While trying to maintain her sanity in Episode 4, "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum," Offred reflects on the Offred who came before her.
The Story So Far:
Offred, wearing a faded version of last week’s bruises, has been shut in her room for 13 days on Serena’s command. The strain is beginning to break her. Her only comfort is in the corner of her closet, where the previous Offred has carved into the wall a cryptic phrase in Latin, which she does not speak: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
In a flashback, we get to see how much this means to Offred. In the past, her best friend Moira risks losing a hand to carve “Aunt Lydia sux” on a wall, just to let other women know that they’re not alone.
Other flashbacks include the scene where the women are taught about the not-at-all-rapey "ceremony.” Moira and June soon kidnap an Aunt, Moira takes her clothes, and the two try to flee to a train. But because the Republic of Gilead has removed all signage in the station, they get confused. They are only separated by the space of a few yards, but June manages to be captured by a guard. June gives a small smile of encouragement to her friend, and with that, only Moira escapes. What a painful moment.
June’s punishment: She is whipped on the soles of her feet and dragged back to the dorm.
In the present, Offred faints, and she is carted off to a doctor. In one of the creepier scenes—and that’s saying something—the doctor says she’s fertile … and offers to impregnate her. “It will only take a few minutes,” he says. She turns down the offer. She even says, “Thank you.” This is a woman who really has been beaten down.
When Offred returns, she apologizes to Serena for her miscarriage and begs to be let out of her room, but Sadist Serena orders her back. We get to see the source of Serena’s pain, during a conversation with Fred at the breakfast table. She offers competent advice and strategy, yet is quickly cut off. She is very much alone in her marriage.
That night is “ceremony” night, wherein Offred gets to be sexed up by Fred while lying between Serena’s legs. Fred breaks protocol by coming into the room before the servants and his wife. He asks Offred for a rematch in Scrabble. Before she can gather her thoughts to answer, they are interrupted.
In what is the show’s only amusing scene, Fred cannot become aroused. Ceremony over.
That night, Offred meets Fred in his library, and her hand stroking the book covers is the sexiest thing we’ve seen in The Handmaid's Tale. She asks about the previous Offred and the Latin phrase. It means “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
Inspired, Offred asks about the woman who came before. Fred tells her that she committed suicide, that he would regret the same thing happening to her. Offred, in a clear bit of manipulation, ventures, “It has been so hard being alone in that room all the time.” Message received.
The next day, Offred is free.
The final flashback comes when she’s back in the dorm. The other handmaids appear and leave bits of food for her. They empathize with her. They are with her. In the present, she walks away, head held high.
The scene where Fred cannot get aroused is weirdly funny, and kudos to Joseph Fiennes for his performance about his lack of performance.
After failing to achieve lift-off, he leaves for the bathroom, and Serena offers to “assist” him. You can clearly see how much Serena wants his affection. It almost makes you feel sorry for her. But not quite.
I have to say, the episode’s finale rubbed me the wrong way. In the very last shot, we hear Offred say, “These women are me,” as a group of handmaids walk toward the camera proudly … as if they’re owning their lives. It doesn’t work. None of them chose this life. They only chose to survive it.
Also, no Ofglen. I want to know how she’s coping with her profound loss.
Offred: "There are things in this room to discover, I’m like an explorer, a traveler to undiscovered countries. It’s better than a lunatic lost in her memories."
Offred: "Don’t let the bastards grind you down, bitches."