The Handmaid's Tale: Jezebels

Fred: "I thought maybe we could do something different tonight."
June: "Monopoly?"

Just when we thought Gilead had come up with every possible way to enslave and exploit women, wait. There's more.

This episode featured Nick flashbacks, but it was Joseph Fiennes' Fred that got to me. Fred creeped me out big time with the makeup and the attitude, as if dressing June like a call girl and taking her to a brothel was giving her a great big treat. He was all smug and smirking, saying isn't this exciting for you. I almost can't express how disturbed I was that Fred shaved June's legs before taking her out. Did he shave her pits, too?

It shouldn't have been a surprise that there's a secret underbelly to Gilead that reflects the intense sickness and dysfunction of their society. Fred seemed proud that Gilead had forced "women who couldn't assimilate" into unwilling prostitution, and that many of those women had been successful, brilliant professionals who could carry on an intelligent conversation with their clients. What a plus.

And Moira is one of those women who couldn't assimilate. She had a choice between certain death in the Colonies, or this. Moira told June that she knows death is her only way out. That particular scene was shot with their faces in shadow, as they sat on Moira's bed – a mattress on the floor of the mezzanine, among many other mattresses. These women don't even have rooms of their own. At least June has a room, and she's only forced to have sex with one man. Maybe slavery is all a matter of degree.

June did her best throughout not to let her feelings show: when she saw Moira across that crowded room, when she had to pretend she was Fred's willing mistress, even faking pleasure as he caressed her. It seemed grossly unfair that she couldn't even stare at the ceiling and think of the color blue anymore.

Could I say that I would have preferred Moira flashbacks instead of the tonally flat flashbacks to Nick?

Before this episode, Nick seemed mysterious and romantic, but "Jezebels" revealed that back before Gilead, Nick was a failure, an unhappy guy with a troubled family. Unable to hold down a job, he was ripe for recruitment into the cult of the Sons of Jacob, clearly the organization that eventually took over the government. So now he gets to polish Fred's car while spying on him for Commander Pryce, who is more powerful than Fred. In fact, Fred had confided to June that he feels like there's a target on his back; he may be right.

Sex with Nick gave June something to live for, but didn't it feel like he just broke up with her for cheating on him with Fred? As if she had a choice? Yes, Nick is absolutely right that the two of them are risking way too much, but June said that she didn't even know who Nick was. It doesn't feel as if this affair with Nick is worth June's life. Not even a little bit.

The flashbacks made Nick seem... lesser, somehow. One scene in particular stood out for me, the one in the car when Fred asked Nick his opinion of the Handmaid issue, and Nick said he thought it was better not to form attachments. Fred then asked Nick's name and said, "Pleased to meet you." That particular phrase has been used several times before in this series to signify that we just caught a glimpse of the real person. Is that the real Nick? Someone who believes it's best not to form attachments to women? How did Nick feel when he heard Rita screaming and had to cut down the previous Offred, who was hanging from the light fixture in her room?

Serena Joy blamed Fred for the previous Offred's suicide. So did Commander Pryce, who hoped that Fred would have "better sense with the next one." In the final scenes of this episode, Serena Joy brought June a present from her own childhood, a battered old music box with a dancing pink ballerina, and may I say, what an inappropriate present to give your husband's sex slave.

The previous Offred left the Waterford house feet first, in a black van. Moira believes she'll also leave Jezebels feet first in a black van. June carved "You are not alone" near the floor in the closet for the next Offred because she isn't holding out hope that she will escape via the "FemaleRoad" that Moira told her about. In other words, June is expecting to die soon.


— Nick's last name is Blaine. Nick Blaine. Sounds like the hero of a spy novel.

— The classic song "White Rabbit" was the absolute perfect accompaniment to the surreal situation at Jezebels. And note that when June first saw Moira, she was wearing bunny ears.

— There are "aunts" even for prostitutes. Of course there are. I find the "aunts" as hateful as the men who govern Gilead. Maybe more so.

— In the flashbacks, Commander Pryce worked at "Worthy Path Career Counseling."

— Nick seemed to have a relationship with the Martha to whom he gave the box of contraband alcohol, drugs and pregnancy tests. What happens to the jezebels if they get pregnant? I assume they're not permitted to use birth control, and Moira was a Handmaid.

— I was completely creeped out by the brief glimpse of the man in the elevator licking a handmaid's wrist stump.

— Jezebels is in Boston, on the other side of checkpoints and papers and dogs. Very Nazi.

— When June returned to her room after her time with Nick, Fred was waiting for her. Wasn't he curious about where she was? I also thought he'd catch her when she slipped out to meet Moira, but no.

— I thought June's dress was ugly. Vintage, but not in a good way.

— Fred held up a mirror for June so that she could put on make-up. Pretty obvious symbolism that she was a reflection of him, not herself.


Commander Guthrie: "It's not rocket science. All remaining fertile women should be collected and impregnated. By those of superior status, of course."

Fred: "'Act' might not be the best name from a branding perspective. 'The ceremony'?"

Serena Joy: (to Fred as they were removing the first Offred's body) "What did you think was going to happen?"
Sometimes it feels as if Serena Joy is ready for rebellion, but then she goes the other way.

Fred: (to June) "Don't worry. We'll get you home before you turn into a pumpkin."

Nick: "You could end up on the Wall."
June: "But at least someone will remember me. In this place. At least someone will care when I'm gone. That's something."

June: "The perfect gift. A girl trapped in a box."

Three out of four games of Monopoly,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


Lisianpeia said...

The episode is is really really good. I love when June asks Fred "who are these people?" and he assumes she's talkig about the men and she "I meant the women." Women, always an after thought.

"It seemed grossly unfair that she couldn't even stare at the ceiling and think of the color blue anymore." This got to me too. When I read this part in the book and when I watched this episode it seemed to me like it was an commentary on her society and how there are different ways of being a prisoner. Everthing, from her having to dress up to fake pleasure during sex. Of course I'd prefer to ive in our world, but it's far from perfect.

"What happens to the jezebels if they get pregnant?"
I remember in the book Moira says she had a surgery, which I assumed it was tubal ligation (not sure that's how people usually call it in english - not my mother tongue.

MochaJay said...

I have seen other reactions that it seems like Nick breaks up with June out of jealousy, but that is not how it stuck me.

It was more like, Waterford stuck a giant target in June's back by taking her to Jezebel's (because in Gilead's eyes she would likely be judged a guilty harlot for going there even though she had no choice). So that makes Nick double down on his keep your head down and stay out of trouble, for June's sake as much as his own, because if (when) the trips to Jezebel's are exposed will be safe because of his activities spying for the Eyes but her only defense will be an otherwise unblemished record.