Handmaid’s Tale Episode 8 Explained in Detail


We all know that the awful, horrible, seedy underbelly of the Republic of Gilead would eventually rear its ugly head and strike. Right? I mean, never mind the fact that it’s there, as large as life in the book, but it would have been written in even if it wasn’t there. Right? The show’s creators would have definitely shown the obvious paper thin qualities of the Republic’s veneer. We can’t begin to think, even for a moment, that there is any real substance to Gilead. No. That can’t happen. So yeah, this episode was inevitable. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it… at all. I wasn’t a fan of this section of the book either… so do I get points for consistency anyway?

Let’s away shall we?

Handmaid’s Tale Episode 8 Overview

I am going to dive straight into it and leap to the central scene of this episode –  to the party that the Commander takes Offred to. Here’s the opening of this scene from the book’s perspective:

I stand still and stare at them. I can stare, here, look around me, there are no white wings to keep me from it. My head, shorn of them, feels curiously light; as if a weight has been removed from it, or substance.

The women are sitting, lounging, strolling, leaning against one another. There are men mingled with them, a lot of men, but in their dark uniforms or suits, so similar to one another, they form only a kind of background. The women on the other hand are tropical, they are dressed in all kinds of bright festive gear. Some of them have on outfits like mine, feathers and glitter, cut high up the thighs, low over the breasts. Some are in olden-days lingerie, shor-tie nightgowns, baby-doll pajamas, the occasional see-through negligee. Some are in bathing suits, one piece or bikini; one, I see, is wearing a crocheted affair, with big scallop shells covering the tits. Some are in jogging shorts and sun halters, some in exercise costumes like the ones they used to show on television, body-tight, with knitted pastel leg warmers. There are even a few in cheerleaders’ outfits, little pleated skirts, outsized letters across the chest. I guess they’ve had to fall back on a melange, whatever they could scrounge or salvage. All wear make-up, and I realize how unaccustomed I’ve become to seeing it, on women, because their eyes look too big to me, too dark and shimmering, their mouths too red, too wet, blooddipped and glistening; or, on the other hand, too clownish.

At first glance there’s a cheerfulness to this scene. It’s like a masquerade party; they are like oversize children, dressed up in togs they’ve rummaged from trunks. Is there joy in this? There could be, but have they chosen it? You can’t tell by looking. There are a great many buttocks in this room. I am no longer used to them.

“It’s like walking into the past,” says the Commander. His voice sounds pleased, delighted even. “Don’t you think?”

Awful. Awful. Blech. I didn’t like anything about this section of the book. I mean, think about it. It’s bad enough that the Commander would be talking with Offred on the down-low with Serena knowing about it. But to also flaunt his power by showing her off in public as well. Please note, this isn’t normal behavior. The other Commanders sleep around with these women of ill repute, but not with their Handmaids. We know this because we get a scene between Nick and his recruiter, Andrew Pryce, that he was investigating another Commander that was sleeping with his Handmaid and also skimming money from a government fund.

But not only was doing this with Offred, but he did it with the previous Handmaid as well. We see in a flashback that the previous Handmaid, the one that had carved the message in the closet probably, had hanged herself. And Serena made it clear that it was the Commander that had pushed her to this.

Regardless, so it is obvious that the big linchpin of this episode was the fact that the Commander dressed up Offred, and smuggled her into Boston in order to get her into a club of sorts. And in this club, all sorts of non-Gideon approved things are taking place… and they are all conducted by the truly powerful of the republic. Which, is a funny irony… but not surprising.

Episode 8 An Episode About Nick

Episode 7 was all about Luke. And it worked on a million levels because Luke was supposed to be dead. Not only that, but Luke had an amazing story to catch up with. One minute he’s shot. The next thing we know his ambulance is crashed. And then he’s fleeing for his life and picked up by a group sneaking their way to Canada. It was fascinating and compelling. Luke adds a complicating layer to the world of Handmaid’s Tale. Now Offred’s world has three men in it.

