TheHandmaid's Tale | Episode 5 "Seeds" Recap
If you follow me on social media, you know that I am a huge fan of "The Handmaid's Tale". This show about a dystopia where women are completely controlled, tortured and for the most part, pretty disposable, is deathly frightening and yet immensely alluring. I'm fascinated, intrigued and scared out of my wits all at the same time. Providing recaps and commentary seemed like a natural addition to the blog. From now until the season ends, every Wednesday, I'll be recapping and giving you my thoughts on the most recent episode, so please make sure you check in every week! Needless to say, SPOILER ALERT! This blog entry contains major spoilers so if you are watching the show, be sure to watch the episode before reading the recaps!
In last week's episode, men seemed to be serving as simply window dressing as the episode become all about women and mostly focused on the intricate relationships that exist between them in this world. In Episode 5, we realize that although men as a whole may have been more of a background to the women's foreground, they are still massively responsible for the misery that the average women is living day to day. Even more, we realize how complicit women are in this society in their own subjugation and that of their less fortunate counterparts, in an effort to secure their own position of power. It's truly a disturbing look into the concept of "united we stand, divided we fall". Gilead gets darker and darker each episode and takes you along for the emotional rollercoaster ride of your life.
This episode opens with Offred burning the Mayday letters that had once brought her so much comfort, encouragement and served as a reminder that she was not alone in this horrific experience. When she is approached by Nick, she lets him know in the same robotic tone of voice that she ended the last episode with, "we're not allowed to have these". When he asked her what is wrong? She again replies in the same tone, "I"m not supposed to be out of my room at night". Gilead has truly broken this woman. The fighter that we have seen up until now, seems to be gone and who could blame her? If you want to control someone, first control their mind. More on this topic later.
Next up, Aunt Lydia is checking the progression of Offred's pregnancy with Mrs Waterford (Serena) in attendance of course. The balance of power between Wife and Aunt is interesting, particularly when we see Aunt Lydia with a book and pencil. As you know, this society prohibits women from reading or writing. Do you remember when all signage was replaced with photos in the supermarket? Mrs Waterford gives Aunt Lydia an envious look as she takes her notes. Being that she was a published author pre-Gilead, I bet she misses those days where she actually had the occasion to use her brain for something other than torturing women less fortunate than her. It must also serve as a harsh reminder that she used to actually have a purpose outside of the ornamental capacity that she has been currently reduced. Aunt Lydia just dismisses her pencil as an inconvenience more than anything, but I think it's her way of passively taunting Mrs Waterford. When Aunt Lydia asks questions directly to Offred, Serena always answers on her behalf, even questions about the last time she had a bowel movement. She is probably the most loathsome character in this series for me. Aunt Lydia comments on Offred's "musty scent" and orders her to take two baths a day. These women never miss an opportunity to exert control and authority over these handmaids.
The tension is thick between Aunt Lydia and Mrs Waterford. Mrs Waterford offers Aunt Lydia some tea before her visit is complete. When she comes down to speak to her, her comments allude to Mrs Waterford being on edge due to nicotine withdrawal. She also admits to having been a former smoker herself. Is anyone else dying to hear Aunt Lydia's backstory??? Aunt Lydia comments on the positive progress of the baby to which Mrs Waterford retorts that a doctor would happily provide this same info. This is definitely meant to undermine Aunt Lydia's responsibilities. However, Aunt Lydia is a bit of a veteran bitch and knows how to speak Mrs Waterford's smug language so she challenges Mrs Waterford passively by commenting on all that contributes to a pregnancy's success, that a doctor is unable to provide. "The mood in the household" Aunt Lydia lets her know that the Red Center has done everything to get Offred under control and now, it's Mrs Waterford turn to do her part. "Your baby needs to know it's coming into a harmonious environment."
On her way out, Aunt Lydia bumps into the commander and they make small talk. I found it interesting when he asked about Offred, Aunt Lydia responded, "the handmaid is well". Again, reducing women to mere reproductive commodities is what this society is all about. As she leaves him, she lets him know the baby is currently the size of a papaya. Blessed be the fruit!
So, the colonies are where the women who are not of use to Gilead are sent to be forgotten. I too am not very invested in that part of the show. I did enjoy finding out about Emily's backstory but every time we see life in the Colonies, it's more of a commercial break to me and I want to get back to what is happening in Gilead. Nonetheless, we see the women having to pray and sing all the while slowing dying. Janine is such a peculiar character to me. On the one hand, her naivety I s probably what has kept her alive up until this point, but how can someone continue to be so optimistic after everything she has had to endure? The Colonies merely emphasize that Gilead has become such a hopeless place with endless acts of mental torture on a constant loop.
