sentenced under biblical law.

Her punishment? Watching her girlfriend die, then being subjected to sexual castration.

Stellar Moment:

There are two of them, both of them Ofglen related.

In a single take that reminds me of Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film Children of Men, Ofglen and Martha are parted, and Ofglen watches as Martha is hung. It's a horrifying shot.

Even worse, Ofglen wakes in a hospital and finds that she has been given a clitorectomy, a.k.a. female circumcision, a.k.a. female castration. Oh gods, The Handmaid’s Tale. You went there. The way actress Alexis Bledel conveyed her horror was simply breathtaking.

Not-So-Stellar Moment

We didn’t get as much of Offred’s sarcastic commentary in this episode, and I miss her snarky inner monologue. It’s a terrific reminder that she’s of our time and place.

Also, I will never hear Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” the same way again.

Quotes:

Serena Joy to Offred: “Things can get much worse for you.”

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