Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 1 (“Dragonstone”)

SPOILERS: Don’t read this review if you haven’t seen or don’t want to know details from the season premiere of Game of Thrones.

The Riverlands (House Frey)

Tell them, the North remembers. 

Arya (Maisie Williams), who killed Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley) at the end of S6, impersonates him during a feast in order to murder ALL the Frey men (his heirs) w/ poisoned wine. She leaves his young wife alive, so she can tell the story. 

The North (beyond The Wall somewhere)

Slowly, a HUGE bunch creatures (The Army of the Dead) are marching; they are led by The Night King. Winter IS indeed here, BUT it looks like he has the power to create a storm cloud w/in which they are moving. 

The Wall (Castle Black)

Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) arrive at The Wall, where they are questioned by a rather skeptical Edd (Ben Crompton), who is now Lord Commander. Meera introduces herself, then Brandon Stark (his full name, as well as that of great men before him). Bran explains that he knows what Edd has been through, so he and his only companion are let inside. 

The North (Winterfell)

Dragonglass kills White Walkers. It’s more valuable now to us than gold. -Jon explains to a gathering of Northern lords and ladies and Wilding leaders

When Jon (Kit Harington), now King of the North, commands that everyone over the age of 10, incl, women and girls, will be needed to mine for dragonglass, Lord Glover is a BIT shocked. Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsay) quickly stands up and claims that though she is little and a girl, she is “every bit a Northerner” as he is; no wonder this character is a fan fave. She declares that everyone on Bear Island will get to work. 

Give the castles to the families of the men who died fighting for you. -Sansa contradicts Jon when he is deciding on what will be done w/ the Umber and Karstark lands

Some of the leaders agree w/ Sansa (Sophie Turner); they can be heard saying “aye” and making a bit of noise. Did you see Littlefinger’s (Aiden Gillen) little smirk of approval when Sansa did that? Lord Davos (Liam Cunningham) looks a bit concerned; he is sitting to one side of Jon, while Sansa sits on the other. (This scene reminded me of that tense moment in Crimson Tide when Denzel’s character- the executive officer- contradicted Gene Hackman- the captain of a nuclear sub- in front of some of the crew.)

I will not punish a son for his father’s sins. And I will not take a family home away from a family that has held it for centuries. That is my decision, and my decision is final. -Jon says to the leaders

A little boy, Ned Umber, and a teen girl, Alice Karstark, come forward from the group w/ their swords and pledge loyalty to House Stark. Some viewers asked why Alice (a female) could be head of her house, BUT Sansa couldn’t be leading hers. Well, Alice is the only living heir of Lord Karstark, whereas House Stark has BOTH Jon (though a bastard) and Sansa. 

You have to be smarter that father. You need to be smarter than Robb. I loved them. I miss them. But they made stupid mistakes and lost their heads for it. -Sansa explains to Jon 

I LOVE all the convo between Jon and Sansa (on the ramparts of Winterfell)! We learn a bit more re: how Ned treated his daughters vs. his sons. Their personalities and concerns come out also. Sansa wants to be an advisor to Jon, since she can’t be in charge, BUT Jon seems reluctant to hear her. It’s true that Sansa learned a LOT from her time at court as Joffrey’s fiancee. Did you think Sansa became TOO paranoid re: Cersei (after the raven came from King’s Landing w/ her note)? After all, Cersei is thousands of miles away, BUT the White Walkers are getting closer every day (as Jon said). 

King’s Landing

Wow, what a cool map! Cersei (Lena Headey) is having a large and VERY detailed map painted of the Seven Kingdoms. She tells her brother, commander of the Lannister army, that Tyrion has been made Hand of the Queen; he sails w/ Dany, the Dothraki, and the Unsullied to Westeros. Jaime (Nicolas Coster-Waldau) says that Dany will land in Dragonstone (where Stannis used to have his base of operations). Cersei then goes over who the Lannister enemies are one-by-one. We know that Highgarden has the most grain, so will be esp. crucial now that Winter is here. (I can’t wait to see Lady Olenna again! She is the ONLY one left of House Tyrell, sadly.)

