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.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.