The Handmaid's Tale

This recap of Episode 2 of THE HANDMAID’S TALE is chocked full of {SPOILERS}. ***If you haven’t watched yet, go do that and then come back here. ;)***

The episode opens on Offred staring at the ceiling in the Commander and Mrs. Waterford’s bedroom, as she lies on their bed, in the midst of a “ceremony.” If you’ll remember, we learned in the first episode that “ceremony” is code for “threesome in which none of the three people want to be doing what they’re doing.” And again, just like the first time, no one is into it.

Offred, Ofglen, and a couple more Handmaids are relaxing against the wall on their way home from the store, as more already executed people are being hung out for display. The casualness of their conversation about the rain as the dead-body hanging takes place is disturbing, which I’m sure is the intent. On their way home, Offred and Ofglen share more personal info about themselves. Offred is from Brooklyn and was an Assistant Book Editor. Ofglen is from Montana and was a Lecturer in Cellular Biology at the University.

We find out that all college professors were sent to the colonies, but they let Ofglen avoid that because she has two good ovaries. Offred asks Ofglen how she knows there’s an Eye (AKA spy) in her house. Ofglen tells Offred, “You can join us.” Looks like there’s network of rebels, y’all (hee hee), and Ofglen is one of them! Ofglen wants Offred to share any info she can on her Commander Waterford.

In voice-over, Offred ponders how The Guardians of the Faithful (finally know what they’re called) and American soldiers are fighting in “what’s left of Chicago.” Anchorage is the capital of the U.S. now, and the flag only has two stars. I’m guessing the only other star belongs to Hawaii? Is Chicago the only city that still has American soldiers fighting the Guardians? I mean, Chicago’s great and all, but I’m pretty sure the people of San Francisco and its more liberal cousin, Berkeley, wouldn’t just shrug and be like, “Welp, we give up. Have it at, Guardians.”

Back home, as Offred removes her coat and shoes, Nick enters. Her red habit has been pulled up above one knee, and Nick notices. She leaves it that way long enough for it be clear she’s not bothered that he’s looking at her leg the way Homer Simpson looks at a free donut (mmmm, forbidden leg). She slowly covers herself. Nick warns her about being careful with Ofglen, “Don’t get too close to her, it’s dangerous.” He informs Offred that the Commander wants to see her in his office at 9:00 p.m. Offred paces, worries about the private meeting, which is strictly forbidden. And I’m worried now too.

Read all our The Handmaid’s Tale recaps, here.

Out on the street, a “birth-mobile” pulls up to the Waterford house. Rita rushes in and helps Offred put her coat on because, “They won’t wait all day.” Rita’s less surly with Offred so it seems she’s actually excited about this new development. Offred and other Handmaids ride in the back of the birth-mobile to the home of Ofwarren, who is actually not-all-there-anymore Janine. Flashback to June (remember this is Offred’s REAL NAME), pregnant, on her way to the hospital to give birth to her daughter, Hannah.

Back at Ofwarren’s birthing extravangza, the handmaids file into the house. A bunch of barren Commanders’ wives, including Mrs. Waterford, sit around and watch as Ofwaren’s boss lady, Mrs. Commander Warren Putnam (Ever Carradine), PRETENDS to have contractions and be in labor on the floor of her fancy living room. The other wives encourage her to “breathe.” Um. How about encouraging her to pull herself up off the floor and maybe go help the poor woman who is really in labor?

The Handmaids make their way to the bedroom, where Ofwarren is actually having contractions and is actually giving birth to Commander Putnam’s baby. They encourage Ofwarren to “breathe, exhale, breathe.” Offred tells Ofwarren that she’s “doing great.”

Flashback to Hannah’s birth: June holds newborn Hannah and coos at her lovingly as Luke snores on the couch in the hospital room. A nurse (Karen Robinson) takes Hannah to the nursery to give her a bath. Spotting the empty nursery, June asks where all the babies are and she’s told, “We had a difficult night. Two are in the intensive care unit and the others are with God.” They’re giving us plenty of clues how things got to where they are: rampant infertility, low birth rates, and high rates of infant mortality.