I’m the queen of the Seven Kingdoms. -Cersei declares

Three kingdoms at best. I’m not sure you understand how much danger we’re in. -Jaime corrects her

Cersei refuses to talk re: Tommen’s death, even when Jaime brings it up; he looks very sad for a moment. She says that she can’t dwell on the past, the losses she suffered, and that they are “the only Lannisters that matter now.” Jaime points out that they need “better, stronger allies,” esp. now that the Freys are dead. Where will these allies come from? It turns out- the Greyjoys (or at least Euron, the King of the Iron Islands). Well, Jaime is NOT impressed! 

Euron (Danish actor Pilou Asbaek), who has a VERY different haircut and outfit from S6, presents himself to Cersei in the throne room. He is NOT a humble man, as Cersei points out. Euron (at the head of the Iron Fleet) is NOT intimidated by Cersei or Jaime, BUT is stopped from stepping closer to Cersei by Sir Gregor Clegane. Did you see Jaime’s disgust at Euron’s cutting remarks? Quite fabulous! Even though Cersei refuses his marriage proposal, Euron says he’ll bring her “a priceless gift” to win her over. Hmmm… wonder what that could be! Some viewers are saying the head of a dragon; others think it could be Ellaria Sand from Dorne (who planned the murder of Cersei and Jaime’s daughter, Myrcella).    

The Citadel

Everyone doubts everything here- that’s their job. -Archmaester Ebrose explains to Sam (when he says that no one in The Citadel believes him re: the White Walkers).

Poor Sam! We see just how tedious his new life is in a gross/funny/repetitive montage (a first for GoT). He is in training to be a maester, BUT the types of books that he needs (in order to help Jon) are in a locked area. Sam asks Archmaester Ebrose (veteran Australian actor Jim Broadbent) during an autopsy if he could get access. The older/wiser man explains re: the importance of “memory” (history), the role of the maesters, and decides that he does believe Sam’s story. After all, there is evidence of what Sam detailed in various texts; however, he can’t have access to those yet. Sam decides to steal one of the key rings (while the old maesters are sleeping) and check out a few forbidden books. 

Winterfell

In the yard, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) is training her squire, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), while Tormund looks on w/ admiration and a goofy grin. Pod keeps getting defeated, BUT the Wildling leader calls him “a lucky man.” Yeah, Tormund still has a big crush on the woman warrior, though it’s NOT mutual!

Even Littlefinger has praise for Brienne’s fighing skills. Sansa wonders what he wants; he says he wants her to be “happy” and “safe.” She explains that here, in her childhood home, she is safe; friends are around and Brienne protects her. Then he asks re: the happy part, and she is quiet. Does anyone think Littlefinger could make Sansa happy!? I LOVED how Sansa dismissed him before he could get the last word! She has become emotionally strong; I don’t think Littlefinger will be able to manipulate her in the future. He is valuable b/c he commands the Lords of the Vale, Sansa explains to Brienne; those were the some of the most skilled knights who helped defeat Ramsay.

The Riverlands (on the path to King’s Landing)

This was a scene that I really liked! I was surprised when I read re: the hate for Ed Sheeran’s cameo and his (maybe too pop-like?) song. Well, it turns out that Maisie Williams is a big fan of this singer, so the GoT showrunners (David Benioff and Dan Weiss) worked to get him to appear on the show, despite his jam-packed schedule. Anyways, let’s try and stick to the scene, NOT the drama that came afterwards.

My mother always told me to be kind to strangers; strangers will be kind to you. -A young Lannister soldier explains to Arya (when she comes upon their camp)

Girls take care of their papas when their papas get old. Boys juts go off and fight in someone else’s wars. -Another soldier, a new father explains why he prefers a girl child (when Arya asks)

At first, I thought this scene would be bloody/violent, BUT it turned out to be quite the opposite. These are young men w/ humble roots (NOT too much older than Arya), who are (obviously) reluctant soldiers. They don’t have much to eat (a small rabbit), BUT share w/ Arya. They also give her a cask of wine to drink from, though she is young. (Some viewer joked re: what was the exact drinking age in Westeros.)

I’m going to kill the queen. -Arya says (before the soldiers burst into laughter)

On the Road

Why are you always in such a foul mood? -Thoros of Myr asks 

Experience. -The Hound (Ser Gregor Clegane) replies 

The Hound (Rory McCann) is still riding w/ The Brotherhood w/o Banners, led by Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer). The small band come upon an abandoned farmhouse; instantly, The Hound (as well as observant fans) recognized it as the same place from where he robbed a widower and his young daughter. He doesn’t want to go in (whoa, perhaps feeling some guilt?), BUT Thoros thinks he’s afraid. I LOVE how The Hound made fun of Thoros’ topknot- LOL! 

