Channel 4 – 9pm – Sunday 2nd July 2017
Teleplay by: Wendy Straker Hauser
Series created by: Bruce Miller – Based on the novel by: Margaret Atwood
Directed by: Floria Sigismondi
THE QUIET HALF
I was well aware I had dragged my heels with my (now completed) weekly Doctor Who series ten reviews (you can read all of them HERE), but I honestly thought I was just one or two episodes shy of keeping up with Channel 4’s terrestrial UK broadcast of Hulu’s ten-part adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. Turns out I actually fell FOUR episodes off-pace, so the catch-up begins NOW!
“Never mistake a woman’s weakness… for a weakness.”
“A Woman’s Place” diverts from Margaret Atwood’s source material insofar as it presents not the handmaid’s tale but the Commander’s wife’s tale – with the episode affording us flashbacks to Serena Joy Waterford’s (Yvonne Strahovski) existence pre-Gilead. More relaxed and less severe, we learn she authored a (now contraband) non-fiction book on the sacred position the fairer sex holds in society. She truly loves her overworked husband, Fred (Joseph Fiennes), and she is planning a second release on fertility as a national resource when America begins its fateful transformation into a Republic.
While this glimpse behind the pursed mouth and barked orders did help to humanise her character somewhat, I don’t think it revealed enough to make us fully sympathise with Serena Joy. The patriarchal regime has left her a silent bystander who has chosen to fall in line, rather than show resistance; for instance, she coldly pulls out “the damaged ones” from a line of handmaid’s waiting to be honoured at a party arranged for visiting foreign delegations – forgetting it was Gilead’s tyranny which inflicted the damage in the first place.
“My country is already dead!”
Offred’s (Elisabeth Moss) story remains the most compelling, managing to both engage and enrage even when it is side-lined. From keeping up appearances by washing the blood of the murdered from Gilead’s walls to regretting her lies to the Mexican delegate (“I said I was happy!”) before unleashing a tear-stained monologue full of candour about her “enormous sacrifice,” Offred really goes through the emotional wringer this week.
Her mistake of automatically assuming the visiting trade delegate would be male is doubly traumatic when we learn that Mexico (still free from oppression… for now) is not merely thinking of trading organic fruit with Gilead – but handmaids! How could a woman seriously believe that the imprisonment and habitual rape of fertile women is moral? Acceptable? “God’s work”? Offred’s belated tirade of truth is all the sweeter for the small victory it may have won her – the opportunity to smuggle a message to her husband, who she believed had been gunned down in 1.1 (reviewed HERE).
CR@B’s Claw Score: