The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1/ Episode 4 “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum” – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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With it being 13 days since June has been outside, seen someone besides the meek Rita and malicious Serena Joy, she is losing it. Yet, she finds a message hidden away for her that provides strength.

Breakout!: Moira, June

Before given their assignments, Moira and June made a breakout attempt. One in which Aunt Elizabeth was threatened, stripped, and tied as Moira pretended to be an aunt and planned to take June to Boston. However, while asking for which track goes to Boston they got separated and June ended up being surrounded by The Eye. Not sure what to do, June gave the slightest of nods letting her know it was okay and that was it for her.

Thus leaving June to suffer the punishment. Of which was being whipped on her feet. Though, in a showing of solidarity, her fellow handmaids give her bits of food to eat the following morning.

Commentary

Early on we were told Moira was dead, yet there remains hope that Jeannie is just crazy and perhaps was picking with June. For what reason I can’t say, but with Moira noting some group called “The Collective” maybe news just spread about her death for protection? Though, come to think about it, even though the internet exists, how would someone like Jeannie hear about Moira’s fate? Granted, Emily was able to do some espionage in the past, but who would be dumb enough to tell Jeannie something? Especially with her mouth? [note]Apparently there are Black aunts since no one looked at Moira twice. Much less, maybe not all aunts are women who have gone through menopause since, again, no one took a 2nd look at Moira and questioned things.[/note] [note]We see the rare depiction of a Black man in this episode! He was chipping away at a sign which would direct people.[/note]

That aside, I wonder if “The Collective,” that Moira talks about, is the same group Emily worked for? Much less, are they the rebels? When will we get to see them? Is Nick perhaps one of them? For there is something about that boy I just can’t put my finger on and the way he watches June makes me think there is more to him than what we have thus far seen.

I Want To Know You/ Have Your Life Be Bearable: June, Serena Joy, Commander Fred Whitford

This world is too much for June to survive alone. Much less with a mistress like Serena Joy, it is like suicide is a thought but the pain something which can’t be barred. So June takes refuge in her closet and reads the title of the episode. Something which roughly translates to “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down.” Which she is trying to do. Heck, some even try to help her.

After passing out, or at least saying she did to be allowed outside for the first time in 13 days, she goes to the doctor. One who is willing to impregnate June for he is under the belief the commander may just be sterile. However, she says no thank you and the man walks away.

Though to make matters worse, not only may the commander be sterile but now he is suffering from erectile dysfunction. Which, of course, in their world is June’s fault. But she does take some blame on this for she shuts down the conversation he tries to have with her before “The Ceremony.” To make up for that, they play scrabble once again and when she prods about the former Offred, the Commander reveals she killed herself.

Hence his kindness for he doesn’t want to see another woman die. Heck, maybe he knows he is the problem and doesn’t want another woman’s death on his conscious? You never know. What is known though is that June plans to play his guilt to her advantage. Thus leading to her getting to go outside. [note]From what it seems, the EU have a trade embargo with the country June lives in and they are trying to work with Mexico to get something working. It isn’t clear what they would trade but it does seem Serena Joy, in her past life, was a woman with ideas. Perhaps PR or political skills. However, since the Commander takes his role seriously as the man of the house when it comes to her, he doesn’t let the conversation go on.[/note]

Commentary

A part of me wonders if the Commander may have true affections for June. For, if I recall right, based off the way June talked about Nick, you are assigned a wife, you can’t pick one. So that would explain why the Commander seems so cold to Serena Joy. Yet, with it not being fully clear the power of the mistress, could she get rid of her Handmaid if she suspected she is being replaced? Much less, what are the rules regarding 2nd wives?

On top of that, what is the policy for divorce? In my mind, you’d think in this male dominated society that men could divorce and remarry on a whim while the woman would bear the brunt of it. Perhaps earn the designation that Rita currently holds.