…there’s nothing special about you. Then why does The Lord of Light keep bringing you back?  -The Hound asks Beric 

It seems like (from what critics/viewers have noted) that we will see a different side to The Hound this season; we will become a more developed/complicated character. So far, we know about his painful past (w/ his brother- Sir Gregor), his empathy w/ troubled females (EX: Sansa), and his view of ALL religions (agnostic; doesn’t like or trust religion). My fave line in of The Hound’s in this ep was re: “divine justice.” I was VERY surprised when he looked into the fire and saw the reason why the Brotherhood was preparing for battle. Probably the biggest surprise was the next scene, where The Hound was digging a grave for the farmer and his daughter in the snowy/windy/cold night.

I’m sorry you’re dead. You deserved better- both of you. -The Hound says this prayer over the grave 

The Citadel

Sam is staying up late, reading, though Gilly says he should sleep. (Wow, look how big Little Sam got! He is a toddler now, even saying a few words.) Sam comes upon a map of Dragonstone w/ a symbol denoting that dragonglass is underneath; Stannis had told him something about it before. Quickly, Sam begins writing a letter to Jon. 

The next day, Sam is collecting food bowls again, BUT in a different location than what we saw before. There could be criminals jailed behind the doors, or maybe patients (as some viewers guessed). As he reaches to retrieve one of the bowls, a hand suddenly reached out to try and grab him- OMG! Sam is freaked out, jumping back. It only takes a second to guess that it’s Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), though we only hear his voice and see his profile in the dark cell. His entire arm is covered by Dragonscale (awww). Jorah asks if The Dragon Queen has come yet.

Dragonstone

This segment of the ep of nearly wordless, yet SO well done! We see Dany (Emilia Clarke) (along w/ her friends and allies) sail ashore, walk across the beach, then enter the fortress (built thousands of years ago by her people, the Targaryens). The dragons fly above, BUT we don’t get close-up of them. Even the verbose Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is silent as they explore the castle. In the throne room, Dany pauses and looks at the throne, BUT decides NOT to sit upon it. Instead, she goes to the map/war room (which was where Stannis plotted his military strategies). This is the room MOST familiar to fans; we hadn’t seen ALL the other cool details of Dragonstore before. Some Jewish viewers noted that they esp. liked the part where Dany touched the sand on the beach; it reminded them of how Jews (from all over the world) sometimes touch the earth of their ancestral homeland upon coming to visit Israel.

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Private Mohammed Kahn: Civil War Soldier

Wow, this is an AMAZING (and rare) discovery!

NARAtions

Today’s post comes from Kate Mersiovsky, National Archives Technician

Since I’ve become an archives technician in the Innovation Hub Scanning Room at the National Archives, I’ve seen my fair share of interesting records. Researchers have digitized the pension of presidential widow Lucretia Garfield, the pension of Harriet Tubman, and the Supreme Court cases In Re Gault and U.S. v. Edith Windsor. Recently one of my fellow technicians, Jesse Wilinski, found another unique record- the pension file for Mohammed Kahn, a Muslim soldier who served in the Civil War.

It is rare to find records of Muslim Civil War soldiers in our holdings. So far, Jesse has only encountered two pensions, and historians know of only about 250 Muslim Civil War soldiers in all. This record, therefore, sheds light on a unique perspective that is often overlooked. As a Muslim immigrant serving in a white unit, Kahn…

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The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS for the streaming drama series, book, and 1990 movie version of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Introduction

Handmaids kneeing at a gathering with Guardians surrounding the area

Atwood’s book has echoes of New England Puritanism, along with atrocities drawn from sources including Saudi Wahhabism, the Third Reich, American slavery, and the East German surveillance state. It’s constructed not as a realistic story, however, but as an eyewitness account… -Emily Nussbaum (The New Yorker)

