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Tara Ariano

S01.E06: A Woman's Place

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1 hour ago, Umbelina said:

did anyone else notice the total shock and silence when suddenly Serena Joy stood up and started speaking?  I don't think that kind of thing happens very often in Gilead, but she must have had permission from hubby at least, right?

I don't think she had asked permission ahead of time but he was okay with it because the little kids were already supposed to be at the banquet and she was stalling for time so that the ambassador and the other guests wouldn't  think anything was wrong (although I think the commander's concern about that was really misplaced since most people don't go to a fancy dinner party and get suspicious that something has gone awry if the meal doesn't start at exactly 8pm). He was fretting about the kids being late so she told him not to worry and that all they needed was a little showmanship. But yes, the silence when she stood up and started (gasp!) speaking in public was the Gilead people being shocked that a person with ovaries was making any kind of speech. It's sad that I was relieved that the commander didn't reprimand her for doing it. That's how low my expectations are for him. 

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I'm glad I'm not the only one that felt she did something pretty dangerous.  I wonder if it will set tongues wagging among his colleagues?  

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2 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

I'm glad I'm not the only one that felt she did something pretty dangerous.  I wonder if it will set tongues wagging among his colleagues?  

 

I noticed more than a few male faces in that room which looked less than pleased at her actions, so I do think this could lead to a "discussion" behind closed doors about her. Just because she is a wife, she is still a woman and still should "know her place" according to the majority of the Regime leaders.

I think Serena Joy still has a rather silly false sense of security being a wife, even as she's seen how Gilead has stripped women of most, if not all, of their rights and, frankly, their general dignity.

Fred is not the most convicted man around either, so I could see him caving in to the orders of those above him, especially if they threaten to do to him, or Serena Joy, what he has given the "okay" to do to other so called enemies of the Regime.

Imagine if they found out that he and Serena Joy came together against the rules, I would guess they would claim it was a waste of his "seed" to risk orgasm with his barren wife who could never hope to get pregnant from the act. They might just do to her what they did to Emily, removing the "desire" she feels to ensure they would not dare do that again.

I would think if they were to physically punish a wife they would want to do so in a way that would not be obvious to the outside world, unlike a Handmaid, allowing her to continue her duties and keep up the facade.

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45 minutes ago, AnswersWanted said:

I think Serena Joy still has a rather silly false sense of security being a wife, even as she's seen how Gilead has stripped women of most, if not all, of their rights and, frankly, their general dignity.

ITA - despite her frustration with being shut out, she still seems to believe that she has some, I wouldn't call it power but safety, maybe? I mean, she knows better than to tell Castillo that IT SUCKS that women can't read anymore. She knows how to twist the truth to make it sound like she's happy with the society she lives in now, at least in front of company. I don't think she believes that she's totally untouchable because there are some big rules that she knows she can't openly break, which is why she was careful when setting up the Offred/Nick situation. But she knows that her husband is powerful and that she has the highest amount of female privilege we've seen in Gilead, so I think that has given her the idea that she is safe. She has power within the female realm - she can punish Offred, she can tell the aunts to pull the handmaids who have been visibly abused, etc. and that only adds to her feeling that she can do what she wants within reason.

Unfortunately, I think she's wrong. Her husband thinks that a woman's biological destiny is squeezing out kids (something she apparently isn't capable of). He thinks that the handmaids are safe and protected, rather than imprisoned, enslaved, and raped. Despite the fact that he knows Serena is a smart woman, he doesn't want to hear her opinions or advice on the state of Gilead or his work. He denies her the privileges he allows Offred (reading, kissing him, etc). Whatever feelings he used to have for her, he doesn't seem to respect or even like her anymore. For that reason alone, she should tread lightly because she is just a woman in this society. I'm guessing that a word from the commander would be enough for her to be punished, executed, or shipped off to the colonies.

I would guess the main reason he keeps her around is for appearances. Since the Gilead leadership is so in love with the concept of traditional families, the men need to to have wives and kids at home, even if the kids are a result of raping their Rachels and they rarely talk to their wives. They have to paint this idealized picture so that the rest of the world can see that they are doing things "correctly." Is divorce allowed in Gilead? If not, that's probably the other reason he keeps Serena around.

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This episode didn't really do it for me. I was disappointed by what we were shown in the flashbacks, we saw no progression from how Serena helped bring about the new world order but came to be pushed out into her current role. In nearly each flashback we are told by Fred that Serena has been a part of the planning from the beginning while she actually does nothing but meekly accept that she has no more place in it. I would have much preferred to have seen her actually being an important part of the original plan and for each flashback to show her being inched out and her having to really swallow her pride at that. I'd like to have seen her reaction when she was told that for the rest of her days she'd wear teal, that she could no longer read, that she must remain celibate but spread her legs monthly for their household handmaid to lie between while Fred rapes her. How the hell did she reconcile with that on any level? The obvious answer is that she convinced herself that the chance of getting to mother a child trumped everything she had lost. She told Offred in Late that she and Fred had tried so long for a baby, so maybe we could have seen her growing more bitter at her inability to have the child she wanted and that driving her in her plotting to overthrow America and being the last thing she clung to as every right she had was stripped away.

By the end of the episode, we see present day Fred telling Serena that he forgot what an amazing woman she is, but we never saw that in the flashbacks. In every single flashback he is expressing his dismay that she isn't able to be by his side as they establish Gilead. We never see him start to grow frustrated with her 'unwomanly' political savvy. It would have made so much more sense to have her, at least when with him, express her frustration with her new place and have him feel the need to put her and keep her in her place. It would explain why he won't talk to her about anything now and why he uses his Handmaids to satisfy in some small way the ghost of his desire to have an actual partner he can talk to.

This episode seems like a badly planned lost opportunity. Instead of taking the opportunity to give some very real depth to the Serena and Fred, it focussed on a series of plot twists. Mexico wants handmaids!!! The female Mexican ambassador doesn't care about women's rights!!! The male assistant ambassador is a spy who will help Offred!!! Luke's alive!!!!!! Dun, dun dun..........  I don't even mind those twists and the extension of the universe in itself but when they come in lieu of compelling story, it's very, very disappointing.

Edited by AllyB
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Another great, heartbreaking episode. 

 

Re the dinner party, I assumed that Serena had not discussed her intention to address the guests but chose to do so because the Ambassador was female. This way she could pretend that women did still have respect and some power in Gilead - the Ambassador had called the Wives 'the silent part of the room' the night before at Serena's home. Serena then decided to have the children to come in after the guests as a woman speaking publicly and the child parade were both good 'showbusiness'. 

That's the first time I've seen Nick wear an earpiece - I don't think he has in the past? If so, that is also the first time we have seen any technology being used in the current timeline. 

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3 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

ITA - despite her frustration with being shut out, she still seems to believe that she has some, I wouldn't call it power but safety, maybe?

 

I think that is it exactly, she feels "safe". I think she still sees herself as such an asset to Fred, and in a lot of ways she actually is because he does seem to be quite timid about some of the harder pressing issues; as we saw in the flashbacks it was Serena taking the role of the more dominant partner, pushing the agenda, encouraging him to stay focused and believe in what they were trying to accomplish.

I agree that her ability to boss around the others, Handmaids, Aunts, even those whom you would think would/should only take direct orders from the commander such as Nick, plays a part in this as well. She gave up her "sexy" heels, her book writing, her ability to even read books anymore, her right to have sex with her own husband, so I believe Serena Joy feels like she's done enough to get by as it were. No one could accuse her of being a "bad wife", her husband is a high ranking commander, she runs her home as god would intend, where could she go wrong now?

