Summary: In flashbacks, Lydia captures Offred and introduces her to the Red Center. In the present, Serena confronts Offred about what she did with Fred. Offred learns she is pregnant. Serena shows Offred where Hannah is living and ensures that she will be kept safe. Offred shares some venomous words with Serena. Warren is amputated as punishment for his crimes. Janine is to be executed by the handmaids, but they all disobey Aunt Lydia and refuse to do it. Offred open the package to discover letters from other handmaids. Nick takes Offred from the Waterford residence into a van. Moira reaches Little America and reunites with Luke.
The Good: This was an excellent season finale which had a lot of great cathartic moments and also consisted of a lot of unclear scenes which served to set up a fantastic cliffhanger leading into the next season.
I'll start by discussing the early parts of the episode first. Offred and Serena's scenes were simply excellent throughout. Serena was brilliant as she was awful to Offred while also managing to be relatable as she is so clearly desperate to have a child. It was wonderful to see Serena berate Offred for what she did with Fred before immediately forcing her to take a pregnancy test. That scene alone does a great job of demonstrating what Serena's priorities are. Better yet though, was their subsequent tri where Serena takes Offred to show her where Hannah is currently living. What followed was one of the show's most powerful moments as Offred was forced to helplessly watch as Hannah was mere metres away from her but she was unable to get her attention. And if that wasn't enough, the show follows up with a wonderfully cold outburst from Offred towards Serena which was effective on pretty much every level of emotional storytelling (see: Best Moment).
Another major character who had some great scenes was Fred. While we unfortunately still don't know much about him (see: The Bad), it's made crystal clear that Fred is an awful human being at this point. We learn that Serena is aware of what Fred had been doing with Offred and is very upset by it, and Fred very clearly doesn't care. But after a tremendous scene where Fred learns that people actually do listen to the wives' opinion when laying down sentences on the husbands, Fred does a total 180 and tells Serena exactly what she wants to hear: he made mistakes but it's okay because now they are going to have a baby. It was a really good way to set up season 2 which I presume will have a fair bit more focus on the relationship between these 2, especially with Offred seemingly going somewhere else.
Let's talk about that ending now. We know very little about what actually happened to Offred and that makes it a fantastic cliffhanger going into season 2. Nick tells her to trust him but we can't say for sure where his current allegiances lie, and I can't say if he is making a move for himself against the Waterfords or if he is genuinely helping her. It's wonderfully ambiguous and does a great job of putting us in Offred's shoes as we have as much of an idea of what's happening as she does. A great ending.
I really loved the climactic scene with Janine's attempted execution. It was suitably grim when we realized what was happening and I thought Ann Dowd was spectacular as she conveyed the conflict within Aunt Lydia as she sentenced Janine to death. The subsequent refusal from the handmaids was a great moment and finally gave us something to cheer about in this show so filled with misery. The "I'm sorry Aunt Lydia" line was superbly used as well and was a great callback to the flashback which opened the episode, giving the moment even more power. Lastly, the group walk from the handmaids felt very earned after that scene and I thought it was 100 times more effective than the weak ending from "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum".
Seeing Moira meet Luke was a nice moment as well. Her actual arrival in Little America was great and Samira Wiley did an excellent job of conveying the shock of actually being able to live her own life without being somebody else's tool for the first time in years. Her meeting with Luke didn't feel hollow at all despite my complaints about their characters, and I think it had a suitable amount of emotional resonance to it, created by the idea that these 2 characters were alone for so long and now they finally have somebody again.
The Bad: It was disappointing to not get any information on Fred's backstory. He had been such a fascinating mystery throughout the season, so to discover that he is a total scumbag without any motives behind why he chose to be a scumbag was extremely weak. It feels really lazy in the same way it was lazy that no detail was given to how Gilead functions.
I was very displeased with Moira's escape from Gilead. We had a whole episode wasted on Luke leaving Gilead, which established how hard it was to escape, yet Moira just casually drives out of Gilead with no focus given to her. That's such a cop out and is completely disappointing on every level while also making "The Other Side" feel like even more of a waste of time. Furthermore, we know that Moira was caught when she left before but we never found out how. Had we been explained this, it could have created some genuine tension as Moira left in the previous episode with her knowing that she can't afford to make the same mistake again. It could have made for a tense story which gave us a bit more insight on Moira's character and it also would have made the scene where Moira reaches Ontario much more powerful than it was. Instead we got practically nothing for her which was a huge waste of storytelling potential.
The Unknown: What consequences did Aunt Lydia have in mind for the handmaids? Could the end of the episode be those consequences coming to fruition?
What are Nick's motives at the ending? He openly displayed his love in front of Serena earlier in the episode, so could that have had something to do with it? Was Nick perhaps choosing to escape before Serena learns anything more? Or is it nothing to do with that? Is Nick saving Offred from Aunt Lydia? Or has he turned the other way and decided to turn Offred in for something? Will Offred's pregnancy save her? Could Offred's pregnancy be why she was taken away? Could it be because Nick told somebody about Fred's activities with Offred? There are so many questions to keep us hooked into season 2 which is great.
Best Moment: Offred throwing everything at Serena for teasing her with a simple view of Hannah was tremendous. It felt real because we know that Offred has been on the edge for a long time, and this was the shove over the edge that sent her into emotional hell. Her words had real venom to them and really hit hard.