Mankind is failing, most women are sterile because of industrial pollution (or Mother Nature just having enough of us). Birth rates are plummeting. An ultra religious cult see it as their God-given mission to “save mankind.” They seize power by staging a fake terrorist attack against the US government, impose marshal law, and set about rebuilding American society. (“War On Terror” anyone?) They use The Old Testament as their blueprint, but with some totally wack interpretations and distortions. Fertile women become the property of the state. Brainwashed and farmed out to the new ruling elite as baby makers, slavery and subjugation is all they can hope for. -Summary by IMDB reviewer

Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway) and Offred (Natasha Richardson) in the 1990 movie version of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood wrote her dystopian novel in 1985 (while she was living in Berlin, Germany); it was first published in 1986. She didn’t put anything in that hadn’t happened before at some place and time period in history. Her book is considered a blend of historical fiction and sci-fi; I read it in HS (I think). Many years later, I saw the 1990 movie starring Natasha Richardson, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, and Aiden Quinn. Critics (mostly) hated that film, BUT I thought it was pretty decent. Veteran actors Duvall and Dunaway played the Waterfords; their ages were appropriate to the book. However, in this new Hulu series, the couple are much younger, energetic, and passionate. 

Setting

A group of Handmaids clean blood from the wall by the river.

The Handmaid’s Tale looks extraordinary – stylised, choreographed almost, menacing. It sounds fabulous, too. -Sam Wollaston (The Guardian)

Even the light coming in through the windows has a soft luxury to it, a Vermeer-ish quality. -Sonia Saraiya (Variety)

Much has been written lately re: the importance of world-building in good drama series; after all, the look is what first draws the attention of viewers to a show. Offred wears a distinctive white bonnet (the 1990 film had a red veil) and scarlet-colored dress and hooded cape, as do ALL the other Handmaids. The commanders wear black suits w/ dark-colored ties; their wives wear blue dresses (covering the knees and and conservatively cut) and matching capes. There are also lower-ranked married women in this world; they are called Econowives and wear grayish striped dresses. The Guardians dress like modern-day SWAT teams- in black and gray colors. 

There are also little/subtle touches which enrich the show. The Gilead-era flag (which is shown in Canada) only has two stars, b/c the U.S. ONLY has control over two states- Alaska and Hawaii. In the real world, the red tags attached to the Handmaids’ ears are used on livestock (such as cows); this is a reminder that the Handmaids are viewed as farm animals, NOT humans. There are mentions of Uber, Tinder, the SATs, and even a cute scene involving a food truck- things that we are familiar w/ in 2017. 

Characters

In the book, Gilead is a white-supremacist culture. In the show, black actors play Moira and Luke. The result is an odd trade-off: we get brown faces, but the society is unconvincingly color-blind, as if race had never existed. -Emily Nussbaum (The New Yorker)

June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss)

The book uses a 1st person narrator, so the reader ONLY knows what Offred knows. This series also gives us POVs of other characters, BUT she is the lead. Moss has tackled meaty roles before (The West Wing; Mad Men; Top of the Lake). She is VERY good at expressing a lot of (conflicting) emotions w/ subtle/brief looks and body movements. In her previous life, Offred was a book editor and married mother to an adorable young daughter (Hannah). At the start of the series, her goal is to stay mentally strong and survive in order to someday find her little girl. 

Moira (Samira Wiley)

Moira (Samira Wiley) at the training center

The petite, out and proud lesbian is June’s best friend. Moira, who is BOTH funny and strong-willed, manages to escape from the Rachel and Bilhah Center in the disguise of an Aunt. Offred gets left behind on the subway platform, BUT she understands the difficulty of the situation. Though there are rumors that Moira died, we see her (later in season) working at Jezebels, a club where commanders come to fulfill their fantasies w/ a diverse array of women (many of whom were intellectuals in the past). Just like the Handmaids, these women can’t say “no.” When they are reunited (by chance), Moira explains to June that Jezebels get good food, booze, and drugs. In the book, she says that she can read and have relationships w/ women. Fans of OITNB rejoice! 

Luke Bankole (O-T Fagbenle)

Luke, June’s husband and father to Hannah, gets a backstory in this series; that is NOT in the book. When they first met, Luke was married to another woman; this adds to the shades of gray in the story. This actor is British-Nigerian and I had never seen him before; he does a great job in this role (incl. the more action-oriented scenes). 