But it just doesn't seem to have sunk into her head yet that just being female, just being a woman at all regardless of her title, in Gilead already puts her into a particular box (fertile or infertile) that she cannot escape from now. What Serena Joy views as safety is actually sequestering, and yet again it blinds her to what's really going on right underneath her own nose.

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Initially, I really liked this episode but the more I think about it, the less I like it. I think I was wowed by the visual look of it than anything else, so I was surprised/not surprised to see that it was directed by Floria Sigismondi, who's known mostly for her music videos (including this one by Girls Aloud—a bit of things to come, what with all the red… )

The ep really was a cut above visually, but otherwise, there was a lot wrong with it, first and foremost the whole human trafficking trade wrangling. Generally, you trade surplus or goods and services created for trade, but suddenly Gilead has an overabundance of fertile women they can supply to other countries? It just didn't make sense and since it seems to be a major plot point, it didn't hold up.

Neither did the scene in the movie theater. Not their discussion about the upcoming bloodbath—nothing like hiding in plain sight to avoid detection—just the idea that they would have been in a movie theater in the first place. Prior to the coup, there had already been book burnings and other suppression of worldly entertainment so the idea that key figures in the revolution would have chosen to indulge in pop culture didn't ring true. Small thing, but it stood out for me.

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Something that drives me crazy is that they would separated couples with proven fertility especially if babies are what important. Who's to say Luke and June couldn't have more kids or those other couples they separated? I know divorce and everything but it doesn't make sense if you know BABIES!!!!!!

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This was an interesting episode, my initial fanwanking is that the Mexican govt is willing to trade in Handmaids because they have not begun to establish a method for determining which members of their population are fertile and which ones are not. The ambassador said that no child had been born alive in her CITY for six years not the country. I may be alone in this, but if I were a woman who had given birth to a live/healthy child I would keep that on the hush as much as I possibly could. Keeping my child indoors, or living off of the grid in the country or something- when things are RARE they are commodified, my first concern would be someone wanting to steal my child (like that woman several years ago when June gave birth) OR "study me" to figure out how I did it. I wouldn't be signing up to birth babies for the country. 

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24 minutes ago, Margo Leadbetter said:

but suddenly Gilead has an overabundance of fertile women they can supply to other countries?

 

I don't think that was what they were implying.

Gilead was desperate to find some way to keep their currency afloat, as Fred told Serena Joy. Apparently Mexico has been greatly affected by the fertility crisis as well and they are now desperate enough to find any way possible to start producing their own children again. Obviously Gilead saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of.

However, it's clear they aren't letting on about how many times Handmaids actually have failed pregnancies, or the babies are born sickly, deformed, or worse. Just as Serena Joy removed the maimed Handmaids from view intentionally, Gilead is using a lot of smoke and mirrors to appear to be in a far better, far stronger position than they actually are in.

All they needed to do was get Mexico on board for support and aid purposes and the details can be hashed out later. They could spare a Handmaid or two for a "trail run" as it were, or heck they could pull a woman from the colonies if she isn't too run down and mark her as a Handmaid and ship her off because those unwomen don't count anyway.

Who knows, some of the wives themselves could be bartered off if necessary, because after all they are women and they are a disposable resource and that, I think, is the whole point the show was getting at. Gilead literally is depending on the bodies of women for its very survival, meaning no woman is safe now.

So that's why I didn't see this angle as being proof of Gilead's sudden power structure that runs underneath its' surface.  I actually saw it as proof of this new world's desperation to try and survive any way it can. It is clear so much is logically wrong with the thinking, the reasoning or lack thereof, in Gilead.

They refuse to even acknowledge that it's probably the men who are the reason the birth rates are so dangerously low in the first place. I personally think Offred was right when she told the Mexican ambassador that her country was already dead, because I do think Gilead is dead for its' premise was never going to prove sustainable in reality.

 

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Something that drives me crazy is that they would separated couples with proven fertility especially if babies are what important. Who's to say Luke and June couldn't have more kids or those other couples they separated? I know divorce and everything but it doesn't make sense if you know BABIES!!!!!!

 

I see that as further proof Gilead gives two shits and a hand wave about actually wanting to produce as many children as possible for the greater good; to be decent, god fearing, productive members of the Gilead society.

It's similar to how in today's world we see so many dictatorships run by those who claim to want only what's best for their people. They want to see their society bloom and grow and yada yada, yet they starve, imprison, torture, rape, and kill them at every turn.

How can you possibly think that's what best for your country? It makes no logical sense at all, but I personally don't think there is any sense to be had from such people and that same mentality exists within Gilead.

Those who govern now are all about having power and control, they have no true intentions of making a better world for anyone outside of themselves. It was all a ploy, all lip service, and it still is, they prove it in how they treat truly fertile women, how they don't even care to try and keep using modern science and medicine on hand to increase their chances even if some methods no longer work, and the biggest red flag to me is how men aren't even tested or labeled anymore.

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1 hour ago, Save Yourself said:

That's the first time I've seen Nick wear an earpiece - I don't think he has in the past? If so, that is also the first time we have seen any technology being used in the current timeline. 

I think it's the first time we've seen Nick wear an earpiece, but we've seen the Commander work on a laptop. I get the feeling modern technology exists in Gilead; it's just restricted to male elites like everything else.

43 minutes ago, Scarlett45 said:

This was an interesting episode, my initial fanwanking is that the Mexican govt is willing to trade in Handmaids because they have not begun to establish a method for determining which members of their population are fertile and which ones are not. The ambassador said that no child had been born alive in her CITY for six years not the country. I may be alone in this, but if I were a woman who had given birth to a live/healthy child I would keep that on the hush as much as I possibly could. Keeping my child indoors, or living off of the grid in the country or something- when things are RARE they are commodified, my first concern would be someone wanting to steal my child (like that woman several years ago when June gave birth) OR "study me" to figure out how I did it. I wouldn't be signing up to birth babies for the country. 

I agree that it's likely that healthy babies and children are hidden away. We saw June's experience with her baby - the only one left in the nursery in the hospital being stolen - and, and when June walks past the school group (?) of little girls in the first episode, they are escorted by armed guards.

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  1 HOUR AGO, MARGO LEADBETTER SAID:

but suddenly Gilead has an overabundance of fertile women they can supply to other countries?

 

 

I don't think that was what they were implying.

Gilead was desperate to find some way to keep their currency afloat, as Fred told Serena Joy. Apparently Mexico has been greatly affected by the fertility crisis as well and they are now desperate enough to find any way possible to start producing their own children again. Obviously Gilead saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of.

 

I get that but exporting handmaids is still a very weak plot device. First, how many could Gilead possibly trade without depleting their own human resources? Certainly, not enough to make a dent in Mexico's fertility problem. Second, even though Gilead has forbidden all scientific intervention regarding fertility, non-Gilead regimes certainly haven't. Given that we now know for sure this takes place in present day (Luke's birth year was given as 1980), all kinds of fertility and genetic treatments do exist. Why isn't Mexico investing in those? It certainly makes more sense to harvest the eggs and sperm of fertile men and women, create test-tube embryos, and implant them in surrogates. The odds of achieving viable pregnancies and full-term births (and aborting non-viable or "damaged" fetuses) are greater than hoping to impregnate a few imported handmaids.  Handmaids as a cash crop just doesn't work for me.

