Previously on The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Other Side”
I didn’t believe it was possible for me to despise any of the male characters on this show more than I already do, then this episode happened and they proved me wrong.
Commander Waterford likes playing with fire in the way that everyone around him could get burned and he would remain unscathed. So while Serena Joy is away, Commander Waterford plays. He has zero regard for Offred, or Nick for that matter, and will do anything to get what he wants. The Commander wants to take her out on the town. Offred is presented with a gold sheath dress and heels; items that are expressly forbidden in The Republic. He even supplies her with enough makeup to make her look less like a concubine and more like the woman she was before Gilead. Because Offred is in no position to argue, she bathes, shaves her legs, and gets dressed for the evening. The Commander’s idea of a night on the town has a lot to be desired — Offred is taken to a brothel; an illegal brothel in which he has to lie to gain passage through several checkpoints. He thinks it’s exciting, Nick and June’s silent eye contact say otherwise.
The brothel is a smoky, hazy space brimming with misery and filled with women pleasuring the men, who made it legal for them to be imprisoned, raped, and bred like cattle. Besides the Colonies, it is absolutely the last place Offred would wish to be, but she is out of the house and feeling close to normal. The booze flows and Offred locks eyes with Moira and she is brought back to reality. Moira is alive. Offred looks likes she’s seen a ghost, flooded with emotion and desperation, she beds the Commander, and sneaks off to see Moira. Their reunion is bittersweet. Moira was captured and given the choice between The Colonies or the pleasure house; she chose sterilization and the pleasure house. She chose security and a roof over her head. It’s hard to begrudge her that over a slow death from radiation poisoning. There is no more hope here than there is at the Waterford’s. June and Moira part ways and it’s one of the saddest moments on this show so far.
Under His Eye
Who was Nick before the rise of Gilead? This isn’t a question I had for this show; I didn’t care. He comes across as the “nice guy” who thinks you should have sex with him because he gave you a ride home from work one day. But before B.G., he was your wayward son, brother or cousin; he drifted from job to job and had a critical anger management problem. And he was the prime demographic for the Sons of Jacob, the order of men that came together to form the plan creating the model for Gilead.
After a chance encounter with a recruiter, Andrew Pryce, at a job placement agency, Nick is invited to attend a Sons of Jacob meeting. This ultimately led to his placement with Commander Waterford as his driver and working as an Eye for the Sons of Jacob. The Sons of Jacob are filled with the type of men you expect, those who “believed” in this new nation, and those who “believed” this new nation would just get their wives to shut up and make them a sandwich. Nick doesn’t seem to believe any of it. It’s a job that provides him with security and place to rest his head. He keeps his eyes forward and does what he is asked as an Eye for the Sons. This includes trading secrets with the Martha at the brothel and reporting Commander Waterford’s elicit activities back to now Commander Pryce. One such activity was the suicide of the Handmaid prior to June. She was found by Rita, hanged from the ceiling with bed sheets; the commander’s response was ambivalence while Serena Joy was furious with him for leading the now deceased handmaid to suicide. Nick reports this all to Commander Pryce, who states that the Waterfords are a concern and need to be watched. This also answers the question if Waterford is an underling; he is, and he needs to watch his step.
While I didn’t need to know more about Nick’s backstory this episode did give us details on the days/weeks leading up to the revolt. This new information helps form a better picture of how a group would be able to overthrow a government with little recourse. The evolution of the thought process that oppressing women is the cure to what ails all men is ridiculous to say the least, and vomit inducing at its worst. The episode also focused a lot on choices for survival: Moira’s choice between prostitution or death, Nick’s choice between unemployment or working for the Sons, and June’s choice (I use this loosely) to play along with the Commander’s desire or feel the wrath of non-compliance. I’m emotionally exhausted after watching each episode and this was no different. What do you do when you see your best friend alive after having grieved her death, only to know this may be the last time you see her? You ugly cry and choke back the tears as you return to your cell.
With two episodes left in the season and no hope in sight, what will become of June?
The Handmaid's Tale S1E8
Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Samira Riley, Yvonne Stahoviski, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella, Madeline Brewer