The Hand­maid’s Tale’s chill­ing scene of abuse

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - Jo­hanna Schneller

The show: The Hand­maid’s Tale, Sea­son 1, Episode 8 The mo­ment: Play­ing dress-up The Com­man­der (Joseph Fi­ennes) is wait­ing for Of­fred (Elis­a­beth Moss) in her room. “How’s my favourite lit­tle one this evening?” he asks, so silk­ily it’s sick­en­ing.

She freezes. He con­trols ev­ery as­pect of her life. She has to be care­ful. “Fine, thank you,” she replies evenly.

“Up for some ex­cite­ment?” he asks. She starts to ques­tion what. He cuts her off with a con­de­scend­ing smile. “No guess­ing,” he says. He shaves her legs (she’s not al­lowed ra­zors). “Doesn’t that feel nice?” he asks. “Yes,” she replies. He hands her a makeup bag and watches her do her face. He hands her a beaded dress and sil­ver stilet- tos. “I had to guess the size,” he says.

She puts on the dress. He looks her over. “Just one thing,” he says. He takes down her hair. He smells it. He ar­ranges it on her shoul­der. The way he likes it.

She tries one more ques­tion: “Where are we go­ing?”

He chides her: “You don’t want me to spoil the sur­prise, do you?”

There’s a lot of scary stuff in this se­ries, about a dystopia where mur­der­ous men force women to be their birthing slaves, but this scene gave me real-world chills.

He has all the power. She’s stiff with fear, pre­tend­ing to like it as he purrs at and pets her. He acts like he’s be­ing af­fec­tion­ate, when re­ally he’s deny­ing her any agency, play­ing with her like she’s a doll.

For­get the sci-fi premise. This scene is about abuse. And ver­sions of it play out ev­ery day. The Hand­maid’s Tale airs Sun­days at 9 p.m. on Bravo. Jo­hanna Schneller is a me­dia con­nois­seur who ze­roes in on pop-cul­ture mo­ments. She usu­ally ap­pears Mon­day through Thurs­day.


Elis­a­beth Moss and Joseph Fi­ennes star in The Hand­maid’s Tale.

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