Blue. I let it take me…The Handmaid’s Tale episode 2 opens with Offred saying this, and making free associations with things that are blue, or contain blue in the title. She needs to do this, as The Ceremony is going on. The Ceremony being a form of ritual rape. Condoned, nay, encouraged by the leaders of Gilead to try to maintain some sort of birthrate.
Offred leaves the next morning to go on her regular shopping trip with Ofglen, during which a subversive man is kidnapped off the street. Ofglen and Offred are terrified, knowing that they could be taken, and no one would say anything. When they return to the house Offred lives in, Ofglen asks her to join the Resistance. To help protect information, to keep others informed of what is going on in Gilead, to keep one another safe. The scene ends with Offred making a powerful statement. ” Now, there has to be an Us. Because there is a Them.”
The main focus of this episode was the birth of Ofwarren’s child. On the way to Ofwarren’s Commander’s house, Offred has flashbacks to her own labor, her arrival at the hospital. Highlighting how “normal” childbirth was before.
During labor and childbirth, the Wife is attended by other Wives. And the other Wives are as classist and prejudiced as can be imagined. She is dressed in white, and is surrounded by white while she ” labors” in the parlor. The wife is fully “engaged” in the stages of labor. She pretends to have contractions, practices mindful breathing, and mimics the natural sounds made by a woman in labor. All while the Handmaid is upstairs, surrounded by other Handmaids and Sisters to coach her through the birthing process. During the final stage of labor, active pushing, the Wife is brought upstairs to sit behind the Handmaid in the birthing chair while the baby is delivered. The Wife then goes to lie in the bed while the baby is checked for health. Only 20% of babies born are alive and healthy. When it is determined that the baby is alive, it is placed in the Wife’s arms, and she is congratulated on the birth. The Handmaid is circled by other Handmaids, reinforcing the fact that Handmaids are only good for one thing. Being walking wombs to deliver healthy babies to Commanders and Wives.
On the way home from the birth, Offred and Ofglen sit together and talk about Offred’s “invitation” to join the Commander that night. They discuss possible reasons, and the determination is that whatever he says, to apologize for it. Ofglen reminds Offred that there are always eyes watching, and she is never safe. Offred mentions that Nick, the Commander’s driver, said that same thing about Ofglen, that she can’t be trusted and is dangerous. Ofglen says that no one can ever be trusted, especially a “carpet munching gender traitor”. A slur that has probably been thrown at Ofglen hundreds of times.
That evening, Offred goes to the Commander’s office. A place no women are ever allowed to go. A place where men can congregate to discuss manly things. On her way down, Offred compares herself to the women in horror movies. The ones who go downstairs looking for their boyfriends, the ones who are “fucking stupid”, and Offred prays that she won’t be “fucking stupid” like them. She finds that the Commander has invited her to play games, not to accuse her of anything or demand “favors” outside the Ceremony.
The episode closes with Offred leaving in the morning for her usual shopping trip, walking past Nick, and wondering if he wants to know about her illicit visit with the Commander. The visit which involved triple word scores. She walked up to the gate, planning on telling Ofglen all the details she was able to glean from the Commander, only to be met with a terrible surprise. The screen fades to black, and we hear a long, drawn out “Fuuuuuck” from inside Offred’s head as she begins to contemplate.
For me, episode 2 was just as disturbing and harrowing as episode 1. All of it continued to remind the viewer of the place of Handmaids in Gilead. Reminding that the crimson of their dresses and cloaks is symbolic of blood. That they are walking representations of the only job they are good for. For breeding. This writeup isn’t complete about everything that happened in the episode, there are things I left out that are fairly significant, but this was getting too long as it is.
If you’re still watching Handmaid’s Tale, drop me a note to tell me what you think of it. Let me know if you’ve read the book, or if this is your first exposure to it. I’d love to hear from you.
Robin is a semi-coherent, almost sentient being. She has some strange ideas, and some even stranger friends. Disabled, queer, agnostic, accident-prone & other adjectives.
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