The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 4 Review: Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

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"Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum, bitches."

That sums up The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 4 in a very 2017 way. No, the final pejorative wasn't in the novel, but for our times, it works despite what everyone else is talking about today.

You know what else Offred didn't do in the novel? Kick the crap out of the rapist on The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 1. Nope, in the book that was Ofglen while a much more timid Offglen stood back.

Punished - The Handmaid's Tale

The Offred from Hulu's Handmaid's Tale is a different woman from the book, and I'm glad of it. She's stronger and more passionate. She's more determined and less frightened the Offred from the book. To tell the tale today and for television, she has to be a little bit different. 

It doesn't in any way impact the focal point of the story, which remains the totalitarian religious-themed male-run regime. It's all good, gals and guys!

"Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum" gave Offred some of her dignity back. 

While the thought of living in this world is majorly depressing, the women will do what they have to do to survive. That survival is everything and not at all depressing.

It gives them power far beyond what the men who are looming over them understand. Quite frankly, one man, nor a group of them, wouldn't be as likely to do the same under similar circumstances. Maybe if they were under another man's thumb, but not a woman's. 

Under the rule of women in the same circumstances, I'd be willing to bet men would flounder to the point of giving up. Oh sure, some might enjoy the ceremony more than women, but not if 90% of them were barren. Picture that, if you will. Umm hmmm. 

Ceremonial Training Day - The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 4

Offred was already in a bad state because of her posting with the Waterfords and losing Ofglen. Living a few days of the high life under the belief she might be pregnant only to be thrown into the barren life of her room was taking its toll on her.

She couldn't fall too deeply into her memories that she lost sight of the sense of self she'd built back up, so she drifted only as far back as June at the Red Center. 

Finding the Latin inside the closet put her in touch with Offred who was there before her and with June who had the gumption to make an escape with Moira. Moira who seemed to fear nothing.

Moira was also the first person who put into words what nobody at the Red Center wanted to say.

Aunt Lydia: Moira?
Moira: Are you saying we will be having intercourse with the men between the wive's legs?

Moira was hoping for the turkey baster experience. Given religious overtones they were experiencing up to that point, she should have known better. But when you're thrust into what feels like a nightmare, you keep a tentative grasp onto anything for your sanity.

Ritual rape when you're concurrently pointing fingers at rape victims and shaming and blaming them would hardly feel appropriate. 

All women in Gilead have it rough. The Handmaids, the Wives, the Aunts. The Marthas seem to have it the easiest so far.

The Aunts are forced to discipline and teach women who were once like themselves. We have yet to understand their backgrounds, but given we're in a series format, I hope we do at some point. Were they once mothers, lesbians, policewomen?

Aunt Elizabeth was frightened when she was attacked and her wardrobe confiscated for Moira and June's escape. But she was angry as hell when it came time to punish June upon her return. Aunt Lydia had tears in her eyes. All of those feelings, I believe, were real.

But you do what you have to do to survive and hold your place in the new environment until you can fight to break free.

Moira and June didn't have the right timing or plan to do it.

A Different World - The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 4

They were blown away by the world they emerged to find outside of the Red Center.

It was one of death and destruction, not only of the physical world but their entire way of living. For what reason could they possibly explain in their minds the eradication of street signs and burning of books across the board? 

The mere sight of atrocities like those, let alone the bodies hanging and being wheeled by them would be enough to throw several wrenches into the best-laid plan. But they didn't have a plan other than taking the train to Boston.

Recalling that brave (if wonton) moment on Moira's part and how brazen June felt going along with it worked in Offred's favor. 

Go Without Me - The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 4

She remembered what it felt like to be brave and take a chance. She knew Moira would never allow herself to be tossed into her room for two weeks and would have already found a way out of her situation.

With one disastrous ceremony night already behind her and an invitation from the Commander for another night of Scrabble before her, what did she have to lose?

