TV Review: The Handmaid's Tale (Season 1, Episode 8)
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Continuing to add a grim, but poignant dampener on our Sunday nights, this week's episode of The Handmaid's Tale takes us to dark new places, with more than a few revelations on the way. Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) continues to show an eerily vested interest in Offred (Elisabeth Moss) while his wife is on a brief excursion, while Nick ponders his life before Gilead came into place. The episode opens with Offred's latest contemplation, as she sits thoughtfully besides Nick after another night of forbidden passion. Following last week's revelation that her former husband, Luke, is alive and well, Offred ponders on her situation and the pull she feels between both men. Lonely and in need of some form of escape from the horrors she is put through as a handmaid, her secret rendezvous' with Nick provide her some solace - something that "feels good." At the same time, she feels guilt and remorse for Luke, who is "fading day by day, night by night" from her memories. As she wanders back to her room, she finds Waterford waiting for her. Upon revealing that Serena is away for the night to visit her mother, Waterford puts Offred through an ambiguous (and undoubtedly creepy) beauty regime; he shaves her legs, instructs her to put on make-up (from a small hand mirror that he holds) and then hands her a sequined gown and heels - all of which serve as a reminder of the traits of femininity that Gilead has snuffed out in the name of righteous faith and religious oppression. Our disdain for Waterford has been growing for some time now - ever since he was revealed to be the grand architect of Gilead (alongside an unwitting Serena), he has appeared more and more menacing in every episode. This week, he is downright creepy as he ogles, touches and 'sweet talks' Offred with possessive nicknames ("my little one", "Mrs Waterford") and unwelcome attempts at romanticising the evening he has planned. Joseph Fiennes' quiet, pervading performance is truly as impressive as it is unnerving.
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