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"I also don't understand how science could "be failing". (I understand that humanity is failing.) There must be a bazillion pre-disaster eggs and sperm frozen in various banks. I admittedly know almost nothing about this, but wouldn't a species on the brink of extinction throw everything they had at the scientific solutions, i.e., IVF or whatever? (I get that IVF and such is no walk in the park, but if all the best scientific minds turned their focus to getting the women who could support a pregnancy all the way through term with healthy sperm, wouldn't that be better?"

IIRC science is a no-no in Gilead. Scientists were among the first to be hung on the wall. So my guess is that at that time they also wiped out all of the fruits o that scientific labor (pardon the pun) and with it the frozen embryos and potential babies. 

My FAVORITE moment from last night's episode? The handmaid who said "I think I went to a bat mitzvah here."

I wondered, also, whether to make the crop of viable Handmaid babies look better to the visiting contingent, they might have also added in some of the babies kidnapped/taken from the Handmaids themselves and if so would we see Hannah there? I couldn't tell if the look on Offred's face meant she too was looking for Hannah (who we "know" is with another Commander and his wife) or just the angst and longing of her not being there.

ALSO also wondering ... we have seen a few Commanders and/or Wives of color and I wonder if the Handmaids of color are also paired with them specifically so their baby "looks like" the mother? There was a quick shot during the parade of kids where I THOUGHT a young black girl was being held/hugged by a black woman dressed in teal, but it was a quick shot and I didn't think to rewind ... though, from what I noticed, I did NOT see a black Commander in that scene. And if indeed it does eventually return to the book, I guess we will find out if only women of color were retained (other than to be security guards or eyes, since we did see a few black men in those roles).

Re: Nick with the earpiece, I TOTALLY noticed that because when they were making out in the hallway which would seem to be echoey and they weren't exactly being quiet about it, I wondered if his earpiece was a two-way thing and that others (say, Fred) might be hearing their sounds of passion.

Finally? I've been thinking all along that Luke is alive. Especially with a new season on the dotted line. Regardless of how she may have bene bitter about him, I can't help but feel that the knowledge that Luke is alive (and part of the underground) and that Hannah is out there somewhere will be what gives June the strength to keep going and keep fighting because she's been so broken.

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1 hour ago, AnswersWanted said:

I think that is it exactly, she feels "safe". I think she still sees herself as such an asset to Fred, and in a lot of ways she actually is because he does seem to be quite timid about some of the harder pressing issues; as we saw in the flashbacks it was Serena taking the role of the more dominant partner, pushing the agenda, encouraging him to stay focused and believe in what they were trying to accomplish.

I agree that her ability to boss around the others, Handmaids, Aunts, even those whom you would think would/should only take direct orders from the commander such as Nick, plays a part in this as well. She gave up her "sexy" heels, her book writing, her ability to even read books anymore, her right to have sex with her own husband, so I believe Serena Joy feels like she's done enough to get by as it were. No one could accuse her of being a "bad wife", her husband is a high ranking commander, she runs her home as god would intend, where could she go wrong now?

But it just doesn't seem to have sunk into her head yet that just being female, just being a woman at all regardless of her title, in Gilead already puts her into a particular box (fertile or infertile) that she cannot escape from now. What Serena Joy views as safety is actually sequestering, and yet again it blinds her to what's really going on right underneath her own nose.

I think part of the problem is that she feels that she is better than people like Offred (because she's not a gender traitor or an adulterer) and that's why she DESERVES to have more privilege. She feels morally superior and thinks that because she has proven her worth (as someone who followed the Gilead rules before they existed), of course she should be given the privileges of drinking real coffee and wearing that green dress. Her sense of entitlement blinds her to the fact that the bottom line is that as a woman, she has no real power because whatever things that she is allowed to do could be taken away by her husband or the other men who are in charge. What little power she has creates the illusion that she has any choice in this anymore.

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4 hours ago, AllyB said:

This episode didn't really do it for me. I was disappointed by what we were shown in the flashbacks, we saw no progression from how Serena helped bring about the new world order but came to be pushed out into her current role. In nearly each flashback we are told by Fred that Serena has been a part of the planning from the beginning while she actually does nothing but meekly accept that she has no more place in it. I would have much preferred to have seen her actually being an important part of the original plan and for each flashback to show her being inched out and her having to really swallow her pride at that. I'd like to have seen her reaction when she was told that for the rest of her days she'd wear teal, that she could no longer read, that she must remain celibate but spread her legs monthly for their household handmaid to lie between while Fred rapes her. How the hell did she reconcile with that on any level? The obvious answer is that she convinced herself that the chance of getting to mother a child trumped everything she had lost. She told Offred in Late that she and Fred had tried so long for a baby, so maybe we could have seen her growing more bitter at her inability to have the child she wanted and that driving her in her plotting to overthrow America and being the last thing she clung to as every right she had was stripped away.

By the end of the episode, we see present day Fred telling Serena that he forgot what an amazing woman she is, but we never saw that in the flashbacks. In every single flashback he is expressing his dismay that she isn't able to be by his side as they establish Gilead. We never see him start to grow frustrated with her 'unwomanly' political savvy. It would have made so much more sense to have her, at least when with him, express her frustration with her new place and have him feel the need to put her and keep her in her place. It would explain why he won't talk to her about anything now and why he uses his Handmaids to satisfy in some small way the ghost of his desire to have an actual partner he can talk to.

This episode seems like a badly planned lost opportunity. Instead of taking the opportunity to give some very real depth to the Serena and Fred, it focussed on a series of plot twists. Mexico wants handmaids!!! The female Mexican ambassador doesn't care about women's rights!!! The male assistant ambassador is a spy who will help Offred!!! Luke's alive!!!!!! Dun, dun dun..........  I don't even mind those twists and the extension of the universe in itself but when they come in lieu of compelling story, it's very, very disappointing.

The more I think about it the more I can see this.  The show chose instead to go with the framing device that at every step of the way as Serena was told no and denied the opportunity to participate in the running of the society she had helped create, Commander Fred was right there to look mournful and tell her how sorry he was that "they" wouldn't allow it.  But like in the scene with Misogyny McMisogynist shaking his head over how they'd made the mistake of letting women get ideas above themselves and wouldn't be doing that again, Fred was perfectly fine with going along with it on his rise to power and despite what he was telling Serena entirely without push back.  That's certainly a valid thing to highlight in showing how their marriage disintegrated to the point that he's hiding out in his study away from her sneaking games of Scrabble with another woman who can't say no.  You're right, though, in that it unfortunately skips everything from "no Serena, you can't play our reindeer games" to the point where she's throwing out clothes she actually chose for herself to grimace at that closet of interchangeable teal dresses and gritting her teeth quietly every month while participating in the world's unsexiest three way.  I would have loved to have seen her face when that was presented to her as new official policy.

I will say that closet scene was a nice echo of one Offred had an episode or two ago standing and looking at her closet of identical red dresses.    While their statuses may be different and Serena's prison is certainly a cushier one, the reality is that choice has been taken from both of them.

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I remember reading an interview with the guy who draws Dilbert and he had said that the reason his comic was so popular was because everyone had a boss. Everyone reads it and identifies with Dilbert - even bosses have boards that tell them what to do.

I thought that "everyone is abused and therefore abuses everyone else" dynamic was kind of at play here. We saw the woman who trained the handmaidens - who treats them like shit - getting treated like shit from Serena. Serena gets treated like shit by the men. But even the Commander was worried about the Mexican leaders. Everyone is afraid of someone. There's no such thing as being comfortable in your power. It's all dependent upon someone else's approval and protection. 

