As an intimidating black van door closed on Offred in the last few seconds of “Night,” the intimidating black van door closes on season one of THE HANDMAID’S TALE. It’s been a bumpy ride, especially around the middle, but the season finale was reminiscent of the start of the series. It was jarring at times, and a little disjointed, but especially in the last act, the finale brought us back to what made The Handmaid’s Tale a compelling piece of television. Instead of making the mistakes of episodes in the past that focused on an individual man, the finale was at its best when it focused on a collective of women.
Before delving into Offred’s story, the most gratifying thing to happen potentially all season was given to us, all thanks to Canada. After a season of worrying if she is alive, and then wondering if she will survive, Moira is finally safe. It didn’t look good at the end of last week, but she escaped to the wonderland of Canada where they have things like refugee services and medical insurance and not forcing women to be raped every month. Seeing Moira actually end up in a safe place gives the kind of relief that is rare on this kind of show. Furthermore, they finally put the character of Luke to good use, as he welcomes Moira in, informing her that she was on his list. Because they are family. Seeing the two of them embrace was almost worth the entire Luke backstory. He holds Moira while she cries of relief, and it feels good to have a moment of emotion and of love between these two characters who have lost so much; Moira is finally safe enough to cry and be held.
On the other hand, safety seems like a distant dream for Offred. She is on a nonstop ride this episode, with events that probably could have been spaced out over a couple episodes, but at least she is at the center of attention. In the first few minutes, she is at the whim of Serena’s violence once again, after she found out about her and the commander going out and sleeping together. Only one thing could save her from this wrath and that would be if she was pregnant. It turns out to be Offred’s lucky day, as a pregnancy test shows there is indeed a bun in the oven. It’s odd seeing a modern pregnancy test in this strange backwards world, but of course, that’s the piece of technology they need the most.
The reality of her pregnancy means a few things for Offred. One, she is luckily not going to be physically abused by Serena anymore, just mentally. Two, we don’t know who the father is. Three, we don’t really care who the father is. Serena taunts Fred that the baby isn’t his, and Nick thinks it is his as well, but nothing is known for sure. Though Nick exhibits tenderness toward Offred that Fred couldn’t even conceive of, both of these men are still the least interesting part about this show. The real villain, the most intimidating character is in the form of Serena. She takes Offred on an ominous car ride to an ominous building. She leaves Offred in the car while she opens the door to the building to reveal none other than Hannah, Offred’s daughter.
The show is knee deep in campaigning for an Emmy for Elisabeth Moss, and if any scene will give her one, it’s this one. Offred’s joy at seeing Hannah combined with her utter despair at the fact that she cannot see her. Her screams to be let out are futile, and they make Serena even more smug when she enters the car. “Don’t hurt my child and I won’t hurt yours,” she says to Offred who responds with throwing the nastiest words she can at Serena, but it’s to no avail. It’s an emotional masterpiece, but Offred is still overtaken by hopelessness.
Almost forgotten in all this is the package Moira had helped her acquire last week. When she gets home from this depressing journey, Offred cracks it open to discover that it is filled with letters from other Handmaids. This is the stuff that would have served the season better, hearing all these individual stories and how they are all being subjugated by the tyrannical patriarchal government. Though it came late in the game, these letters still inspire Offred, in a way that could feel cheesy, but it works for this show. Resistance is in the air, both within The Handmaid’s Tale and the country in which it is airing, and it only makes sense for Offred to go down that path.
This manifests in the final part of the episode, when the Handmaids are gathered once again as a collective to punish someone. As oppose to a rapist though, this time the person they are being told to publicly stone is Jeanine, who survived her bridge jump last week only to be charged on the crime of endangering a child. Aunt Lydia demands the Handmaids to stone her to death and they refuse. One refuses vocally, and then is beat up and taken away. The rest stand there, not throwing stones, but not speaking out. That is, until Offred, ever the reluctant hero goes out into the middle of the circle, and, in literally slow motion, drops her rock. The authorities move to take action, but they can’t. She’s pregnant. Slowly the other handmaid’s come out and drop their stones too, in an action of collectivity that the show has been painstakingly building toward. This act of rebellion by the combined force of the handmaids is more powerful than anything from an individual, and it shows on the face of Aunt Lydia, who can do nothing but send them home.
Of course rebellion is not without a price, and the episode and season end with Offred being carted away into a mysterious van. Neither she nor the audience know where it is going, or what at all will come in the next season, but at least this one went out on a high note.
Season 1, Episode 10 (S01E10)
The Handmaid’s Tale airs Wednesday at on Hulu
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor