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.