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41 minutes ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

 

My FAVORITE moment from last night's episode? The handmaid who said "I think I went to a bat mitzvah here."

 

YES!!

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6 minutes ago, Margo Leadbetter said:

I get that but exporting handmaids is still a very weak plot device. First, how many could Gilead possibly trade without depleting their own human resources? Certainly, not enough to make a dent in Mexico's fertility problem. Second, even though Gilead has forbidden all scientific intervention regarding fertility, non-Gilead regimes certainly haven't. Given that we now know for sure this takes place in present day (Luke's birth year was given as 1980), all kinds of fertility and genetic treatments do exist. Why isn't Mexico investing in those? It certainly makes more sense to harvest the eggs and sperm of fertile men and women, create test-tube embryos, and implant them in surrogates. The odds of achieving viable pregnancies and full-term births (and aborting non-viable or "damaged" fetuses) are greater than hoping to impregnate a few imported handmaids.  Handmaids as a cash crop just doesn't work for me.

 

Like I said, I don't think Gilead is really going to try and help Mexico at all; they aren't even bothering to help themselves and they're the ones who have had the Handmaid system in place for years now.

If Gilead truly cared about their own fertility rates, as mentioned before, why the heck would you break up well known fertile couples in the first place?

Luke and June would have remained paired together to have as many healthy babies as possible that then could be given to others to raise, just as Hannah was. Instead they treated him like a traitor and she got placed with the very men who are the most infertile, men who then made it illegal to even call them that anymore.

The Gilead Regime see these women as a means to an end, whether they are exploiting Handmaids locally or internationally, the point is that these women are just property now and they can be treated just like any sow or mare in a breeding program.

I think that this all really is foreshadowing to the future of Gilead and how things take a turn at the end of the book,

Spoiler

regarding its' eventual collapse and end.

 

I also think that the show is trying to paint the world as a far more desperate and bleak landscape than what we're in today, hence the dystopia tagline.

No I don't think they are trying to find all that many logical and reasonable fixes for this world's problems because exposing the problems and tackling the terrifying prospects of all the "what ifs" that they bring up is the point of the show. 

I think that they are purposefully showing that this new world has taken a big step back from what medical science can do to help with fertility issues. Perhaps somewhere, somehow, humanity at this point has reached an impasse and not very many, if any, are finding a way around it.

Science is infinite, but what if our understanding of it is far more limited than we think? Then where are we left when all that we've learned is no longer good enough to sustain us, to save us. Even before Gilead overtook the US, removing science and doctors and most medical advancements and knowledge, we saw in June's flashbacks that things were declining at a mind blowing rate and solutions were not forthcoming.

Frankly I think the reason Mexico isn't using better tactics is because they don't have access to them or they just don't work anymore, and again in a dystopia world I can buy into that.

I am not saying the premise is perfect, but the idea that these people are falling back on such a failure of an idea because they have nothing else to work with, nothing else to use or try, is believable to me in this sort of society. No one is really all that well off, people are dying and suffering, what was once plentiful, fruitful, and fertile is now depleted, dying, or already dead.

They were praising the fact that there was a healthy orange crop as if they had mined for gold and struck oil on the way down, so I think it's fair to say that this new world is one where not very much remains worth celebrating.

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I get that but exporting handmaids is still a very weak plot device. First, how many could Gilead possibly trade without depleting their own human resources? Certainly, not enough to make a dent in Mexico's fertility problem. Second, even though Gilead has forbidden all scientific intervention regarding fertility, non-Gilead regimes certainly haven't. Given that we now know for sure this takes place in present day (Luke's birth year was given as 1980), all kinds of fertility and genetic treatments do exist. Why isn't Mexico investing in those? It certainly makes more sense to harvest the eggs and sperm of fertile men and women, create test-tube embryos, and implant them in surrogates. The odds of achieving viable pregnancies and full-term births (and aborting non-viable or "damaged" fetuses) are greater than hoping to impregnate a few imported handmaids.  Handmaids as a cash crop just doesn't work for me.

I agree.  If your society is dying because birth rates have plunged like in Gilead, I don't see how you would plausibly be able to trade all that many handmaids to anyone else?  First, just because the handmaid is fertile does not mean she'll be able to conceive and carry a child to term.  We've seen that in Gilead.  Second, as you mention, it would likely take thousands upon thousands of handmaids to make much of a dent in terms of population and I can't really see anyone agreeing to that.           

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32 minutes ago, txhorns79 said:

I agree.  If your society is dying because birth rates have plunged like in Gilead, I don't see how you would plausibly be able to trade all that many handmaids to anyone else?  First, just because the handmaid is fertile does not mean she'll be able to conceive and carry a child to term.  We've seen that in Gilead.  Second, as you mention, it would likely take thousands upon thousands of handmaids to make much of a dent in terms of population and I can't really see anyone agreeing to that.           

I think we're all sort of assuming that the Handmaids sent to Mexico will be future child-bearers.  Childbearing is still rather hit or miss, even with our modern medical science.  A lot of things can and do go wrong in the conception process.  In Gilead, there's even more issues that are being overlooked:  No one is testing the men/commanders.  And if the Handmaid doesn't produce a child in 2 years (I think they said), she gets reassigned/blamed for not producing. And of course successfully suicidal Handmaids diminishes available stock.  Handmaids

 

It would be pretty easy to send unruly Handmaids (like Janine or the first Ofglen) or barren Handmaids (thus far) to Mexico with the crappy line of "hey, well she produced for us...see this random kid...don't know what your problem is". 

 

So I can see making a deal with Mexico, sending them crap in terms of fertility stock (not saying women are crap at all), and then laying the blame on Mexican men or their food supply or whatever.  Gilead doesn't actually care about Mexico, just whatever goods/services Mexico can supply.  And they certainly aren't going to send their best Handmaids.

 

Both Gilead and Mexico are missing the bigger picture though.  The current batch of Handmaids will wear out, sooner rather than later.  If they are only producing children for commanders, there simply won't be any more Handmaids/slaves and certainly no Marthas.  There's also no guarantee that the commanders' female offspring will be able to marry and produce more offspring.  And of course, there's the incest that will happen as the available offspring diminish.  It's just not really sustainable path....not that I think the commanders group realizes this at all.  Of course, I've long argued that our modern religious/political leaders rarely think their stances all the way through before spouting them.

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When the assistant handed June the paper and pen I thought it was a trick, she should dictate something and let him write it down. 

How did the assistant to the Mexican official know all about June yet the Ambassador knew nothing of the Handmaiden's plight or general condition of how women were devalued etc..

Is it my imagination but it seems so many of the scenes are shot so dimly I am constantly either watching those scenes over again or playing with the contrast and lighting on my Kindle or phone.

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My thought about all of the children put on parade at the dinner for the visiting dignitaries may have been existing children taken from the Handmaids and the  few infants actually conceived via Ceremony.  I noticed the Ambassador's face when the kids were brought out, she looked like she was ready to cry at the possibilities of actually using Handmaids. When I saw all those children I though that doctor sure was busy. 

I am surprised that when Offred was speaking to the Ambassador she did not add the whole Handmaid scheme is a farce because it is the men who are sterile. 

This series has put me in the weirdest frame of mind about our world, seriously cannot shake the feeling.

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26 minutes ago, Baltimore Betty said:

When the assistant handed June the paper and pen I thought it was a trick, she should dictate something and let him write it down. 