Moira, you wouldn't stand for this shit. You wouldn't let them keep you in this room for two weeks. You'd find some way to escape. Get up. Get your crazy ass up.

Offred [in her head]

But before we get to Offred's night with the Commander, let's talk about how she allowed herself some blame for his inability to perform earlier. 

Poor Fred. He needs to connect with someone to do his duty for the ritual rape and was unable to do it because Offred didn't enthusiastically hop on his offer for another game of Scrabble.

Meanwhile, his wife is so terribly lonely and unattended she's locking Offred (and obviously the Offred before her) in her room for not being pregnant (which may not be her fault...hello sterility!).

Doctor: You're ripe, right on schedule. Doesnt' really matter. Waterford's probably sterile. Most of those guys are.
Offred [in her head]: Sterile. That's a forbidden word. There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore. There's only women who are fruitful and women who are barren.
Doctor [whispers, hands on her knees]: I can help you. It could be the only way for you. If Waterford can't get you pregnant, they won't blame him, it will be your fault. He reveals his face. It will only take a few minutes, honey.
Offred: I can't. It's too dangerous. Thank you.

Serena Joy should be pleased to know (and she is) what kind of Handmaid she has in her house. But her position has her so torn up she can't appreciate the situation because it's so painful and awkward.

She's the one who needs to connect with her husband before and after the ceremony so that she can feel like being barren isn't her fault, but apparently, men in Gilead believe Handmaids are for sex and discussion and wives are for...whatever the hell he does with Serena Joy. Nothing?

Serena Joy's heartbreak and desire were so apparent on her face as she hoped Fred would allow her to help him prepare for the ceremony. He wanted to allow her, but his Madonna complex got the better of him.

So it's only with Offred he'll find his sanctuary, and likely with her eyes, he will meet in the future during the ceremony. Perhaps he'll lock on her hand clasped in Serena Joy's as a way to harden. 

They can spout scripture about Rachel all they want, but none of this is what God intended.

Another Game of Scrabble? - The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 4

But with her mojo back, bitches (which is why it's important for OUR June/Offred), Offred is going to take advantage of what Commander Waterford is offering her. The animosity between her and Serena Joy grew a little more as a result.

Ideally, they'll all find a way to live in harmony because it would be better for all involved and they can do it. But setting up society as it is is for women to tear each other asunder. For Handmaids to stick together, and wives to do the same.

Men don't want them hanging around together. It might blow their whole situation wide open. The Commander would rather pit them against each other even further by offering a bit of solace to Offred by allowing her some fun and relaxation.

It's pretty screwed up, but in his ignorance, he's not a heartless ass. He's just an ignorant one with an eye for the big picture. Now Offred is taking his lead.

And so the hour ended with Offred joining in the ranks once again, this time pleased to be a part of a group she's come to understand a bit better.

There was an Offred before me. She helped me find my way out. She is dead. She is alive. She is me. We are Handmaids. Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum bitches.


There are worse things she could be than an Offred at the moment. Being a Serena Joy doesn't seem all that pleasant.

Being an Aunt hardly comes with any pleasure.

In her next life, she could become a Martha. 

Then again, maybe the women will unite and tear asunder what has happened. An Aunt made it across the Canadian border, after all. Serena Joy played it safe with the Commander, but you could her emotions betray her words as she hoped to her husband his people would discredit the rogue Aunt.

The woman will do what they have to do to survive no matter how much pain the suffer in the meantime, but they will prevail.

Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum Review

Editor Rating: 4.75 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (11 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 Episode 4 Quotes

Aunt Lydia: Moira?
Moira: Are you saying we will be having intercourse with the men between the wive's legs?

Serena Joy: What did she do this time?
Rita: She was on the ground, mam. She said she fainted.
Fred: She fainted?
Serena Joy: No, that's what she said.
Rita: She was on the ground. Should I make an appointment at the doctor?
Serena Joy: No. She'll be fine.
Rita: We do have the ceremony tonight.
Serena Joy: Make an appointment.