Serena makes Offred go to extremes to get what she wants. And that means illegal activity.
The Story So Far:
The flashbacks are interwoven throughout The Handmaid's Tale, but I'm starting with them first. In "Faithful," we see how June/Offred meets her husband Luke with the help of her bestie Moira; he tells June her photo makes her look "invincible." Later we see them having a very flirtatious lunch together, which turns into a rendezvous at a hotel. When they make love, June tells him she likes to be on top.
The catch is, Luke is married — and now we know why June was called an adulterer in a previous episode. After their encounter, she tells him to leave his wife. He agrees. After all, they're in love with each other.
In the beginning of the episode, we learn that Offred and Fred have flirted their way through 34 Scrabble games together, and when she wins, he gives her a present: a woman's magazine, now forbidden. She reads and enjoys it — and he seems to enjoy her.
But Offred is still not pregnant and Serena wants that to change. She asks Offred to help her in the garden. Offred's eyes are drawn to Serena's pruning shears and her bare neck. Throughout this episode, Offred stares longingly at potential weapons.
Serena tells Offred — not in so many words — that she wants Offred to have sex with Nick the driver. Offred agrees. Once again, Offred has awkward sex with Serena present. But it's not the last time. Ceremony Night is back. Only this time, Fred is aroused by Offred and grabs her by the thigh.
Offred admonishes Fred for his familiarity in front of his wife. He apologizes. But their conversation turns chilly, and we get to see Fred as The Commander, who tells her love isn't real. Women's biological destiny is to have children. Oh, and Ofglen was genitally mutilated. Or as he puts it, "We saved her."
Offred also confronts Nick, who apologizes for sexing her up. She asks him straight out if he is an Eye, a member of the secret police. He tells her he is.
Later, after Offred sees the former Ofglen (more on that in a minute), she's more than a little detached from her emotions. In a conversation with Serena, the only glimmer of emotion comes when her eyes once again light on the pruning shears.
Perhaps as a way to feel something, anything, Offred goes to Nick's room, where they have sex. Only this time, she's on top.
Meanwhile, Ofglen, now known as Ofsteven, is back, and she's just as you'd expect: a shell of herself. From her, Offred learns of a movement called Mayday. But soon she's taken away by the new Ofglen, who warns her to stay away from Ofsteven. It seems that in life before Gilead, New Ofglen was a drug-addicted prostitute, and this new world is much sweeter for her.
But Offred can't stay away from her old friend Ofsteven, and in a market, Ofsteven tells her to find Mayday. They hold hands briefly before New Ofglen pulls Offred away. Without much forethought, Ofsteven grabs a car and drives away, a momentary burst of freedom … only to come back and run over a guard, who dies messily. Ofsteven is captured and hauled away. As Offred thinks later in her room, "She looked invincible."
What The Handmaid's Tale does and does so beautifully is transitions. The scene where June and Moira are laughing together cuts straight into Offred's white face, devoid of joy, sitting at a breakfast table. The scene where June and Luke make love for the first time segues into Offred lying on a bed, where Nick penetrates her. Just looking at this show gives me emotional whiplash.
I can't say enough about Alexis Bledel's performance as Ofsteven. She's wonderful, and I'm sad to see her go. Unless ... unless we see her again even more damaged. That would make me even more sad.
Compared to the previous few episodes, this feels like very little has happened. It did. But it didn't have the same emotional impact as the previous ones had. Maybe, like Offred, I'm becoming numb.
I just realized that Offred had sex four times in this one episode. It's a good thing she's on her back for half of it. That would be exhausting.
Offred, thinking about Serena: "How hard would I have to press those shears into her neck before seeing blood?"
Fred: "I only wanted to make the world better. Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some."