How did the assistant to the Mexican official know all about June yet the Ambassador knew nothing of the Handmaiden's plight or general condition of how women were devalued etc..

Is it my imagination but it seems so many of the scenes are shot so dimly I am constantly either watching those scenes over again or playing with the contrast and lighting on my Kindle or phone.

I don't think the assistant was in the dark about the life the Handmaids led, but he couldn't exactly come clean about it and protect his connection to the underground. He had to play along. I'm also not surprised that he knew Offred's real name and information about Luke, or that that information still existed in Gilead. The nazis, for example, were meticulous records keepers, as are many totalitarian regimes. The underground has most likely infiltrated the government exists, they've most likely been able to access it.

This episode was definitely more dimly lit than others, but that's typical of the director.

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53 minutes ago, Baltimore Betty said:

When the assistant handed June the paper and pen I thought it was a trick, she should dictate something and let him write it down. 

How did the assistant to the Mexican official know all about June yet the Ambassador knew nothing of the Handmaiden's plight or general condition of how women were devalued etc..

Is it my imagination but it seems so many of the scenes are shot so dimly I am constantly either watching those scenes over again or playing with the contrast and lighting on my Kindle or phone.

I think the assistant is part of Mayday.  Mexican nationals have many relatives in the USA, so he could have a sister, or cousins, or even a very good friend or former love who was caught up in this purge/coup and be motivated because of that. 

I don't think Nick is lying about being in Mayday or about being an Eye.  As an eye watching over the Commander's house, he probably has access to a ton of information about all of them, including background on whatever handmaid is assigned to them.  He seemed to have information about the original Ofglen as well.  So, with the Ambassador and her assistant staying in the house, it's likely Nick and he met and shared information. 

47 minutes ago, Baltimore Betty said:

My thought about all of the children put on parade at the dinner for the visiting dignitaries may have been existing children taken from the Handmaids and the  few infants actually conceived via Ceremony.  I noticed the Ambassador's face when the kids were brought out, she looked like she was ready to cry at the possibilities of actually using Handmaids. When I saw all those children I though that doctor sure was busy. 

I am surprised that when Offred was speaking to the Ambassador she did not add the whole Handmaid scheme is a farce because it is the men who are sterile. 

This series has put me in the weirdest frame of mind about our world, seriously cannot shake the feeling.

I think the Ambassador is perfectly aware the men may be sterile.  She's still allowed to read, they still have doctors and other intelligent people available to advise her. 

The book did that to me in 1986, and it's really never left me.  That one and The Women's Room were soul shocking and devastating. 

I agree and understand that this episode, veering so far from the book, may not have worked that well under closer examination, especially the Mexico plot.  It's easy for me to "make it work" in my head, and they ways to do that have been stated by me, and by others, but I completely understand those feelings anyway. 

I don't think, and do hope, that we haven't seen the last of Serena Joy's adjustment to her new status.  Unlike others though, I do think she's aware that she's completely disposable now, her only value in this society is her husband, and he, either from shame or disinterest, doesn't give one shit about her.  He could have her shipped off to the colonies in a heartbeat, or hung on that wall.  She's too smart to not realize that, and she plays her role to avoid it.  

Was this episode worth it in spite of the obvious "ummmm what?" factors?  I come down on the side of "yes" but not by a whole lot.  Visually and emotionally it simply took my breath away, and I loved the expansion into Serena Joy, and the emotional punch of both the Ambassador's reaction when June told her the truth, as well as the realization that there is still a resistance, and it's not limited to the former USA mainland.  Canadian and Mexican citizens, and quite possibly others, are actually trying to help.

Edited by Umbelina
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General and random thoughts in no particular order:

I didn't have a problem with the episode or the premise behind it. Desperation does really funny things with people's ability to reason. It doesn't even require religious delusion - just look at the insanity of today's current policies regarding the environment. Given that, I can imagine most countries or localities will fracture their own cultural mores to survive.

I didn't think the Ambassador represented all of Mexico - having her give us a relative size (Boston) made a lot more sense. She doesn't need enough Handmaid's for the entire country - just enough for a place the size of Boston. Speaking of the Ambassador - she seemed too ready to accept the happy facade presented by Gilead and the Commanders. That was my first red flag that she wasn't there for "amnesty" reasons. She seemed willing to ignore body language and tonality to accept the words spoken. 

There was no moment more cruel, more painful, more torturous than that moment of hell the Handmaid's endured seeing those children. I fully expected one of them to faint, openly sob, crack in some fashion. The emotional fortitude of those women is astounding. 

We never did see what Offred did, if anything, once handed the paper and pen. The opening of next week could be her handing it over and shaking with fear. We could see her write something... until then it's Schrodingers Cat for me. Personally I think she will/does write something and that the Ambassador's assistant is in fact a "good" person. He had no reason to risk exposure if he was anything else by seeking out more damning information after Offred told the truth about their lives in Gilead. 

The entire advancement of the plot regarding the Handmaid's and international relations with Gilead was overshadowed by the insights we got for Serena and Fred. There were a couple of things that I got out of that - I think she was the strong motivating force behind his position and rise in the Gilead leadership. When the call came that their terrorist plot went through it was Serena comforting and encouraging him. She was his source of rationalizations and justifications. I genuinely don't know that he would have ever accomplished so much without having her by his side (until he put her behind him). He showed concern for what she was going to do with herself until she confirmed her role "to make this place a home." But once she lost that vigor and vim he lost his attraction. Notice how they have remained celibate until the night she spoke up, breaking the norms and reminding her what he finds so wonderful - her poise, her ability to control the room, to be a showman and ultimately help him accomplish his own goals. THEN he finds himself willing to have sex with her. 



 

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Watching the line of handmaids file into the banquet hall, it got me to wondering...wouldn't at least some of them be pregnant? It seemed odd to me that none of them were, at least not noticeably so... I also wondered the same thing in the episode where the handmaids beat that guy to death and Janine appeared to be the only one pregnant out of all those women.

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2 hours ago, Baltimore Betty said:

My thought about all of the children put on parade at the dinner for the visiting dignitaries may have been existing children taken from the Handmaids and the  few infants actually conceived via Ceremony.  

Yes, and to me, she was clearly looking for her daughter.

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18 minutes ago, Eureka said:

Yes, and to me, she was clearly looking for her daughter.

That's what I thought but I wasn't sure ... and I don't think we saw anyone who looked like Hannah (would they have shown us?) so that's also why I wondered could there really have been that many kids conceived/raised/healthy of that span of ages since they started "using" Handmaids or were the children a mix of Handmaid "spawn" AND kidnapped/reappropriated children ...

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I'm really starting to love crazy Janine. 

Me too! I'll be really sad when the inevitable happens to her. I only say inevitable because I don't think the average lifespan of a handmaid can be very long. They're probably out at least by the time they're 40.

I feel a deep and simmering rage against the Ambassador and Serena Joy. I knew when the Ambassador looked like she took June's answers at face value that the ambassador would be no help whatsoever. It was obvious June was struggling to provide the correct answers; you would miss that only if you were trying to.

I was trying to figure out what was with Mexico as well. We don't know what changes their government has gone through but it might be that the handmaids could be artificially inseminated there or undergo in vitro insemination. I'm not sure that would help -- to me it's still rape.