Character of the Episode: Offred.
Conclusion: This was an excellent finale with a lot of extremely powerful and memorable moments. It had some flaws throughout, but the storytelling was more than good enough to overcome them to make this episode stand out. I'm definitely excited for season 2.
As for the season as a whole, I thought it was pretty good, but it had a lot of weaker aspects including its side characters and world-building. Honestly if this show's acting and storytelling wasn't as stellar as it was, this would have been a pretty big flop of a TV show. Thankfully though the performances invested me into the storylines and even if the writing dropped the ball a number of times, I still enjoyed it because I had gotten invested to a few of the characters. In the end this season was good, but I think it could have been great had some things been handled better. Let's hope that season 2 fixes the problems I had so this show can hit the next level which I know it's fully capable of hitting.
Summary: Janine hands off baby Angela to the Putnams and is relocated as Ofdaniel. She has difficulties adjusting and wants to be with Commander Putnam. Offred is met by Alma who tells her to get a package from Jezebels that night. Offred convinces Fred to take her back to Jezebels. Offred meets with Moira and convinces her to send her the package later. Janine tries to jump off a bridge with the baby. Offred convinces her to leave the baby, but Janine jumps anyways and barely survives. Moira kills a client and escapes Jezebels.
The Good: The Janine storyline was excellent in this episode. It was very clear that she would have issues giving baby Angela (or Charlotte in her eyes) away so it felt like the episode was inevitably building to her breaking point at the end. The performance from Madeline Brewer was superb throughout and she did a great job of conveying Janine's fragile state and impossible beliefs that Commander Putnam would just abandon his life for her to be a part of their family. The ceremony scene was excellent and did a great job of conveying how Janine's world has fallen apart now that she's realized that her family has actually left her. It was tremendously performed.
Furthermore, the climax of the episode on the bridge was really powerful and tense, and I think it was one of the best scenes in the entire show which appropriately mixed the show's horrific and cruel nature with genuine emotion and tension. I was actively rooting for Offred to save Janine and I was extremely nervous throughout because I knew that this was a show which wouldn't hesitate to have Janine jump off the bridge with the baby. Thankfully the baby was safe, but the scene still packed a punch with Janine jumping off. I thought that Ann Dowd was excellent and really conveyed how major the scene was due to the importance of handmaids.
I really enjoyed the scene where Offred attempted to convince Fred to take her back to Jezebels. It was tense and I was really enjoying the idea of Offred attempting to work Fred to give her what she wants. At first I thought it had went a little too well, but I was overjoyed to learn that Fred knew why she wanted to go back to Jezebels and he just took advantage of the situation. It makes Fred seem less like an idiot which is nice because he really shouldn't be portrayed as just a fool, especially considering his position as commander. I also loved Fred's cold dismissal of Moira after she came into conflict with Offred, as it makes him seem more like the cruel man he most likely has become.
Offred and Moira's scene together was pretty good and had some good emotion in it. It was sad to see how their close friendship has fallen and that these 2 who staged an escape no longer can since Moira has accepted her new life. And once again, the performances were stellar. This show is honestly made by how good its performances are.
The Bad: Did it seriously take Serena so long to suspect Fred, especially since everyone apparently knew he was messing around with the first Offred? First of all, why hasn't anybody said anything about that It's illegal after all. And also, this makes Serena's "what did you think was going to happen" from last episode even more perplexing, as it seemingly serves no purpose now. Also, how did Serena not notice him leave? The Martha even noticed that he left. Also, while discussing the Martha, what was the point of getting her backstory? She hasn't been important at all so I really couldn't be bothered to care.
Apparently Nick actually loves Offred, which just makes him more annoying in my eyes. So why did he just stop being with her in the last episode? Was it actually because it was too dangerous? Why not just stop it earlier? Or let Offred know how he felt about it?
So why did Fred even go back to Jezebels anyways? Surely he could have waited for a better day instead of just going back for Offred? We need to know something about his motives. Also, I really want to know why Fred became such a prick over the years, but seeing how the finale is up next, it seems that we won't find out which is disappointing. I had hoped to get more about him in this episode but we really didn't.
Moira is an extremely shallow character. We know very little about her which made her transformation in this episode practically meaningless. Why did she decide to listen to Offred? Why did she change her mind? I have no idea and that's a problem. We need to see characters reaching a point where they make decisions like that, not just see them make a choice with no insight on why they made the choice. I feel like getting an episode more focused on Moira in Jezebels would have been much more compelling of an episode than something like "The Other Side", which just wasted time.
We also need more insight on Aunt Lydia. Apparently she really does care about her handmaids, which does seem quite different from what I had initially seen from her. At first she seemed to treat them poorly and use that as her way of valuing them, but now she seems far more caring than expected. Also if the handmaids are so valuable that having Janine die would be awful, why would they send potentially fertile women to Jezebels and the colonies? Shouldn't Aunt Lydia be pissed off by that as well?
The Unknown: What's in the package?
Best Moment: Offred talking to Janine on the bridge was powerful. I love how they talked about how things would change and their futures would be better. It felt very real and was absolutely the best way to bring emotion to the scene since we hardly know about how Janine and Offred work as friends.
