Exercise Your Right to Read & Enjoy This ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Episode 1 Recap
OK, we’re totally sprung. If you haven’t taken a ride on The Handmaid’s Tale Express yet, we highly suggest getting on board. But, before diving into the chilling first episode, you may want to take a peek at our handy-dandy Handmaid's Guide. You’ll be casually referring to Offred, Janine and the Republic of Gilead in no time. Now, on to episode one and its hair-raising creepiness.
In a series of flashbacks, we relive Offred's (Elisabeth Moss) traumatizing capture and her introduction to the handmaid school for fertile women called the Red Center. She notices that Moira (Samira Wiley), her best friend since college, has also been taken prisoner. Terrified, the women sit in silence as they listen to their handmaid headmaster Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd).
They quickly learn Aunt Lydia's wrath and zero tolerance policy for disobedient handmaids ain't pretty. Offred, Moira and their fellow captives watch in horror when a young handmaid, Ofwarren/Janine (Madeline Brewer), snickers aloud and trivializes Aunt Lydia’s threats and teachings. An unsuspecting Janine is promptly Tasered (by what can only be described as a modern-day cattle prod), and the next time we see her, she's completely unhinged and no longer possesses a right eye. Aunt Lydia's message to the group is loud and clear.
Back in present day at the Waterford home, Offred sets out to do the family grocery shopping with her companion Ofglen (Alexis Bledel). In a voiceover, Offred explains they are made to walk in pairs so they can keep an eye on each other. If she's being honest, she thinks Ofglen is a “pious little sh*t.” Sorry, Rory, we kind of agree.
Later, Offred readies herself for the “Ceremony,” where she and the master of the Waterford household, The Commander (Joseph Fiennes), have incredibly unsexy intercourse while his wife, Mrs. Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), vicariously partakes in the act and practically suffocates everyone in the room with her overwhelming stench of contempt. After the deed is done, Offred sits in her room drowning in disgust and is so overcome with indignation that she runs outside for air (a big no-no for an indentured handmaid). The Commander's driver, Nick (Max Minghella), sees Offred and she fears she's headed straight to monocle town.
The next day, the handmaids gather for a Salvaging, aka an execution, Gilead style. Offred spots a familiar face among the sea of Little Red Riding Hoods and asks her comrade about Moira. Ofwarren/Janine overhears the conversation and sneers she heard Moira died. The Salvaging officially commences as Aunt Lydia brings a downtrodden man to the stage. She roars the man is guilty of raping a handmaid, a pregnant handmaid (gasp!), and will be punished to the full extent of Gilead law. A smile on her face, Aunt Lydia dementedly invites the handmaids to beat the man to death, which they do. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
On their walk home, Ofglen senses Offred’s gut-wrenching pain from the news of her best friend's death. As they continue on their walk, they pass a storefront that was once an ice-cream shop. Ofglen casually admits she loved the creamery’s salted caramel flavor and even deems it “better than sex...like, good sex.” Offred can't argue with that and cautiously lets her guard down. The pair goes on to talk about their lives pre-Gilead—Ofglen (a gender-traitor in the eyes of Gilead) had a wife and son who were able to escape to Canada. As they arrive at the Waterford home, Ofglen says (with deep Alexis Bledel blue-eyed sincerity) how nice it was to meet the real Offred. And just as Offred finally tastes a teensy bit of humanity, Ofglen completely ruins the blissful moment as she blurts out, “There's an eye in your house,” aka a spy looking to take Offred down.