Offred and Ofglen go shopping on a hot summer day. They pass the fish store, and Offred thinks that most fish might be extinct. Offred remembers how, before Gilead, there was an ice cream store on the street where she used to bring her daughter.
Unlike the flourishing gardens, the fish population seems to have suffered from environmental problems, just like the humans. The past is present everywhere to Offred.
Offred and Ofglen have become more familiar, and Ofglen is slightly more outgoing. The Wall is empty of bodies, but still frightening for its potential. When there are bodies Offred checks to make sure none of them could be Luke. Offred thinks about the university campus, now belonging to the Eyes. She imagines the murals of Victory and Death inside of the main library.
It’s symbolically rich that the anti-intellectual Gilead has taken over Harvard’s campus. But the murals that Offred describes really do exist in Widener Library at Harvard, highlighting that Gilead and the real world are both violent and nationalistic.
The two Handmaids pass a chain store called Soul Scrolls. Customers, including Serena Joy, can remotely order one of five prayers, which the machines pronounce aloud and print onto paper, in an entirely automated process. In the window glass, Ofglen makes eye contact with Offred. Ofglen wonders in a whisper to Offred if God cares about the prayers, a dangerous and rebellious question. Offred says no, allying herself with Ofglen’s blasphemy.
The Soul Scrolls concept shows how far the seemingly God-based theocracy has deviated from meaningful religion. Praying is impersonal, mechanical and transactional—yet the medieval Catholic Church also encouraged its constituents to get “indulgences” with cash.
Offred and Ofglen continue to talk. Ofglen seems knowledgeable about where and how it’s safe to talk. Both Handmaids admit that they thought the other was a true believer. Offred is very happy to learn that Ofglen’s a rebel. Then Ofglen offers Offred a chance to “join us,” and Offred learns for the first time that there’s a secret, organized Resistance. Offred briefly worries that Ofglen is a spy, but allows herself to hope. Soon they have to stop talking because of the crowds.
Before this scene, we’d only seen signs of individual rebellions, such as Moira’s escape, or Offred’s flight with her family. The organized Resistance shows that Gilead doesn’t have mind control over everyone as well as it seems to over Offred. Some people are willing to risk more to achieve more.
Offred and Ofglen fearfully watch the approach of a black van with the winged eye symbol painted on it. Two Eyes come out, grab a man on the street, somehow knock him out, and put him in the van. Offred is glad that they didn’t come for her.
This scene both reinforces Gilead’s danger and control, and shows Offred’s lack of empathy towards other rebels. She cares most about saving herself.