Offred is one of the few fertile women in what was once America. As a handmaid, her only function is to bear children. Based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale has now come to our screens in the UK – Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4.
Danger is most definitely in the air. Offred is playing with fire now, and she steps up her game this week after the midnight trip to Jezebels. Well after that dangerous journey, who wouldn’t? Serena Joy had a couple of sensitive moments, and her conversations with Mrs Putnam raised her suspicions. The most powerful storyline this week though, belongs to Janine.
Poor, poor Janine. The episode began with a… I don’t like to use the word ‘ceremony’ because of it’s connotations here, but seeing as that’s the best word for it, it’ll have to do. The episode began with a ceremony to mark the end of Janine’s time in the Putnam household. Janine handed her baby over to Mrs Putnam with only a little reluctance, and cheerily waved goodbye to a congregation of Handmaids. She confided in Offred that Commander Warren had promised to come and get her, but the image of that happy girl’s smile driving off in the van left a sour taste.
Skip forward a couple of scenes, and we find Offred being set a task by the folks behind the undercover movement known as Mayday: return to Jezebels and retrieve a package, then await further instructions. Late at night she meets the Commander outside his office and flirts her way into being invited in. In her sweetest, breathiest voice, Offred tells him how exciting it was to adventure off in the dead of night, and he subsequently tells her they will go back. Tonight. I think I was just as relieved as Offred was when she left that office in one piece, having succeeded in her plan. So far, so good.
But Janine has trouble during the Ceremony (applying the Handmaid’s Tale meaning this time) with her new couple. The wife, Mrs Monroe, is kind to Janine, but she breaks away from them before it is over. Poor Janine retreats to a corner and tells them repeatedly, “He’s coming for me.” Like that’s the only thing keeping her going.
Back at home, we find Serena Joy desperately upset that she is without a child, and presumably fearing that she may never realise this dream. After all, it was she who suggested that Offred and Nick sleep together for fear the Commander might be infertile.
Offred meanwhile has made it out to Jezebels with the Commander, but as soon as they’ve *ahem* finished, he announces that he knows why Offred wanted to come back here. He goes to the door and brings Moira inside, then leaves the two of them alone for a few minutes. But Moira is not happy to see Offred again, not here. She turns Offred away, and then the Commander drags her back home. Serena Joy meets the Commander on the stairs on his way back in, but he sends her to bed without him. The seed is planted. Mrs Putnam’s reminder of what happened to their last Handmaid waters the seed, developing an idea, and pushes Serena Joy to investigate her husband’s office. This time, she finds it empty. One can only wonder what will happen if she makes this a habit, and discovers Offred… Playing. With. Fire.
But like I said before, the biggest storyline was Janine’s this week. The climax of the episode saw Janine threatening to jump off a bridge with her baby. She accused Commander Warren of lying to her – promising to come for her when her posting changed, but he never came. Aunt Lydia (who Ann Dowd portrays astoundingly well throughout the series) brought Offred to the scene to coax Janine down. She successfully convinces Janine to put her daughter first, and give her the chance to grow up. But Janine has suffered too much at the hands of Gilead’s society, and she gives herself up to the river below.
It’s a sombre but poignant image. We’ve known for a long time that Janine has suffered greatly in Gilead, and it seems a fitting end for her, taking back control of her own life, even if that control is only used to put an end to it all. But it does leave you wondering, how will things end for everyone else? It’s the finale next week, and we’ve not only got Offred, the Commander, Serena Joy and Nick to worry about, but now Moira is back in play, cruising the streets, and Luke is still out there somewhere.
The board is set. The pieces are all out. Now let’s see how this game ends.
Catch up with The Handmaid’s Tale on All4. Image source: Vox.com