Back at Ofwarren’s birthing extravaganza, Offred tells Ofglen that the Commander wants her to meet him alone that night and that she doesn’t know why. Ofglen sets out to find out why, assuring Offred, “I’m sneaky.” To which I yelled aloud, “Be smart, Ofglen, not just sneaky.”

Mrs. Waterford summons Offred to update some of the Commander’s barren wives on Ofwarren’s progress, which she does. Barren Wife #1 offers her a cookie and Barren Wife #2 says, “You shouldn’t spoil them. Sugar is bad for them.” Like Offred’s not standing right there.

Mrs. Waterford then asks her if she wants a cookie, to which she responds, “Yes, please. Thank you.” Mrs. Waterford plucks a perfect, pastel-colored little macaron from the table, and slowly offers it to Offred, the way you present a treat to a dog, or the way my boss presents my paycheck to me, “Here you are.” Offred slowly takes it, and even more slowly, puts it in her mouth. Just then, Barren Wife #1 says, “Aw, isn’t she well-behaved?” And in a minor act of rebellion, Offred removes the cookie from her mouth. Mrs. Waterford dismisses her and, as she leaves, Barren Wife #2 remarks, “Little whores, all of them.” Nice manners, swamp monster.

In the bathroom, Offred looks in the mirror, SPITS THAT BITE OF PERFECT, PASTEL-COLORED LITTLE MACARON INTO THE SINK, WASHES IT DOWN THE DRAIN, AND LEAVES THE REST ON THE COUNTER, UNEATEN! Yassssss, qweeeeen, yassssss! Your uneaten macaron is giving me life!!

Ofwarren’s labor has progressed, she declares she needs to walk. The Handmaids help her to her feet, but she collapses. Aunt Lydia, who is here because Lord knows that old so-and-so wouldn’t miss a birthing. She tells them to get her to “the chair.” She tells Ofwarren it’s time for her to push, so she does. The completely ridiculous Mrs. Commander Putnam comes in, still pretending she’s in actual labor, and sits on the same chair, right behind Ofwarren. They both push. As I watch, I hope Mrs. Commander Putnam sh*ts herself with all that pushing she’s doing, but alas, no luck.

The real baby is really born. Is it okay? Is it alive? It cries! It’s a girl, “a fine and healthy girl.” And all of the women are genuinely relieved and happy. Barren wives, Handmaids, even Aunt Lydia; they’re really happy. Mrs. Commander Putnam climbs in her bed and Aunt Lydia gives her the baby girl, who she has decided to name Angela. Mrs. Waterford and Offred share a tortured and meaningful look, a moment rife with expectation and disappointment.

The Handmaids comfort Ofwarren, hugging her.

Flashback to June in the hospital: She wakes up as Luke is returning with a snack. She asks him where Hannah is. He doesn’t know. A code alarm sounds and people start running down the hall. The nurse who took Hannah for a bath is laid out on the ground, blood coming from her head. June spots a woman in the hall, walking slowly. The woman turns to face her and she is holding newborn Hannah in her arms!

June asks, “What’re you doing?” And the woman says, “She’s alive. My baby. I told them.” Now I can’t even be mad at her. She lost her baby and she’s cracked. Her broken brain is telling her that Hannah is her baby. Luke grabs the woman and they get Hannah away from her, put her safely back in June’s care.

Back in the birth-mobile, Ofglen tells Offred that she couldn’t find out anything about why Commander Waterford summoned Offred to his office that night. Ofglen tells her that she should be careful about Nick because, “A lot of the drivers work for the Eyes.” Offred tells her that Nick pretty much said the exact same thing about her. Ofglen is surprised, but also says Nick’s right to tell her not to trust anyone, because doing so is dangerous. And then she reveals that she is a lesbian. I am immediately worried about her, despite her two working ovaries.

