Handmaid’s Tale Episode 3 Explained in Detail

Just when I thought I’d seen everything coming from Handmaid’s Tale I get blown away by yet another mind blowing curve ball. So much goodness in this show. And it’s applications to today? It is literally haunting in its prescience. So let’s get to it because I’m dying to talk to you about where I see this show going over the next six weeks. So much amazing. And if you haven’t watched an episode yet, do, and join us over on episode one.

Handmaid’s Tale Ep3 Overview

“I am awake now to what they are doing now.
When they slaughtered congress I wasn’t awake.
When they blamed terrorists and suspended the constitution we weren’t awake then either.
They said it would be temporary.
In a gradually heating bath tube you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”

And with that we are off to the races of Handmaid’s Tale episode three. If that isn’t a wake up call for all of us today, I don’t know what is. That quote also gives us a great feel for how this Republic of Gilead could possibly have happened. And now we know that it was through a terrorist attack that hit Capitol Hill, and then emergency powers. Powers that were temporary at first, but then widely expanded and never relinquished their grasp on the populace. And then came civil war.

The opening few scenes of episode three show us the changing mores of America, the sudden conservative shift, and the impact that it has on June’s life specifically. Running clothes? Yeah, no, not so much. Credit cards and land ownership for women? Yeah, we decided to abolish all that. Female jobs, and employment? Nope. It gets hairy really really fast for June in this new America.

The Gravy Train That Is Motherhood

Soon, Offred’s world gets decidedly good… but she isn’t understanding why. Full breakfast madam? Sure, thank you. Some ice cream? Sure! Pedicure? Definitely! hahaha. And soon Offred realizes that everyone thinks she’s pregnant because her period is late. Oh, ok. Wow. And during this interim fit of pleasantries from Serena Joy, she is invited to go visit the newborn.

“Would you like to hold the baby Offred?”
“Is that a good idea?”
“Oh, she’ll be just fine, she’s done it before…”

Did you catch that? Serena seems to know that Offred has had children before. And no, it wasn’t just because she was a Handmaid. You saw that look right? There is something really really important in that look. But I won’t delve too much because, yeah… But that shoe will drop soon enough. I promise. And while at Ofwarren’s house, (Janine, her former name) she let Offred know that Commander Warren loves her. That they are going to run away together. And one of the most important conversations of the show so far:

Offred – “I’m afraid Ofwarren is losing touch.”
Serena – “You know what you do and what we do together is so terrible, it’s hard on the weaker girls.”

A Doll Hung On the Wall

Nick takes Offred back to the house, and when they arrive we see that the black van is there for her. The interrogators have come to ask her questions about Ofglen and her seditious ideas.  “I couldn’t stop them. There is no use being brave, everyone breaks eventually. Everyone.”

“Please god I don’t want pain
I’ don’t want to be A doll hung on the wall
I want to keep on living
I’ll do anything
Resign my body to the free use of others
I’ll sacrifice I’ll repent
I’ll abdicate I’ll renounce”

The interogator begins asking Offred questions about Ofglen and what they talked about. And eventually they begin to insinuate that Ofglen and Offred were in a relationship together while they were alone down by the river.

Aunt Elizabeth – “Remember your scripture, blessed are the meek.”
Offred – “Blessed are those who suffer for the cause of righteousness for they will inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

But eventually the interrogation stops because they think that Offred is pregnant. But not before she’d been cattle prodded several times and cracked in the face with a baton. But the same can’t be said for Ofglen.

Meanwhile, Ofglen and another Martha are charged with gender crimes for being gay. And both women, while gagged (can’t exactly get a fair trial if you can’t speak..), and sentenced to – get this – immediate redemption. And in a scene straight out of a horror flick, we see the van back up to an area, the other woman get out, and summarily get hanged in front of men with guns. All the while Ofglen is going nuts in the van as she watches. It really gives a feel for what a modern day Third Reich could really look like. Just horrifying on every level.

The Ending Montage 

One thing that TV has always done well that movies just generally don’t do is the ending montage covered by happy music. Allie McBeal always had an ending scene with her skipping through the streets and love in the air, only to have it record scratch inevitably to a harsh stop. Right? And in the last two shows we have had two beyond the pale montages. Episode 2 ran with “Don’t You Forget About Me”, by Simple Minds and had it’s record scratching moment when Offred’s new walking spy turned out to not be Ofglen. Right? But episode 3 turned out to be better by a factor.

