The Handmaid’s Tale: 9 Key Moments from the First Three Episodes

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The Handmaid’s Tale — “Offred” — Episode 101 — Offred, one the few fertile women known as Handmaids in the oppressive Republic of Gilead, struggles to survive as a reproductive surrogate for a powerful Commander and his resentful wife. Janine (Madeline Brewer), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Biting Mrs. Putnam

Early on in the episode, Offred learns that Ofwarren (Janine) has bitten Mrs. Putnam for trying to take the baby away from her. Although Ofwarren does get to eat ice cream, she mentions that it doesn’t even matter, because she had a “good one” — and indeed, Angela (Charlotte, per Janine) looks to be the picture of health for the 10 or so seconds we see her.

The idea of handmaids winning themselves privileges (itself a loaded term here, but one that wouldn’t be out of place coming from the mouth of Aunt Lydia) again helps reinforce that the Republic wants these women controlled. Behave and bear a child, and the world opens up a little more again. Fail to do so, as Offred does when she gets her period at the end of the episode, and everything falls apart instead.

Indeed, Serena Joy changes as soon as she hears she won’t be getting a baby after all. She spends most of “Late” practically fawning over Offred, solicitously offering her the chance to go see Ofwarren and the baby in the first place, asking after her health, and so on.

Similarly to Ofglen’s sudden disappearance, the idea of friendship or even some basic caring for one another between wives and handmaids is a fleeting one as soon as things fail to work per the Republic’s rules.