The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1/ Episode 3 “Late” – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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As it’s revealed what happens to those like the original Ofglen, June continues to try to navigate through a world in which she finds herself to be the lobster in the boiling pot.

 

It All Started Little By Little: June, Moira

A terrorist attack in Washington D.C., a few laws passed, and then suddenly the birth of The Eye and women finding themselves let go in mass. On top of that, their banking accounts frozen and their husbands, or male next of kin, are to have the money transferred to them. As you can imagine, this leads to protest. However, as the protestors get aggressive, so comes out the machine guns and not only are either people shot but a grenade launcher or something a bit more devastating gets used to maintain control.

Commentary

If has not been forgotten that Janine said Moira is dead and I was so hoping when we saw Emily in the episode we would have gotten some glimpse of Moira. Alas, we only see her in the past. Which really is something when you consider it. Some group, which still is not that developed or established, in terms of understanding their rise to power or who they are, outlaws women working and managing their own finances.

Now, like many, I can’t imagine that happening. Yet, just this last weekend, we had another sort of warning of what some may seem like an impossible future in The Circle. Both rely on this idea that good people wouldn’t let the end of privacy or autonomy come about. However, in both, it seems firmly established that there is a world of difference between those willing to march and get active and those who hope for the best and vent about the worse. All the while, the world changes, little by little, and they just settle in thinking someone they elect, a friend, or some activist will take care of things.

Yet, in both cases, we get to see what happens when you rely on others to determine your fate even as it becomes clear that things will only get incrementally worse.

The Benefits of People Thinking You’re Pregnant: June

Getting pregnant is a big thing. You are exalted in a way, especially if you have a healthy baby. With that, the few remaining luxuries of the world are yours and you receive the last remnants of kindness, that might be genuine, left in the world. However, June isn’t pregnant. With that, Serena Joy goes from this very kind woman, one who stops June being interrogated and abused by Aunt Lydia, to an almost wicked stepmother in a children’s fairytale.

Commentary

With Serena Joy establishing that she did try to get pregnant at one time, only to discover she can’t, it sort of ruins the hierarchy idea I had. However, it doesn’t necessarily clear up how does one become a handmaiden, chosen to be a wife, and what have you. You’d think Handmaidens would be chosen like Janine and June because they had children in the past, but then Moira kind of ruins that theory.

But what is clear though, based on how Janine’s mistress, once you have your child you are given time to rest but then you could easily get sent off to your next assignment. For while there seems to be a population shortage, what woman is really going to put up with a Handmaiden like Janine? Especially one who is not only fertile but younger, some semblance of attractive, and maybe even a better lay?

Though, handmaiden stuff aside, it was interesting to see The Eye at work, much less see Aunt Lydia as their sort of enforcer. But, at this point, I’m starting to believe she is just responsible for all handmaidens in the area and any business dealing with them, she is to be present. That thought aside, seeing them work and interrogate wasn’t as fearful as I was expecting. I was thinking they’d take her to some police investigation room which you could hear muffled noises in the back and they really set this deserved tone of fear you know? However, being that The Eye is mostly silent, and covert in a way, you come to realize that wouldn’t be the best way to operate. They are observers, sometimes the hand of god, but like our current police force, for some, their real job is being a deterrent for crime.

Really leading me to wonder, with it seeming like the world has trained so drastically, how does one become a member of The Eye or like Aunt whoever? Though we have been given such a large world, it still very much feels like we are seeing but a satellite image and aren’t zoomed in on any particular detail really. At least when it comes to things which don’t deal with giving childbirth.

Leading to one last question for this topic: What are the children being trained to do in school now?

What Happens to Gender Traitors: Emily (Formerly Known as Ofglen)

Ofglen, who Aunt Lydia reveals the true name of: Emily, is seen. Her as well as her lover Martha. Now, being that Martha can’t have children, she is hung. As for Emily? Well, the court, which is without a jury and simply has a judge and witnesses, sentences her to redemption. Which, from the looks of it, maybe female genital mutilation.

Commentary

One thing I have been a bit confused about was the significance of names on this show. Especially the changing of them since, for the most part, none of these names sounded anything but white American. We have June, Emily, Hannah, and generic names like that. It isn’t like Moira, which isn’t as common, and certainly nothing which has a sort of “other” vibe. But it seems that names are almost like titles in their world. It isn’t like some sort of Ellis Island thing where your new name is made to allow for assimilation but is like an ID number of some kind.

The whole name thing aside, I was really hoping we would have gotten to see colonies. For while, I get, too much too soon, they have to string this along since this is perhaps one of the first Hulu productions that is really noteworthy and wholly original [note]as in it wasn’t ported from a different station[/note], I’m excited. Not on the level that Anne had me excited, but this is a distant 2nd. Making me somewhat peeved that we’ll actually have to wait one week for each episode yet, at the same time, it gives us all something to look forward to.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Again, reading the commentary of someone who hasn’t already read the novel is fascinating… to give some answers to your questions…

    Again, the novel is told in the first person from June’s point of view. So it is SUPPOSED to present a limited view of the world – much of the drama in the book comes from the protagonist’s frustration at not being able to know everything about the world around her… one of the techniques that Margaret Atwood uses to get the audience to empathise with June is making sure that the reader never knows more than the main character.

    The only glimpse of the colonies that occurs in the novel comes when characters watch propaganda films. What they see in this footage may or may not be true… it is hinted that there are two kinds of colonies, one where the prisoners are forced to work slave labour, farming the produce and manufacturing products for the use of Gilead… the other type of colony sentence is “toxic clean up duty”, where prisoners are forced to clean up areas that have been damaged by pollution or nuclear warfare. They usually perish within a month so this amounts to a death sentence.

    Margaret Atwood wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale” in 1985 and was largely inspired by the (then-recent) news of how Iran had transitioned from a secular democratic country with (for The Middle East anyway) tolerant attitudes toward women to a totalitarian theocracy that stripped women of their rights… if you want to understand the methods of the fundamentalists in “The Handmaid’s Tale” without reading the novel or waiting for it to be revealed in the TV series, then read up on the history of Iran prior to 1985 and you’ll find a lot of details there about how totalitarian theocracy can establish itself in a previously secular country…. she was also inspired by the way in which the CIA meddled in South American politics at the time, indulging in covert regime change. The methods that the fundamentalists use to take over in “The Handmaid’s Tale” are use some of the above methods, but the infertility crisis enables them to act faster in subverting and then toppling the existing government.

    Already, this series has revealed more details about certain things than the novel ever did… in the novel, we never find out Ofglen’s real name (she’s called “Emily” in the series)… the series reveals that Ofglen is gay, in the novel, her sexuality is never mentioned… we know absolutely nothing about Ofglen’s background in the novel… and after she mysteriously disappears from the narrative, June hears a rumour that Ofglen comitted suicide before the government could arrest her (but June is unsure if this rumour is true or not, because she hears it from someone she just met and doesn’t completely trust)… indeed, the Ofglen in Atwood’s novel is an enigma.

    The government of Gilead have access to all the existing medical records of the former USA, so I imagine it would be quite easy to compile a list of fertile women residing in the country. Even lesbians, considering the number of gay women these days who would consult a doctor about the possibility of conceiving via a sperm-donor, or serving as a surrogate for another couple.

    As for the issue of naming, it is symbolic of how women are stripped of their power. They are addressed according to their assigned role in society so as to undermine their individuality and sense of self-worth.

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