The Handmaid's Tale (2017– )
9.0/10
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A Woman's Place 

When a trade delegation from Mexico comes to Gilead, Offred discovers several shocking secrets.

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Mr. Flores
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Naomi Putnam
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Mrs. Castillo
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Ofsamuel
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Commander Derek Chambers
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When a trade delegation from Mexico comes to Gilead, Offred discovers several shocking secrets.

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Drama | Sci-Fi

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17 May 2017 (USA)  »

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When Serena Joy is waiting for her husband in a hallway in a US government building, in a flashback 32 minutes into the episode, there is a huge antique brass mailbox next to her on the wall which very clearly has the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, because the series is actually filmed in Canada. See more »

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Intense political and psychological drama....
1 July 2017 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

...along with good extended world-building. For the first time, we're taken beyond Offred's perspective. This was a risky decision, since the novel largely works because it IS completely limited to her point of view and the first five episodes of the show did such a good job creating this claustrophobic personal reality.

But TV is a much more literal medium and for better or worse, most consumers of today's speculative fiction want a lot of answers to questions beyond the main character's story.

The most obvious questions raised by the Handmaid's Tale are "what's going on in the rest of the world and how do other countries see and interact with Gilead?" In the novel, there were hints of Japanese and Saudi or other Gulf monarchy connections given the descriptions of the only foreigners seen by Offred.

The show has up to this point revealed a functioning Canada and remnant of the US hostile to Gilead and an EU which would prefer not to trade with them but might need to as the Euro is in trouble.

There is also a UN embargo, but Fred scoffs at its effectiveness--and he probably has a point as orders from the UN are often disregarded even now and international law probably even less powerful due to the chaotic state of this future.

In this episode, it's revealed that one of the few things Gilead is doing right is producing abundant organic crops. Mexico is interested, as it is going through crop failure and environmental crisis. Fred Waterford deals directly with the Mexican delegation, proving that he is quite powerful in the regime.

Mexico, with modern ideas and a female ambassador, seems to want Gilead to prove that it isn't as repressive as they have been lead to believe. However, they are also eager to be convinced, as they need the deal.

I found this dynamic fascinating as it is often What nations do in the real world. Dictatorships put on a good face, sweeping serious problems under the rug while exaggerating their virtues. Democracies play along if they have something to gain and don't feel threatened.

It was hard to watch Offred or June, actually, tell the Ambassador that being a Handmaid is a choice and honor; then later being in tears over helping promote this lie.

The big twist about what the trade negotiations are about besides food is chilling, but becomes a little hard to buy after thinking about it. Sending Handmaids to Mexico in any significant numbers would seem to be dangerous to Gilead as it would decrease their already small population of fertile women.

It might have made more sense to simply have the big moral issue be the international normalization of Gilead by giving it a serious ally. Or (and I'm not the first to suggest this) have the deal go the other way around. Mexico has been hit by the infertility plague, but not as bad and will send some of its own women to become Handmaids. But it does work on an emotional level, and it would be interesting in future seasons in a character we know is actually sent to Mexico.

The other big revelation come in the flashbacks, which this time aren't June's but Serena's. The paradox of the strong woman attracted to a political movement that devalues women as a group is something we see in real life.

In fact, Serena was originally inspired by real life anti-feminist women in the 80s and the show updates her with some characteristics of prominent far-right wing women today. Her soul Is crushed as the movement she supported and had influence over shoves her aside upon attaining power. She's a published author, but now not even allowed to read.

She does get a little bit of present day satisfaction by using her duties as hostess of the diplomatic talks to insinuate herself into the actual negotiations and perhaps save the day for Gilead. But is this something to be proud of?

Probably not, but Fred thinks so and is sexually attracted to her for the first time since she was forced to don the teal robe. In the days of planning the revolution, he was wild about her. She even had to reassure him that a few million lives were worth it, so she's definitely in a cage of her own making. However, she even admits that she didn't think it would by quite THIS restrictive.

Blindness as to where their ideas could lead is a problem many people have, which is why dystopian fiction is so important.


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