Four years ago, when Orange is the New Black came out, another show addressing oppressive systems against women, it received praise for showing points of view of the less privileged. Though it started out as the story of one wealthy white woman, it turned into a show about queer women, poor women, women of color, and all of the above. As the show strayed from the protagonist, it shined a harsher light on the oppression all these women faced.
As THE HANDMAID’S TALE turns away from the protagonist, it’s doing the opposite: it’s starting to tell the story from the point of view of those more privileged, and sometimes even involved in the oppression of June and the other women. From Serena’s flashbacks two weeks ago, to the Luke centric episode last week, to getting Nick’s backstory this week, the show seems to have strayed from the actually women who are being forced into servitude. Though it’s not all bad as Serena’s episode showed a very interesting side of women oppressing women, and there were parts of Luke’s episode that filled in the blanks of a story, overall when there are characters like June, Moira, and Emily, devoting screentime to those with more power and privilege makes the show lag and loose some of what drew so many people to it.
Nick’s flashback’s were disappointing this week, because the episode revolved around so much more than him. The show is trying to make us care about this driver just because he came from a hard time, and is pretty much in love with our protagonist. He is still an eye, he is still condoning this system that rapes women every month, no matter if he had a hard time growing up.
It’s a shame as well, given as “Jezebels” brings back Moira, one of the most compelling and likable characters on the show. Offred had been told of Moira’s demise earlier in the season by Jeanine, the world’s most unreliable narrator, so it’s not the biggest surprise that Moria is alive, but the pure joy and relief on Offred’s face when she sees her friend is the crowning moment of the episode. Moira explains how she got from the train to this brothel, where she now works. That explanation could have easily been the flashback portion of the episode, but instead we are on the side of the oppressor, when we so easily could have been examining yet another system in Gilead that subjugates women, and this time, from the perspective of one of those women who we have already grown to care for.
The circumstances of how Offred sees Moira are all surrounded by Commander Waterford’s care for her. He’s slick and slimy, under the guise of being caring, as he gives Offred clothes, makeup and jewelry, and takes her out. It’s unbeknownst to Offred and us just where out could be in Gilead. With Nick driving, and not so subtly glancing with jealousy at Offred all dressed up, it falls into a stale love triangle plot between two men who uphold this cruel system.
Waterford ends up taking Offred to a hotel brothel sort of situation. It’s the first time we see women be overtly sexual in this world, but it still lacks any sort of agency, as they are told what to wear, do, and what rich man to do it to. It is there that Offred sees Moira, seducing some man. Their eyes catch, but Moira looks away. Luckily, even in Gilead, there is the code of women meeting in the ladies room. For one glorious moment, June and Moira reunite, with tears coming out of June, so grateful to see her friend alive. There is more emotion coming from June in this moment than in any interaction with Waterford or Nick. It’s clear that this is where her priorities are, that Moira being alive is something that could actually give her hope in this bleak world.
At the end of the episode, June is back to Offred, modestly dressed handmaid, at the service of Serena, but under the eye of both men in the household. However, it is nothing about the men that gives her her final moments of the episode. She carves a phrase into the closet, much like the one that inspired her, “You are not alone.” With that simple sentence and sentiment, it’s clear that Moira being alive and near influence Offred in a way no man could. Hopefully, with only two episodes left of the first season, we get to see more of Moira, and more of Offred/June in reaction to her. We’ve had enough of male backstories and sadness at their own complicancy; the show is at its best and most intriguing when the women find each other and tell their own story.
Season 1, Episode 8 (S01E08)
The Handmaid’s Tale airs Wednesday on Hulu.
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor