Under the Eye: “Dear Offred”

It’s so hard to talk to people, isn’t it? That’s a keystone of “discourse” in 2022 America, let alone an indeterminate year in the world of Gilead. Funny how words … have to … be delivered … in a … slow … contemplative … fashion. When June (Elisabeth Moss) is approached by a creepy Serena worshipper (identified only as “Acolyte” in the Imdb and played by the very pretty Imogen Haworth) in a playground, she immediately gets defensive, especially when the creepy woman identifies baby Nichole and calls her a “gift from God,” and a “miracle” and whatever words atheists think Christians use on an hourly basis. She then calls June a slut and whore, or whatever because that’s totally how religious people think. It’s not. I’m being sarcastic. June gets physical, pushes the woman and threatens her.

So we get back to the whole idea of people being unable to communicate with each other. June’s court-appointed therapist (Olivia Sandoval), or whatever she is, has great difficulty putting words together. I thought these people had to establish a rapport with their “patients.” She takes forever to get to the point, which is: people like Serena, and some people don’t like June, so there ya go. June, being an overgrown infant, refuses to understand this rather rudimentary concept. It isn’t just the therapist either. Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) seems to be having difficulty cushioning his words. In another part of the five-block radius of Toronto, Tuello (Sam Jaeger) is releasing Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) into the wild to fend for herself. He basically infers that her life is in danger, but Serena doesn’t care because she is a servant of God.

I don’t understand how any of this is possible, given that she is a war criminal, but the writers want to set up artificial boundaries to story progression and I’m in no position to put them on the wall, so here we are. I mean, they ripped Fred to pieces and nobody seemed to care. Gilead puts the deep, gravelly-voiced Ezra Shaw (Rossif Sutherland) in charge of being Serena’s bodyguard. Tuello tells June, and both she and Luke repudiate and insult Tuello (as though he is responsible for this entire situation) before kicking him out of their enormous (not to mention free) house. All I can wonder is if there’s a homeless problem in Canada, or if some people are gifted gorgeous homes while others live in one room apartments like … say Gilead. It’s a strange, surreal, and shitty world we’ve gifted to our children, isn’t it?

Part of me sincerely wishes Tuello would tell the both of them to shut the fuck up. He never does, God bless him. The man is a picture of chill having to deal with these self-absorbed pricks, all of them. I know I mentioned in a previous review that Esther is an expert in the field of naturally-occurring poisons, but I do take issue with Janine’s (Madeline Brewer) subsequent recovery. We move forward in the episode with Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) trying to help Janine get around on a walker. There are a handful of naturally-occurring poisons that cause paralysis, but those poisons also cause death in very, very small doses. Esther’s poison of choice, nightshade, as well as belladonna, wolf’s bane, hemlock, and foxglove have been known to cause paralysis, but it makes very little sense to keep those plants around angry handmaids who have an expertise in poison.

When Lydia angrily slanders Esther, Janine suddenly grows a pair and defends her. After all, it was Lydia who pushed Esther as well as made Janine her keeper. Lydia goes to Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) and asks that the “handmaid system” be reformed. Instead of a ceremony in the bedroom of a Commander’s house, she suggests a sort-of “Handmaid Hotel.” Well since my baby left me … Lawrence isn’t having it. He knows what the score is. He knows the whole thing is a con game designed for men to get laid without consequence, yet Lydia still believes in Gilead for reasons I can’t fathom. Meanwhile in Canada, June, Luke, and Moira are livid when June (identified by her slave name, “Offred”) receives an invitation for the opening ceremony of a Gilead “Information” Center.

Information about Gilead? Well, we rape women so that they will become pregnant. That’s kind-of really all you need to know about Gilead. Any questions? June’s resulting hissy-fit wakes Nichole, and the baby monitor goes off because … I guess she can sense her mother’s anger? June and Luke are the kind of people who buy baby monitors. Yes, I have a problem with the baby monitor. I’ve always had a problem with the baby monitor. “Oh, but what if the house is sooooo big, Muffy? We won’t be able to hear our infant’s digressions and flatulence.” I remember we had dinner with friends and they had a baby monitor in their tiny New York apartment, and I’m thinking, “What? Do you have like terrible, piss-poor hearing?”

As a parent, my ears are precisely attuned to the sound of my daughter’s voice. I can hear her a hundred feet away in a crowded supermarket. Getting back to “Dear Offred,” I had difficulty understanding why Serena would be given her freedom, considering Gilead couldn’t have cared less about her welfare before she arrived home for Fred’s funeral, but then to send an invitation to June twists the knife, and seems to be designed to provoke her, which it does. Luke appears at Serena’s … office? Headquarters? He gets frisked twice by Serena’s creepy bodyguard and tells her he will unleash Toronto’s dreaded bureaucracy on her ass in an effort to shut down her operation if June doesn’t kill her first, of course.

These sound like actionable threats, as well as extortion until Serena realizes she has already won the battle by questioning Luke’s manhood since he made no serious effort to rescue June and Hannah during their time in Gilead. He leaves … burned. Tough break, little dude. We’re then treated to a nauseating sex scene with Luke and June accompanied by an ugly cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” which features the latest trend in eroticism: the fully-clothed female and the naked male*. Luke makes good on his threats to Serena and shuts down her building. Shaw takes Serena to a safe house; the home of a Gilead sympathizer named Alanis Wheeler (Genevieve Angelson) who cos-play dresses like a Commander’s wife. When she sees Serena, she drops to her knees and hugs her pregnant belly. Okay, we’re getting into a weird area here.

*What has happened to men? Luke is merely the result, not the cause, of a slow, dipping dive in the depiction of the male on television and in the movies. Granted, Luke was never the “alpha male” type, but as of the fourth season, he has been relegated to something along the lines of the character in the movie, Airplane, who needed to be slapped repeatedly because she was freaking out.

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