What Is "Mayday" In 'The Handmaid's Tale'? The Resistance Is Coming

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Another week of The Handmaid’s Tale and I am fairly certain this show is going to give me an ulcer. It’s based on a book that I’ve already read (even though they are kind of straying from source material), and it’s still stressing me out. That being said, I love it. I love it so much that I am terrified and love even the things that I don’t understand. For instance, what is mayday on The Handmaid’s Tale? Episode 5 focuses on an event that is open to interpretation.

Five episodes in, and we haven’t seen Emily (formerly Ofglen, now Ofsteven) since Episode Three, when her illicit lesbian relationship with a Martha was reported and she (and her lover) was charged with gender treason. Emily’s lover was executed, hanged from a crane right after their faux trial, and Emily, being a handmaid and therefore needed, was “just” subjected to a female genital mutilation that would render her desires nullified. Now, Emily is back and with a new commander, and when Offred sees her in the supermarket, she is of course happy her friend is back. Later, Emily tells Offred that it is too dangerous for her to continue with the resistance, but they are planning something called mayday and Offred can help instead.

George Kraychyk/Hulu

When Offred sees Emily at the farmer’s market, Emily tells her, “They’re fighting back. Find them.” But, before she explains anything about what Offred is supposed to do, she steals a car, starts racing it around the farmer’s market, and runs over (twice, which I can’t blame her for) a guard. Then, the guards grab her and throw her into the back of a car, but for a moment, she is free, and she is smiling.

Now, we all know that things won’t end well for Emily here — she will probably be hanged like the rest of those that are caught in the resistance. But what I wish is that before she went AWOL, she could have shed a little bit of light onto what was going on and how Offred could help. Offred needs a little guidance. Traditionally, in today’s world (not in Gilead), May Day, which is May 1, celebrates labor and unions and workers. That is clearly not going to be the case in Gilead, because everyone is a happy worker or else.

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Saying “mayday” when a plane is being shot down comes from the French “m’aidez,” which means, “help me.” To use the term in the resistance in Gilead seems a little tongue-in-cheek to me, because these resistance members are clearly helping themselves get out of the awful situation they’re currently facing in their theocracy. If I’ve learned one thing from consuming many, many dystopian stories, it’s that whatever mayday is, it will come quickly and without warning, and it will probably fail the first time. But where there is a will, there’s a way…. And there are also five more episodes of Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale, so I’m sure we’ll find out what’s going on soon.