Character of the Episode: Janine.
Conclusion: This was a very strong episode at times, but the show still has some big flaws which prevent this from reaching greatness. This show has some excellent storytelling but it is really lacking on the details which transform a show from good to great. Perhaps the finale will allow the show to reach the heights which I know it has potential to reach.
Summary: In flashbacks, Nick is shown to be a loser who is selected to be an Eye when he turns in a commander for putting his hands on a handmaid. Fred takes Offred out for the night when Serena is gone. He takes her to Jezebels, a modern strip club where Offred finds Moira. Fred rapes Offred in the building before they return. Nick ends his relationship with Offred.
The Good: It was good to get some backstory on Nick so I could at least get something for his character. Before I knew nothing about him, and now I at least understand his motives and character. The flashbacks also gave a really nice detail which revealed the backstory of the ceremony. I loved that little scene and I wish the show had more things like that which explained why the world is the way it is. It was truly fascinating to learn that the ceremony only exists to appease housewives.
Offred and Moira reuniting was a great moment. I had suspected that she may not have been dead, and it was nice to see her again. Having them see each other again was a tremendous moment and both actresses put in a lovely performance as always. I thought that Moira revealing to be satisfied with her current life in Jezebels was a nice little twist and makes her character stand out a lot more, since she was pretty shallow in the past. This development allows her to stand out a little more now that she seems to be back in the story as a central character.
I think Fred has been a real asset for this series. He has been a real asset throughout the show and his very presence has added a great deal of tension to the show. After all, he is the man with all of the power. His motives remain slightly murky which I like because it lets us slowly learn about his nature from the eyes of Offred. It seems that he did the same thing with the previous Offred, which raises some intriguing questions (see: The Unknown). Joseph Fiennes plays the role really well and I've been extremely impressed by him so far.
The Bad: Nick's character is still problematic for the show. He is just so bland and unlikable and really lacks when compared to all the other characters in the show. I still don't know his personality which is pretty disappointing, and it also really makes me wonder why Offred has become so attached to him over Luke. I also don't think his current character arc is well-defined either. So we learn that he has the ability to pretty much ruin Fred's career since he knows about Fred's relationship with Offred, so why doesn't he tell anybody? Is it to protect Offred? Can't be because then he would have spilled the beans on Fred when he was doing things with the first Offred. It's really undefined why he isn't selling out Fred and that's a big problem. Also why was he picked to be an Eye? He seemed to be a total loser and didn't come off at all like a good man, despite what the show tried to tell us, so I have a hard time buying into him being picked as an Eye.
The breakup scene with Offred was poor too. Elisabeth Moss was great as always, but she couldn't save the poor writing in this scene. First of all, why is Nick doing this? This really adds on to my earlier points about Nick's deficiencies as a character. We don't know why he's ending the relationship and nothing in the episode seemed to suggest that Nick was upset with Offred. Was he really upset because she got raped? That's just ridiculous and makes me not only hate his character, but hate that the show seems to think that I should be sympathizing with Nick because of his situation. The tone suggests that I should like Nick due to the flashbacks, but this end scene does the polar opposite. How was him hurting Offred because she got raped supposed to make me care for his character? Or their relationship? Clearly she doesn't mean much to him if he's so mad about this.
The first Offred's suicide did nothing for me. The scene didn't really add anything, aside from one interesting line of dialogue from Serena. It felt like it was another scene meant to make me feel for Nick, which feels tonally wrong since the focus should really be on the suicide of the first Offred. I also don't really see how I'm supposed to have an emotional response to that scene since we know nothing about the first Offred, and we don't know how Nick had felt about her beforehand.
The Unknown: Why is Fred doing all these things with the Offreds? What is his ulterior motive? Or is he just a corrupt man?
What did Serena mean by saying "what did you think was going to happen?". Did she know about what Fred was doing with the first Offred? Does she also know what is going on with the current Offred? It would certainly explain why she has never caught them before. I was going to put her not noticing these activities in The Bad, but I'm holding back because I feel there is another explanation for this.
What was the significance of the music box and the carving which Offred wrote in the closet?
Best Moment: I'll pick the very first moment that Offred and Moira laid eyes on each other. The 2 actresses did a terrific job and communicated so much with so little.
Character of the Episode: Moira.
Conclusion: This episode was better than the last and had some good developments, but the troubles with Nick and his character are hurting the series a lot. I'm hoping that the show's quality can pick back up for the final 2 episodes of this season.
Summary: Flashbacks show Luke and June preparing to escape Gilead. They are taken to a cabin where they stay off the radar but they run into a problem when the person who was supposed to help them leave gets hung for treason. Later, Luke survives being shot and the ambulance he was in crashes. Luke escapes and meets a group of people and they take him to Little America though most of them die. Luke gets June's message.
The Good: I usually enjoy episodes which are centred around a specific character. The format makes it easier to care about them and it makes the episode easier to follow, giving it a better chance of being powerful and memorable. While I don't think this episode was successful in that regard (see: The Bad), I at least do appreciate the effort. Luke's character got some exploration and we learned more about his want to protect his family and how much he cares for June and Hannah.
