The Handmaid’s Tale The Other Side Review
Hulu‘s The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1, Episode 7: The Other Side featured a change of perspective for the television series. Unlike the previous episodes in The Handmaid’s Tale where June/Offred was the main protagonist, in The Other Side, Luke (O-T Fagbenle) was the focal point. He and his feeling for his wife were explored throughout The Other Side. Luke was presented as an every man, with no clear differentiating trait or feature separating him from any other man except for one – his wife and daughter were captives of the totalitarian Gilead government. Luke’s journey out of Gilead (formerly the United States) to Canada was not Cold Mountain-like but it was a perilous odyssey where new characters, Guardian opposition, and realizations were brought into play.
Many new characters (and realizations through them) emerged from The Other Side. The two most significant new characters were Erin (Erin Way) and Zoe (Rosa Gilmore). Erin’s story and the result of what she had gone through showed how far back The Guardians’ fertile women quest and Handmaid training program had begun. What Erin endured and what she saw during her break out caused her to stop speaking, making her an instantly fascinating character. What did she experience that caused her not to speak? Did one of the Aunt’s have Erin’s tongue cut out or was Erin too traumatized to speak?
Whether Erin could speak or chose not to speak, Zoe protected her and all the other “strays” Zoe had picked up on the way to Canada, including Luke. Zoe was a leader, representative of all those former Americans that were willing and able to fight back against The Guardians and their agenda. Zoe was completely cognizant of the new reality (Gilead, The Guardians, and their methods of subjugation) and forcefully helped others become aware of it. Zoe’s death was an enigmatic double tap to the chest but not before she had fully opened Luke’s eyes to the horrors of The Guardians.
Luke’s flashbacks in The Other Side served two functions: 1.) they illustrated a key moment in The Handmaid’s Tale storyline and Luke’s life – namely how he survived his Guardian encounter and 2.) it showed why Luke was resolved to return to Boston. The former was more substantive than the latter for numerous reasons. The flashbacks filled in a key, undisclosed plot area that A Woman’s Place opened in its concluding moments. The flashbacks also substantiated what Luke had lost by being separated from his wife.
An aspect of 1984‘s “Big Brother” concept was brought into focus during The Other Side. The Gileadan government was monitoring specific families in Gilead, most-likely the ones that had bore children. The Guardians knew when those families went “off the grid” and took steps to bring them “back home” or to Handmaid education centers. It was chilling but it also showed Guardian paranoia (though they were right to suspect people wouldn’t like obsession or reproductive slavery), what Guardian’s had at stake, and the steps they would take to keep reproductive women within Gilead borders – we keep them or no one can have them.
It was the little things that gave The Other Side (and The Handmaid’s Tale series so far) the air of authenticity that it needed for the viewer to become fully enveloped and believe what they were seeing. The viewer needed to believe that The Guardian’s world could really happen for a suspension of disbelief to be achieved. That had been achieved since episode two or three of The Handmaid’s Tale and it continued with The Other Side.
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