Okay, so we’re only four episodes into The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo), but we can probably all agree that TV Offred is a lot more of a kick-ass character than the Offred we meet in Margaret Atwood’s novel. And we love her all the more for it.
In Sunday’s latest installment we picked up roughly two weeks after Serena Joy promised things could get much worse for Offred, and sure enough they had. With very little sunlight, zero fresh air and pretty much no human contact to speak of, Offred’s world had become a lonely, miserable place. It’s no wonder she began going down the rabbit hole of her memories — a very dangerous place to visit indeed.
Luckily, she had something else to inspire her and keep hope alive: the book’s famous words (and the title of the episode), “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum.” Offred found the saying, which roughly translates into “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” etched into the bottom of her inner closet wall, and it was enough to push her through the incarceration. But not without a little bit of struggle, first.
In honour of Offred’s victorious gaming of the system in the Waterford household, we give you five reasons why the TV version of Offred is so much stronger than the original.
1. She’s cheeky
From the moment we first met Offred and she told The Commander it was nice to meet him, we knew this version of the character was more apt to push boundaries and test limits. So far over the course of the series, she has flirted with Nick, flirted with The Commander and showed a human side of herself to Serena Joy; only a couple of those things happened in the book and none of them were as prominent as they are in the show. As for Sunday night’s episode? We’d say that Offred spending hours laying in her closet, staring at the carving is pretty risky in and of itself, and proves that, while this Offred isn’t exactly a member of the resistance, she’s certainly willing to take some hard risks in order to inject her life with a little meaning.
2. She’s smart
We don’t think Offred planned to scare the crap out of Rita and make her drop breakfast all over the floor, and we definitely don’t think she had planned to fake an illness in order to get her out of the house. But when the opportunity presented itself you’re darned right that Offred took it, pretending to have fainted so that she could escape her room and get some fresh air… if only for a while. Conveniently, we got to see the doctor scene from the book as a result, when Orphan Black’s Kristian Brunn guest starred as the doc who secretly offers to help Offred get pregnant. (Much like in the book, she declined the offer, scared that it was a trap.)
3. She’s a fighter
Speaking of the book, we got another huge departure in the episode’s flashbacks, when June decided to try to escape with Moira. The entire scene was inspired by Atwood’s original presentation, to be sure. Moira still tricked Aunt Elizabeth into checking the overflowing toilet and she still walked right out of the Red Centre wearing Aunt Elizabeth’s grey aunt outfit. But in the book, June was never a part of this escape; she just wasn’t the type of character to try. So even though TV Offred was caught in a heartbreaking twist in that train station, you have to commend her for trying. It just goes to show you that she’s a fighter who is willing to do what it takes to survive. And that in itself makes her a much more interesting character.
4. She’s figured out how to push buttons
Back at the Waterford household in the present-day story, it was obvious that Offred wasn’t going to get anywhere with Serena. And she certainly wasn’t getting any help from Nick either. So she sucked it up and tried the only avenue she had left: The Commander. That dude is on a serious power trip with his Scrabble games, and even if he claims to just be making Offred’s life “bearable,” we all know that he gets intellectual stimulation out of it too. Stimulation that he’s obviously not allowed to have with his wife anymore, thanks to the rules of Gilead. So when Offred was backed into a corner, it made sense that she’d try and push his buttons to get Serena to finally let her out of her room. It was a move that worked, and we all cheered at the end of the episode when Offred got to go outside as Serena watched from her room up above.
5. She’s just getting started
The most brilliant thing about that scene, as far as we’re concerned, is that even though we cheered for this “win,” it wasn’t really a win. Offred is back at the exact same place where she started when we first met her in this series. All she managed to do was to get back to square one. However, now that she has figured out how to play the Waterford’s system, we expect her to break a lot more rules in order to progress her position. That will surely expand and develop TV Offred even more, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.