I don't come from a religious background and I'm not religious now. It's always very interesting to me to see the mental gymnastics people who take the bible seriously have to go through to explain the world around them and their place in it. Because they don't believe in reproductive assistance, they can't try artificial insemination. Because they have to punish people not adhering to "God's Law," they've probably murdered many involved in reproductive science, not to mention those women who die in childbirth due to pregnancy complications (although there was a "doctor" at that clinic; I wonder how long it would take him to get to a birth?). Because men are a direct manifestation of God on earth (or that's what the interpretation seems like to me), it can't possibly be them that is the hang up in reproduction, so they have years of rape happening to, what is your guess, maybe 100 women, with no children to show for it. Women are supposed to keep to the home and focus on creating a family so they miss out on many insights into problems.

I guess the TL;DR of it all is that the more the Gileadeans adhere to the beliefs, the more hamstrung they are in trying to progress.

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12 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

don't think she had asked permission ahead of time but he was okay with it because the little kids were already supposed to be at the banquet and she was stalling for time so that the ambassador and the other guests wouldn't  think anything was wrong (although I think the commander's concern about that was really misplaced since most people don't go to a fancy dinner party and get suspicious that something has gone awry if the meal doesn't start at exactly 8pm).

I thought the Commander was annoyed the Handmaids weren't seated yet.  The way he said it, it was like he was annoyed she had forgotten to put the dog in the yard before company came for dinner - seen, not heard.  Serena Joy was brilliant in the way she staged that whole thing.  She knew what kind of impact that dramatic entrance would have:  giant doors swing open, dozens of identically clad Handmaids walk precisely in two lines to their tables, sit down in unison and remove their bonnets in unison.  Very, very theatrical and choreographed.  The room was spellbound by the entire performance.  Then when the kids arrived, it took it over the top.  There was no way Mexico was going to say no.  What was infuriating to me was at the end, when the Commander realized that Serena Joy herself made the entire night a success.  Only then was he reminded she was once his equal -- her mind and intelligence revved him up and made him jump her bones that night, not her forced meek obedience.  Yet I'd bet they won't do that again anytime soon - it doesn't fit their disgusting patriarchal, religiously fundamental narrative.  So gross. 

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2 hours ago, Umbelina said:

I don't think Nick is lying about being in Mayday or about being an Eye.  As an eye watching over the Commander's house, he probably has access to a ton of information about all of them, including background on whatever handmaid is assigned to them.  He seemed to have information about the original Ofglen as well.  So, with the Ambassador and her assistant staying in the house, it's likely Nick and he met and shared information. 

Has Nick said he's Mayday? I can only remember him admitting to being an Eye. Though obviously it was foolhardy of June to lament having not tried to ruin the Mexico trade deal to him if she didn't believe he was against Gilead too.

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Oops, for some reason I thought he had said he was in Mayday on the show.  I think his actions are telegraphing that a bit though.  Maybe not.  Sorry.

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Just watching again.  I wonder if Serena Joy will run to Nick or the helpful Doctor to try to get pregnant now?  It's her chance, if she suspects, as we know she does, her husband is sterile. 

"Look what happened honey!  You did it!"  No more handmaids for her.

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7 hours ago, Margo Leadbetter said:

I get that but exporting handmaids is still a very weak plot device. First, how many could Gilead possibly trade without depleting their own human resources? Certainly, not enough to make a dent in Mexico's fertility problem. Second, even though Gilead has forbidden all scientific intervention regarding fertility, non-Gilead regimes certainly haven't. Given that we now know for sure this takes place in present day (Luke's birth year was given as 1980), all kinds of fertility and genetic treatments do exist. Why isn't Mexico investing in those? It certainly makes more sense to harvest the eggs and sperm of fertile men and women, create test-tube embryos, and implant them in surrogates. The odds of achieving viable pregnancies and full-term births (and aborting non-viable or "damaged" fetuses) are greater than hoping to impregnate a few imported handmaids.  Handmaids as a cash crop just doesn't work for me.

 

6 hours ago, txhorns79 said:

I agree.  If your society is dying because birth rates have plunged like in Gilead, I don't see how you would plausibly be able to trade all that many handmaids to anyone else?  First, just because the handmaid is fertile does not mean she'll be able to conceive and carry a child to term.  We've seen that in Gilead.  Second, as you mention, it would likely take thousands upon thousands of handmaids to make much of a dent in terms of population and I can't really see anyone agreeing to that.           

Not to be pedantic, but I actually think it's said in the show that they are going to trade women with red tags, not handmaids.  This might seem like the same thing, but I don't necessarily think it is.  There's nothing that makes me think that Mexico is planning on using the women as handmaids in the same way Gilead does. It's quite possible that Mexico plans on taking healthy woman that are proven fertile and doing IVF with them, or using them as egg donors and/or surrogates depending on whether they need people with healthy genetics or healthy wombs.  Not necessarily raping them once a month when they're fertile.  That would probably be a more sustainable plan than the creepy ceremony once a month.  And would require fewer women than Gilead needs to produce the same number of children.  So, Mexico might not need that many woman, comparatively speaking.  Granted, forcing women to be egg donors or surrogates is just as much a violation as what Gilead does.  If I missed something that makes it clear that Mexico is planning on using the handmaids in the "traditional Gilead" way, please correct me.

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18 hours ago, Riplet68 said:

Timeline wonky issues:  some of those kids brought out were at least 5. There is no way the handmaids program has been in place for 6 years. First, the adults haven't aged enough: second, this is offreds second assignment, there at each one for 2 years, add a year for beating into submission, we're still a couple of years short. I don't think they were captured kids either, they'd be too hard to control 

Well, they said the children all came from Handmaids.  I took that to mean that some of the children might be ones taken from the women before they were forced to become handmaids, such as June's daughter.

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The Handmaid's were being briefed about the dinner, ready to enter the hall when Serena entered. She caused a delay with her inspection of the Handmaid's, the brief argument worth Aunt Lydia, and rejection of the Handmaid's. There was the soothing of Jamie and then they entered, late. 

 

What caught me is that Serena was thinking of appearances - something the Commander had not considered. She was behind the scenes working to impress and it never even occurred to him that this is a fundamental part of diplomacy. I think he was too busy getting his fragile male ego bruised. 

 

He seemed annoyed that the Handmaid's were late, doubly so when Serena abruptly took over welcoming the delegation. And yet both of those actions were likely necessary for Gilead to earn any support. And I don't know that he is aware that he becomes most aroused by Serena when she is acting on her own power. 

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I'm about to fan wonk the crap outta this, so forgiveness in advance...

What if all of our fertility tests and IVF treatments and ovulation predictors just stopped working? As in, they work for how we understand them now, but something so damaging (and perhaps dramatic - they mentioned "new weather patterns") has poisoned the world's food and water and air and changed the way human bodies process available and needed resources.  What if a higher carbon dioxide level in the air throws off reproductive systems in a way we haven't seen and don't understand? What if filtering water doesn't remove whatever new toxin we created for fertilizer? What if by modifying plants or animal feed we were creating a lack of some essential nutrient? It could make our standard fertility tests obsolete. A woman and man could seem perfectly fertile and still not manage to create a child. You would have to depend on women who have had children in the recent past to continue to do so. And if it's an accumulation of toxins or lack of a certain nutrient thing, then even their time could be limited.

Sometimes, even now, a woman just can't get pregnant and medical professionals can't figure out why. 

I'm assuming that the limited understanding of fertility from the time the book was written (early 80s) has somehow recurred and the entire world is impacted. 

From this episode you can see they are leaning more on the "organic" explanation. I would guess that with a world population that is decreasing they're not as worried about mass produced food. 

