It's been 31 years since Canadian author Margaret Atwood released her Governor General Award winning novel "The Handmaids Tale". The story is set in a dystopian not-so-distant future America, where plague has spread across the country affecting fertility rates and increasing miscarriages. Women have been stripped of their rights and forced to act as livestock for the wealthy. Those who remain fertile are set as handmaid's for the Commander (male of the house) which is where we find our protagonist Offred (Of-Fred, real name June) as she struggles with adapting to society's new regime. The handmaid's must provide a baby for their Commanders. On April 26, 2017, Hulu released the first 3 episodes of the 10 episode series, receiving widespread critical acclaim and a score of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics calling the series "timely", "horrific", and "powerful" . Let's take a look back at the top 5 most powerful scenes in the 3 episode series premiere:
1. GROCERY SHOPPING
Alexis Bledel as Ofglen (left) and Elizabeth Moss as Offred (right) as they visit the grocery store. Image via Entertainment Weekly.
In the pilot episode we see Offred (Elizabeth Moss) and her shopping partner Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) as they go out for their daily routine of grocery shopping. The handmaid's are given food stamps which they can trade in for certain food items. "Oh look! Oranges!" Offred's fellow handmaid's cheer, already adapting to their new status in the world. "I don't need oranges," says Offred's voice-over. "I need to scream. I need to grab the nearest machine gun." This handmaid is not going to submit so easily. While Offred and her fellow handmaid's are meant to be meek, unseen, and delicate, we get a look into her mind which proves she isn't going down without a fight and creates a powerful moment for the viewers.
2. HER FAULT
Janine (Madeline Brewer) has a breakdown in the Red Centre. Image via IndieWire
In the same episode, there's a scene where a woman named Janine (who has had her right eye removed due to unruliness) sits in the middle of the circle of soon-to-be handmaid's at their handmaid training centre called "The Red Centre". Janine recounts a time earlier in her life where she was raped by several boys from her school. Their trainer "Aunt Lydia" asks who's fault it was and all the other women raise their fingers and point at Janine. "Her fault! Her fault!" they shout. "To teach her a lesson!" they continue. It's bizarre and shocking (which is displayed on Offred's face) that in this new regime women are forced to take the blame of their sexual assaults. While it happens every day in real life, this scene still creates a lasting memory for the viewer.
3. COFFEE SHOP
Moira (Samira Wiley) before the laws were changed. Image via Hollywood Reporter.
In a flashback scene of the time before Gilead was set in place, Moira and June are running on a sunny day. They enter a coffee shop wearing their exercising outfits where June orders a coffee, but her debit card is declined. "That's impossible - I just deposited my cheque yesterday," she says, unaware that Gilead is already taking her money. The male barista then calls June and Moira "sluts" and swears at them to get out. It's a powerful scene because this man is already reducing them to their bodies so publicly and nobody does anything to stop it. Yet another true representation of our society today.
4. OFGLEN'S CAPTURE
Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) is captured by the Eyes due to "gender treachery".
In episode 2, we discover that Offred's shopping partner Oflgen is gay. "Me and my wife - we had a son," she tells Offred. Offred thinks nothing of it, yet in the Gilead regime being gay is called 'gender treachery' and is punishable by death. By the end of the episode Offred goes to see Ofglen but is met with a new handmaid in her place. Ofglen, who's real name is Emily, is taken to a hospital where her sexual organs have had surgery so that she "won't want what she can't have," says Aunt Lydia (this is moments after she was forced to watch her lover hanged). While this storyline isn't from the novel, it serves as a powerful, poignant reminder of the struggles gay people are facing around the world today. It reminds us that just because it is not as extreme in North America does not mean we can be ignorant of what's going on around the world.
Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) catches Offred watching her.
Near the conclusion of episode 3, the Commander's wife Serena Joy is happy because she thinks Offred could be pregnant and Serena would finally have a baby. Offered discovers in the washroom that her period was just late, and has to break the news to Serena. Serena grabs Offred by the arm, throws her to the ground of her room and tells her she can't leave. It's a powerful scene that raises anger in the viewer, who must wonder if it's the Commander who is sterile.
The Handmaid's Tale is available on Hulu weekly and on Bravo Sundays 9 PM EST.