Recap: The Handmaid’s Tale S1:E1
“My name is Offred. I had another name, but it’s forbidden now. So many things are forbidden.”
The premiere episode of Hulu’s much anticipated series, “The Handmaid’s Tale” dropped today. Titled “Offred”, it stars Elisabeth Moss as Offred, Samira Wiley as Moira, Joseph Fiennes as The Commander and Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is based upon the Margaret Atwood book of the same name, and is set in a dystopian future where fertility has dropped off. Wives, women with the highest status have become infertile, and it’s up to Handmaids to breed the next generation. Marthas, the serving class, are infertile women, and those past childbearing age. The lowest class of women, the “unwomen”, are sent away from Gilead. Gilead being the name of the country, after it collapsed and was rebuilt by extremists.
Women have strict dress codes, Wives in blues, Handmaids in red, Marthas in green. Wives may wear jewlery, fancier dresses, and are allowed to look closer to women pre-Gilead. Handmaids wear red, the color of blood, to represent their fertility. Clad in simple red dresses and white bonnets at home, they are required to don red capes and “wings”, bonnets that cover their hair and faces. Marthas wear the simplest of dresses and aprons, denoting their status of invisibility.
The duties of The Handmaid
Offred has been trained do be unwaveringly subservient to The Commander and his Wife, performing “The Ceremony” with no emotion save gratitude and the hopes of conceiving. But through the fleeting emotions that cross her face, the subtle clenching of her hands, and the use of voice-overs, we can learn some of what is actually happening in her mind. Her hatred for the life she’s been forced to live, the longing for her best friend who was also forced to be a Handmaid, and her pre-Gilead family. Her husband, her daughter.
The first episode predominantly sets the scenes and the background for the rest of the series. Introducing the basics of the society of Gilead, showing the training Handmaids endure to become subservient, and giving glimpses into the everyday actions of Handmaids. Going to the store requires the use of ticket with pictures of them, because reading is illegal for them. Handmaids must always travel in pairs, not only for their “protection”, but to cause mistrust. Handmaids must report divisive behavior by other Handmaids, and there are spies everywhere.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is wrenching. Watching it caused that uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach to solidify into concrete, and travel up your throat, helping me to increase that feeling that we could become Gilead. That this future could very well be the future we are hurtling to. I’m still trying to shake off the dread that the show caused. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly a show to watch. It’s important.
It’s a brilliant show, being faithful to Atwood, but also expanding on Offred. Letting us see more of Offred, learning about her past, and her pre-Gilead name. And despite the danger to her, she plans to persist. “Someone is watching here. Someone is always watching. Nothing can change — it all has to look the same. Because I intend to survive. For her,” she says, before declaring the names of her family, a totem and a battle cry. “Her name is Hannah. My husband was Luke. My name is June.”
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