Emily/Ofglen (Alexis Bledel)

Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) and Offred (Elisabeth Moss) at the grocery store

In her previous life, Emily was a college prof, married (w/ a wife), and young son. Offred doesn’t really know much re: Ofglen until after 2 mos. of walking w/ her to do the grocery shopping; no Handmaid can travel alone. Later in the series, Ofglen goes through FGM (scary, yet still happening ALL over the world). This is a VERY meaty (and unusual) role for Bledel; she is best known for The Gilmore Girls

Janine/Ofwarren (Madeline Brewer)

Janine, a fiery redhead, was mouthy at the training center; she was severely punished by one of the Aunts (losing an eye). Poor Janine has a tragic past; she was a survivor of a gang assault (resulting perhaps in PTSD). Moira is tough on her, BUT June has success in calming her down; the behavior of one Handmaid will affect ALL of them.  Even after Ofwarren gives birth to the Putnam’s baby girl, her emotional turmoil continues.

Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd)

Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) at a gathering of the Handmaids

Ordinary is just what you’re used to. This might not seem ordinary right now, but after a time it will. This will become ordinary. -Aunt Lydia to the Handmaids

Aunt Lydia is the head of the Rachel and Bilhah Center; she is a harsh taskmaster who seems to truly believe in the ways of Gilead. In time, we notice that she feels bad for Janine, BUT she can’t let things slide for ANY of her “girls.” Ann Dowd, a veteran character actress, brings a BIT of ambiguity to the role- she is NOT a total villain.

Cmdr. Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes)

Offred (Elisabeth Moss) plays Scrabble with The Commander (Joseph Fiennes) in his study

Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some. -Cmdr. Waterford explains to Offred

He is usually called “The Commander” by everyone; his wife (Serena Joy) only calls him Fred. Some of the other Handmaids tell Offred that he is “really high up” and “very important” in the government of Gilead. At first, The Cmdr. is merely going by the book during ceremony nights; later, he wants to connect w/ Offred. He requests that Offred come down to his study (a no-no); they chat (even flirt a BIT), play Scrabble (which they are BOTH good at), and he gives her fashion magazines to read (another no-no).

To show her just how much power he holds over her, The Cmdr. takes Offred (wearing one of Serena Joy’s blue capes) out to the club- Jezebels. Notice that he chose a sparkly mini-dress and matching heels for Offred to wear; this shows us what type of woman he desires (someone to show off). Fiennes does a great job w/ his American accent; I don’t think I’ve seen him using one before. The actor creates a man who is complicated, yearning for connection (esp. to Offred), and enjoys flaunting the rules (which he helped establish). 

Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski)

Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) listens to the prayer in her parlor

Never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness. -Serena says to the Mexican ambassador, Mrs. Castillo

Serena Joy is portrayed by an Australian actress (former model) who somewhat resembles Grace Kelly, BUT w/ a more taller/athletic body. She gets a backstory in this series that is NOT in the book (like Luke). In flashbacks, we see how Serena Joy was a part of the establishment of Gilead; she wrote a book about the role of women. (Atwood modeled Serena Joy on the historical anti-feminist figure, Phyllis Schlafly, an outspoken opponent of the ERA in the ’70s.) The world she helped create has left her feeling alone, bitter, and (eventually) cruel. Serena Joy eventually turns on Fred, saying that he is NOT “worthy” of fathering a child, so God has denied him one. 

Nick (Max Minghella)

Nick (Max Minghella) and Offred (Moss) in the yard

Max Minghella’s performance gets more interesting every week. You never know what he’s going to say until he says it—that face is unreadable in the best and most unsettling way. -Allison Shoemaker (A.V. Club)

Nick is The Commander’s driver; he lives in a humble room above the Waterford’s garage. In the pilot, Offred explains that he is “low rank” and “has not even been assigned a woman.” At first, Nick just watches Offred (w/o speaking); this makes her a BIT nervous, BUT also curious. They begin to secretly flirt; BOTH are feeling lonely and need someone to talk to. Mrs. Waterford gets them together b/c, MOST likely, The Commander is shooting blanks. It takes time, BUT Nick is revealed to be a protector, NOT merely a coward or survivor. He was recruited rather young as one of the Sons of Jacob, a secret group of men who are the Eyes in the households of the commanders. 

