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Let’s break down The Handmaid’s Tale episode 1.05, “Faithful”. We’ll cover why this episode continues the excellent run from the show so far, and why “desperation” is a hell of a drug.
This episode of The Handmaid’s Tale is a tricky one. You want to feel bad for Mrs. Waterford, but can’t. You want Luke and June to be together in the worst way, but you know they’re committing adultery. You want
Rory Ofglen Ofsteven to get in that car and just drive away with freedom to the wind. You want Offred to have some kind of human connection with Nick, but his face is just so damn punchable. As a viewer, you’re desperately looking to latch on to something, but no matter where you turn, nothing is completely solid.
That’s the issue I suppose, right? The people we are following are trying to capture a fleeting sense of rebellion and sanity in a very rigid world of Gilead where nothing is done without purpose or meaning. It is, in fact, the most unstable existence of which I can think (when it comes to this particular universe.) These character’s fluctuating lives are our way in to the story, so it makes sense that our base of feelings are similarly in flux. We’re all desperate to find our purpose in The Handmaid’s Tale.
But desperate also makes good television.
Rick James once said that “cocaine is a hell of a drug.” So is desperation. When people are so frantic to hold on to whatever makes them feel good, drama is sure to come. That’s why it makes such great TV. Or, storytelling for that matter.
Of course, Mike Barker helms this episode and his direction is perfect to a tee. He captures this desperation with precision, and skill — giving us our sense of purpose, but also highlighting the absurdity of the entire setting.
The absurdity of it all is caught in a fantastic scene between
Rory Ofglen Ofsteve and Offred. Getting in the car that was once occupied by an Eye is nothing short of insanity in that world. I can’t even imagine what is going to happen to her now. But, in a way that calls back to June giving permission to Moira to leave on her train, we see Offred give that same kind of look to Ofsteven. Within the construct of their lives, this feeble rebellion is a show that life is possible. They’re not stuck.
The world may be rigid, but it’s Ofsteven’s desperate attempt to shock us back into our world of normalcy through completely abnormal lives. But before we get too deep into our rebellion, we are witness to a truly gruesome scene of the Eye being run over by this small rebellion. It’s quick, it’s gross, and it sounds even worse. It’s totally absurd and even a tad gratuitous, but it’s needed to remind us where we are, when we are, and how we are, in Gilead.
But desperation doesn’t exist in just Gilead, we see it also in the real world – as June and Luke meet in the most meet-cute way. We aren’t privy to who Luke’s current wife is, but we can see instantly that he is looking for something more than him. Which is why his response to June’s picture, and that she looks invincible, is so telling. He sees something in her that he wants, and he wants to be.
June also feels invincible with him and their flirtatious little tryst at the restaurant feels EXACTLY how a secret relationship like this would be consummated. Both of them are desperate. Desperate to find the person that makes them feel whole – and when they find it, they do all they can to keep it within their clutches – even going so far as to throw away marriages, and keeping their “lunch dates” away from friends knowledge. Nothing will penetrate them, or keep them away from each other.
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Juxtaposing this feeling with the late night tryst in the future with Nick is a stroke of genius. We JUST watched Luke and June come together in a such a positive vibe, and yet, here we are watching Offred willingly bed Nick and his stupidly punchable face. Despite our reservations, we, again, are happy for her because it’s her own attempt at a small rebellion. It’s a rebellion against her system, her caste, even her own feelings. She may not be letting the bastards grind her down, but she is still also human. You can see that she feels something for him, but I don;’t know if any of us quite know what it is yet. Regardless, this is the beginning of Offred taking her life into her own hands, and she is doing it despite what Nick was forced (?) to do her earlier in the episode.
The faux “ceremony” is a brutal scene – watching Offred walk up to a bed with Nick and Serena Joy behind her is just heart wrenching. Everyone there is quite aware of how illegal the entire scenario is, and how it could lead to all their demise. Serena Joy, however, is just as desperate as the rest of the characters in this episode. She has a purpose, and that is to be a clean, matronly, and righteous woman. In this world, of course, fulfilling the purpose of being a woman and having a child. She can’t do that with The Commander, and even knowingly admits it in secret to Offred.
Can you imagine how blasphemous the word “sterile” must be to Serena Joy and her world? Yet, here she is affirming it with her Handmaid. She is, in fact, so desperate that she enlists Nick to impregnate Offred just for the sake of achieving her womanly goal. To that end, watching her use the sheers to cut off the dead flowers is a great representation of her life, her options and the world in which she finds herself. Cut off the dead, sick, diseased bits for the health of the overall plant. In this case, her dead option is The Commander and she knows it.
Which brings me to my last notion – Commander Waterford is a sick puppy. I want this guy to get it in the head in the worst frakking way. It may speak to a larger problem in his marriage, and I can’t help but think that this has happened before many times, but the way he engages with Offred is so off putting. He knows it, she knows it, and we know it. But what is he desperate for? Well, that, too, is a little tricky.
I wonder if Waterford is desperate for power. He seems like a real important figure within the community of Gilead, and nothing satiates him. It feels like something similar to,” be careful what you ask for” with him.
Like, was he just a nerdboy before all of this?
He’s got that ridiculous slicked back haircut.
All guys with that kind of hair were nerdboys just looking for some validation of being cool in their later years.
No matter what, Waterford obviously likes being in control, and offering the stupid magazine to Offred is another manifestation of that control. But what captures this kind of control and sick desperation is his psuedo-threatening line to Offred, “better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some.” That’s what desperation does – it means one’s goals are met, usually at the expense of others. ::Chills::
Mary & Blake Certified: A-
Apropos of nothing:
- Serena Joy is fascinating me. She feels so damaged, hurt, and even neutered. I can’t help but think we are getting an episode just for her soon, and it’s going to be traumatic.
- With the way they are building up Luke, there is no way he is dead. Unless you see a body, that person ain’t dead on TV. (even then, that’s still questionable.)
- Commander Waterford may be an important person in Gilead, but it feels like he is also not abiding by the rules. It feels like the “perfect” world they’ve created isn’t so perfect — even by their own hands.