Summary of Episode 2: "Birth Day":
Ofglen asks Offred to spy on Fred. Offred helps Janine as she gives birth. Later that night, Fred challenges Offred to a game of Scrabble. Offred gets bad news about Ofglen.
The Story So Far
Remember how I said the most uncomfortable scene in all of 2017 would be the scene where Offred is being f**ked by Fred? I take that back. The most uncomfortable scene in 2017 takes place in "Birth," when sanity-challenged Janine is in labor … and the wives are holding a mock-birth pageant. This comes complete with the other wives urging Warren's unnamed wife, "Breathe, breathe, breathe."
Even this scene is topped by the actual birth, when Warren's wife climbs behind Janine, wrapping her legs around the young girl, the same pose that the wives hold the handmaid's in during the sex ceremony. Janine gives birth. The wife takes the credit. And the baby.
Part of being a handmaid, we learn, isn't just the semi-consensual sex and having your child whisked away. It's the small humiliations that Offred and the others have to suffer. When speaking with the wives, one of them asks, "Would you like a cookie, dear?" and "Isn't she well-behaved?" As she leaves, she overhears one say, "Little whores, all of them."
Just like that, she's infantilized and sexualized. In the same scene.
But Offred manages to reclaim a piece of herself not once but twice. In a conversation with Ofglen, they chat about their former lives — Offred, a book editor, and Ofglen, a biologist. But Nick, Fred's chauffeur, has warned her against befriending Ofglen. Conversely, Ofglen says not to trust anyone in her house, and that includes Nick.
Nick also conveys Fred's invitation to visit him in his study. Fred invites her for a private, and therefore forbidden, game of Scrabble. You can see the way the camera holds on the tiles that she is luxuriating in intellectual delight. Her fingers graze the tiles with the same reverence she held her infant daughter.
Afterward, in the privacy of her room, she breaks down. It turns out she's laughing, not crying. It's clear this was her only happy moment in what could have been months. The next morning, we hear modern music, "Don't You Forget About Me," for the first time as she heads out to do her chores.
The music comes to an abrupt halt as a new handmaiden joins her. What happened to her friend Ofglen?
In a sentence that is chillingly consistent with "We have always been at war with Eurasia," the new handmaid responds, "I am Ofglen."
The show's stand-out moment came in a flashback, when Offred sees, firsthand, the effects of the fertility crisis. After giving birth to her daughter Hannah, she sees the maternity ward is empty, shockingly so. What happened to the other infants? The nurse tells her, "Two went to the intensive care unit and the others are with God."
Although the show tends to use silence quite effectively, at one or two points the silence was a bit too lengthy and I found myself wondering where the action was.
Offred, trying not to think about Fred as he is having sex with her: "I wish he'd hurry the f**k up."
Offred: "I can't stop thinking about the girl in the horror movie, who goes down the basement when the light is out. The girl who thinks her boyfriend with the perfect hair is just playing a sexy prank. 'Justin, are you down there?' And then she descends, with a stupid smile, to her bloody end. The girl's a f**king moron.
"Please God, don't let me be a f**king moron."