Monday, June 26, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: "The Handmaid's Tale" season finale


Last night was episode 10, the season finale of "The Handmaid's Tale" on Bravo Canada. It ended exactly as the book did -- and if that was the end of the series, I would have been satisfied. I rather liked the ambiguity of the book's ending -- that we were allowed to form our own opinion as to whether June/Offred stepped into the darkness, or into the light, as she herself put it.

That said, I am looking forward to the next season. Generally, I don't like it when movie or TV adaptations of a book I loved make significant changes or expand beyond the original material. But so far, that's worked pretty well for "The Handmaid's Tale." The fact that Margaret Atwood is a "consulting producer" on the show is a good sign, I think.

The relationship between June/Offred & Serena Joy, the Commander's wife, was at the centre of this episode.  As usual, I swung between feeling sorry for (& empathizing with) Serena Joy and yelling "YOU BITCH!!"  at her on the TV screen, lol.  When Fred told her "Go to your room" and she left -- but not before telling him Offred's baby was not his and knocking the Scrabble board & pieces off his desk -- I was cheering her on. (Although, as even she herself admitted, she helped write some of the rules that are now used to oppress her.)(The look on Fred's face when he hears that Warren's wife asked for the harshest punishment for his extracurricular activities with Janine was priceless. You could almost hear him thinking, "Uh oh...")  I could even understand her hurt over discovering that Fred had been taking Offred on "outings" beyond the monthly "ceremony" (although it didn't seem fair to take it out on Offred as she did).

But when she showed June/Offred her daughter -- while June/Offred was locked in the car, screaming & clawing at the windows -- able to look at, but not to touch or speak to her daughter -- and then cooly got back into the car & resumed her knitting with the threat, "As long as MY baby is OK, yours will be OK too"  -- she deserved every curse word that June hurled at her through the window (along with the ones I was shouting at the screen, lol). (That was something that went beyond the book material... I remember Serena Joy showing Offred a photo of Hannah, but not making any explicit threats.)

For me, one of the key lingering images from this episode was Serena Joy prostrating herself on the floor in front of Offred's developing pregnancy test, praying for a positive result. OK, I know many of us have prayed over a pee stick ourselves. ;)  But it brought home to me her desperation to have a child, and how high the stakes were. In a world where women are only valued for their fertility and their relationship to the men in their lives (if Serena Joy weren't married to the Commander, what would her status be in Gilead??), what else is there for her?  If you want to put it in the Biblical language used by Gileadeans (terminology??), it struck me that Serena (& Gilead) had made an idol (a false idol?) of fertility, of pregnancy (albeit not of the handmaids themselves, who were endowed with these powers & carrying these babies...), & was worshipping at its feet. Isn't that something of a sin itself?

I was also struck by the scene where Fred comes to Serena as she is setting up the bassinet in the nursery (already!! -- the pee stick is barely dry...) and promises her that once the baby is born and Offred is sent away to her next handmaid posting, "we'll be a family."  This is something that Janine shouted to Commander Warren as she teetered atop the bridge in the last episode: that he promised her they would take the baby & run away together and "be a family." In Gilead terms -- and in the minds of many today, still -- "family" equals man, woman & child (preferably children, plural). A couple alone is not considered a "real" family. A woman is not a "real" woman if she doesn't have a child.

Gilead may be a fictional creation -- but as Atwood said when she wrote it (30+ years ago!), everything in it has happened somewhere in the world at some point in history. And it's still happening today (more than ever, it seems, in some ways), even in North America.

This is beyond a "microblog" post, but it's what I'm thinking about today. ;) Have any of you been watching? Thoughts?  (Any Emmy nomination/award predictions?? -- I think there are quite a few deserving performances here, most especially Elisabeth Moss as June/Offred.)

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here


  1. I've just finished watching it here too. I hadn't read the book, so did that before watching. I have been deeply disturbed and angered by the book/TV series, simply because I see so many parallels to life today, and the efforts politicians make to reverse equality and progress, even without a worldwide fertility crisis.

    I agree with everything you've said! And yes, I laughed too about the look on Fred's face.

    I've been thinking about a post, but wondering if I'll say anything new to what I've said before about feminism. I'll get to it and write something.

    And yes, wasn't Elisabeth Moss fabulous? And I love Samira Wiley (Moira) too.

    1. Yes, and Alexis Bledel as Emily/Ofglen. She was only in a few episodes, and in the one, she was gagged for pretty much the entire thing, but she said so much with her eyes.

  2. I skimmed your post because I have yet to watch, but I did see your question about what else we're watching. Have you seen Orphan Black? Lots in there that's relevant to the IF community. Also sort of dystopian. The 5th (and last) season is underway and I haven't decided what I think of it yet.

    1. I've never watched it but the premise sounds intriguing! And the actress (Tatiana Maslany) is from Regina!!

  3. Just finished watching it. It was so intense. That scene where Serena Joy knelt in front of the pregnancy test was hard for me to watch. Also the scene when Fred says to her that they will have a baby and she spits back "She (as in Offred/June) will have a baby," with such resentment, but also real pain, that was hard too. I have struggled with the Serena Joy character this whole season. It's been hard to watch. Truly.

    The other scene that gutted me was when Luke told Moira that she was on her family list. I was bawling.

    The show has been really good. Really, really good. I can't remember the last time I watched something that affected me so deeply. (And yes, I read the book, but a long time ago, when I was probably to young to really understand it they way I do now).

  4. I loved seeing Luke reunited with Moira, and telling her she was on his family list. She seemed so dazed up to that point (understandably!!). What a story she will have to tell him...!!