RECAP: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ S1, E1 – “Offred”

The Handmaid's Tale Premiere Recap
(Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)


Episode 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred,” begins with a flashback. The protagonist, known only at this point as Offred, attempts to flee to Canada with her husband and daughter. Sirens blare as the authorities follow in close pursuit. The car Offred and her family are in crashes and Offred’s husband urges her to take their daughter and run. Offred holds her daughter and runs but soldiers are close behind her. She trips and falls, then tries to hide. It seems the soldiers miss her and she tries to resume running but they catch and subdue her. She pleas as they take her daughter from her.

Fast forward to the present. Offred is now a handmaid. She narrates  thatshe once had a name but that it is now forbidden, just like so many other things are forbidden. She states that the authorities do not worry so much about handmaids physically escaping their situations as they do about other forms of escape that can be made through a sharp edge (i.e. suicide).

Offred has her first meeting with Serena Joy, wife to Commander Waterford. It’s implied that Offred had been stationed with a previous couple but was transferred. Offred meets the Commander who says it was nice meeting her, to which Offred replies, “You too.” It’s clear that responding in this way is a breach of protocol and Serena Joy warns Offred not to “get any ideas,” and that if she gets trouble, “I will give trouble back.”

Offred next meets the helpers of the household, Rita, who is the Waterfords’ Martha (maid) and the Commander’s driver, Nick. Offred meets a fellow handmaid, Ofglen, whom Offred this is a pious and true believer in the system, and the two go grocery shopping.  On their way home from shopping Offred and Ofglen see three hanged men – a doctor, a priest and a gay man – presumably for breaking some kind of rules.

Flashback to a handmaid training class at the Rachel and Leah Center (aka the Red Center) in which Aunt Lydia, the teacher, informs the class that humanity poisoned the world with chemicals and radiation and that because of this God punished the world with infertility. Handmaids, she says, are special because they’ve been chosen by God to be fertile. Offred is brought in to the classroom and recognizes her friend, Moira. One of the women present scoffs and Aunt Lydia makes an example of her. “This may not seem ordinary to you right now,” Aunt Lydia says to the handmaids, “but after a time it will.”

Later that night, while in bed, Offred confesses that she tried her best to run from the authorities with her daughter but that she was too heavy. Moira assures her that she will see her daughter again. We see the woman from earlier who had scoffed at Aunt Lydia, Janine, being brought in with a bandage over her eye. Moira explains that they had taken her right eye out (“if my right eye offends thee, pluck it out.”

Flash forward. Offred takes a bath to prepare for a “Ceremony,” narrating that this was the rule. She later enters a room and waits with Rita, Nick and Serena Joy. There’s a knock and the Commander enters. He takes out a Bible and reads a passage from it as we cut to a scene in which he is raping Offred while Serena Joy holds Offred’s hands and looks on, clearly uncomfortable.

Later in bed Offred has a panic attack and rushes outside into the night, where she notices that Nick is watching her and wonders if he is an “Eye” (i.e. spy).

Flashback the Red Center and Janine is being delirious as Offred and Moira try to snap her out of it. Moira warns that if Janine can’t get it together she’ll be sent to the Colonies to clean up toxic waste. “Keep your f**king s**t together,” Moira urges a perturbed Offred.

Flash forward. Three ringing bells tell Offred that she is summoned to a Salvaging (execution). At the Salvaging, Offred learns from Janine that Moira tried to escape and was sent to the Colonies and is likely dead. Aunt Lydia arrives and presents a man who she explains was arrested for raping a pregnant handmaid. She orders the handmaids to make a circle and blows a whistle whereupon the handmaids viciously attack the man, killing him.

Flashback to Offred announcing to Moira that she is pregnant. She expresses fear of what the future will hold but Moira assures her that everything will be okay.

Offred and Ofglen walk home from the Salvaging and it is revealed that Ofglen is not the pious believer Offred thought she was. The two briefly bond. Offred arrives back at the Commander’s compound where there is some kind of social gathering of the Commander and his military colleagues. Serena Joy notices Offred looking and orders her back to her room where Offred sits and vows to survive for her daughter’s sake.

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