The Handmaid’s Tale: “The Bridge” Recap


By: Karen Valenzuela (@VictoriaNoir89)

After last week’s visit to Jezebels, the penultimate episode of season one of The Handmaid’s Tale begins with a ceremony marking the passing of Janine’s baby to Commander Warren Putnam and his wife, Naomi.

Commander Warren reads a passage aloud from a Bible that this ceremony mimics, with the Handmaid literally bringing the child she gave birth to over to the Wife and handing it to her. It’s hard to imagine Naomi’s ever had to do anything as difficult as being forced to bow to Janine by the passage her husband is reading, and I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I found it incredibly satisfying.

When Janine is resistant to give her child “Angela” to Naomi, the Commander has to coax her. The influence he has over her is apparent and also heartbreaking, as she finally relents and hands the child over to the impatient Wife. Janine is then walked outside by Aunt Lydia, and per tradition, the other Handmaids form a line from the door of the household she’s leaving to the van that will take her to her new household. She moves through the line beaming at the soft “Praise be”/”Blessed be” salutations the other Handmaids are giving her, and she stops at Offred, her friend. As they embrace, Offred just barely holding her tears in, Janine says, “Don’t be sad. He’s coming for me.” The weight of the moment is crippling for Offred and for us, because nobody is coming for Janine. The Commander is a lying sack of lies and we all know this. But as Janine climbs into the van, Offred calls out to Aunt Lydia. It’s a tense moment as the stern, intimidating woman turns to fix Offred with a glare. Offred asks if Janine seems okay, “considering”… Aunt Lydia’s response is very revealing. “She’s tougher than you think.” A bond seems to have grown between Aunt Lydia and Janine – at least somewhat – almost as though Aunt Lydia feels protective. After all, Janine has given their community a healthy newborn. After the van pulls away with Janine inside, Offred approaches Alma and quietly tells her she wants to help with MAYDAY. And it’s legitimately chilling when Alma says “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Will Offred be tattled on now? Will she be taken away by the Eyes? Questioned? Tortured? Oh no oh no oh no!

At Janine’s new post, Aunt Lydia walks with her as she approaches her new Household where her new Commander and Wife await her on the porch. Janine expresses her fear of being too far away. From what, we know – Commander Warren, who she still believes will come for her. Calling her Ofdaniel now instead of Ofwarren, Aunt Lydia reassures her, whispering perhaps the creepiest thing I never want anyone to say to me ever: “Go like an open flower.” Nope, thanks anyway!

Next we see Naomi Putnam and Serena Joy walking together along the sidewalk, Naomi pushing Angela along in a stroller, two Guardians following behind with their giant rifle at the ready. A Martha stops them, sneaking around to say hello to the child, wiggling her fingers at her…as one does to a newborn baby. But one of the Guardians steps up and with a warning, sends the Martha along her way again. Throughout the scene, Naomi exhibits indifference and even apathy towards the comfort of her child, not seeming to want to do more than the basic necessities to care for Angela. They discuss whether Angela’s taking her bottle and it slips into a conversation about Janine, or “that horrid girl” as Naomi calls her. Serena suggests they should be thankful towards their Handmaids, and Naomi tells her she should be grateful she has such an obedient Handmaid. (Ha ha who is currently plotting to help the resistance movement sooooo…) You can see the “that’s what you think” on Serena’s face as they stroll along.

As Offred and Ofglen (not Emily) approach the store where they do their shopping, Alma stops Offred and sneaks her around the corner where they can be alone. She confirms she’s in MAYDAY and says she has something Offred can do to help the cause. She wants Offred to get Commander Waterford to take her back to Jezebels. How exactly does Alma know about that horrific journey Offred and her Commander made to the underground brothel? It also means MAYDAY knows…but how? Alma tells her the resistance has been trying to get a package out of Jezebels. She tells her who to make contact with to obtain the package. She’s to hide it until someone contacts her. Offred agrees to try, and Alma tells her to do it tonight, strutting away like that wasn’t just a seriously insane and massive thing for her to ask her fellow Handmaid to do.

Offred waits for Commander Waterford at his office later that day. At first he’s hesitant, tells her she can’t be there. But she manages to pique his interest enough for him to call her back and invite her into his office. For everything that’s happened to her so far, Offred does a smashing job convincing the Commander to take her back to Jezebels, and even makes going that very night seem like his idea. As impressive as it is, with the menacing music in the background, and the breathy seductive voice Offred uses, it’s also really sickening to see her play him like that. Not because she’s playing him, but because you know she’s dying on the inside, her skin crawling. And Creepy Fred makes his return (not that he ever left) with, “so eager” in that breathy, pervy voice of his. It’s apparent that even though the task made Offred’s stomach churn in the worst way, she’s determined to do what she needs to. To rebel? To survive? Either? Both?

Nick drives them to Jezebel’s again and Offred flirts with the Commander in the backseat, pointedly meeting Nick’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Vengeance, thou art June. Yikes. And when Nick interrupts their flirting to tell his Commander they’re approaching the checkpoint, Waterford teases, “Nick’s no fun.” As she flips the hood of Serena’s cloak up over her head, she says “Nick needs to chill” in a supremely caustic tone and it is truly fabulous. And then she and the Commander laugh at him. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaangggg!!!!!

During another awkward elevator ride, Waterford tells Nick they won’t be long because they’re going straight up to the room. (Noooo!!!!!) Offred demures she thought they might get a drink at the bar. (Where she can obtain the package from Rachel, no doubt.) But he’s noncommittal there. It’s a horrific thought – Offred pulling all of these strings, then having to allow the Commander to touch her, have sex with her, and not getting the package out of it after all? As it is, this Honey Trapish plan is nauseating.

Back at home, none the wiser about her husband’s whereabouts (we think, at least), Serena leaves her knitting and goes down to the kitchen to brew herself some tea. Rita enters the kitchen and finds the tea for her, but before she starts the kettle, she suggests her mistress try something with some more…flavor. (ALCOHOLLLL!!!) “That might be nice” is probably the understatement of Serena Joy’s life at that moment. She lets Rita have some as well and they stand across from each other in the kitchen – not quite equals in spite of the shared drink, but then Serena confides in her about Naomi Putnam complaining about her baby keeping her awake at night. “To complain about such a miracle,” Rita says. And Serena agrees. And then Rita returns the favor, telling Serena that she lost her son when he was nineteen. In the war.

We’re taken to Janine/Ofdaniel, who is preparing for her first Ceremony with a new household. It’s perhaps the worst and most brutal Ceremony we’ve had to witness so far. The Wife is seemingly kind (I don’t even like using the word kind in a scenario such as this, though, to be honest) as she invites Janine to get into position on the bed with her. She tries to reassure her Handmaid when she’s obviously nervous about being in the room alone with her, and about the Ceremony in general, with an “I’m nervous, too.” (OH ARE YOU????? REALLY???) We watch as Commander Daniel purposefully enters the room, takes his coat off, walks to the foot of the bed and unbuckles his belt. It’s especially menacing with the way it’s shot, without us seeing his face – first it’s shrouded in shadow, then the shot shows only his torso as he closes in on Janine. As he starts, Janine tries to tell them she doesn’t want this, and he continues anyway. She’s ignored as she protests. It’s a literal rape scene as she starts to thrash around, finally kicking at Commander Daniel and yelling “Get the f* off me!” She runs to the corner of the room and curls into a protective ball, rocking back and forth as she asks, “Where’s Warren?” and informs them that he’s coming for her.

Because that wasn’t traumatizing enough, the next scene is in the room with Offred and Waterford. After Offred lets him finish, a look that’s part terror/part disgust on her face through the excruciatingly uncomfortable scene (again, I’m hesitant to call it a “sex scene”), she asks if they can stay for awhile “and maybe have that drink.” He asks her why she’s so fixated on the bar, and in spite of her attempts to persuade him it’s a purely innocent reason, he informs her that he knows why. “I’m not dumb,” he says, and he tells her he knows she wanted to come back to meet someone. He gets out of bed as a knock sounds on the door, and he lets Moira into the room. “I know you know Ruby,” he says, and the two women stare at one another in shock…maybe also disgust? He asks, “Aren’t you two friends?” The significance of him inviting Ruby in is clear. He was hoping for a threesome. But he doesn’t seem all that broken up when Offred all but dismisses the idea. “Relax,” he patronizes. “I did something nice for you.” And you outright want to kick him right in his groin when he mimics, “Thank you, Fred.” She smiles at him and thanks him in a sickly sweet tone. Then he skips off to take a shower and leaves the women alone.

In the kitchen of Jezebels, Nick meets with his Martha contact again. He leaves the delicious looking pasta she makes him alone and she guesses something is wrong with him. He asks if she’s heard anyone talking about the Handmaid he brought with the Commander, and she says she hasn’t. As she continues to pry, she finally sits back and does the quintessential you love her thing with a tone of surprise that tends to happen in a forbidden love subplot. And the quintessential attempt at No I don’t with the nonchalant deflecting to another subject. It’s clear Nick is suspicious of Offred, however. And what he means to do with that information, we can’t be sure just yet.

Back in the room, June has informed Moira of the package she’s supposed to get from the bar, as well as the loose pact she’s made with Alma and MAYDAY. Moira is beside herself with worry over June, but she’s also pretty judgmental at the same time. Whether we agree with her or not is up to us, which is what makes this show so damn stellar, as it never shoves how we’re supposed to feel about situations and characters down our throats. It lets us be conflicted, torn. And it’s genius. June suggests Moira could get the package for her, and her friend immediately refuses. Moira immediately goes for the door and June, confused by her reaction, follows behind. It’s a heartbreaking, moral destroying moment when June calls her Moira and she spins on her, saying, “It’s Ruby now.” You can see regret on her face as she tells June to go home and “just do what they say”, but she’s between a rock and a hard place and it’s apparent it’s beaten her down quite a bit. But nevertheless, June persists. She forces Moira to listen as she calls her a liar. Moira told her they would find June’s daughter. And Moira says June will find her. “No. We will. That’s what you said.” As the shower turns off, June tells Moira to get her shit together and to fight. Moira leaves then as June cries against the door. Creepy Fred helps things immensely by walking in and calling Moira a “degenerate” (Okay, Mr. Just Brought Her In For a Threesome), before telling June to pull herself together.

That night, June’s dream about Luke and Hannah is interrupted by Serena shaking her awake. She tells her to get up and get dressed in a barely suppressed panic. (She’s used to suppressing things, after all.) When the Commander, Serena, and Offred arrive at a bridge, we see why Serena was in such a panic.

Janine is standing on the railing of the bridge, holding her baby. She apparently broke into the Putnam home and took her, racing off to the bridge. Guardians are surrounding her, the Putnams are there, scared out of their minds, and even Aunt Lydia waits nearby, looking downright stricken. Commander Warren and Naomi try to reason with Janine. They promise she can live in the house with them and see their baby. When Warren coaxes,“Come down and let me have Angela,” Janine blesses us with the most rewarding moment in the series yet with this gem: “Her name is Charlotte, YOU LYING F*!!” TELL. IT. LIKE. IT. IS. JANINE. But because this is The Handmaid’s Tale, it goes downhill from there. Janine announces for everyone that Warren made her do other things besides just in the Ceremony (dude is in big trouble). And in the most heart-shattering scene we’ve seen in the series yet, they let Offred go to Janine and talk to her. She tells her change is coming. All of this will be over and they can go out for drinks. They laugh together as Janine asks if they can do karaoke. But then she asks Offred to go with her (aka jump off of the bridge) where they can be free. Offred says she can’t…for her daughter. And she pleads with Janine to do what’s best for Charlotte, and allow her the chance at a life of her own. Janine finally relents and hands Offred the baby, before stepping off of the bridge. We see the viscerally traumatized reactions of everyone on the bridge, from Aunt Lydia to Serena Joy, to Nick…and Warren even stands by in shock – though it isn’t hard to wonder if he’s more upset by the fact that he’s in big freaking trouble and got caught being a sick asshole than by guilt from knowing he led this woman on to a point where she felt the need to take her own life. Not even in a romantic sense, but in the sense that she was given the hope of freedom and had it dashed cruelly.

