The Handmaid’s Diaires: Women’s Work – Episode 2.08

The Handmaid’s Diaires: Women’s Work – Episode 2.08

Let’s chat The Handmaid’s Tale episode 2.08 – “Women’s Work”. When you think you’re The Godfather, but you’re only Fredo.

::sigh:: Fred Waterford is back.

Listen, I’m sure Joseph Fiennes is a good guy, and he means well. Is it his fault that I still cannot get the worst written line in the history of filmmaking out of my head? No.

Well, kinda.

Either way, I’m sure he works hard and wants to make Fred a good and integral character to The Handmaid’s Tale.

But, I am OUT on our favorite limp-dick commander.

I would have given a LOT of credit to Bruce Miller if he just killed him off and continued on his merry way with the story. But, clearly, Miller has plans for good ol’ Fred and it seems pretty transparent to me. We are being set up for the eventual showdown between Serena and Fred. A War Of The Roses Waterfords if you will. That seems to me the only clear reason to retain Fred and his pathetic character around.

There was a time when Fred was the end-all-be-all for June, and, even Serena. June had to serve and do Fred’s bidding for the ceremony, but also satiate the needs that Serena could not. As for Serena, the most beautiful part about her character is that she helped build a culture that treated women like dirt in service of the almighty male figure of any given family.

But now that June is pregnant, and Serena has “kept the trains moving” with Junes’s aide while Fred was in his recovery bed.  We can see that they have BOTH moved on from him. His role, in both the story and in the practical terms of their lives, is now obsolete. Serena has tasted the freedom of her old self, and in my eyes, there is no turning back from here.

Yep, all the servants gather outside the Waterford home with the requisite greetings, and seem to cower in Fred’s presence — including June and Serena, but there’s a palpable tension between these three that HAS to come to a head. I don’t care how many power moves Fred has in him, whether it’s shutting the door of the office Serena worked in right in front of her, or even pulling out a wild and archaic punishment of 13 lashes on Serena’s rear in front of June, he’s just a little boy looking to show all the cool kids how important he is.

You see, I grew up in a family business that is still my primary job to this day. In the interest of complete honesty, I operate in the long looming shadow of my dad who is the boss and has no problem exercising his authority. (Think Logan Roy in Succession, or Tywin Lannister in Game Of Thrones.)  As you could imagine, my relationship with him is … complicated. But the one thing he taught me as a kid, and it still rings true to this very day, is this: if you have to tell people you’re the boss, then you ain’t the boss.  And, oh boy, does Fred run around trying to reassert his authority in the worst way.

When it comes to toxic masculinity, and exerting the air “being the boss” there is no greater written scene than the final frames of The Godfather. For a refresher, let’s take a look:

Nothing I can say about this scene will add to the already bountiful narrative about it, so I’ll just leave it at this – it’s perfect. In every way. There’s no words, there’s no explanation – the actions just speak for themselves. Michael is the boss and there is no question about it.

Well, your boy Fred tries to have his Godfather moment by shutting the door on Serena, and it is a perfect example of the anti-Godfather. That’s not to say the filming or writing is bad. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  More than likely, you’re SUPPOSED to feel the opposite for Fred in this situation. It seems like an intentional move to instill in you the feeling like he’s scrambling to find his place in a world that has long passed him.  But The Godfather comparison doesn’t quite end there either.

Instead of being Michael Corleone, I keep thinking that Fred is actually more in line with Mike’s hapless older brother Fredo.

By beating Serena in front of June once he had discovered what pair of women had done in his name, I was reminded of the scene in The Godfather II, when Michael goes to visit Fredo/meet Moe Greene in Las Vegas.

Fredo, trying to assert his authority in the room – greets Michael with a band, gorgeous women, a fun party atmosphere and, once again, Michael let’s him know who’s the boss.  In response, Fredo winds up yelling at his employees, telling them to scram and goes as far as questioning Michael in front of Moe. Naturally, Michael essentially rips Fredo’s emasculated soul through his sunglass covered eyeballs, and Fredo is once again poor little Fredo.

Actually, let’s take a look at the scene before we continue:

Now we all know how the whole situation between Fredo and Michael ends up in the end. ::Spoiler Alert::

To be honest, that’s definitely how it’s going to end up between Serena and Fred. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Serena was PERSONALLY responsible Fred’s comeuppance for all the reprehensible crap he’s done in the name of God.   But it’s this moment when everything changes for the entire Waterford household. Fred’s trying too hard to reassert his authority in the worst possible Fredo kind of way, but that dye has been cast.

Even though Serena goes back to being a cold heartless wench when June attempts to console her after the beating, they have both come too far. There’s a relationship that now exists between the two that would otherwise never have existed if not for Fred’s pathetic attempt to shout from the rooftops that he’s back and he is “the boss.” It’s only downhill from here for Commander Waterford, and trust me, Serena isn’t gonna be there to catch him like in years past.

Keep in mind, however, Serena is not blameless in this situation as she helped manifest Gilead into reality. She has to pay for (pardon the pun) sins too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she suffers a similar fate as Michael, alone, old, and face down in the dirt surrounded only by the ghosts of her past.  But, that’s another conversation for another day.

The only regret from this episode is not seeing the detente between Serena and June a little more.  Perhaps there’s an argument that we got exactly what we needed from this episode – which would be to establish a base of understanding between the two women.  There’s something just so juicy, however, about watching Elizabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski play off each other in this congenial kind of way and I wanted more of it.

My gut tells me there’s a lot more to come, and speeding up the uneasy peace process is probably done in deference to the rapidly arriving finale and eventual birth of June’s baby.

Speaking of babies, the most flashy part of this episode is Janine taking care of her baby now named Angela Putnam. I will not question the science of whether or not a birth mother could literally save a dying baby just by holding her all night only because mothers are miracles and they are capable of the most wild stuff. So, I’m in on it. I was prepared to see Janine humming lullabies to a dead baby by the end of the episode, but was pleasantly surprised by the rather hopeful ending of little Angela telling the god of death, “not today.”

 

 Mary & Blake certified: A-

 

Apropos of nothing:

  • Knowing that this bond (?) started with the the raising and click of a pen, and is then capped with the click of a pen and it being placed in a tray is quite literally sumptuous visual storytelling and it continues the motif started by “First Blood.”
  • Watching the male doctor fangirl over the “Martha” and how much of a better doctor than he is was frakking phenomenal.
  • Watching the doctor lightly run her hands over the white coat was a nice subtle touch of how much life has changed for everyone.
  • Is it me, or is the show providing a meta commentary on faith and the supreme power of life? Notice the world’s best doctor (AKA: SCIENCE) can’t save a baby, but a mother (AKA: LIFE/FAITH) can save the baby? How deliciously ironic.
  • I’m telling you right here, right now, EDEN IS BAD FRAKKING NEWS. Ain’t nothing good coming from her. She reminds me of the pyscho ex girlfriend meme.
  • Another way Fred tries to reassert his ebbing power? Going upstairs to have a possible late night booty call with June – only to find a gift from Serena to June.  More incredible visual storytelling.
  • Serena Joy: “I did it for the sake of the child. What greater responsibility is there in Gilead?”
    Fred: “Obeying your husband. ”   Okay, Fredo. You keep toeing that line.  Just be weary when Serena asks you to go fishing.
  • “May The Force Be With You.” Girllllllllllllll…..

 

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