Previously on The Handmaid’s Tale, “Jezebels”
The Handmaid’s Tale has delivered its fair share of disturbing and sorrowful moments during its debut season. It’s explored the profound psychological effects that a world like Gilead would have on not just the handmaids but anyone who tried, or continues to try, to resist its oppressive systems. “The Bridge” was no exception in terms of producing heartbreaking scenes, but they all came with a certain sense of inevitability. Janine’s attempted suicide, Moira’s defeated spirit, June joining Mayday, Serena Joy realizing her husband is taking advantage of yet another handmaid; these all had varying degrees of sadness, but were ultimately predictable. Predictability, in this case, wasn’t a bad thing. It proved the work done in the eight episodes before “The Bridge” did all the right things in terms of world building and character development to prepare us for these moments.
We always knew Janine would have to surrender her baby to the Putnams, and move on to a new house to live the nightmare all over again. We knew she wouldn’t handle it well. No handmaid could, to be fair, but this is a character who hasn’t been able to hide her emotions since the moment we first met her and she had an eye gouged out. Seeing Janine on that bridge was stressful, but not surprising. And though it certainly heightened the tension, baby Angela being in her possession also felt expected. Why would Janine want her daughter to live in a world where her awful fate is already sealed? What weighs heaviest on the heart regarding Janine’s story isn’t any of that, though, it’s that she couldn’t even leave the world on her own terms. Gilead would never let a fertile woman die, especially one who’s had a successful pregnancy and birth, even if they’re causing trouble. It was yet another bleak reminder of how these handmaids have been so thoroughly robbed of their agency, even when it comes to death.
In “Jezebels” Moira gave us, and June, the illusion that she maybe did have some control over her life and death. She only has to work nights, she can drink, and the food is good. When the two friends interact again in “The Bridge” it’s clear it was only that, an illusion. Again, there’s something inevitable to seeing that Moira has lost her determinedness. It’s been a long 3 years since she so bravely made it out of the Red Centre. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking, especially to June, who had been using the memory of her friend’s strength to get her through. While June’s reaction is exactly what you’d expect from her character, and was clearly the motivation Moira needed to get her resolve back, it still felt very gross. There is just no scenario in which a white woman lecturing a black woman (or any woman of color) on how they should be living is going to not feel wrong. It was June’s decision to join the resistance and she immediately tried to pawn her first task off onto her only friend.
No one would have blamed Moira had she decided to just keep her head down and try to make it through another day. Instead, she chose to keep fighting, and June is lucky for it.
This brief moment of triumph does have a sour note to it, though. Had Serena Joy not just been motivated by her own “friend” to keep a closer eye on her husband, one could assume June would have no issues getting the package safely back home. But Serena is no longer willing to overlook the inevitable behavior of her husband just to keep the veneer of their happy marriage intact. If she doesn’t directly approach, or attack, Offred, she’ll at least be keeping an even closer watch on her than ever before.
Penultimate episodes have a delicate line to walk in providing setup for what’s to come, without becoming something that’s purely in service of the finale. “The Bridge” may not have been a particularly high point for the season, except perhaps in its cinematography, but it managed to skillfully navigate the territory of a penultimate chapter. Serena Joy entering a room that’s forbidden to her, Moira escaping, and June getting her hands on that package are surely about to come to a head in the finale. But all of those developments didn’t come until the final 5 minutes or so of “The Bridge.” Everything that preceded it was more of the intricate world building and character arcing this show has proven itself to be quite adept at. It all leaves us with one final inevitability: a finale that’s bound to be both exciting and tragic.
Under His Eye
- How, exactly, did Janine manage to escape her new home, make it back to the Putnams’, and “steal” that baby without being seen? I feel like the answer is “because plot” and this show can do so much better.
- I laughed out loud for the first, and second, time all season thanks to this dialogue from Alma, “It’s freezing, dummy” and Moira’s message “Praised be, bitch.” More screen time for both of them, especially Moira, moving forward, please.
- Not for the first, or second, time this season my skin crawled when Fred said, “Now you two catch up while I rinse off.” How satisfying would it be to see him carted off in the same fashion as Commander Putnam?
- Though the Ceremony is always disturbing to witness, Janine’s was the most painful to date. The wife’s cheerful complicity was enough to make my stomach turn, and Janine’s desperate struggle to break free was heartbreaking.
- While I’m typically not a fan of voiceover, Offred’s narration suits this show perfectly. I love the sense of intimacy it gives us with her character, and it was sorely missed in this episode. Hopefully it’s back for the finale.
The Handmaid's Tale S1E9
Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Samira Riley, Yvonne Stahoviski, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella, Madeline Brewer