‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Episode Five Review: ‘Faithful’

In the latest installment of The Handmaid’s Tale, Serena Joy is willing to break the rules in order to get Offred pregnant. Meanwhile Offred and Nick grow closer while Ofglen, now Ofsteven resurfaces. It’s an episode that expertly utilizes the past and present to give us even more insight into Offred’s world. The Handmaid’s Tale continues to place characters at the forefront of each episode as the world around them gets increasingly terrifying.

In Margaret Atwood’s original novel, the past is just that, the past. While references are made to the world before Gilead, we are never transported there. We only have Offred’s vague memories of her family. In Hulu’s striking adaptation, they’ve chosen to include flashbacks in every episode. It makes the present day all the more jarring, especially when we see the seeds of what made Gilead rise.

While every episode utilizes the flashbacks beautifully, this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale demonstrates their full potential. In flashbacks, fans catch a glimpse at the early stages of June and Luke’s relationship. It shows when Luke was a married man who ended up falling in love with June, a girl he met a food truck. It’s simple, yet complicated. Elisabeth Moss and O-T Fagbenle create moments of sweetness in the midst of losing hope and darkness in present day. It’s genuine and pure. It’s hard not to smile as we watch June and Luke on a lunch date. Moss and Fagbenle have beautiful chemistry in The Handmaid’s Tale.

In flashbacks we see June and Luke starting a romance, while in present day Offred struggles with the idea of cheating. While she participates in the Ceremony every month, for the first time Offred feels like she’s cheating on Luke. When Serena Joy proposes she sleeps with Nick in order to get pregnant, Offred feels a sense of betray to both Luke and The Commander. It’s a powerful moment only amplified by the flashbacks occurring concurrently in the episode.

In flashbacks we watch as Luke and June have sex for the first time, then with a simple cut, Offred is forced on her back to have sex with Nick. It’s astounding and shows the power of both The Handmaid’s Tale cast and editing. Moss is incredible at showing both sides to Offred/June. There’s the carefree woman falling in love with Luke and then there’s the hardened Handmaid Offred, who struggles to keep fighting. It’s an intense inner battle that Moss portrays beautifully on screen each week. At the end of the hour when Offred visits Nick of her own accord and has sex with him, Offred might finally have let go of Luke, but her fight is far from over.

The very story of The Handmaid’s Tale is chilling in itself. Watching as women are forced to comply with a government that has stripped away all their rights. Men are the worst possible versions of themselves while women are only seen as objects. While all of this leads The Handmaid’s Tale‘s to chilling storylines, the casting of Alexis Bledel exemplifies the horrific nature of Gilead. Seen as TV’s golden girl on Gilmore Girls, watching her as Ofglen/Ofsteven can be seen as the most horrifying thing The Handmaid’s Tale is showing us. Bledel is stripped of her good girl persona right before our eyes. As the world wears her down, we begin to lose more hope.

Just like the small smile on Offred’s face when she spies Ofsteven, we’re thrilled to see Bledel again after an episode absence. With each added episode, Bledel strips away more and more of her previous TV personas. She’s a force to be reckoned with and a formidable scene partner for Moss. While her best performance is still in “Late,” this episode shows Ofsteven fighting back. In a soon to be iconic moment, Ofsteven steals a car and drives through a market. As Offred proudly watches her friend, Ofsteven drives over an Eye and is eventually captured. It’s a moment of pure adrenaline and the first massive sign of resistance. Bledel is unmatchable and adds to The Handmaid’s Tale’s horrific nature.

Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski also have stunning performances in this latest installment. Fiennes and Moss continue to play the flirtatious, tension filled, disturbing relationship between The Commander and Ofglen perfectly. One of the most complex relationships in The Handmaid’s Tale, Fiennes and Moss continuously add to their performances. Between The Commander possibly showing a possible act of kindness to Ofglen yelling at The Commander over showing too much affection towards her during the ceremony, it’s a dynamic that will drive the rest of the season.

Strahovski continues to give Serena Joy the perfect split personality. In one episode Serena Joy is tormenting Ofglen, in the next she’s showing some compassion towards the woman who can give her a child. Strahovski brings Serena Joy to life with such complexity it’s hard to determine if you like her, hate her or can’t figure out where her allegiances lie. She’s an increasingly intriguing character and we can’t wait to see more of Strahovski as the season progresses.

The Handmaid’s Tale continues to up the stakes week after week. Between Moss’ relationships with Fagbenle, Bledel, Fiennes and Strahovski, the cast is a force to be reckoned with. Adding flashbacks to The Handmaid’s Tale is the best thing Hulu could’ve done. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

The Handmaid’s Tale is currently streaming on Hulu

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