Welcome back. Here, Chris and Rebecca have a freewheelin’ conversation about episodes two and three of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.
If you haven’t done so yet, check out our Readers’ Guide for Margaret Atwood’s book (AKA: Don’t Panic), and our take on episode one.
So after watching episode three, this show just transcended the novel, if you ask me. I love all the additions: following the trajectory of Ofglen (whom we never see again after she is replaced by “New Ofglen” in the book) is brilliant. The whole storyline with this character, from the “trial” which is just a bunch of men reciting Bible verses, to forcing her to witness her lover being murdered, to the “punishment” of redemption because her uterus is still useful—God, this is some epic television right here.
Mmm, I have to disagree with Rebecca that the show has jumped beyond the novel, partially because this is my favorite novel of all time. That being said, I did love seeing Ofglen’s story. The shot of her in the van being carted away as her lover swings to her death was haunting.
I have to say, the physical torture of the women is visceral in this one. Both Ofglen and Offred are beaten, tasered, shot at. Ofglen has her tongue cut out and, is if that weren’t enough, has a forced clitorectomy at the end.
And all I could think watching it was: all of these things have happened to women. The World Health Organization estimates that 200 million girls and women alive today have had forced genital mutilation.
The song choices in the show are interesting. I loved closing the first episode with “You Don’t Own Me.” I assumed each episode would end with that song. The show has kept us on our feet by changing up a pop song every episode.
In episode 2, the song used was Simple Mind’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club. This was a brilliant choice thematically in the show as Offred just broke the rules and feels like she got away with it, much like Judd Nelson managed to get out of writing that damn essay, kiss the princess, and walk through the empty football field throwing his fist in the air. Offred walking out the door with a look to Nick and then heading towards the gate while this song blasted in her head, reminding her of a time gone, mirrored John Bender.
I thought the use of music in episode three was especially on point. That haunting version of “Heart of Glass” during the protest rally that turns to chaos when the soldiers opened fire was like a knife in the gut. And of course, reminiscent of this:
A callback which I’m sure was intentional, and a particularly creepy scene for those of us (like Chris and I) who recently participated in the women’s march.
Unlike Rebecca, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the “Heart of Glass” choice in episode 3. For me, it yanked me out of the scene and kept me asking, “Why this song?” Both “You Don’t Own Me” and “Don’t You” mirrored the moment in the episode perfectly – whether by lyrics or paralleling another character’s emotions. But “Heart of Glass” did neither – at least for me. Granted, I’m not a Blondie fan, so there is that. But if there is one Blondie song I like it is “Heart of Glass,” but it didn’t capture the mood for me as well as the other choices. I am totally stoked to continue hearing the song chosen from June’s past for the rest of the show.
Yeah, I’m definitely stoked to see what other gems they pull out of my old CD collection. That punk-rock song at the end of ep. three was also a brilliant choice.
Hats off to the writer of episode three, Bruce Miller, and the director of the first three episodes, Reed Morano (whose work on the film Frozen River is equally compelling). I’d also like to give a shout out to actress Ann Dowd (Aunt Lydia) who’s so damn good in the Nurse Ratched-inspired role that I wanted to climb into the television set and shove that taser up her hoo-ha. Not an easy job for an actress, but she’s nailing it.
I’d also like to point out that beyond acting and screenwriting this show has some of the most stunning cinematography I’ve seen in TV in a long time. The shot of Offred at the dining table while Serena Joy and Rita faun over her was gorgeous. It reminded me of a Vermeer painting with the sunlight dusting the background. Production design, set dressing, and costumes all have been handled with detail and respect to the source material. I think it is obvious Margaret Atwood has had a hand in this project.
I mean, check this out:
Yeah, gorgeous work there.
I don’t know about you guys, but I watched half this episode through the slits in my fingers, like it was a horror film or something. This is all hitting a bit too close to home for me. I mean, for real—do you think we should take our money out of the banks and put into gold bullion or something?
Or no, that’s ridiculous. After all, it’s only a TV show.
Photos courtesy of Hulu and MGM Television.
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