Late is the most intense episode of The Handmaiden’s Tale to date. It opens on Ofglen, as we find out why she didn’t meet Offred at the end of ‘Birth Day’. We find out that there is a secret network among Marthas, and that a van of Eyes showed up at her house. We also find out very early why the episode was named such, as Offred is assumed to be pregnant since she is late to her period. The episode that follows is a shocking update to Offred, Ofglen, and leaves us wondering if survival is really attainable after all. As with all episodes of this show, these aren’t my top 5 happy shiny moments, but the top 5 that left me with a lump in my throat.
You want to know how we got here? This monologue is EVERYTHING. “I was asleep before. When they slaughtered congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the constitution, we didn’t wake up then either. They said it would be temporary. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”
The Coffee Shop
This was the moment in the book that I most related to. The moment they shut off their cards. Who carries cash anymore? I know I don’t. You don’t even need cash to pay back a buddy anymore thanks to google wallet, apple pay, samsung pay. Who needs cash? We deal with imaginary money, and it could all be over in a second.
The Imaginary Affair
Janine’s insistence on her commander loving her broke Offred, but it also broke me. Janine, like any other handmaiden, had had her freedom, her life, and her consent ripped away from her. But now, she also lost her childhood, and a piece of her mind. “Brave isn’t a part of any of this. Everybody breaks. Everybody”
Offred knew that anything she said would be used against her, no could about it. But going in, she did not know what the Aunt and the Eye were looking for. She assumed they were looking for her comments on the resistance, so when she found out it was actually due to being a “gender traitor”, or lesbian, there was intense relief on her face. The relief of knowing she could honestly confess any involvement with this “crime”, because she was never anything but heterosexual.
If you blinked, you may have missed the trial, mostly because it wasn’t really a trial at all. Both the Martha and Ofglen were convicted purely on the word of their accusers. They were condemned as abominations, and sentenced to “redemption”. For the Martha, this means death. For Oglen, who is too valuable with her viable ovaries to sacrifice, this means something entirely. While the episode ends without them saying the words, it’s obvious that she was surgically altered, likely with female circumcision.
Late left me in tears. It was jarring, it was chilling, it was f*cking terrifying. I am late with this viewing and with this review, but it could not have been more timely. Where will Ofglen go now that she has been punished and found to be a gender traitor? What will happen to Offred now that we know she’s not pregnant?
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Shannon has a degree in Sociology and Women's Studies from the University of Northern Colorado, where she composed her award winning and nationally presented senior thesis titled "Behind the Shield and Under the Sheets: Sex and Sexuality in a Live Action Role Playing Game"
If this is not a statement of her nerdy feminism, what more could there be?
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