Synopsis of 1×05: Serena Joy makes Offred a surprising proposition. Offred remembers the unconventional beginnings of her relationship with her husband.
In an episode titled “Faithful” we both discover the beginning of June’s relationship with Luke, and also Offred’s relationship with both Waterford and Nick. We watch as Offred manipulates her relationship with Waterford and the results of their power dynamic when they are alone together. It’s interesting that while she has some measure of control in her relationship with Fred in closed quarters, she is quickly put in her place by the end of the episode by Fred himself. She plays games of Scrabble with him and he gives her a beauty magazine to read, which is not allowed anymore. She flirts with him and he lets her win, and it’s an odd imitation of a relationship, one that has a measure of intimacy that we haven’t seen before. However, Fred is not the soft-hearted man his demeanor implies. Although he
However, Fred is not the soft-hearted man his demeanor implies. Although he is willing to break the rules for her and allows her to let her hair down a little, there’s a reason why he’s a commander. Throughout the episode, we watch him in several different lights, however after their ceremony we see a glimpse of the evil that consumes Waterford. After touching her and making charged eye contact with Offred during the ceremony, she confronts him. She tells him not to do it again, and that if they were caught she’d be sent to the colonies, or worse. Unfazed, Waterford replies, “I just find the whole thing so impersonal.” He offers her a drink and more magazines, but punctuates their conversation on her biological destiny.
To him, love doesn’t exist. It’s lust, with a good marketing campaign. And when Offred angriy bites back that he might not have love, and that she did, he truly bares his teeth. Not only does he threaten her, but also reveals that he had a hand in Emily’s surgery and maiming. Calmly, he tells her that they only wanted to make the world better. “Better never means better for everyone, it always means worse, for some.” It’s a nice wake up call for an Offred who seemed to be content in her situation with Waterford at the beginning of the episode.
In contrast, we watch through flashbacks the story of how June and Luke met. It’s no fairytale, as we discover that Luke was married when he met June and the two began having an emotional affair that culminated in a physical one. After having sex, June asks him to leave his wife, to which Luke agrees to and confesses that he’s in love with her. In Gilead, Luke’s divorce invalidates his marriage with June, which also leads to them being forced to go on the run.
Although Luke is gone, he’s still a very powerful memory to Offred. When Serena not only suggests that Fred is sterile, but also that she should have sex with Nick in order to get pregnant, Offred agrees but says that it still feels like she’s cheating on Luke. The first time they have sex, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. Both being forced into the Nick’s room with Serena standing in the corner as chaperone, it’s quiet, they’re clothed, and Offred has little control over anything. It isn’t until later, when she visits Nick late at night, that the dynamic between the two characters have changed. Knowing that he might be an Eye — although I don’t think anyone should really be convinced by the little nod he gave to her question — she still visits him in the middle of the night and undresses in front of him. They have passionate sex, which ultimately ends with her on top. It’s an obvious commentary on the sexual freedom that they have which doesn’t seem to exist anymore in Gilead.
Meanwhile, Emily is back. After her harrowing surgery, she is now Ofsteven. She’s back as a handmaid and surprisingly in a nice home. The mistress of the house seems to look out for her, offering to postpone the ceremony by saying she’s sick. It’s not much, but in her position, it’s a small kindness even if it doesn’t put much at stake for her.
Interestingly enough, the new Ofglen is a compelling character. I’m always interested in people who feel like they benefit from Gilead and challenge the idea of privilege in the society. Characters like Serena and Janine play with the privilege that they’re given, and the same can be said for the new Ofglen. She chastises Offred for talking to Emily, and reveals that she actually appreciates her position as handmaid. She calls Offred out on her privilege in a pre-Gilead world. While Offred’s life was great, the new Ofglen’s was shitty. She was a drug addict who traded sex for oxy. Now she’s clean and living in a home where she’s fed and treated well. Gilead has raised her status because of her “biological destiny” and as a result she feels privileged where Offred feels oppressed.
Despite the new Ofglen’s warnings, Offred still talks to Emily. Emily reveals that the group she was a part of, Mayday, will no longer work with her because she’s got too much attention and risk associated with her. However, she suggests that Mayday could use Offred’s help. She officially introduces hersef to Offred as Emily, but before she can learn her name, Offred is pulled away. In a last ditch effort for some sort of control or escape, Emily steals a car and goes on a joy ride around the square, in the process, she runs over a guard’s legs. She is finally taken away, and it might be the last we ever see of her.