Over at Commander Putnam’s house, a Martha brings Angela to Ofwarren so that she can nurse. She asks if Ofwarren will be okay alone, Ofwarren tells her that she “nursed her son. I’ve done it before.” So the Martha leaves. Ofwarren encourages Angela to nurse, and she does. Ofwarren tells baby Angela that her son, Caleb, is Angela’s brother. “I’m Mommy,” she tells her. Then she sings Bob Marley’s, Three Little Birds to baby Angela as she cries. It’s so sweet and so sad because we all know she’s getting too attached and we all also know that they will NEVER let Angela call her Mommy.

At the Waterford house, at 9:00 p.m., Offred heads to the Commander’s office, as requested. We find out no one is allowed in there except the Commander, not even his wife (whose name is Serena Joy, not just Mrs. Commander Waterford). The long walk to the office in the dark is terrifying. She quietly knocks and he tells her, “Come in.”

He thanks her for coming and tells her, “You can look at me.” She reminds him that she’s not supposed to, but he replies with, “In here, we might be able to bend the rules just a bit.” Oh, boy. So says the one who makes the rules but will never be accused of breaking them.

She looks up him, distrustful, as she should be. He then says something that could truly go IN A NUMBER OF VERY DIFFERENT directions, “I’d like to play a game with you.” He pulls something out of his desk and we see that it’s SCRABBLE. Thanks be to Milton Bradley, Hasbro, and all the Settlers of Catan. This is the most pleasant of the directions this could have gone.

Offred gets her letters, and starts the game by spelling “nation” (yep – let him know you remember what once was more than two stars on a flag). Final score: 386 to 383, the Commander wins. He asks for a rematch when he gets back from out of town. She jokes that she’ll “check her schedule,” and he asks that she “see if you can squeeze me in.” He tells her he’s going to D.C.  Is D.C. still the capital? Does Paul Ryan still work there (I’m betting he does)?

She agrees to a rematch after he returns. And he says, “It’s a date. Now I think it’s time for you to go home.” You know, all the way home, to her sad little bedroom in the same exact house. He follows her to the door of his office. She thanks him for the game, he grasps her hand in his and holds it long enough so that it’s creepy. She goes back to her room and laugh-cries, but mostly laughs, quietly.

The next day, in slow motion, Offred puts on her coat and winged bonnet, walks by Nick heading into the garage, as Don’t You Forget About Me, by Simple Minds, plays. If, like me, you’ve watched THE BREAKFAST CLUB 12,834,578,907 times, the symbolism of this shot/music combo will not be lost on you.

Still in slow motion, Offred heads to the gate to meet Ofglen, who’s waiting, back turned. Lo and behold, she turns around and what the what – IT’S NOT OFGLEN! It’s June’s sorta-pal, Alma (Nina Kiri), from the Red Centre.

Offred asks her if Ofglen has “been transferred to a new post so soon?” And Alma responds, “I am Ofglen.” Ohhhhhhh no. The episode ends with Offred thinking to herself, “F*ck.”

My fave moments:

  • Ofwarren serenading baby Angela with reggae.
  • Both Ofglen and Nick telling Offred not to trust the other.
  • That uneaten macaron. I mean, I hope Mrs. Waterford went in to wash her hands and found that thing on the bathroom counter. What a sweet burn. #MacaronBurn (I’ll give anyone who uses that hashtag on Twitter my undying loyalty)!

What I hope we see in the next episode:

  • Where’s the old Ofglen? And who figured out she’s part of the resistance? And then turned her in?
  • More Moira! Even if only in flashbacks.
  • Still worried about Hannah and where the heck she is! Give me one little clue!
  • Offred beating Commander W at Scrabble with a triple word play of NotYourB*tch, or something like it.
  • Max Minghella, shirtless, washing a limo or taking down a fence. Or both.

Some things I learned:

  • The repressive, misogynistic, zealots that run things are called The Guardians of the Faithful (insert the political joke of your choosing *here*).
  • Mrs. Waterford’s name is Serena Joy. Serena, as in “serene,” or “peace,” and Joy as in… “joy.” Serenity and joy are feelings Mrs. W does not experience in her present situation, rest assured. I like the irony.

This incredible show is most definitely not meant to be watched in a vacuum. It should be discussed, and at great length. What’d you think of this episode?

Kim Bowman
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