 

Blondie’s Heart of Glass the Crabtree Remix which was throwback, sad, oppresive, and pensive enough to play as the backdrop to a clash between women and riot cops.

And as the episode wraps, we see Offred telling Serena she isn’t pregnant – after which Offred is chucked physically into her room by her hair. We also get a visit to Offred from Nick who tells her that instead of taking her to the authorities for her interrogation he should have just kept driving. And then there is the horror of Ofglen and her surgery – and the genital mutilation she underwent.

Thoughts on the third episode

This show just doesn’t know how to pull any of its punches. Zero. None. It has zero clue how to hold back. And it is so good. So relevant. Most poignant part of episode 3 were the scenes before the civil war. The scenes we would recognize today, but only slightly askew. Right? It dotted lines our from here to there for us and calls us out for our hate as a society. It calls us out for our sexism and our pompousness and nationalism. Only problem? All the wrong people are watching this show. I guarantee it.

Where is it all going?

We know for a fact where a couple threads are going. The first is that of the Commander. We have a very very clear roadmap for him and his relationship with Offred. We also have a very clear roadmap for Nick too. And I expect that those relationships will start changing in the next episode or two at the very least. So I won’t really talk about those because that is just a known quantity from the book. Oh, and Offred’s daughter… yeah… that’ll become a thing. Can’t wait.

But what about Ofglen? That is much much less clear because the show has already gone off script for her story. But I do think that we will start to get introduced to Mayday and to Ofglen’s life more and more. We’ll probably start seeing the inner workings of the resistance movement and not only Ofglen’s involvement there but others. I also think that we will get a return from Moira as well, and we will find that she is safely ensconced there within that movement. But, I can’t know these things for sure because they aren’t in the book at all.

What do you think?? Where do you think the show is heading?

Interested in reading all of my Handmaiden’s Tale episode recaps so far? You got it – I will update them here as I write them:
Episode 1 – Offred
Episode 2 – Birth Day
Episode 3 – Late
Episode 4 – Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum
Episode 5 – Faithful
Episode 6 – A Woman’s Place
Episode 7 – The Other Side
Episode 8 – Jezebels
Episode 9 – The Bridge
Episode 10 – Night
Season 1 Deconstruction

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4 Responses

  1. KB

    Why does Offred reject the ice from the driver by dropping it on the floor when he leaves her room?

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      The ice… the cookie… etc. Why does Offred reject all handouts? Well, it would seem to me that she doesn’t want anything from this Republic. She isn’t taking anyone’s pity. She will claw her way out of this situation on her own… thank you very much. No? thoughts?

      Reply
  2. Kim

    Our sexism and nationalism? That’s what this is calling out? With all due respect to Ms. Atwood, she singled out the wrong religion. All of what you see here is alive and well in the Taliban or the Islamic state. And you choose to say it’s a reflection on sexism in the west?? I have two strong, intelligent daughters who have both rejected the modern movement of feminism even though I still identify as a feminist. I am starting to understand why. And it’s sad. So very sad.

    Reply
    • Daisy

      If you had any background in religious studies, you would know that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are all cut from the same cloth and the three are considered to be the three main Western religions. Extremist interpretations of the Qur’an are on par with extremist interpretations of the Holy Bible. Fundamentalism is not exclusive to one religion or one region of the world. I would say Atwood targeted the right branch of of the right religion. It isn’t to say that all of Christianity is this way or that all of the West is this way, but to give insight into the sects that are this way. Fundamentalism takes everytjing about a faith and centers all things in life around it. Although you and your family may not have experiences with this, it isn’t fair to invalidate and discredit the experiences of others. In the West there are fundamentalist societies and even cults that take and misconstrue sacred texts; The Handmaid’s Tale is simply a dramatization on a larger scale. I would say maybe you could look into Quiverfull and other such fundamentalist societies that thrive here. I am confident that your daughters are lovely and very intelligent. I urge you not to give up on feminism as there is a larger picture to everything, and we have to be open to it viewing it all before we jump to attack one another. I hope you can enjoy the rest of the series. Have a lovely day. (:

      Reply

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