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I think the trade deal can mean a few different things and not necessarily that they are going to "remove" the current handmaids and send them to Mexico but rather help Mexico to start their own program this could even mean helping suss out those women in Mexico who need to be sent to Gilead to be "trained" to be a handmaid. It would help Mexico not do their own dirty work.

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Again it was perfectly clear that they handmaid's were up for trade.  Now, how Gilead fulfills that deal would say a great deal about opening trade agreements elsewhere, and ending the boycotts from the rest of the world.  They'd almost have to play on the up and up with Mexico.

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From what the Mexican ambassador said, it seems that the Gileadians are trying to get the word out that Handmaidens are making a selfless choice, sort of like Catholic nuns. Looking at it that way, her questions make sense. 

There must also be talk of them basically being enslaved and raped repeatedly, which is why she had to see for herself. I guess ultimately it didn't matter which to her once she saw the children. 

The handmaidens looking at the children, trying recognize their own children broke my heart. I can't begin to imagine how that would feel, nor do I want to. 

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Oh, man! So many thoughts.

On 2017-05-16 at 10:26 PM, HeySandyStrange said:

I'm also confused about Serena Joy's pre-Gilead "domestic feminism". Unless I missed her entire manifesto, it didn't make sense. She wanted  traditional, back to basics roles for women but she wanted woman to have real power as well? In what universe did she think that would work? I don't feel one bit more sympathetic to her. She can hang with that awful, disgusting rapist of a husband of hers when Gilead falls and the War Crimes trials start. I have rarely felt less sympathy for an admittedly not totally evil character.

Serena's philosophy seemed to be that a woman's "power" was in the home, and that by confining herself to her home and family, she would find satisfaction and fulfilment, so she wouldn't be giving up her power, she'd be GAINING the power that she was losing by pursuing meaningless distractions like careers and, you know, happiness. A sort of spiritual power in exchange for political power. What I really want to know is, how involved was Fred in shutting her out? When he was sitting there saying "I think it's a great idea for you to write a second book," was he really thinking, "You shouldn't even be allowed to read?" And when he supposedly fought for her to be an active participant in building Gilead, did he really fight for her? Or was he following her own philosophy and confining her to the lane where she said all women belonged? But, I admit, something in that scene where he told her she was out and then the other Commander talked about women getting the wrong ideas about their place... I thought I read something in the way Fred received those remarks that was a touch surprised. Like, "Oh, shit. Those rules apply to MY wife?" Clearly, he accepted this and embraced it. I would love to know what sort of place he envisioned for Serena before the regime really established itself.

On 2017-05-17 at 5:26 PM, GreekGeek said:

Serena and Fred as a couple puzzle me. Pre-Gilead, they had an active sex life and worked as a team. Now they lead separate lives and he pushes her away if she makes the smallest move towards him. What changed? I know, the laws say that the marriage bed is for procreation only and if a wife is barren that means no sex, and a woman mustn't presume to give her husband advice, etc., etc. But neither one has a problem breaking the rules when it suits them, so why are they--especially he--so cold to each other?

What changed is that Serena got what she said she wanted. Serena is incredibly good at what she did. She's brilliant. And when someone does the thing they're good at, and they love doing it, it's hard not to love or admire them. Even villains we despise, if they are REALLY good at what they do, we still get a rush out of watching them do it. Serena is an extraordinary woman (with some disgustingly misguided ideas), and Fred obviously loved to watch her work. But when she was confined to the home, the thing that made her extraordinary (the thing that made her HAPPY): the ability to be a leader, to lecture and persuade, to make speeches and incite riots... that was taken away. Without the ability to flex her muscles, to impress, she became utterly powerless and ordinary and of no more interest to her husband than the furniture was. Watching her step up again and do what she was born to do, Fred was impressed. He'd forgotten how good she was, and how much he loved her for it. And I don't believe for ONE SECOND that Serena made the choice to go rogue and deliver a speech because she thought the Ambassador would approve. I think she WANTED to do it, and thought she could get away with it given the circumstances. I saw a desperate and unhappy woman grasping for her one fleeting chance to recapture a bit of the happiness that would always be denied her now, just the same way Offred is doing with Nick. The impulse is the same.

On 2017-05-17 at 0:12 PM, Umbelina said:

About Mexico's birth issues, which were not mentioned in the book--we've departed the book for the most part in this episode BTW.  Anyway, one thing I can suppose from the book about birth problems there which is in no way a book spoiler is that obviously we share a continent.  Other things already mentioned on the show are nuclear power plant issues from earthquakes, (which, hello California, and obvious area where that could be a problem) and it also shares a border with Mexico, so the fallout could have impacted them.  In addition, we all know, and the show mentioned the use of pesticides and herbicides and improper disposal/over use of those things.  Mexico's standards were/are even lower than our own (for now probably not next year) so it makes sense that they might share some of the physical problems.

Yes! The Ambassador also mentioned the "new climate." While it has not been made explicit, this show seems to have an environmentalist agenda right alongside its feminist one. The impression I'm getting is that toxins, pesticides, radioactivity, etc, poisoned the planet, Climate Change has become more severe, and has affected the way the planet harbours life, which in turn affects the way WE harbour life. The underlying idea of this conception of Gilead is that WE DID IT TO OURSELVES. It's all preventable. By polluting the planet, poisoning our air, water, and soil, we also poisoned our bodies and created this fertility crisis, which in turn was the impetus for this extremist regime. It could be better or worse in certain areas of the globe, but in the end, we all share the planet. Climate change is global, and regardless of how rich and privileged we are, our basic needs as humans are still fulfilled by the planet. We MUST have clean water to drink, we MUST have clean air to breathe, and we MUST have food that is not grown in, or nourished with, poison. There is nowhere else to go for food, water, and air than planet Earth. The modern Conservatives' push to shut down the EPA, though not as dramatic as closing abortion clinics, is still a step toward Gilead. It's about power: the power to destroy and control whatever they want, in blatant defiance of the "common good." In some ways, this story is about the ways humanity may come to cope with the changes to the climate and the earth's environment that in turn affect our way of life.

16 hours ago, AnswersWanted said:

Those who govern now are all about having power and control, they have no true intentions of making a better world for anyone outside of themselves. It was all a ploy, all lip service, and it still is, they prove it in how they treat truly fertile women, how they don't even care to try and keep using modern science and medicine on hand to increase their chances even if some methods no longer work, and the biggest red flag to me is how men aren't even tested or labeled anymore

This is it entirely. The way power works in Gilead, there's no way they care about simply producing the most babies possible. Fertility is a resource, and the way this regime utilizes this resource is by allotting it to the most "deserving" (i.e., the ones who support their goals). What's important to the Commanders is not that babies are born, it's that THEY get the babies. Whether or not the men are even virile, their power buys them exclusive access to fertile women. Because once fertility is made into a commodity, then the people in power will decide who should have access to that commodity. Comments like Offred's in the first episode about how "Nick hasn't even been assigned a woman," show how this works. Men in power have access to fertility and the right to reproduce. Other men can EARN the opportunity to reproduce by serving and furthering the goals of the regime. Because the goals of the regime are the goals of "God," they are able to sell this idea as rewarding those who are moral and pious, rather than the truth: rewarding those who participate the most enthusiastically in the subjugation of others. It's a regime that enforces itself.