But Episode 8 is all about Nick. And Nick could have been a fascinating person to focus in on… save for the fact that he’s not interesting in any way whatsoever. Nick was a forced to take care of his family and so he was a job hire risk. He would perpetually drop jobs in order to take care of family and therefore no one would hire him. The economy was going to pot… and Nick’s chances were becoming decidedly slimmer and slimmer.

But for Andrew Pryce. Andrew Pryce was his hiring manager – who chose not to hire him because of his flight risk status. But then a fight brakes out and the next thing we know? Nick is punching Mr. Pryce. Minutes later? The two are out having coffee together. (?) But otherwise? There really wasn’t much of a story for how he became a member of the Eye.

Seems like a pretty ordinary ascent. A) Guy needs job. B) Guy needs love. C) Guy meets religious nutjob who acts like he cares. D) Nutjob offers job. E) Guy is now driving for rightwing fruitcakes that are two faced and evil. F) Guy ends up on the stand pleading with the judge that he just did what he was told. G) Guy gives speech on gallows while women throw tomatoes.

You know – all the normal stuff.

But the most interesting thing about this Nick episode? It was the opening with Offred. “I am such an F’ing weakling… I can say I am here because it’s an F you to the patriarchy, but that’s a lie. I am here because it feels good. And because I don’t want to be alone.” Now THAT is honesty. That is true realism when it comes to screenplay writing. We’ve been talking about this all season as we walkthrough each episode, the ways in which Offred is literally sleeping with the enemy. Her lack of willpower to fight the establishment. Her non hero-esque stature in the face of heroically necessary people.

But, I would argue, that this makes the series even better than if June put a white hat on, and then became a super spy agent for May Day with Tom Cruise like antics and Mr. Bean quality laughs. No. This is real realism. This is today. This is, what do I do when trapped? What do I do when alone and afraid? Do I stay true to my dead husband or do I just try and survive physically and emotionally. Even if it means finding comfort where you can find it.

June and Moira Meet Again

About the only thing else of note that happen over the course of the episode was that June runs into Moira again at the party. Moira is apparently there, given the opportunity to work as opposed to being killed I suppose. Not an awful exchange. But not great. Regardless, Moira was headed towards the female road, a modern (futuristic?) underground railroad of sorts. But didn’t make it and ended up here. Moira and June make amends and each one tries to assuage each other’s survivor’s guilt.

Handmaid’s Tale Music Box

As we head to the end of the episode Serena gives Offred a music box that she had had a child. The music box is a very very obvious metaphor (Can I say, a painfully obvious metaphor?) for Offred and the position she finds herself in? She’s stared at, gawked at, manipulated and played with. And ultimately she’s locked in a cage, completely unfree to do what she wants. Imprisoned to the will of others and used for the gain of others. “And I refuse to be the woman in the box.” (Um, too late?)

And to follow this music box theme, can I say that every single episode so far of season one of Handmaid’s Tale has had an epic song drop somewhere in it. Heart of Glass (Crabtree Remix) being my favorite so far. But this weeks was another brilliantly played musical inclusion – it was The White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, and it kicked off just as they were heading into the party, which did help spike my interest. I think that the show’s writers should have made the music box play The White Rabbit, similarly to how Westworld played modern music on the player piano. Definitely would have brought the entire motif home to roost. Hahah.

One last thing I wanted to comment on was the fact that Nick is punting on their relationship after June has headed into Boston with the Commander. “You are going to end up on the wall…” (Or committing suicide he is thinking.) And Offred’s response is interesting, “At least someone will remember me. Someone will care that I am gone.” Is this what motivates June and compels her forward? Is this the driving motivator for her? Being remembered? Being missed? Does this inform the note she etches in the closet “You are not alone”? Is this her raison d’ĂȘtre? Maybe… maybe this is the puzzle piece we have been missing to pull all the other puzzle pieces together.

I don’t know – what did you think of this episode?

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

Edited by, CY