There were 2 standout parts of this episode. The first was the early section after the ambulance crash when Luke wandered around shocked and disoriented in a desperate attempt to find June or Hannah or both. The scene was pretty powerful and the silence allowed us to properly sympathize with Luke as he stumbles around looking for any kind of help. The second part was the church which featured the disturbing image of all the bodies hung from the ceiling. It was a signature "Handmaid's Tale" shot which emphasized the darkness in the world again.
The Bad: The focus on Luke was sort of a double-edged sword though because so far he has been by far the most boring character on the show. Because of this his journey was very dull and I don't feel that his conflict was interesting enough to justify a full episode revolving around him. Had there been some more depth to explore about him, this would have been at least good, but since there was nothing worthwhile, this felt like a total waste of our time, sort of like "The Lost Sister" from Stranger Things season 2.
On top of that, the new characters we met weren't good either. They nearly all died, making them feel like a waste as well, and none of them really added on anything to our understanding of the show. We could literally remove them from the show and nothing changes, which is never a good thing for a show. Erin was the only character who stayed, but I find her hard to believe. I don't know much about her other than the fact that she doesn't talk. I wish the show could have a least clarified if she hasn't talked or if she can't talk because her tongue was cut out or something because I honestly have no idea. It is implied that she has chosen not to talk, but that seems really weak since Erin was only at the Red Center. We have seen how rough a handmaid's life is, but the Red Center is nowhere near the worst part, so it's hard to buy into the fact that Erin was so traumatized after her time there.
This episode felt like the perfect opportunity to give us more answers about how Gilead works, yet once more the writers take the cheap way out by providing absolutely nothing. When I realized we were getting flashbacks again I was hopeful for answers, but once more the writers walked circles around an answer which only continues to frustrate me beyond belief. Most dystopian stories need to develop their world and explain how it works so that we can understand the stakes, but oddly enough this show just ignores that aspect of dystopian stories. It's a crucial aspect and the show perplexingly seems to not care for it which is severely detracting from the show. We NEED answers about how Gilead functions, the government's motives, the soldiers, why people cooperate with Gilead, etc. I've gone over it all before, and I don't feel like ranting about it again.
And to add salt to the wounds, The Handmaid's Tale introduced another society, yet they spent precious little time there and fleshed out NOTHING about the world. It's beginning to get frustrating now and while I do enjoy the character stories that are at work in this show, the world the show is set in is shallow and disappointing so when there isn't a great character story going on in an episode, the flaws feel even more glaring than they already were.
How did they know who Luke's wife was? It seems like he never told them who June was, so how did the assistant know June was Luke's wife? It's sloppy writing and detracts from that final scene. Furthermore, June and Luke's relationship is underdeveloped and I don't care about it yet so the ending had little to offer for emotional value.
The Unknown: Okay seriously, how does the world work in this show? We need an explanation fast for both Gilead and Little America.
Best Moment: The sequence early on when Luke wandered around was probably the best part of the episode.
Character of the Episode: Luke.
Conclusion: This was disappointingly poor. This show has a serious problem with world-building and needs to address the problem because it's the only thing preventing this show from being at least very good. This episode had little going for it and felt like filler, so hopefully when we resume with the main story, we will get some actual plot progression to wash this episode out of my mouth.
Summary: Flashbacks show Serena pushing for the change to Gilead but being forced to give up her own life for it. In the present, the handmaids clean up Gilead as a Mexican trade ambassador is coming to meet Fred. The ambassador arrives and questions Offred who pretends to be happy. Later after talking with Nick, Offred tells her that they need help but she is unable to help because her country is dying. The assistant tells Offred that Luke is still alive.
The Good: This was a much stronger episode than the last which got the show back on track. I really enjoyed the ambassador storyline as it opened up the world very nicely. I've been disappointed at the lack of exploration of the world, but this episode helped clear up some of my more pressing questions, like what happened to the rest of the world, if Gilead controls everywhere, if other countries accept Gilead and how the infertility has affected other locations. I was very glad to get these answers.
Offred's meeting with the ambassador was very good too. I love how she just assumed that the man was the ambassador since she's so used to females not being able to do anything really. I did like the way that the ambassador was dressed, as it clearly portrayed her as an outlier in this world when you compare her bright suit to all the other women's outfits. I really enjoyed Offred's awkward performance as she tried to say how she is happy. It was horribly unconvincing and at first I was annoyed that the ambassador didn't see through it, though that was corrected later on when they spoke again (see: Best Moment).
I enjoyed Fred in this episode as well. His character remains so mysterious and I still don't know his exact motives which makes me pretty interested in him. We saw him clearly loving Serena in the flashbacks, yet now he's not exactly being loyal since he's started his relationship with Offred. I want to learn more about him, so the show has done its job of getting me interested in his character.
The highlight of this episode was Serena for sure. The episode revolved mostly around her and I think it did a great job of turning her into a complex character who I have conflicting feelings for. The episode makes me loathe her yet at the same time pity her, which is really good. It makes Serena not only more interesting to me, but more human which is important in a show like this which takes place in such a cruel world. Even the worst people need to be humanized and that is exactly what happened here. Serena was somebody who supported Gilead but she had to give up so much of her own life and morals to make Gilead a reality, and it's that last part which makes her feel more human since we can see that she has lost something from this world too. And of course Yvonne Strahovski does a fantastic job of portraying the emptiness in Serena now that her life has been changed so much, making the storyline that much more powerful.
