(Minor spoilers ahead for Wednesday’s episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” called “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum.”)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” gets a lot of things right in regards to its portrayals of fundamentalism — but one thing it got wrong is the transit routes of the city where it takes place.
In episode four, titled “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum,” (set to premiere Wednesday on Hulu) we get flashbacks to Offred’s (Elisabeth Moss) time in training with her friend Moira (Samira Wiley). Specifically, we see how Moira escaped custody into Boston. But there are a few holes.
“We just got to get to the city,” Moira tells Offred in hushed tones. “The Collective has some safehouses.”
We know from previous episodes that at least the flashback portions of “The Handmaid’s Tale” take place in the Boston area. At one point, Offred — known back then as June — and her husband Luke lived in an apartment in Somerville, which is north of the city. We also learn in this episode that when the women were kidnapped, they weren’t taken far.
When Offred and Moira first emerge from the facility, however, they discover they have no idea where they are, since all street signs have been removed.
Somehow they make their way to a subway station (which real-life Bostonians call “the T,” because the region’s main public transportation system is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and its logo is the T, for the word “transportation”).
They get stuck when they realize they have no idea which side of the track goes inbound to Boston. But that’s a problem: When they get to the T, it’s revealed they’re at Arlington station, which is on the Green Line and in Boston.
It would depend on what part of Boston they’re heading to, of course, but as long-time Boston residents, wouldn’t Moira and Offred know that they are in downtown Boston, which looks nothing like the city of Arlington, a charming Boston suburb six miles northeast of the city? And even if they took the wrong train, they could just turn around or even walk the rest of the way, since Arlington is within walking distance to other stops on the Green Line that are in the city proper.
To give you an idea, this is where Arlington station is in regards to what is known as downtown Boston. As you can see, it’s right on the edge of Boston Common, which is the city’s biggest park.
If we say downtown is at City Hall, that’s still only a 20-minute walk from the Arlington T stop.
Also: Boston residents might be put off by how confused Moira and Offred are by the lack of street signs. Boston is a famously hard city to navigate (which happens when it’s built for horses and buggies) and to try to figure out where you are by street signs is not helpful. You can find your way around just using monuments and other landmarks. Granted, these could have also been removed after the uprising.
Boston fans also won’t recognize a lot of the establishing shots from the outdoor scenes, since the show was filmed mostly in Toronto.
This isn’t to detract from the power of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and its storytelling, and it is such a small detail that can easily be glossed over, but as somebody from Boston, it was distracting. And Boston residents are known for being picky about their hometown.
Related stories from TheWrap: