Blessed be sisters, for we have been graced with an episode of THE HANDMAID’S TALE that does not focus on a man. That shouldn’t even be a bar that is set, but with the last two episodes delving into the pasts of Luke and Nick, it’s a relief to be back on track. “The Bridge,” the penultimate episode of season one, once again returns to Offred and the other handmaidens, focusing on their stories. However, as the season winds down to a closer, simply a return to form isn’t the exciting ending we hoped for.
“The Bridge” marks the beginning of Offred committing to becoming a spy, or part of the resistance, or basically anything she can do to feel less helpless and maybe even slightly in control. She’d heard mention of “May Day” when Ofglen was still around. Oh, poor Ofglen, she is missed, and nine episodes in, it’s easy to look back and see that the show was much more vibrant and interesting with her around. At least she gave Offred the “May Day” hint and Offred whispers it to another handmaid, says she wants to help. At first, like so much in this world, it seems futile, but later, Offred is pulled aside and told what to do.
That very night, she has to go back to the Jezebels and pick up a package from “Rachel” at the bar. Seems simple enough, except for the entire lack of freedom and agency and being able to leave the house part of the Handmaid lifestyle. Her only solution is to appeal to the commander. It’s a combination of hard to watch and extremely exciting to see her seduce Waterford into thinking taking her out that very night is his idea. He oozes with slime, with entitlement, with the entirely male notion that she has to be in love with him: her captor. When they drive to the club, the resurgence of the world’s most boring love triangle comes to a head, where Nick is so clearly jealous of Waterford. It seems so inconsequential compared to everything else going on. Offred is about to risk everything for a package she has no idea what’s in and we’re supposed to care about this complicit boy who has caught a case of feelings.
Besides the silly Nick thing, Offred’s plan seems to be going well, until Waterford gets too horny and caught up that he says they should go straight up to the room. Offred casually tries to suggest a drink at the bar first, but there is no stopping Waterford’s acute combination of his ego and his penis. This means, once again, Offred is forced into sleeping with this man, who thinks that this gives her pleasure, who prides himself on being different than the rest when he’s just as bad. Afterwards, she tries again to go down to the bar, but he stops her and says he knows what she wants. It’s a terrifying moment, when you think he might be onto her, but what he does is bring up Moira. He saw them talking last week, and is too busy patting himself on the back for remembering that he doesn’t notice the tension.
While Waterford showers, Moira and Offred argue. Offred tells her about the package and Moira says that’s idiotic, that Offred will get herself killed. Though her points are valid, it’s incredibly sad to see all of the spirit and all of the hope completely gone from Moira, who used to be the rebel that kept Offred going. Their scene together, though short, is impactful. Offred’s tears when she talks about how hard it was when she thought Moira was dead, stand out in this scene. Even when they are fighting, the bond between these two women is filled with more love than any of the men on this show could dream of.
Despite the whole journey, Offred never makes it to the bar; is unable to procure the package. It’s saddening, almost as saddening as the other part of this episode that follows Jeanine as she must leave her child and transition from Ofwarren to Ofdaniel. It does not go well, as her recurring utterances of “he’ll come for me,” are almost as rough as when she yells out during the ceremony, solidifying once again that “the ceremony” is just glorified rape. With all this, it makes sense that the titular “Bridge” is one Jeanine is poised to jump off of with her baby. Offred is called in to stop her, as their friendship has been observed. The only thing that gets through to her is Offred talking about her daughter, of saying she has to protect her and Jeanine should do the same. And with that, after excruciating minutes of tension, Jeanine hands her baby to Offred and plunges into the water.
Much like we’ve come to expect from this show, it’s bleak and hard to watch, but, as has become standard with most of these episodes, the last three minutes come in clutch for some hope. When Offred goes to the butcher, she receives a package that isn’t just the meat, but the package that Offred had failed to get. A note inside reveals its from Moira, and the joy that comes over Offred’s face is mirrored in the audience. She’s back. It’s a beautiful switch of Moira inspiring Offred to rebel to Offred inspiring Moira. It’s gives just a spark of hope the episode. Of course, that spark turns into a fireball, with the last minute, as we see Moira called in to sleep with some client. She holds a weapon in her hand. The next shot is of her getting into a car behind the club, hand bloodied. It’s a large escalation from helping out a friend to committing murder, but at least something is happening. Though most of the excitement was saved for ending of this episode, hopefully it will carry through to the finale next week, and give a solid ending to a pretty uneven season.
Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
The Handmaid’s Tale airs Wednesday 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