There were a few other small scenes I really liked. Offred's scenes with Nick were pretty good though I still find it hard to buy into their relationship. I did like Offred's little explosion towards Nick after she panics from saying that she's happy. It set up that final scene very well and made Offred's emotional speech feel more like a moment which was a long time coming. Seeing Ofwarren again is always great and her childlike tendencies are great to watch. I really enjoyed seeing Aunt Lydia try to calm her down.
The Bad: I still need more details on Gilead to properly understand the overarching story. I just sort of understood the plot about selling the handmaids as slaves, but since I don't know exactly how the entire world functions, it's not as powerful or gripping of a story as it perhaps should be.
While I really enjoyed the focus on Serena, I feel like she deserved a little more focus than she got. This episode was still mostly hinged around Offred, but I feel that had it been a little more about Serena's story, it may have hit a little bit harder.
It seems awfully convenient that the assistant knew who Luke was and that Offred was his wife. She never explained that, so how did he know? It seems way too coincidental.
The Unknown: How did Gilead hide what really happens in the area? Are there just never any people who leak information or any visitors who arrive and see how corrupt Gilead is? Also how large is Gilead? It must be pretty small seeing how like everyone was able to gather in a single room. Where are the children kept? Who raises them? Why are there so few children in the world now? Shouldn't there be more ramifications now that there are very few kids? Were those kids all the Gilead children or just a small bunch of them? The show needs to address these questions.
Why has Fred become less loyal to Serena? What happened to him over the years? Could it have had something to do with the first Offred?
How did Luke survive? What will Offred write to him?
Best Moment: Offred's ending speech was a fantastic catharsis. It was 6 episodes in the making for her to let out all her emotions on how incredibly awful her lifestyle is. Elisabeth Moss was incredible as always and she brought a lot of emotion to the scene. The twist that the ambassador couldn't help because her own country is so ruined was pretty painful and Offred's reaction of disappointment felt very real as she learned that there would be no help from the outside world to save her from being enslaved. Instead the outside world seems to be eager to get some slaves of their own.
Character of the Episode: Serena.
Conclusion: This was a great episode, which was much stronger than the last one. This had emotional power, developed the world and also fleshed out an important character. While the show still has some flaws surrounding Gilead, it remains very powerful and that makes it a really great watch.
Summary: Flashbacks reveal how June met Luke and started their relationship. Fred starts making passes at Offred which frustrates her. Serena approaches Offred, asking her to have sex with Nick since she believes Fred is sterile. Nick reveals he is an Eye. Offred meets Ofsteven, who is Emily. Emily is much more secluded now. She steals a car and drives around before killing a guard. She is escorted away by officials. Offred has passionate sex with Nick.
The Good: The depressive nature of this show has done a fantastic job of providing some genuine tension. I don't want to see the main characters suffering, yet the show has established that even the smallest things can have disastrous effects. Because of this, every scene has a notable amount of tension as I worry that things can escalate when I'm least expecting it.
Fred and Offred's relationship has been decently fun to watch so far. It provided for a really good scene towards the end where Fred revealed some nice details about his character and motives, while also posing himself as a potential threat to Offred despite being so welcoming to her. Clearly Fred has some affections towards her, and I'm interested to see what that leads to.
Seeing Emily return as Ofsteven was great. Alexis Bledel put in a tremendous performance as always, and I really loved how she conveyed the tragedy her character was put through. The simple scene with Ofsteven playing with the dog was really sad and powerful, and I like how it actually took the opportunity to show a wife who seemed genuinely nice, as she tried to give Ofsteven a bit of a break.
The Bad: I still feel like Nick is completely lacking as a character. I know nothing about him, and I found it tough to buy into the idea of Offred going to have passionate sex with him by the episode's end. Sure she may have been inspired by Ofsteven stealing the car, but it's hard to imagine her feeling quite that inspired. The Eye twist was predictable too and it had no real impact to me. It's also hurt by the fact that we don't exactly know what an Eye is. I assume it's somebody who works for the government, but then why doesn't Nick report everything to the government? In that case should I feel afraid that Offred is having sex with him since it's illegal? Would Nick tell officials? But wouldn't he tell them anyways about Serena setting up Nick to have sex with Offred? Since he apparently isn't telling anyone, then what does him being an Eye even mean for the story? It serves no purpose and changes nothing, which is just sloppy writing.
The scenes between June and Luke did nothing for me. Luke is a very bland character and I find it hard to buy into their "special" love. They just don't have good enough chemistry.
I wasn't a fan of the car scene either. I could maybe buy into Ofsteven doing it, but it still felt spectacularly stupid in my eyes. Because of that, I was completely taken aback by the tone of the scene, as it was apparently supposed to be empowering or something. I didn't get that vibe at all with the scene, so it completely missed its purpose.
The Unknown: Looks like a lot of people are in love with Offred. Where is that story going?
Is Offred going to be pregnant soon? She threw up in this episode, so could that be a clue?
When will the Mayday resistance come into play?
