The Handmaid’s Tale: Late (Season 1, Ep 3)

Offred tells in voiceover what she knows of the disappearance of the Former Ofglen. What she’s learned from Rita, who learned it from other Marthas (seems gossip is still somewhat alive and well).  It’s very little, just a black van, no screams. No mercy for a member of the Resistance. Offred is unsettled, nervous, cautious. Awake.

Their world, Offred has come to realize, came into being because people stayed asleep. Willfully unaware and uncaring as the world crumbled around them. Congress murdered, terrorists blamed, the Constitution tossed out. No one resisted.  No one questioned claims that it would be only temporary. No one asked what exactly that meant.

June and Moira jog down the street, not fully obvious to the glances of women who sneer at their tank tops and shorts. They go to a coffee shop they apparently frequent enough to know the staff by name. When June asks the man behind the counter about the woman who typically works, he sneers at her. She orders but her debit card is declined for a lack of funds. She asks the man to run the card again and he not only refuses, he calls them sluts and tells them to get out. It’s an utterly bizarre moment. June calls the bank when she gets to work and is stuck on hold due to high call volume. As she’s waiting she notices armed men enter and finds out that their boss has called a meeting.

Due to a law passed that morning, no women are allowed to hold jobs and they are all summarily “let go” effective immediately. The armed men are there to keep the peace while the women are given only 10 minutes to gather their things and get out.

Offred returns from her shopping to find Rita has prepared lunch and is being very very nice. She brings Offred a sandwich and a salad and has even made stewed apples for dessert. From Offred’s reaction it’s more and nicer than she typically gets. Rita even puts a flower on the table. A flower that Serena Joy picked herself.

Rita reveals that they are hopeful because Offred’s period is late. Serena enters and is practically fawning over Offred, anxious for things to be positive. She is going to go visit the Putnam house (where Ofwarren lives) and asks if Offred would like to go.

At the Putnam’s, Serena allows Offred to hold the baby for a brief moment before going back to ignoring her. Offred overhears Mrs Putnam telling a story of Ofwarren biting her for taking the baby away. Offred slips out the room to find her fellow Handmaid. Ofwarren is in a state of denial about the idea that she’ll lose the baby. She refuses to call the baby by the name given to her by Mrs Putnam. She believes that Mr Putnam is in love with her and will take her and the baby away to some place where they can live as a family.

Serena is waiting downstairs but isn’t upset that Offred slipped out to visit Ofwarren without permission. Serena decides to stay to help Mrs Putnam with the baby and sends Offred home with Nick. Offred asks Nick about Former Ofglen and he warns her that no one is too strong to be broken. As they arrive at the house, Offred spots the black van. Nick clearly knew that the van was there as he tells her to tell them whatever they want to know and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

Things take a turn for the worse when June and Moira find out that a law was also passed barring women from having bank accounts. Their funds are all frozen and would only be released to a husband or male adult kin. They also can’t owe property, it now belongs to their husbands and kin. Moira actually questions if there really were any terrorists or if it was just a con set up by the men so they could take over. She rants at Luke for his comments about taking care of June, calling it patronizing. And yet when he offers to walk her to the train station she accepts because “it’s crazy out there.”

Offred is questioned about Former Ofglen by a swarmy, patronizing gentleman presumably from The Eyes. Aunt Lydia is in the room and administers her taser as needed. The gentleman is curious about where they walked and what they talked about. Aunt Lydia throws in her own questions about Ofglen, focusing on her appearance. They seem to be leading to questions of whether the two had inappropriate relations, lesbian relations. They are angered that Offred was aware that Ofglen was a gender traitor and didn’t report it. Aunt Lydia is highly displeased when Offred uses the term gay and tases Offred before calling Ofglen disgusting and an abomination. Aunt Lydia is also displeased when Offred completes the full text of Aunt Lydia’s favorite Bible verse “Blessed are the meek. Aunt Lydia attacks Offred only to be stopped by Serena who returns home and shouts at them that Offred is pregnant.

Former Ofglen and the Martha she was caught with are taken to court for judgment. They are literally muzzled so they can’t speak. It’s a quick ‘trial’ in which a man literally stands up, swears his report is correct and the women are found guilty. The Martha is sentenced to ‘the common mercy of the state’. Former Ofglen, because she is fertile, is sentenced to ‘redemption’. The two women, referred to only by their rank and nondescript id numbers are taken to a van where they manage to sneak a brief moment of silent gazes, tears and hand holding before the van stops, the Martha is pulled out and hung on the spot while the van, with Former Ofglen watching from inside, drives away.

Nick comes to Offred’s room to check on her, an action that is actually prohibited. He tells her that he’s sorry and he wishes he’d kept driving. He approaches her to hand Offred a towel of ice he brought her for her wounds and for a moment it seems as if he might try to kiss her. But he doesn’t. Although by the deep sigh he gives, it seems as if Nick wants very much to do that exact thing and perhaps more. And from Offred’s expression after he leaves, she wants it as well.

As if things were not messy enough, Offred starts her period. Or perhaps it wasn’t her period but a miscarriage brought on by the beating and the taser. Either way, she’s not pregnant and that is not a good thing for a Handmaid. Offred is forced to tell Serena about her condition, or lack thereof. Serena is pissed and drags Offred to her room, ordering her to remain there. Serena comments that things can get much worse. 

And indeed they are worse for Former Ofglen who wakes up in a hospital room. She is in intense pain and raises her hospital gown to discover a dressing covering her entire groin. Aunt Lydia enters, addresses Former Ofglen by her former name “Emily” and tells her that she can still have children but things will be easier now. Although not actually addressed, it would seem that Emily has been subjected to some form of female mutilation designed to make sex less pleasurable.

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