The Mexicans are likely not seeking enough Handmaids to "service" their population, and I doubt Gilead will make many available (although if they have enough that they can discard Handmaids after three failed households, maybe they have more than we think). Maybe just a few are on the table. Maybe just for those in power who really "deserve" it. The Ambassador doesn't represent the PEOPLE of Mexico, she represents the Government. A Government made of powerful people who can't seem to reproduce. Is it so farfetched to believe that those top-level politicians might consider trading away some of their peoples' wealth and resources in order to obtain treasure for themselves? The Trump administration's been doing it for months!

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17 minutes ago, Slovenly Muse said:

What I really want to know is, how involved was Fred in shutting her out? When he was sitting there saying "I think it's a great idea for you to write a second book," was he really thinking, "You shouldn't even be allowed to read?" And when he supposedly fought for her to be an active participant in building Gilead, did he really fight for her? Or was he following her own philosophy and confining her to the lane where she said all women belonged? But, I admit, something in that scene where he told her she was out and then the other Commander talked about women getting the wrong ideas about their place... I thought I read something in the way Fred received those remarks that was a touch surprised. Like, "Oh, shit. Those rules apply to MY wife?" Clearly, he accepted this and embraced it. I would love to know what sort of place he envisioned for Serena before the regime really established itself.

I get the impression that Fred is a passive man, easily influenced by others. At first Serena was the influence, but after she painted herself into a corner with the "domestic feminism", he let Janine's Commander (I'm pretty sure that's who he was, because the Wife that he sat with at the banquet is the same one from the Birth episode) dictate the new terms. I think he realized too late that Serena's smarts and ambition had been at the core of his attraction to her, and without that he became miserable and started shutting her out.

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2 hours ago, chocolatine said:

I get the impression that Fred is a passive man, easily influenced by others. At first Serena was the influence, but after she painted herself into a corner with the "domestic feminism", he let Janine's Commander (I'm pretty sure that's who he was, because the Wife that he sat with at the banquet is the same one from the Birth episode) dictate the new terms. I think he realized too late that Serena's smarts and ambition had been at the core of his attraction to her, and without that he became miserable and started shutting her out.

I agree with this and Slovenly Muse's comments that Serena became boring to Fred once she stepped into the "good Gilead wife" role.  But why would he give her the "don't worry your pretty little head about that" line when she tries to give him advice? There are many historical instances of smart ambitious women who couldn't hold power officially but exercised a lot of influence behind the scenes.

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2 hours ago, GreekGeek said:

I agree with this and Slovenly Muse's comments that Serena became boring to Fred once she stepped into the "good Gilead wife" role.  But why would he give her the "don't worry your pretty little head about that" line when she tries to give him advice? There are many historical instances of smart ambitious women who couldn't hold power officially but exercised a lot of influence behind the scenes.

Because he, like Serena, are actually "true believers" - It's not that they are using religious belief to find their way to power, it's that they believe the religion that is the source of these dictates to begin with. It's why he turned her away when she tried to fellate him, it's why they both believed she would be content to make their new house a home. I think it is their belief system that drives them, not necessarily greed for power as is often the case. 

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I really liked this episode, and so far I'm impressed by the way the show has managed to stray from the book with untold backstory and whole new plotlines while still staying true to the themes and spirit of the original story. I especially loved the Serena Joy story-as Tara elucidated in the recap, she is a very familiar type of conservative woman who has deluded herself into thinking she can uphold the patriarchy but somehow personally stay above the oppression it enforces. She's the most extreme version of the women in this universe who went along with the changes without realizing what she was doing to herself until it was too late. The proverbial frog in the slowly boiling pot of water.

19 hours ago, tvsoothesthespirit said:

I feel a deep and simmering rage against the Ambassador and Serena Joy. I knew when the Ambassador looked like she took June's answers at face value that the ambassador would be no help whatsoever. It was obvious June was struggling to provide the correct answers; you would miss that only if you were trying to.

And she was very obviously trying to. The Mexican Ambassador was not there to learn the truth of how the handmaidens live; she was there to be told some reassuring lies and take in a spectacle so that she could justify human trafficking to herself and her country. It was so brave of June to tell her the truth, but I just wanted to cry as soon as she started, because I knew this woman would not help her. I like that this show doesn't shy away from the complicated truth about how women work to oppress each other. A true sisterhood, we are not.

5 hours ago, GreekGeek said:

I agree with this and Slovenly Muse's comments that Serena became boring to Fred once she stepped into the "good Gilead wife" role.  But why would he give her the "don't worry your pretty little head about that" line when she tries to give him advice? There are many historical instances of smart ambitious women who couldn't hold power officially but exercised a lot of influence behind the scenes.

Fred appears to have bought into his own religion's hype over time. In the early years, it seems that he and Serena Joy never really acknowledged the obvious end point of their belief system and what it would mean for her, either to themselves or to each other. That doesn't surprise me; religious people run around with extreme cognitive dissonance and ignore contradictions in their beliefs and values all the time. But as the takeover happened, he sunk more and more into the extremes and began to view his wife the same as all other women, which I'm sure was made easier by her being stripped of everything that made her unique and interesting to him in the first place. 

This kind of parallels with Luke's reaction to June losing her rights, though obviously Fred's trajectory is a more brutal version of the same idea. That initial horror, followed by the belief that he can somehow buffer the impact for her, followed by complacence because it's not ultimately him that's suffering, right? I'm very interested to see more flashbacks of the time after things changed, when June and Luke realized they needed to try to run with their daughter. What led them to that decision? Was protecting Hannah the key driver for Luke? Was it the government dissolving their marriage and coming for June? If June had been allowed to stay with him, would he have accepted the rest of her subjugation?

I also keep thinking back to Serena Joy's idea for a second book. Procreation as a moral imperative. Did she know then that she was sterile? How might that realization have shaped her beliefs and the dissolution of affection in her marriage?

Edited by stagmania
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The scene of the Hanmaids being forced to watch their kidnapped children being used as sideshow ponies by rapeists for political gain; I am destroyed.

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This episode has brought a lot of discussion about how inefficient the Handmaid system is if the goal is to bring up birthrates and save the human race.

Keep in mind, though, the Republic of Gilead thinks part--if not most--of the declining birth rate is God's punishment over things like abortion, morning after pill, contraception, women educating themselves & delaying marriage/childbirth, sexual freedom, orgies, Tinder, same-sex marriage, et. al.

The whole going to this bizarre Old Testament system is not because it's necessarily the most efficient way to get babies born....it's just the one that has some connection to the Old Testament (Rachel & Billah story). Other nations---especially ones that didn't have the Evangelical streak already present in them---are almost certainly trying other fixes.

Remember how long it had been since they smelled coffee? I think most Latin American countries still have embargos/sanctions on Gilead. Mexico allowing some trade would be a chink in that armor.  I mean, how many liberal multi-racial democracies still traded and maintained diplomatic relations with Apartheid South Africa in the 70s and 80s? And yes, non-Caucasian ambassadors from other nations still were treated as honored visitors and had the red carpet rolled out for them in Pretoria.

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The Mexican Ambassador was not there to learn the truth of how the handmaidens live; she was there to be told some reassuring lies and take in a spectacle so that she could justify human trafficking to herself and her country. It was so brave of June to tell her the truth, but I just wanted to cry as soon as she started, because I knew this woman would not help her. I like that this show doesn't shy away from the complicated truth about how women work to oppress each other.

This is exactly how I took it too. At most she will try to soften the rough edges in minor ways for appearances. The way many nations would make great stinks about Apartheid South Africa desegregating sports every four years, but still buy gold and diamonds from them and contribute to keeping the regime afloat.

Edited by JasonCC
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