Leaving one last thought, considering the way the world works, and as noted in the note for this section’s summary, there are trade embargos in effect. However, you have to wonder if foreign nations are going beyond that? You know, like how the US funds rebel groups currently, I wonder if Central/Couth American, Canada, or other nations maybe supporting the rebels? Heck, maybe they might be supporting this strange regime? For there is just something about seeing the massive amount of military weapons which leads you to believe that surely they haven’t taken that much of the country right?

Though, lest we forget, it seems all these people started off as elected figures so who really knows how much power was snatched up and consolidated before the rebels really formed up?

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Alas, it seems that the series has departed from the novel completely on several key points here… which has muddled the narrative somewhat… a lot of the things you found confusing would’ve been A LOT clearer if they had just stuck to the book for this episode…

    In the novel, June is not present during Moira’s escape. Moira acts alone and June is completely unaware of what Moira has done until after the fact… Aunt Lydia is the one who informs Janine of the details of Moira’s escape. The reason she does this is because she thinks that Janine has been “broken” and is now a loyal servant of the regime. Aunt Lydia wants Janine to talk about Moira’s escape to her fellow Handmaidens-in-training and inform upon any who voice a subversive opinion.
    (Janine, in the novel, actually puts on a good show of being pious and “repenting” for the “sin” of “leading on” the men who raped her as a teenager… she has also gotten out of the habit of mouthing off at this point in the story – so, when one is reading the novel, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Aunt Lydia would tell her these things because her character has grown and changed more than in the Hulu series)

    So yeah, June is never punished by having her feet smashed… this happens to a completely different character for a completely different offence.

    Oh, and Janine having one of her eyes ripped out (as also happens in the Hulu series), this NEVER happens anywhere in the book.

    Moira doesn’t talk to June about a “collective” prior to her escape, in fact, she’s not completely sure what she will do once she does escape – but she’s just so desperate to get out of there that she takes the risk anyway.

    The novel was written in 1985… and Margaret Atwood didn’t predict the internet, so there is no online-grapevine in this dystopia, just old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

    Fred doesn’t have an erectile dysfunction in the novel… on the contrary, its strongly hinted at that he has been regularly cheating on Serena for many years prior to the events of the novel. Its hard to say more without giving away spoilers, but suffice it to say, he is depicted as being promiscuous in the book, and has no trouble getting it up… and though it’s hinted that he may be sterile, it is never conclusively confirmed in the novel that this is the case. Margaret Atwood chose to leave this matter deliberately ambiguous.

    I must say, as a fan of the book, I’m worried at your mention of The Commander’s “kindness” – there is a sinister, and self-serving agenda to everything he does for June… and in the novel, when his true motivation is revealed, Fred is shown to be an emotionally-abusive manipulator and hypocrite, as well as a bigot…. I hope that the Hulu series doesn’t change the part of the novel where Fred’s true colours show and June discovers the REAL reason he’s been treating her with such “generosity”… already the series has toned down Fred by removing the racist aspects of his character (and the racist aspects of the whole regime).

    I had to laugh at your footnote comment about seeing a black man in this episode… in the novel all black people are deported from the country and its hinted they are being sent to death camps. The government has an extreme White Supremacist agenda in the novel… again, I can’t help but think the makers of the Hulu series have only made the government of the story seem less evil by the inclusiveness that they have inserted into this series and perhaps created more problems in terms of storytelling.

    You’re right about there being something more to Nick, he is a subversive, but in the novel its not made entirely clear if he’s a true believer in the resistance, or a corrupt servant of the government… it is strongly hinted that he may be a kind of “double agent” who cares only about himself, playing both sides to his own advantage. But considering how much the series has already changed, this characterisation might not be followed through either.

    • I am loving reading your book comparison comments. They bring about a whole different outlook. Making me really wish the books I read were made into TV shows so I could have the same experience (Well, outside of 13 Reasons Why). Though I would imagine it would probably be more frustrating when it comes to series like this. Especially since, the way it seems, they softened the characters to the point it almost seems inspired by than a full on adaptation.

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