Rita (Amanda Brugel)

Rita is one of the Marthas; she has worked for the Waterfords for a few yrs (like Nick). She is brusque, at first, BUT then treats Offred w/ kindness (making her healthy meals). After all, the birth of a baby would be great for ALL of the household. We learn that she lost her grown son in the war; most likely, he was fighting against the establishment of Gilead. I hope that she gets a backstory in Season 2; she is one of the few Latina women on the show.

Themes

Identity/Individualism

The Handmaids’ uniform denies the women individuality until the camera moves close enough so that we see their faces. In Gilead, the group is MORE important than the individual, as the Aunts and Commanders often say. Those women who don’t fall in line, like Ofwarren (who went through emotional turmoil after pregnancy) and Ofglen (who fell in love w/ one of the Marthas), are dealt w/ VERY harshly. 

Children

And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. -Genesis 30:3 (King James Bible)

In this world, a healthy birth happens 1 out of 5 times. June/Offred is in her early 30s and already has a daughter, so there is a good chance that she can have another child. Janine/Ofwarren gives birth to a fine baby girl, gets to breastfeed her, BUT then is ceremoniously put out of the Putnam’s household. Like MANY other viewers, I am NOT convinced that Serena Joy wants a child; she has bought into this society, BUT that doesn’t mean that she’s happy w/ it.

Love & Marriage

Unlike in any number of other gender dystopias, most men don’t oppress women because they hate or fear them, but because they can’t empathize enough to love them when it becomes inconvenient.  

And women gave up everything by empathizing too much and turning on each other to support the men they loved. -Adi Robertson (The Verge) re: the book

Serena Joy is rejected (coldly) by her husband after one halted ceremony scene; after all, intimate relations in Gilead are solely for the purpose of procreation. Maybe some viewers felt sympathy for her then? I was a BIT shocked when The Cmdr. admitted to Offred that he didn’t believe in love; in flashbacks, it seems like he and his wife were once deeply in love. (In the book, Atwood explains that some couples were already married before the establishment of Gilead; others were placed in arranged marriages to spouses of equal status.)

Offred goes to Nick’s room b/c she wants to spend the night w/ him; this happens after Mrs. Waterford has them perform the ceremony. As for love, Offred likes Nick, BUT is still in love w/ Luke.  As for Nick, I think that he does fall in love w/ Offred; he can’t express himself, as it could get them BOTH killed.

Women & Femininity

“Women have too much freedom here,” a foreign undergrad student commented when I asked him how he liked America. A few months ago, I mentioned to a friend how it’s too bad that apt. buildings in some countries (EX: Japan and India) didn’t rent to unmarried couples. “They should have a choice, at least,” I said. She replied quickly: “Oh, all those rules are for protection of women. What if the boyfriend leaves her? And if she gets pregnant?” The founders of Gilead take this type of thinking to another (extreme) level; they think they are protecting the Handmaids and the (possible) future children. How is legally sanctioned rape protection!? In one scene, The Cmdr. tells Offred that it’s the “destiny” of women to bear children. So, where does that leave his wife? 

Freedom & Confinement

Offred (Moss) sees Moira in the club

“You’re free here,” The Cmdr. tells Offred in their room at the club. We know that no woman is free in this world! In the flashbacks, we see June (and other women in Boston) being let go from their jobs, then their bank accounts frozen, before being sent to the training center. Moira lashes out at Luke when he tells June “I’ll take care of you.” Ugh, that’s NOT the point- it’s about choiceOne can argue that Offred finds a sort of freedom in her relationship w/ Nick, which is a (dangerous) rebellion.  

Reading, Writing, & Storytelling

Since reading is forbidden for Handmaids, ALL the items in the grocery store are marked by pictures instead of words. Before Moira’s escape scene, we see workmen chipping away at the signs in the subway. You know what reading promotes- thinking! Before each ceremony, the household gathers in the parlor while The Cmdr. reads the story of Rachel, Jacob, and Bilhah from the family Bible. Offred discovers a Latin phrase written inside the closet in her room; she finds out (from The Cmdr.) that it translates to “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” The Mexican ambassador’s assistant proves that he can be an ally to Offred when he hands a pad of paper and pencil, asking her to write a message for her husband (who is alive). The mysterious package Moira mails from the club to the butcher (another male ally) turns out to be letters and photos from a diverse group of women (some mothers); they are desperate to tell the wider world their story.