When Offred starts to bleed, I can't deny being a little hopeful. After all, her pregnancy is the only thing keeping her alive but it's also her greatest opportunity for resistance against a misogynistic society that has reduced her to the role of a nameless surrogate. The way she responds to it also signals that she hasn't completely gone blind submission to Gilead. She doesn't tell anyone about the blood. On her walk with Mrs Waterford, she is back to lowly submissive handmaid and responding to everything with a "yes, Mrs Waterford" and "no, Mrs Waterford". The wives want babies but often lack the patience to take care of them. Since the showrunner has made it clear they didn't want to contend with the issue of race, it's noticeably absent from the series. However, scenes with Serena interacting with the other Wives and asking Offred if she had fun at the baby shower, speak to the social caste system amongst the women in Gilead and how truly tone deaf they are to the suffering of the women that are "submissive to them".
Because Serena is sly and cunning and this show is hell-bent on stamping out any sort of comfort and positive feelings any character has, she will not let it go that Nick is concerned about Offred. Instead, she mentions it to the Commander in an effort to spark jealousy. It's obvious, these two do not have a connection and are only together at this point for the visual so the jealousy isn't about Serena but about Offred. For breakfast, he won't even look up from his computer to acknowledge his wife's presence. By the way, are their divorces in Gilead? I would imagine not, given the strong Christian fundamental values on which the society was constructed. Nonetheless, since we all know how Offred became pregnant in the first place, Serena rightfully suspects that Nick has feelings that he should not have for her. Also, this might be worth exploring in a separate blog post, but while initially, the society was all for women having no purpose outside of domestic responsibilities, this has got to make for a very boring interaction at home. When a woman literally has no life outside or interests outside of her man. What say you?
Needless to say, we next see Commander Waterford speaking to Commander Pryce in an effort to get Nick moved out of his house. But Commander Pryce isn't easily convinced and suggests finding a way to keep Nick around. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that Commander Pryce put him in the Waterford household to keep an eye on them. As we know from flashbacks, the knew each other from pre-Gilead days. If Nick was sent away, then Commander Pryce would no longer have "his eyes". I don't know this to be the case for sure. This is just my suspicion.
Moving right along and what started out at just merely trickles of blood, is now literally a full-on bloodbath as we see Offred submerged in a bath of bloody water. Her eyes still empty and she still seems to have given up. She merely rolls up toilet paper puts it in her underwear and proceeds to go to the Prayvaganza with Serena.
As it turns out, the Prayvaganza is a mass wedding ceremony where guardians are rewarded with wives for their hard work. Only the "wives", are from the countryside and are essentially child brides. No one is older than 15. These are arranged without the knowledge of either the man or girl and it's utterly shocking to both June and Nick. The Commander and Serena seem so satisfied with themselves. It's a brutal way to emotional terrorize two individuals and truly a classic case of keeping your enemies close. The way Offred was shaking with grief at that moment was palpable. In fact, this is what "The Handmaid's Tale" has become this season. One act of terror following another. It's almost too much for the viewer to handle. The characters need a break and we need a break from the pervasive and unceasing horrors of Gilead.
The mass wedding is followed by a scripture reading with the new couple at the Waterford's. No honeymoon?? After which Serena instructs Offred to go her room because only husband and wives are allowed. More salt in the wound! When we see Serena instructing Eden, Nicks new wife about having sex with her new husband and it being pleasurable, you realize that this is just one more woman for Serena to control and another avenue for her to exert her authority over someone's life.
On the way back to his room, Nick finds Offred in the plants from a leap she took from her window. The next time we see her, she is recuperating in a hospital bed with Serena sleeping in a chair by her side. June is back, People! In the hospital bed, she promises her unborn child, "they do not own you. They do not own what you will become. I'm going to get us out of here." There is still hope.
PRAISE BE Y'ALL!
- Eden doesn't know much about pre-Gilead days, this is how she grew up so it's understandable she would have a naive attitude and expect nothing more than status quo. However, I'm disgusted by Serena who comments how beautiful these young girls look to be getting married to these grown men. If the baby was a girl, is this the environment she would want her daughter raised in? Then again, she did help create this society. I'm dying to know the roots of her life motivations.
- Janine's optimism is grating. How on earth can someone be so out of it after everything they have had to endure in this society? When she mentions God saving her life twice and there is a reason for that, it does make you wonder, is this all an act?
- Emily has had enough of Janine and she has allowed Gilead to get inside of her. She is broken in a different way than Offred was.
Whew my first recap! Anything noteworthy that you think I missed? Any thoughts on where you think the show is going with everything? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts!