'Handmaid's Tale' Star Ashleigh LaThrop Says OfMatthew's Breaking Point Has Been A Long Time Coming
Spoilers ahead for The Handmaid's Tale Season 3. The Handmaid's Tale may have made you laugh when June told her annoyingly pious walking partner OfMatthew "bite me," and you may even have been on her side when she attacked her after Hannah's Martha was hanged. But when OfMatthew finally snapped, it was actually quite tragic and seemingly out of nowhere. According to Ashleigh LaThrop, OfMatthew's rebellion on The Handmaid's Tale has been bubbling for a while — and had less to do with June's radical influence than you may have thought.
"I think my first reaction was shock because it was shocking," LaThorp tells Bustle over the phone. "The showrunner [Bruce Miller] had sort of offhandedly mentioned that I was going to kill someone. That was all he ever said to me."
As if having doubts about her latest pregnancy, a girl who could eventually become a handmaid, wasn't enough, OfMatthew is ruthlessly bullied and rejected by the other handmaids for snitching on June and getting Hannah's Martha killed. Finally, OfMatthew attacks Janine with a can, takes out a guard, and holds the grocery store at gunpoint. (Why is it always Janine that gets hit?) Before she is shot in the shoulder, Aunt Lydia also reveals OfMatthew's real name: Natalie. Much like Emily before her, Natalie's turn is quick and violent — extreme, because this oppressive society is extreme.
June stirs up dissent and drama everywhere she goes, and while she seemed kind of sickly thrilled that OfMatthew had reached her breaking point at the grocery store, this isn't her doing.
"I think OfMatthew is someone who was very good at pushing down any feelings that are uncomfortable or unwanted," explains the actor. "So I think there was always sort of this undercurrent bubbling, and I think when she first meets June what's interesting is that it almost works as a dampener, because June is so outspoken and so against Gilead. I think in the beginning it pushes OfMatthew to be more resolute and more devout in her beliefs."
The people around June, as LaThorp notes, don't always end up in a good place, even though she is ostensibly trying to do good. What sets OfMatthew off, instead, is learning that Nichole is safe in Canada. "That's when I think it really hit home," says LaThorp, "that maybe there is an escape. I think that's when she starts feeling what she's always never allowed herself to feel."
The fact that she's having a girl is also a bit of a catalyst. "She's given up three children," LaThorp says, which can't have been easy. "But she has always been able to smother that feeling. And this fear that it's a girl, it's just something that she's unable to [smother] because it makes her reexamine her own life. I don't think she's spent a lot of time examining her life until she thinks about having a girl."
OfMatthew's devotion makes her not a particularly likable character, but the way everyone turns against her "was really devastating and heartbreaking," LaThrop says. "My heart went out to OfMatthew." She's already unsupported by Gilead, and to lose the support of the handmaids and Aunt Lydia in that episode, she was all alone.
"My hope is is that [fans] will, for all of their dislike, still have empathy for this person. I hope that they will. Even if she's not likable, she is pitiable, as are all of the handmaids and really anyone in the society deserving of empathy — because it's a garbage society!"
Now that she's done this, "there are huge ramifications" for June, Janine, Lydia, and everyone else. "There's a lot of things that come out of it," she adds, laughing to keep from spoiling. If this is the last we see of Natalie, at least she went out with a bang. Gilead can't last forever, and the more people who do examine their lives, think about their children's futures, and reach that breaking point is what's going to make the that lasting change fans so desperately want to see.