Aunt Lydia starts with the cattle prod right off the bat, just to let us know this will be a totally safe and reasonable conversation. As we probably suspected, the Eye is curious about Ofglen — if they walked together every day, what would they talk about, if they ever took the long way home by the river, where it’s more private. Aunt Lydia asks if Offred ever touched her, or tried to, and if she knew her friend was, in her words, a “gender traitor.” She explains she knew Ofglen had a wife in the world before Gilead, but not that she was in a secret relationship now with another Martha. “But you knew what she was,” Lydia says again. “I knew she was gay,” Offred says, and it’s a step too far — the Aunt comes forward and shocks her with the prod again, saying, “That word is not to be used.”
The man asks why she didn’t report Ofglen being gay, and she tells them it was because they were friends. Aunt Lydia tells her to remember her scripture, quoting that same line from episode 1: “Blessed are the meek.” And before she can leave the room, Offred responds by quoting the Bible right back to her: “Blessed are those who suffer for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” That earns her what would have been a much more serious beating if Serena Joy hadn’t swooped in to stop them, yelling that Offred’s pregnant and telling them to leave.
Nick goes up to Offred’s room to check in on her. She’s fine – except, she jokes, for the weird guy that just snuck into her room. He’s brought some ice for her bruises, which is nice, and says he should have just driven away with her instead of bringing her back to be interrogated, which is also nice in theory. There’s a moment where it almost looks like they’ll kiss, but he backs away at the last second. Speaking of things that might have been, it seems Offred isn’t pregnant after all. So there’s no ice cream, and no more kindness from Serena Joy — when she breaks the news, the woman is already gearing up to redecorate a nursery and is not pleased to hear that won’t be necessary. She drags Offred upstairs and throws her in her room, ordering her not to come out. “Things can get much worse for you,” she tells her, slamming the door.
Offred thinks back to a pre-Gilead protest, with men and women crowding the streets holding signs as police in riot gear stand by. The shouts aren’t really audible, and the signs aren’t totally visible (though I did catch ones that said, “Enough is enough,” and, “Human rights = women’s rights”), but we’ve seen enough protests over the last few months for this scene to feel very familiar. A few of the protesters taunt and throw something at the police, and all hell breaks loose — the cops march forward and begin firing on the crowd. June and Moira run as everyone else scatters, but we hear more gunshots behind them, and then something explodes in front of them. They duck into a café and see another man gunned down right in front of them, just before another explosion blasts the glass out of the windows. How many more protests did it take before people stopped being able to publicly protest? I can’t imagine Gilead’s free speech laws are generous.
And before the episode ends, we see Ofglen’s fate. She’s brought into a courtroom, still shackled and masked, and is charged with gender treachery in violation of biblical passages, which are now apparently rule of law. The woman she was in a relationship with is also in the courtroom, cuffed and gagged. Without any access to a defense, they’re immediately found guilty and sentenced — the Martha is given the “mercy of the state,” whatever that means, and the judge tells Ofglen her existence is an abomination. But hey, she’s got a working reproductive system and they have to keep her, and so she’s sentenced to “redemption.” They’re both carted into a van, still bounded and gagged, and they grasp hands, as the Martha bends over in sobs and Ofglen silently comforts her. When the van stops, the other woman is dragged out, and that “mercy” the judge spoke of is hanging her as Ofglen watches. The doors shut, and they drive off again. When Ofglen wakes up next, she’s in some sort of a ward, in pain, her genitals bandaged. So that’s what “redemption” means in Gilead: female genital mutilation.
And of course, Aunt Lydia is there to explain why this is really a gift in the twisted way this world works. “Things will be so much easier for you now,” she tells her, calling her Emily (a name! her own name!). “You won’t want what you cannot have.”
In the book version of The Handmaid’s Tale (spoilers, I suppose, if you don’t want to hear how things differed), Ofglen dies by suicide before she can be taken away. (“She saw the van coming for her. It was better.”) But now, Ofglen is still alive and could very easily remain part of the story. And I hope she does. This can’t be the last we see of her, right? Based on the series of emotions we see her go through: shock, tears, an anguished scream — I want her to go right back to that resistance and burn this place to the ground.