In A Woman’s Place, the Hulu original series strays further from the book than ever before, but it’s pretty fantastic. They added back story to Serena Joy, explained the far reaches of the reproduction crises, and even explained a little of economics in this new world.
The Cleaning of the Wall
“I guess you get used to things being one way”. How is it that crazy, one eyed Janine/Ofwarren says some of the most important things in this show? Maybe it’s because she sees past the charades, or maybe she just cannot filter herself anymore. Either way, she makes a good point. She says this as the Handmaidens are cleaning the blood stains off of the hanging wall, among comments about how strange it looks without bodies on it. The more we normalize the terrible things in this world, and the more often we see them, the harder it becomes to envision a world without them. The Handmaiden’s can hardly imagine their world before; they’ve gotten used to seeing the world this way.
The Mexican Ambassador / Mrs. Castillo
The most shocking scene so far in The Handmaiden’s Tale was not the murders, the assaults, or the ceremonies, but the fact that the Ambassador was a woman. Even as Offred is prepared to meet her, essentially given a script, she is not warned that the Ambassador was a woman, even though the Waterfords knew how shocking it would be. Women are not even allowed to read in Gillead, let alone hold positions of power.
The Story of Serena Joy
For the first time, in either book or television, we see who Serena Joy/Mrs. Waterford was before Gillead came to be. We find out that she was an author, an activist, a lover, and an insider to the way this world came to be. The title of the episode, A Woman’s Place, is actually a tip of the hat to the book that Serena Joy authored in the previous life. The Mexican Ambassador even quotes it at their dinner party, “Never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness”. The fact that this book and Serena Joy’s activism was brought up at a diplomatic dinner caused tension later.
All of the Commanders, Wives, Aunts, and Handmaidens gather for a dinner to put on a show for the Ambassador in hopes of attaining a trade deal to save Gillead’s economy. The Handmaids are nervous, but exciting because they are never allowed to go to anything so frivolous as a “party”. But before they can enter, they are lined up like products, and in the words of Serena Joy, the “defective” are removed. In a shocking moment of humanity, the Aunt even uses Janine/Ofwarren’s real name in an attempt to console her heartbreak at being denied entry. Gillead cannot have the Ambassador of Mexico seeing Handmaidens with one eye, one hand, or scars from burns and cuts, no. So they are merely removed from sight. After a short speech, and a sort of toast to the Handmaids for making “it all possible”, the real show is brought in: the children of Gillead. The children of the handmaidens are paraded in front of their invisible mothers who will never be able to touch, hold, or love them. It is a very painful scene to watch, but the pain is completely lost on everyone else in the room, because they believe these Handmaidens should be thrilled to be fulfilling a higher purpose.
A Woman’s Place focused heavily on the trade deal Commander Waterford was seeking with Mexico, and at the dinner, Offred finally realizes what exactly Gillead has to offer the world. It’s not the produce, the oranges that were so proudly displayed at the Commander’s house. No, it is the vital ovaries contained inside women, inside handmaidens that are of the highest value in the country. They are literally trading human beings, and it’s mind blowing that they are simultaneously expected to keep up the facade that the Handmaiden’s chose this life, and that they are happy.
In the most emotionally intense scene to date, Offred/June spills the beans to the Mexican Ambassador. She tells her of the monthly assaults, the dismemberment, the abuse, the threats, and the punishments. She tells her with a slice of hope that someone will care enough to do something. Her window of hope is quickly slammed shut when the Ambassador makes it clear that the survival of her country is more important than the autonomy of women. The Ambassador tells Offred/June that her country is dying, and in four poignant words Offred tells her, “My county’s already dead”.
I can’t leave this list without mentioning the earth shattering news that Luke is still alive. We were left hanging on whether or not Offred/June was able to get a message written to him without being discovered, or whether she really trusts in this newfound hope at all.
A Woman’s Place has definitely explained how Hulu plans to continue the story into another series. There are now international relationships, husbands found alive, and resistances to explore. Will Offred/June meet Luke in this series? How did the Mexican Ambassador’s aid know he was alive? And how did he know who June was?
As always, we are left wanting more, and with only 4 episodes left, I imagine that’s not about to change.
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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?
Follow her bookiness on GoodReads www.goodreads.com/novel_shenanigans
Latest posts by Shannon Bee (see all)
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