Previously on The Handmaid’s Tale, “Other Women”
The seeds of change, seeds of hope, seeds of resentment, seeds of grief, seeds of depression. Actual seeds planted in the ground. If there was a seed metaphor available this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale touched upon it. After a chat with Aunt Lydia, Selena has either had a change of heart or is newly medicated as her demeanor towards Offred has… softened. In an effort to create a more nurturing environment for the development of “her” baby she is completely missing the signs that Offred’s condition is deteriorating.
Upon finding a spot of blood in her underwear, Offred ignores it and moves throughout the days. All responses and interactions are mute; it’s as if she is walking through life on autopilot. Offred is miscarrying her child and hasn’t mentioned it to anyone, not even Rita. The days pass, Nick notices something off about Offred and Serena brushes it off. In this world, the duty of a handmaid is to bear the children. And this episode reveals there are other women who have more perceived freedoms being shipped from their homes outside of city centers, married off and directed to bear children. A group of drivers, Nick included, are wed to these child brides in another terrifying demonstration of what Gilead has become. Before Nick can consummate his new union he finds Offred in a crumpled heap on the ground bleeding profusely. Amazingly, Offred survives, as does the baby, and she promises the child will not grow up under the thumb of Giliead. The seed of rebellion is planted.
Emily is paralyzed by fear and dread of being in a place like the colonies and just wants to stick with the status quo. Janine, on the other hand, is taking radioactive lemons and trying to make lemonade. It’s hard to believe after all Janine has been through that she still has a light spirit. She hasn’t been completely broken and is determined to retain what humanity she has left regardless of how she is being treated. Small moments like noticing a dandelion ready to be blown into the wind to spread its seeds; encouraging a couple to secretly wed before one of them dies from being worked to death. Janine is the light in this episode and plants the seed of hope in Emily’s slowly wilting heart.
This episode challenged me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I finished “Seeds” and had to sit with myself a few moments. My husband was talking to me and I barely heard him. I thought I was going to have to call in a favor with Jasmin: “Hey girl, this episode was a little heavy for me. I don’t think I can do this.” Then I fired it up again and put myself in Offred’s shoes.
The first four episodes of the season really put me in a space where it was becoming very easy to hate June. June was the feature. She was the focus and I don’t like June. Offred in Gilead is a vessel. She is meant to blend in the background while she gestates a human being and the world carries on without her input. Day in and day out: “Yes, Mrs. Waterford” “No, Mrs. Waterford” “Blessed be the fruit.” Rinse and repeat, so when she finds herself bleeding in the bathroom. She just soldiers on. “Yes, Mrs. Waterford” “No, Mrs. Waterford.” The days wear on and the bleeding increases. Eventually she is walking around the house in underwear saturated in blood. She offers no additional signal that she isn’t okay. That the baby isn’t okay and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I want to scream, “Speak up! ” But she was making a subconscious choice to abort her child and who was I to judge her for it? The conditions to raise a child who had a 50% chance of being female were grim. This world had no precedent for the children of the higher-class; are the females raised to be Mrs. or will one false move place them as Handmaids? Offred knows as much as we do and she doesn’t want this life for her child. She was making a choice. Or was depression making the choice for her? Was it depression that was planting the seed that death for her, the child, or both would offer the true chance at freedom? I don’t think we’ll ever know. What we do know is after this trauma she is more motivated to escape the Waterfords with her child in tow.
A few questions and observations
- What’s next for Offred? She is approximately 4-months pregnant and needs to be somewhere safe to deliver. Does she play it safe for the remainder of the pregnancy and escape after the child is born? Does she try to escape later in the pregnancy when the risk to the baby is lower?
- Mr. Waterford just cannot help himself. In his attempt to get Nick “promoted” to a post in New York, he finds himself with another mouth to feed. His jealous streak is going to get the Waterfords in hot water.
- Emily seems less defeated after Janine’s arrival. I wonder how long before they run into June’s mom. You don’t cast Cherry Jones just to throw her away after one episode. Maybe as a trio they find a way to escape or even overthrow the Aunts.