Handmaid’s Tale Episode Four

Join in our ongoing conversation as Chris and Rebecca discuss episode four 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 and Episodes 2 and 3.

Even though we are only beginning May of 2017, I believe this is the BEST adaptation of the year.

This is filmmaking at its best.  I’m not saying “TV at its best” because TV denotes some kind of lesser art form.  There is nothing lesser or sub-par with this show.

Totally agree. I loved how the A story of this one (Offred discovers the hidden message “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum” in the closet after Serena Joy locks her in her room for a couple weeks) ties in so perfectly with the now-developed B story (Moira escapes).

On the same note, the decision to have Offred (or June, if you will) play a much more active role in Moira’s escape, even going so far as to have her sacrifice herself to assure that Moira makes it onto the train, is just great television. In the book, both Moira’s escape and the detail of the foot thrashing that happens to “bad girls” at the Rachel and Leah Centre are anecdotes buried within the backstory. I loved bringing them to the forefront and really getting Offred into the action.


Nolite Te Bastardes CarborundorumI agree about seeing Moira’s escape.  Having June TRY and FAIL and be tortured for it helps set up her own shattered personality as Offred and why she isn’t jumping at chances to escape.  She attempted that route and was caught and had not only pain inflicted but her morale defeated to such a degree that escaping – even thoughts of escaping – is futile.  Speaking of great TV and great acting – OMG Elisabeth Moss’s reaction from giving Moira the slightest smile of “It’s ok.  Do this.  Save yourself.” to when Moira jumps on the train and June’s whole face changes into depression and fear – but nothing over the top.  All subtle and brilliant.

Also, I love that the show is bringing the backstory alive.  The book has plenty of backstory in it, written all nonlinear, but I found some of it hard to visualize.  I read the book in college and didn’t remember much in 2017 of how The Republic of Gilead came to be – even though Atwood writes about it.  Even rereading the book now, I get glimpses of it, but the show is bringing it to life.  This isn’t some strange, futuristic land like in The Hunger Games.  This is America, only a few horrible events and decisions away from where we are today.

Yeah, especially after today, right? (For our foreign readers, our House of Representatives voted today to take away health insurance from over 30 million people, while, in a brilliant dystopian twist that even Margaret Atwood didn’t think of, exempting themselves from losing their own insurance.)

I realize some people may think we’re exaggerating when we say we fear that America is becoming like Gilead. But the evidence lately seems to be piling up.

Samira Wiley as Moira

It’s no different than the Borders bookstore closing up on Ventura Boulevard to become a TJ Maxx, or the ice cream parlor closing to become a prayer machine duplication station.  It’s harder to imagine in my head, reading the book, but the show is bringing it to life with the protests, seeing her lose her job, hearing them discuss how easy it was for them to shut down bank accounts marked F vs. M.

Yeah, all that is in the book, but seeing it come to life, especially as they’ve moved the setting to 2017, is giving me that skin-creeping feeling.

Max Minghella as Nick

Also, switching topic slightly, you know I’ve been a bit obsessed with the fact that Max Minghella is not who I had imagined for Nick. But now, I’m starting to see why they had to cast a more, shall we say, ineffectual person in that role (versus the Tom Hardy type I was seeing in my head). A take-charge sexpot would have been naturally seen as the “savior” figure. Now, with Nick being a bit more passive and (as far as we can tell) submissive, Offred must save herself.

Yes, Nick can’t be Tom Hardy.  Hardy would’ve single-handedly brought down the entire establishment.  Someone meek needs to be in that role.  That being said, I find Joseph Fiennes meek too.  Maybe that is intentional.  The strong ones in this show are the women, which is such an interesting dichotomy since they are the ones with no “real” power.  Even Rita (the Martha in the house) has a strong sense of presence without much screen time or lines.

serena joy handmaids tale episode oneIronically, the woman in the house struggling the most with her loss of power (besides Offred, obviously) is Serena Joy. There’s that brilliant moment where she’s sitting at the table with her husband and begins to discuss the strategy they need to employ to discredit a woman who has escaped to Canada and given an interview about the state of affairs in Gilead. To which Joseph Fiennes replies, “Don’t worry. We’ve got good men handling it.” Serena is just as powerless in this male-dominated society as all the others, which is probably why she takes out her aggression on June so much.

Okay, moving on. You’ve been talking about the use of music in this series. What did you think of it here? 

I thought the music – or lack thereof – the chirping of birds and insects, was spot on for the end of episode 4.  The episode was about her trapped in her room and finding her own way in this new twisted world to escape – not the world, but simply her room with the door that doesn’t even close all the way.  Ending it with the sounds of the outside – perfect.

By the way, I read an article about the making of the show in W Magazine, and Elisabeth Moss talks about a moment in this episode that stuck with me:

“That was an odd day. That definitely felt like things got a little too close to home,” Moss said of being on set on November 9. She was scheduled to shoot a particularly dark scene that day with Joseph Fiennes, who plays the Commander. “He explains something to me that he’s done to a woman that’s really shockingly terrible,” she recalled. “He says the line from the book, ‘Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some,’ and that line definitely had an impact that I don’t know it would have had the day before.”

Wasn’t that a terrifying moment? Sums it up, really.

By the way, Elisabeth Moss has signed on to a five-year deal and the show has been renewed for a second season, so this is clearly going to go beyond the book.

Awesome. Can’t wait to see where they go with it. Although I might need more wine if we’re going to keep reviewing this thing! And last thoughts for tonight?

The Handmaid’s Tale is a brilliant story and would have made great TV any given year. But right, in the aftermath of election and the progressive-hating, misogynistic-fueled Trump plutocracy, this show is so much more than amazing TV.  It leaves me with nightmares not because it has scary, fantastical beasts but because it has scary, realistic beasts who are already at our doors.

Photos courtesy of Hulu and MGM Television.

Follow us on Twitter: Chris @ACCooksonWriter and Rebecca @DownWorldNovel.

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By the way, here’s a link to that W article:


In conversation with the prophetic novelist and the star of the new Hulu series premiering April 26.


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