Spoilers ahead on "The Handmaid's Tale" Season 2.
It's not like "The Handmaid's Tale" isn't filled with rape scenes. Joseph Fiennes' Commander Fred Waterford has been part of them since the start of the Hulu series. He rapes Offred, aka June (Elisabeth Moss), on every Ceremony night.
Season 2 even had a particularly brutal rape scene where -- at wife Serena Joy Waterford's (Yvonne Strahovski) suggestion -- Fred raped the very pregnant Offred while Serena held her down to try and force Offred's delivery.
However, Joseph Fiennes told Entertainment Weekly there was one planned rape scene in Season 2 that just didn't "track" right to him -- and after reading his explanation, many fans seem to agree.
The plan was to have Fred rape Serena during the ill-fated Gilead diplomatic trip to Canada. Sure, Fred is a control freak and that violent power move would've made sense on some level, but it also wouldn't have made sense on other levels, as Fiennes explained to EW:
"I guess in many ways, as abhorrent and nasty and evil as Fred is, I have to defend parts of him. In Episode 9, we had a moment where Fred was going to rape — after meeting Luke — rape Serena in a hotel room straight after, and it just didn’t track for me. I had to go out on a limb and refuse to do it because I felt that even though Fred is who he is, he’s human. And I think that he would be reeling from the interaction with Luke, and that suddenly the reality comes face to face with him and he would be digesting that and trying to understand it, and he wouldn’t necessarily be switched on by being in Canada in a new hotel and trying to heavily persuade his wife to do something that she wouldn’t want to do."
Fiennes said he send long emails to The Powers That Be to make his case, including arguing that fellow Emmy nominee Yvonne Strahovski was already successfully showing Serena's "disenfranchisement with the regime and Fred." So they didn't need another rape scene to go above-and-beyond making a point that was already being made.
Rape is understandably a big part of the show, even if the commanders and their wives rarely acknowledge it as rape. But rape as a plot device -- especially rape as a way to make an "unsympathetic" woman more sympathetic -- is a trope that good shows have stopped using.
You don't need to rape Serena on top of all of the other brutal things that happen to her (and everyone else) this season for her character's arc to ring true.
Good for Joseph Fiennes for standing up on this point. He may not have shown the best judgment with that Michael Jackson episode, but the "Shakespeare in Love" star deserves props for this call.
Hulu has renewed "The Handmaid's Tale" for Season 3. The show was nominated for several 2018 Emmy Awards, and we'll see how many it picks up on September 17.
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