And I'll repeat this again, but what does it mean to be an Eye? I expected we would get answers before the reveal but we really didn't.
Best Moment: Ofsteven playing with the dog in complete sorrow was quite powerful.
Character of the Episode: Ofsteven.
Conclusion: This was a notably weaker episode with sloppy writing and moments. It still consisted of solid storytelling, but the attention to detail was very weak and the flaws really dragged the episode down a lot for me.
Summary: Flashbacks show Offred and Moira talking during their handmaid training. They stage an escape and Moira gets away but Offred is caught at the last second. She is punished by Aunt Lydia and Aunt Elizabeth. Offred is kept in her confinement and reads a message from the previous Offred. Offred discovers Fred is sterile and they have another unsuccessful ceremony. Offred has her rematch with Fred who tells her about the previous Offred who killed herself. Fred also frees Offred from her captivity to Serena's chagrin.
The Good: This episode was really strong. The previous episode was very powerful but it was also quite flawed. This episode on the other hand was much more consistent (at least until the final 30 seconds), and I think that this episode itself really got me hooked into the series. The show just really needed a full episode which had me engaged without any major problems which detracted from the show as a whole.
Offred's main storyline in her room was very strong. We get to see more of the harsh life in Gilead and it's clear that Offred won't be as exempt from it as we may have hoped, especially seeing how vicious Serena continued to be in this episode. It was pretty sad to see Offred continually trashed by Serena who is determined to keep her isolated, despite how much Offred wants to be able to leave her room.
The flashbacks were also very cruel to Offred this episode. Seeing her whipped in the feet was deeply unpleasant and brutal, and it continues to make aunt Lydia the most vicious villain of the series. Ann Dowd is fantastic in the role and she is a character I really want to see receive some comeuppance. Her reign of terror continued to be really painful with her whipping of Offred. Continuing with that storyline, I really enjoyed the escape attempt from Offred and Moira. It made sense that they would try to get out of their containment, and the final scene where Offred is reprimanded while Moira leaves was very powerful stuff (see: Best Moment). I also think it's good to build more around Moira and Offred's relationship. I suspect we will be seeing more of them, so I feel that I really need to care about what their relationship was for an of Moira's scenes to have resonance.
As a side note, I was really unsettled by the ceremony scene in the flashback. It was really creepy and awful, in a lot of ways even more so than actually seeing the ceremony for ourselves. This show continues to find success by being unpleasant, but still powerful. This isn't a show I can watch for long periods of time, but it is one which has really stuck with me so far.
I really enjoyed seeing Offred interact with the various people in this episode who offered to help her out. Nick was rather creepy as he continued to seemingly affirm love for Offred, which I think really helps to show how Offred really can't trust anyone no matter how helpful they may seem. The doctor was the same way as well. He claimed to be a good listener and he also offered some invaluable information to Offred by suggesting that Fred was sterile. Yet despite all this, he came off very poorly by offering to have intercourse with Offred to help her out. In this world it's hard to tell if he's genuinely trying to help or if he's just taking advantage of her. Offred refuses, implying that she couldn't trust him either. And now that takes us to the Waterfords who are the most trustworthy, yet Offred just can't trust them. Nobody else is trustworthy so why would they be? The shadow of the past Offred was also cast over the storyline, raising the paranoia as we try to find out the motives of both Waterfords. Fred seems decent enough at the moment as he tries to help improve Offred's life, apparently since the previous one killed herself, but can we really trust him? Such is why this show has been so fascinating thus far.
The Bad: I wasn't very happy with the ending scene, just like with the last episode. I thought it wasn't properly built up to and I really didn't get the feeling of Offred taking control, which is what I believe was intended. It was also quite cheesy and didn't fit at all with the tone of the show.
How did Moira get away with writing in the bathrooms? Surely the aunts would notice, and seeing how remorseless they are, I'm sure they would punish everyone until the culprit revealed themselves.
The Unknown: Is Fred sterile or was the doctor lying about it? The evidence does point to him beign sterile though, so I suspect it's true.
What happened to Moria after she left? Apparently she was caught and killed according to Janine, so how did that happen?
Was Fred telling the truth about the past Offred? I don't trust anybody at the moment.
What happened to Aunt Elizabeth? Did she violate the laws or die somehow?
What did Ofglen do while Offred was locked in her room?
Best Moment: Moira leaving was a spectacular scene. I love how Offred wordlessly communicated to her that she should go while Moira expressed guilt, sadness and gratitude to Offred. The scene was carried by acting and created a pretty powerful moment, which was much more powerful than the reveal of Moira's death in "Offred". I think that reveal did add an air of tragedy to this scene as well, since we know that Moira is destined to be captured and killed anyways.
Character of the Episode: Offred.
Conclusion: This was a very good episode. It was consistently enjoyable and continued to build the world and its characters in fascinating ways while also having more powerful and uncomfortable scenes. This was the first episode that felt like a complete package of enjoyment, making it quite effective.
Summary: In flashbacks, June and Moira witness the rise of Gilead as women's rights are slowly stripped away and riots happen in the streets. In the present, Offred is taken by Serena to see Janine and her baby. Offred talks to Janine who seems to be abusing her new privileges. Upon returning home Offred is questioned by Lydia about Ofglen who is revealed to be gay. Lydia is about to punish Offred for quoting the bible but Serena protects her by claiming her to be pregnant. Offred however isn't pregnant. Ofglen, now known as Emily had an affair with a Martha. The Martha is executed and Emily loses her genitalia through surgery.
