The Handmaid’s Tale Night Review
The dichotomy in Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) between emotion and duty came to ahead in Night. At first, the viewer saw how fond Aunt Lydia had become of Janine / Ofwarren / Ofdaniel (Madeline Brewer) in The Bridge and A Woman’s Place. In Night, those feelings became even clearer as Lydia became choked up with emotion, wiping tears away as she spoke. Lydia may have looked upon Ofdaniel as a surrogate daughter, the closest thing to a child that she would ever have. Someone that looked to Aunt Lydia for guidance and comfort. Someone that Lydia could soothe with a few well-chosen words.
Aunt Lydia being ordered to have Ofdaniel stoned to death must have broken her heart but Aunt Lydia was a servant of Gilad. Gilad was a barbaric, slave-mongering, totalitarian state. Aunt Lydia knew who and what “buttered her bread.” If she disobeyed, she might have been the one being stoned.
June Osborne / Offred (Elisabeth Moss) refusing to stone Ofdaniel was a defining moment in Offred’s life, even more so than being turned into a reproductive slave. The beginning of Offred’s redefining in Night came from what Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) had done to Offred that week. The incident with Offred’s daughter deepened the nightmare that Offred already existed in. The second part of Offred’s redefining came when she took a stand for Ofdaniel’s life. Ofdaniel had been with that group of Handmaids since the beginning, when she was still sane. Ofdaniel already had so much taken away from her: her eye, her freedom, her dignity, her civil rights, her daughter, and her sanity. When Gilad wanted Ofdaniel’s life, Offred and the other Handmaids made a line in the sand.
The biggest surprise of that moment was what Ofglen 2 (Tattiawna Jones) decided to do, for a girl she barely knew. Ofglen 2’s statement was inexplicable when the viewer considered all of her previous actions. Ofglen 2 liked being a Handmaid and liked having a position in the Gilad society. Ofglen 2 saw being a reproductive slave as a privilege, one she didn’t want to screw up. That is why what Ofglen 2 did in Night was remarkable. Her punishment will most-likely be remarkable as well.
Serena Joy Waterford once seemed as though she existed in a grey area of emotions, motives, and actions. Serena had become a victim of the monster that she had helped create. The viewer felt bad for her because she couldn’t have a child. In the society that she helped to create, that was a women’s sole role (purpose), and Serena, who had been stripped of: all her rights, her ability to read, write, have a job, go certain places, and speak her mind publicly, could not even perform that function.
The monster that she had created, that she had willingly danced with, had corrupted her husband (he was not the same person in the flash backs), and it had corrupted her as well. It had twisted her conscience and her morality. Only someone morally compromised could say they wanted a child to love yet use someone else’s child as a bargaining chip, one Serena was willing to snuff out if she didn’t get what she wanted.
Offred’s rant was something Offred would not have been capable of doing at the beginning of the season. Everything that had happened to her throughout the season had gotten her to that point. The baby in Offred’s belly became her shield the moment its presence was discovered. The majority of the physical punishments that could be levied against Offred for speaking out were now unavailable. That, coupled with the previous events, made the daughter bargaining chip moment in Night Offred’s tipping point. Offred’s emotional tirade contained truths that she had wanted to say to Ms. Waterford since Offred had been assigned to the Waterford household. The insults seemed to wash over Serena. Serena must have known that would happen and was ready for it. Or Serena had been honest with herself long ago and knew exactly whom and what she was. When Offred said all of those things to Serena, Serena might have been thinking to herself as she kept her back to Offred: ” I know.”
Moira (Samira Wiley) getting all the way to the Canadian border, through all the Gilad check points, then through the wilderness before Gilad caught up with her was extremely dubious. Night writer and The Handmaid’s Tale creator Bruce Miller must have felt the same because all of that was cut out of the episode.
What was left in that storyline was only its ending. A slave getting all the way to freedom and barely being able to believe that the nightmare was over. Moira had forgotten what kindness could look like. Moira was bewildered by it. It was great acting on Wiley’s part. She sold it completely, especially when she burst into tears of sadness and relief when she saw and hugged Luke Bankole (O-T Fagbenle). One thing about that scene that the viewer may have questioned was why Moira didn’t put Offred down as a family member so she would be notified if June showed up in Canada? Luke did for Moira. Was it because of the shock that Moira was experiencing?
When Gilad came for Offred at the end of Night, she was resigned to her fate, whatever that would be. Offred still had her pregnancy shield but she also had new found resolve. She knew she had power, more than she had previously realized, by the end of Night. She saw a glimpse of it while in the stoning ring. She felt it as she walked away from the stoning ring victorious over the Gilad regime. The question was, how would Gilad make Offred pay for her defiance? Obviously they would make an example of her to the other Handmaids but how? My guess is that Gilad is going to take: an eye, her tongue, or cut something off (though the emotional trauma of that may cause her to miscarry). Will Gilad risk that for retribution?
Those concerns were non-existent for Commander Warren Putnam (Stephen Kunken) in Night. Commander Putnam’s punishment for his affair with Ofdaniel was one of the most brutal and horrific things that I have ever seen and I am a avid fan of horror films i.e. Martyrs. I didn’t realize what was going to happen at the beginning of the surgery scene. That made it even worse. It was the way it was shot (e.g. a surgeon casually going about his work) and the reason why it happened that made it difficult viewing.
The trial (or hearing) that proceeded the surgery was a joke. Gilad had a trial and cut off the hand and half the forearm of one of its Commanders based on the excited utterances of a suicidal, unhinged Handmaid. A simple psychological evaluation would have shown how off-center Ofdaniel was. Th Gilad counsel took that person’s word over Commander Putnam’s?
And where was Putnam’s lawyer arguing that his client had no knowledge of the events Ofdaniel was speaking about? I guess the accused have to defend themselves in Gilad. Like Boy Scouts, Gilad Commander’s apparently used the honor system when it came to telling the truth. There is no discovery process, no witnesses get called or cross-examined, nothing (unless all of that was handled off-screen). Gilad’s iron grip on its society and its various institutions was absolute. The viewer knew that Gilad’s penal process was harsh and expedient because of what happened to Emily / Ofglen 1. That was thought, however, to only apply to women. Night proved that to be a false assumption. Gilad played no favorites when it came to law and religion violators.
The fact that Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) asked for the harshest punishment for Commander Putnam was a surprise (until the viewer thought about it). Not only was her husband’s infidelity publicized, what she wouldn’t do to her husband sexually was also publicized. Though she re-obtained Ofdaniel’s child on the bridge in The Bridge, Naomi had been mortified and made to seem less than in front of the Gilad elite and their subordinates. That must have been a bitter pill for a woman as cold as Naomi to swallow. Her retribution for that forced gulp was devastating. “Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.” – William Congreve, The Mourning Bride. Naomi got her revenge on her husband in a sadistic and life alerting way in Night, a way that only the Giladic society could provide.
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