Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 9: “The Bridge”
Directed by Kate Dennis
Written by Eric Tuchman
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Jezebels” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Night” – click here
Ofwarren a.k.a Janine (Madeline Brewer) goes through the ceremony of passing over her child to the infertile wife and her husband, as Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) watches on. Nothing goes as smooth as imagined, of course. The wife is a lot less understanding than the husband, even Lydia. But Commander Putnam (Stephen Kunken) manages to get Janine to hand over the baby. Such a tragic thing to watch. Every bit of this existence is tragic; to see this type of thing happen is even more emotional. She’s forced to carry a rapist’s child to term, to grow attached, then hand it over without so much as a whimper.
When they’re carting Janine off, Offred a.k.a June (Elisabeth Moss) asks Aunt Lydia if Janine is okay. The old woman says she’s fine. That this ought to serve “as a lesson.” A lesson in silence, obedience, in subservience to the patriarchy.
Afterwards, as the handmaids leave, June talks to Alma (Nina Kiri) about helping with Mayday. Receiving only a cold shoulder.
Meanwhile, Commander Daniel and his wife are receiving their new handmaid: Janine. She is Ofdaniel now. Another identity laid upon her like a wreath. Lydia, using a bit of old Victorian imagery, tells her to “go like an open flower” to her latest captors. Yet in these few scenes, much as this old woman is complicit in the patriarchy’s authoritarian rule, she has the well of tears in her eyes. As if it’s all getting too brutal, even for her. Hmm… I wonder…
Out for a walk with her new baby, Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) is totally ungrateful for the gift she’s been given, by another fertile woman. She longs for a more obedient girl, such as Offred apparently. And all the while she bitches to Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who still is without a child of rape to raise as her own.
Mayday does need June; so says Alma. She says they need her to go back to Jezebels, there’s a package there for them. But how will she get herself there? Will she go to Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and finagle a way to the club? This is exciting, and frighteningly intense.
She does indeed go see Fred, alone at night. Telling him of how thrilling their adventure outside Gilead’s walls was for her. She’s got a great poker face, I love it. Like playing a game of chess, she baits him. He takes it; hook, line, and sinker. She plays eager for him, and he sees eager. So, they plan for another trip late in the night once the house is asleep. And away they go, with Nick (Max Minghella) driving them as usual.
While her husband is away, cheating and raping, Serena is at home with Rita (Amanda Brugel). The lady of the house continually worries whether Offred is with child, if she’s having a period. Not only is it all rapey, it is so invasive, so creepy and ugly. Serena may be in distress herself, she doesn’t do any favours for herself playing into the patriarchal society of Gilead. Slowly, as she realises her husband’s more buried faults, I imagine she won’t be so eager to keep chugging along complicit.
At her new home, Janine heads to the bedroom with the wife and they await the Commander. Another rape night. They go about their business and it’s even more mechanical than anything we’ve witnessed before. The wife chastises Janine when she fights it – “Be still” – before she pushes them off. Her identity is collapsing, she can’t let herself go from one man to the next, required in her hideous duty as a handmaid.
At the same time, June suffers through another rape herself. All to try getting to the package at Jezebels. She plays to his ego, talking him up. Although he believes she’s there to meet somebody, for which he’s made arrangements. In comes Moira (Samira Wiley), though under a different name working at the club. He acts like a suave lover, like he’s done them a favour and earned a few brownie points.
In the kitchen, Nick is asking questions about Offred. The woman serving him knows he’s got feelings, warning it’s a quick journey to hanging on the wall a corpse. Simultaneously, Moira is pissed at June for coming back, for spying and being part of Mayday. It’s as if this brutal new world has broken her, changed the fundamental part of who she is – a rebel, a fighter. Moreover, June thought she was dead, and that devastated her. This all puts the two women at odds, with one wanting to keep fighting and the other feeling like giving up.
“Go home and just do what they say“
When the Commander gets home Serena is, naturally, curious as to where he’s been all night. You can see the bond between them breaking, further every day. It’s a good thing, I think. Because there’s hope that Serena may someday see the light, perhaps step out of the patriarchy’s shadow and start thinking for herself again. Will she see the error of her ways? Or will Gilead swallow her whole entirely?
June is shaken awake in the morning by Serena. They take her out to the bridge, where Janine has fled with the baby. She stands at the edge above the water, child in arms. When the Commander protests, she yells about the “freaky shit” he wanted her to do and how he promised they’d run away, just the two of them. June is called in to talk her down. Janine hands over the child, then plunges into the river. She’s later carted off to the hospital and left under the care of Aunt Lydia.
“Men don‘t change“
When June goes to pick up meat at the butchers, she’s given more than a cut of beef – she’s given the package meant to be picked up at Jezebels. And it’s a man handing it over. A trap? She isn’t so sure, paranoia runs high. Rather than not looking inside she curiously spies a card tucked into it; signed by Moira. YES, GIRL! YAS! Not only does she have the package for Mayday, she has hope again that her friend has not given up.
Poor Moira’s trapped at that club, her new identity as Ruby. She’s got a few little tricks up her sleeve, all the same; literally. She manages to get herself free, into a car, and out on the road. Where’s she heading first?
Fuck yes. Great penultimate episode, so excited for the finale! Last up is “Night” and I’m hoping they’ll get our adrenaline pumping for the end of this amazing, nuanced, and brutal Season 1.