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