After her violent outburst at Bread and Loaves in last week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, OfMatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) doesn’t die as expected.
What actually happens to OfMatthew might be even worse. “I cried when I read the script. I was so devastated for her,” Ashleigh LaThrop, who plays OfMatthew, said in an interview with Refinery29, of her character’s fate.
OfMatthew ends up braindead on a hospital bed in one of Gilead’s oddly futuristic hospitals. Her baby, however, is miraculously unharmed by the gunfire. “They’re keeping her alive and in pain for this little fetus, because they need the baby,” LaThrop said. Gilead has already taken three children from OfMatthew. They’ll take one more.
In her final days, OfMatthew is monitored, prayed over, observed, and cut into. It's the show’s purest distillation of a handmaids’ role: They’re nothing more than baby vessels. Now that her consciousness is gone, OfMatthew's body is reduced to pure utility. She can fulfill her sole function of giving birth without protest. Eventually, OfMatthew's baby boy is delivered via C-section. Her body is left to die.
The scenes are uncomfortable to watch, especially when both of OfMatthew’s thighs are sliced into to stop her seizures. But the sequences could've been much worse. "It originally was much more violent. The disregard for her body was a lot more gruesome. They cut back on some of that, and I’m really grateful," LaThrop said.
In one respect, filming the scenes in "Heroic" was less demanding for LaThrop than other episodes. "I basically laid in the bed, and when they yelled cut I read books. But the seizure scenes were physically demanding," LaThrop said.
The real struggle came in restraining her own emotions from splaying out on OfMatthew's comatose face. Though LaThrop knew going in that her character only would be on The Handmaid's Tale for one season, she was particularly devastated by the turn.
The final scene was particularly hard for LaThrop. "Heroic" ends with one last interaction between OfMatthew and June. June sings "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" to OfMatthew with the hospital machine buzzing providing back-up.
"Most of the time I just had to try really hard not to cry," LaThrop said. "I ruined a couple of takes because I started tearing up. I was like, ‘Stop it! You can’t hear her!’