The Good: This was a very strong episode with a bunch of great moments throughout. It was a marked improvement on the first 2 episodes and has now hooked me into the series.
I really enjoyed the scenes at Janine's residence. There was great dialogue and the character motivations were very strong for both Janine and Offred. I loved the short scene where Offred got to hold a baby for a little bit, and the show was able to subtly demonstrate how much Offred misses her child. Janine's character is also nicely getting developed as we see her taking advantage of her situation, something which fits what we saw of her aggressive character in "Offred".
The scenes at the Waterford residence were great as well. Aunt Lydia and the Eye interrogating Offred was very tense and enjoyable. I love how we slowly got more information fed to us about Emily's situation and we got our understanding that Emily had an ongoing relationship with a Martha and is being punished for that, not for being part of the resistance. There was also a great air of tension during Offred's questioning as she kept on provoking Aunt Lydia by quoting the bible, clearly frustrated with her life. I also appreciated that Serena took pity on Offred and got Lydia to stop attacking her. It gives us more understanding on Serena's character and gives her some conflict with Offred once it's revealed that Offred is not pregnant.
The flashbacks were enjoyable too, though I had some issues with them (see: The Bad). I thought it was an effective way to show the injustice of what happened to the world. There was some good emotion in seeing the army killing people as they rioted and also in seeing June and Moira struggling to comprehend their new situation.
The best part of the episode in my opinion was absolutely Emily's storyline. We didn't know much about her relationship with the Martha, but the silent performances of both women made me emotionally invested, ensuring that all the scenes surrounding Emily's tragedy hit hard. We didn't know much about her before and we still really don't know much about her, but I care about her now.
The Bad: The story of how Gilead came to be just doesn't seem real to me. Apparently the law preventing women from doing things like working and owning property was passed overnight. Was there no press on this? The internet exists so how did nobody know this was happening? How did a majority of people choose to do this? Whose idea was this? How did they get a following for this? There are so many unanswered questions and a lack of attention to detail which really frustrates me and prevents the episode from scoring really high.
I wasn't a fan of the ending music. Last episode it made sense because it conveyed a sense of happiness which was tonally different from the rest of the episode. This time we had uncharacteristic music signifying anger, which doesn't work as well since we have seen anger in the show before. While it may not have been on the same level, I feel that it wasn't different enough to require a different music cue.
The Unknown: Does the Commander really love Janine or is she just making up stories? How is that going to impact Janine's standing in her house? Is it also foreshadowing the possibility of Commander Waterford loving Offred?
Does Nick truly love Offred? I feel like his character has been fairly weak so far and has added very little. I almost put it in The Bad, but I feel that the show could definitely make something good out of this. I also believe that Nick is the Eye in the house so that could lead to some interesting story.
Best Moment: The hanging scene was emotive and powerful. Both actresses did a fantastic job of getting me to care and that followed with a deeply unsettling and difficult to watch scene where the Martha was executed in a vicious hanging while Emily watched. Very strong stuff.
Character of the Episode: Emily.
Conclusion: This was a very strong episode and while it had some flaws, it had lots of emotion, tension and character building which I absolutely approve of. If the show can keep this kind of focus on characters and emotion, then it has some serious potential of being great.
Summary: Offred continues talking to Ofglen who is revealed to be in the resistance. Ofglen wants some information on Waterford. Janine gives birth to a healthy baby against the odds. Offred has a meeting with Waterford which shouldn't be allowed and they play scrabble. The next today, Offred discovers that Ofglen has been replaced. Flashbacks show the day when June gave birth to Hannah when a girl tried to steal her.
The Good: This was a pretty strong episode which had a much more watchable tone than the last one. After the last episode was drenched in misery, this was much more optimistic. Instead of just constant pain, this episode contained some small optimism rooted in the relationship between Offred and Ofglen which slowly blossomed as the episode went on. They trusted each other more and Offred even looked to be joining the resistance in time, until the surprise ending twist where Ofglen has been replaced by another Ofglen (see: The Unknown). I really loved the use of music as well. After the Waterford scene, Offred had a legitimate reason to be happier and then we got hit by an uncharacteristically happy music theme to symbolize this, but then it was abruptly cut off at the twist ending, allowing us to feel the drastic change in the situation.
Another thing I want to highlight is Elisabeth Moss' performance in this episode. I skimmed over this in the previous review, but I really understated how great of a job she is doing conveying Offred's emotions without using words. Her performance has been great so far and added an absolute ton to the episode.
The birth scene itself was pretty interesting too. The actual birth ceremony was really interesting, especially seeing that the wives had to go through something as well even though they were doing nothing. The presentation of the scene fit pretty well into the world which has been established. I also enjoyed seeing Janine's love for her baby in a sweet little scene. It helps humanize her more.
The flashbacks were pretty good too. Clearly the world didn't suddenly just change into Gilead since apparently the whole birth thing has been a problem for a long time. It was a little unsettling seeing the girl try to claim Hannah as her own, which of course fits with the themes of this show.
The scene with Commander Waterford was a wonderful example of tension. We don't know what Waterford wants and we don't know what his motivations are, so it made the scene extremely tense. There was so much tension and mystery and I found myself hoping that I could get more information on who Waterford is through the scene and I was decently satisfied, though I'm still left with a lot of questions (see: The Unknown).
The Bad: We desperately need to know Gilead's history. At the moment I have too many questions about how the world functions and what happened to America to turn it into this way, that its starting to hurt my enjoyment of the show.
The Unknown: What is the resistance and how did they form? Who is in charge at the moment anyways? How does the new world function? Is there still a president? Is the whole world under these new rules? How did America change to these new rules? What overthrew or converted the government?
A lot of people were praying in the flashback. Was there a Christian revolution of sorts?
What happened to Ofglen? Was she taken by the government people, whoever they are? Who is the person who replaced her? Can she be trusted?
What did Waterford want from Offred? Is he attracted to her, or is he up to something else? Does he work for the government? Could he have been just keeping an eye on her to make sure she was doing everything properly?
Best Moment: The best moment for me was honestly Offred with the cookie. Hearing the one lady compliment Offred for being so well-mannered was just creepy and unsettling just like the rest of the world and really demonstrated the low standing of all handmaids. Better yet though was Offred's clear glee at actually being able to have a cookie, but she forces herself to spit it out for fear that she would be caught with cookie crumbs in her mouth. Pretty intense stuff.
Character of the Episode: Offred again.
Conclusion: This was another solid episode which continued to develop the story and the world, but we desperately need some explaining on how Gilead functions to truly get invested in the show.
Summary: Offred is a handmaid, which means she is a fertile woman in a world where that is a rarity. She is essentially a servant with very few rights. Flashbacks show her becoming a handmaid with others like her friend Moira and Janine who lost her eye after speaking out. In the present, Janine tells Offred that Moira died trying to escape. Offred grows closer to fellow handmaid Ofglen who warns her that her house has an Eye. The man of the house, Commander Waterford tries to impregnate Offred.
The Good: I thought this was a solid pilot episode which sets the tone for the series very well. I thought the show did a great job of introducing us to Offred and putting us into the shoes of her unfair life. Since Offred isn't allowed to talk much, it could have been easy to not get into her character, so thankfully there is a smart decision to give us some dialogue showcasing Offred's inner thoughts. By understanding what Offred is thinking, it helps us relate more to her and also serves a dual purpose to additionally give us some more exposition about what we are seeing in this world. Furthermore, I think that having Offred speak so rarely, the show builds a sense of real paranoia and fear of the world which helps put us in her shoes and also helps build up the atmosphere of the world.
Speaking of atmosphere, I really think this show has nailed its tone and look. The darker screen filter looks really good in contrast to the bright outfits of the handmaids and it makes the world seem really darkly beautiful.
I think the flashbacks were really good too. It gave us some much needed exposition about what the handmaids are and why they exist. It helped give us exposition in a very entertaining ways opposed to just having Offred tell us everything we need to know. And also, I really liked that the flashbacks helped add some emotion to the story by allowing us to realize the cruelty of the world through a number of rather painful scenes and occurrences.
There were a number of really powerful scenes here as well, thought they were a bit tough to watch (see: The Bad). I really enjoyed the gritty nature of watching the handmaids attack the rapist and brutally punish him for his crimes. When combined with Moira's death, It also served as a nice excuse to get Offred to open up a little more to Ofglen in organic fashion.
The Bad: The opening scene didn't really do much for me and it felt like it existed solely for an "exciting" opening sequence. I also didn't like the clichéd dialogue from Offred's husband who decided to stay behind for some unknown and convenient reason, "don't worry I'll be right behind you". It wasn't exactly a promising start to the show.
The emotion of Moira's death really was a miss unfortunately. While I did praise the show for its lack of dialogue from Offred, I think it really hurt the relationship between Offred and Moira. I got the sense I was supposed to care much more about Offred and Moira's relationship but I really didn't.
Lastly, is the obvious one. This show is extremely dark so far and there have been a number of rather unpleasant scenes so far. It doesn't bother me yet but I could understand if it turns away some other viewers.
The Unknown: Where has Hannah been taken?
What were Offred's memories? Was she living a normal life before? What happened to change that?
There were numerous references to wars. What are the wars? Apparently there is fighting in Florida too. That also begs the question of where exactly Gilead is. Is it in America?
Why were the hanging bodies killed? Apparently they were a doctor, priest and gay man. Is that why they were hung?
Who is the Eye (I'm assuming that means a spy) in the Waterford household? There are several people int he house so this could be a really engaging mystery.
Best Moment: While the attack on the rapist was pretty gripping, I think the moment where Janine was regretting her unfair treatment was powerful, especially when all the handmaids give a robotic response. It was quite freaky in a subtle way and it was this scene which really got me to understand what this world was about. Particularly the chants of "teach her a lesson" really stuck with me.
Character of the Episode: Offred, or well June. I'll see where the story goes to decide what name to call her by.
Conclusion: This was a solid pilot which introduced us nicely to this harsh world. It didn't do anything particularly special but it was rock solid and I'm looking forward to seeing more from the show.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.