A tongue-less Ofglen may have used some pretty extreme body language in last week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays at 9 p.m. on Bravo) when she blew up the Rachel and Leah Center with a hand grenade, but the subsequent message from Gilead officials this week was even stronger. And here you thought a totalitarian society couldn’t get any more extreme.
The episode picked up to reveal The Commander is okay, but definitely a little worse for wear. He spent the entirety of the episode in the hospital room in a daze, while Serena tended to him and Nick and Offred (a.k.a. the carrier of the unborn child) “cheered him up” with visits. We learned that the blast killed 26 commanders (including Commander Price) and 31 handmaids, and that a new guy named Commander Cushing (Bitten and Frontier’s Greg Bryk), whom Fred and Serena used to vacation with, was now in charge.
And by “in charge,” we mean the guy was on a power-hungry trip to take down any traitors by hanging, shooting and executing those who got in his way… or executing people just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the Martha who was simply looking for her pass.
Obviously there were plenty of political and racial parallels to be drawn from that scene alone, but the episode didn’t necessarily dwell on them. Rather it showed us how extreme things probably were when Gilead was first coming into existence, and what power in the wrong hands could potentially do to the society that currently exists.
All of that was told through Offred’s point of view, as per usual, which meant that Cushing was focusing his energies on her and her attempted escape from the beginning of the season. He didn’t know it was an escape, of course, since the official line was that she’d been kidnapped, but his interest was enough to send Offred into a bit of a panic over Nick being found out. With Commander Price dead, all of Nick’s assurances have basically been obliterated, which means hope of Offred making it out alive with that baby are even worse now than before. So Offred played the only card she could, and turned to Serena.
Don’t you just love it when those two team up, despite their obvious dislike for each other? Serena turned to self-preservation mode when she asked Nick for help in executing “The Commander’s” orders, but the move turned out to be her biggest power play to date when she also eliminated the biggest threat. She was able to get Cushing arrested, which solved that problem for the immediate future, while giving herself a bit of a voice back in this repressive world. As for Offred? She benefitted too when Serena tasked her with editing the paperwork, giving her a pen that she clicked as though it were a grenade in a brilliant little scene that served as a callback to the episode before.
Sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword, y’all.