Later that day, Commander Putnam is taken away from his home as Naomi and Serena look on from the door. Serena attempts to reassure her fellow Wife, but Naomi snaps defensively. She very clearly doesn’t understand how to calm down her crying baby, and when Serena offers to show her how, she snaps again, this time going so far as to lash out at Serena. “Why don’t you worry about your own husband? We all know what happened with your first Handmaid.” Daaaang! Step back, Way Worse Version of Angela From The Office. That plants quite the seed in Serena’s mind – quite the seed indeed – and we see her burst into her home, walking through the hallway, determined, driven…and as she arrives at Commander Waterford’s office, she opens the doors and strides right in. Yeah, it’s forbidden…But Serena Joy done giving a damn.

Meanwhile, a subdued Offred is at the meat counter shopping for the household again. The butcher says some kind words about the best cut of meat for Commander Waterford, but then he hands her another wrapped package and gives her a significant look. She takes it slowly, looks around, and calmly walks out of the shop to a soundtrack that sounds straight out of Run, Lola, Run. (It’s actually The Knife’s “Wrap Your Arms Around Me.”) Once outside, she takes a card out of the package. It reads, “Praised be, bitch. Here’s your damn package. XOXO Moira.” Yooooo!!!!

Then we see Moira standing at the mirror in the bathroom of one of the rooms at Jezebels. A man calls out to her from the other room and she heads to the toilet. In a repeat of what she did when she escaped the Red Center with June, Moira has taken the sharp object out of the top of the toilet. She slips it into her sleeve and leaves the bathroom. The scene jumps out to the alleyway. A dark figure leaves the side door and climbs into the front seat of a Guardian van. We see it’s Moira disguised in a Guardian uniform. When she turns her hand over as she starts the car, we see blood staining her fingers. The episode ends with Moira grinning as she drives away from the scene.

That scene between Serena and Rita felt incredibly important. Not just because it was the first time we see either woman lower her walls…for just this short moment they’re sharing in the kitchen while the Commander’s away. But also because it could potentially lead to some growth for Serena. Potentially. At the very least, Rita’s talk of her son dying in the war has gotten Serena to think about things. What, exactly, was going through her mind is anyone’s guess. She pauses for a moment after Rita tells her, and then she says, “I’m humbled by your son’s sacrifice.” Though there’s a pretty good chance he wasn’t fighting for her cause, and she has to know that. Not just that, but she is now living under the same roof with this woman, eating the food she cooks. That aside, it’s pretty telling that Serena didn’t even know Rita had a son, after Rita’s been in her home for years. Makes you wonder if Serena cared at all to know what those who came to her household’s lives were like before Gilead. Is Serena feeling guilty as she shares a nip with her Martha? Does it weigh on her to know this woman lost her son because of the war she herself helped bring about? And you have to think that even though Serena isn’t a mother yet, a large part of her sees herself as a mother to some future child who has yet to arrive. Does this cause her to connect with Rita in this moment, a woman who was a mother in the past? They’re both yearning for children, but in different ways.

And oh, Moira. We can’t not talk about Moira. In the episode when she and June break out of the Red Center, she tells the aunt they tie up to remember that she didn’t hurt her when she could have. Not so this time. Things have certainly changed in three years. Moira’s no longer in a place in which she’s sparing her tormentor’s life. Where she let the aunt live, we can only assume the man waiting for Moira in the bedroom met quite the grisly end at her hand. Also noteworthy, when she gets in the car and spots the blood on her fingers, she tries to wipe it off on her pants, but it doesn’t come off. Her hands are stained with her victim’s blood. Symbolism? Maaaybe.

This was definitely the most incredible episode since “A Woman’s Place.” Don’t forget, the season finale is tomorrow!

Did you enjoy this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale? Let us know in the comments!

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