“Out for a drive. To go into labor. Then deliver in an empty house. I can’t bear to think what might’ve happened if those neighbors hadn’t found you.”
Aunt Lydia, explaining Offred’s disappearance.
This is Gilead Rumor Control (Fake News Department). No, Offred was not abducted. Offred did not flee. Offred did not try to escape. She was not abandoned. She was “out for a drive” by herself, even though I’m pretty sure women are not permitted to drive cars, certainly not handmaids. She was forced to have her baby without the assistance of our do-nothing health care professionals, wives, and Marthas. Everything is fine! Just forget it ever happened! There was also a wolf. (drop page) Hard-reset. This time, the drama is based or set (sort-of) around the character of Eden. I had no idea where we were supposed to go with Eden, but she may have been required to fill out the purchase of additional episodes for Hulu. She was added for ballast, but … to me, her death was meaningless because her character was meaningless. She was created and shoe-horned into an episode to set up the “child-bride” theme in Nick’s subplot. This should have served the dual purpose of reinforcing Nick’s love for June (which is also meaningless) in his somewhat cruel indifference to her as his wife, and showing us Eden’s indoctrination and Gilead programming (also meaningless because most of the characters behave this way). It didn’t. A better actor could have made her a better character, and I find it hard to believe she was created to be killed in a smattering of episodes where she’s never given any focus, and instead creates another easy escape route for the writers to avoid story progression. The reality, I think, is that the writers sensed she was a weak substitute for an evil-twin-June and needed to get rid of her so that she would be unavailable to assist June in her ultimate escape, hence Eden’s death is just a set-back for June. This was a very sloppy, clumsily mishandled excuse for a story-arc.
Holly is given the slave-name (don’t kid yourself, that’s what it is) “Nichole.” June is separated from her, yet is forced to provide milk, but she isn’t producing very much. Serena marvels and delights at the daughter who is not hers, and Nick hangs a new portrait-sized photograph of Fred, Serena, and Nichole on Fred’s office wall. Eden holds the new addition while Serena tells her it’s worth all the hard work and effort to become a “mother.” Whose hard work? Whose effort? Offred is taken to an empty church where Fred presents her with the baby in the hope she’ll lactate and produce more milk. I’ve heard of this theory. It’s part folk-medicine and part old wives’ tale, but we see it happening before our eyes. Nichole starts crying and Offred starts leaking. Okay. I didn’t know it was that easy. We had such a hard time with our daughter, I guess we just needed to make her cry. Serena is, once again, livid, shrieking at the thought that her child was touched in any way by Offred. Why is she so horrible? Could you imagine living with this woman? Even Fred can’t tolerate her. In the previous episode, Serena feared they would both end up on “the wall” for losing June, and Fred bemoaned the idea that he would spend eternity hanging next to her (a hilarious line I neglected to mention). Aunt Lydia takes Emily to her next posting (after reminding her that four other families turned her down — is this like a job or something?) at the Lawrence household, ruled by the great Bradley Whitford. Whitford’s a rare type in these circumstances. I think the writers gave him license to improvise around his dialogue, which makes the situation somewhat refreshing. He bitches incessantly at his one-eyed Martha. He doesn’t stand on ceremony with anybody, and he’s almost likable. Emily meets his loopy wife who tells her Lawrence was the architect, the Albert Speer (if you will) of the “Colonies.” Was this really the most ideal posting for Emily?
Eden and June have an interesting conversation in the kitchen. It starts off with Eden asking June if it hurts to have babies, and ends with June telling Eden she should grab love wherever she can. Blessed be. Nick and June share a moment as the true mother and father of the baby. He tells her they should run away and start over. Problem is there’s no place to go. Another problem is Luke, but I guess we’re not going there. She tells Nick she named the baby Holly after her mother. Fred interrupts to tell Nick Guardian Isaac never showed up for work. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out what’s happened. All this “rancor” is upsetting baby Nichole, so Serena tries to breast-feed her. Um, what? Nichole doesn’t like her “Mother’s” breast. Score one for Offred, I guess. Offred finds some of baby Holly’s clothes and smells them. For a show about reproductive rights, The Handmaid’s Tale sure loves babies. It turns out Eden (taking June’s advice) has run off with Guardian Isaac. Fred is shocked to discover June was hiding the whole time in the attic in the previous episode. Why is he shocked? Does he not know what he is? If Fred had lived in our Country for any length of time (which I assume he did, I assume he was born here), he would have to look at himself as America would look at him. He would see himself as a terrorist, an enemy of the State, an interloper, an infidel. He would know he did not create our infrastructure. He would know he did not construct the magnificent home he has stolen and is now occupying (as all of the Commanders have). He would know that Gilead is a very loose association of thieves occupying parts of America and terrorizing it’s own citizenry. If he knows all of this, and can still live with that knowledge, then he must spend an enormous amount of time lying to himself and convincing himself (in a dangerous way) that he is some kind of hero or messiah for the cause of Gilead.
Lawrence sits Emily down for a little drink and a little talk. He’s done his homework. He knows all about her life in the before-time as well as her recent transgressions. He tries to engage her in debate, and as smart as Emily is, she does twist the knife, but it’s obvious (at least to me) that Lawrence has been driven half-mad by the great ideas he had when he helped plan for Gilead’s future. I wonder if Speer felt the same way. The Martha Rita wakes Offred in the middle of the night to tell her they found Guardian Isaac and Eden. Nick advises Eden to lie, to say that Isaac abducted her, or that she sinned and she’s sorry, or beg for forgiveness. Eden doesn’t want to lie. This is partially Nick’s fault for driving her away. It’s also June’s fault. Eden is a 15-year-old girl. She has no idea what is going on, only that she wants to love who she wants to love. In keeping with the policy of the series to show newer, fresher ways to execute people, Isaac and Eden are pushed off a platform above a swimming pool with weights chained to their ankles, drowning them. We started with the hanging-by-crane, we had the aftermath of the massacre with machine guns and hangings at the Boston Globe, the fake-out mass hangings at Fenway, the head-shot at the airstrip, and now we have drowning! What’s next? Burning at the stake? High cholesterol? Instead of pleading for mercy, Eden twists her own kind of knife, reciting Corinthians: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It does not dishonor others.”* All of this happens while Eden’s parents, June, Fred, and Serena look on. Great place, huh? Later, Offred tries to comfort Nick, but he wanders off. Max Minghella does well when he doesn’t have to carry much emotional weight, but he fails here because he does not behave as a mourning man, or a widower. Instead, he acts like he got the lowest score on Metroid. Eden doesn’t fair much better. She was just a stupid 15-year-old girl who never got a chance to grow up.
*1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
You don’t have to be a Christian to understand that.
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