10 times The Handmaid’s Tale got way too real

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The Handmaid’s Tale — “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum” Episode 104 — Punished by Serena Joy, Offred begins to unravel and reflects on her time with Moira at the Red Center. A complication during the Ceremony threatens Offred’s survival with the Commander and Serena Joy. Offred (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Moira and June at the cafe

In episode 3, “Birth,” a flashback shows Moira and June visiting a cafe after a run just before everything goes to total hell. It’s the first sign that everything has completely turned, but it’s a subtle enough one that it doesn’t quite set off alarm bells just yet.

There’s a man behind the counter who is impossibly rude and derogatory toward the two women for seemingly no reason as June’s card fails. The two assume that the guy is just a jerk, and leave. But the moment is so normal. We’ve all had embarrassing encounters where our card suddenly didn’t work for one reason or another, and we’ve all had god-awful service, if maybe not quite to that degree of verbal abuse.

The cafe scene perfectly illustrates the “gradually heating bathtub” June speaks of. Nothing changes instantaneously. Until you’ve made so many concessions that, suddenly, it just has, and there’s not much that can be done about it.