The Handmaid’s Tale S01E09 “The Bridge” REVIEW

The Handmaid’s Tale S01E09 “The Bridge” REVIEW

0 comments 📅26 July 2017, 00:32

Airing on Channel 4, Sunday at 9pm
Writer: Eric Tuchman
Director: Kate Dennis

Essential Plots Points:

  • A procession of Handmaids approach a large house and form two lines by the door. It’s where Ofwarren lives. It’s Christening day.
  • Ofwarren almost makes it through the ceremony. Until she picks her daughter up and begins babbling about the best way to look after the baby she, shortly, will never see again. The Commander of the house talks her down and she hands the baby over.

  • The Handmaids are there to see Janine off to her new posting. She hugs Offred who breaks down and weeps.
  • As Ofwarren leaves, Offred asks Aunt Lydia if Ofwarren is okay. Aunt Lydia replies ‘She’s tougher than all of you.’ and leaves them. Ofwarren waves from the van as she’s driven away.
  • Ofwarren is taken to her new home and given the new name’ Ofdaniel. Aunt Lydia tells her how proud she is before watching her walk away.
  • Offred, who has asked to help with Mayday, is given her first assignment almost straight away. Pick up a package at Jezebels. She manipulates Waterford into helping her, choking down every ounce of repulsion and disgust at the man and what he’ll do to her.
  • Waterford is delighted beyond words that they’re going back. Nick senses something is up but has no idea which way to jump; his perceived betrayal by Offred, the security risk Waterford presents or simply jealousy.
  • At home, Serena Joy is sewing. Bored, and alone and increasingly annoyed she wanders the kitchen looking for camomile tea. Martha finds her, and they chat in a way that’s both cautious and strangely relaxed. Martha offers her something with ‘a little more flavour’ and Serena suggests she make it two. The women drink together, silently united at the same time as being worlds apart.

  • The conversation turns to children and Martha reveals she lost her 19-year-old son in the war. Serena Joy actually feels something close to an emotion before saying she is humbled by Martha’s son’s sacrifice. Martha makes it very clear, without say anything, how little that means to her.
  • At her new home, Ofdaniel is ‘comforted’ by the Commander’s Wife. She’s sweet and kind and at one point says ‘We’re in this together’ and somehow that makes it so much worse. Ofdaniel begins to lose it, panicking and screaming before fighting the pair of them off. She sobs, begs for Warren and hides in the corner repeating ‘He’s coming for me.’
  • At Jezebels, Waterford is raping Offred. They finish, she attempts to seduce him and he tells her he knows why she’s here; to meet someone.
  • And he’s made the arrangements.
  • He goes to the door and lets Moira in.
  • Waterford brags about how much attention he pays and assumes that Moira and Offred want to have sex. When Offred shuts her down, he assumes they just want to chat and leaves them alone. The second he’s out of earshot, Moira says ‘What the F— are you doing back here?’
  • Downstairs Nick asks about Offred and Fred but his contact hasn’t heard anything. She correctly guesses he’s sweet on Offred though and consoles him as only people in Gilead can. Carefully, and without actually doing anything.
  • At Jezebels, Moira tries to throw Offred out and they have the argument they almost had last week. Offred calls her a coward and orders her friend to keep it together. Moira storms out. Offred breaks down.
  • Fred comes out, sees her weeping uncontrollably and spits ‘PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER. We’re going.’

  • They get home and Serena Joy tries to seduce Fred. It’s like watching two cacti try and dance. And Serena Joy breaks a little more when Fred shuts her out yet again. And, worse still, Fred sees it.
  • Offred, exhausted and heartbroken, dreams of Moira, Luke and her daughter. She’s shaken awake by Serena Joy and ordered to get dressed.
  • They’re driven at high speed to the bridge where Ofwarren is standing, with her baby. Offred has been brought to try and talk her down.
  • Aunt Lydia whispers ‘Make her listen, save that child’ and walks Offred forwards.
  • Offred calls Janine by her name. She tells her all this will be over one day, that they’ll go out drinking. Janine is delighted and then, the blinds drop again. She asks Offred to come with her and she gives it serious thought before saying she can’t because of Hannah.
  • She tells Janine she has to do what’s right by her daughter. Janine kneels, hands over the baby, kisses Offred’s head and says ‘Bye’.
  • Then she jumps.

  • And lives.
  • At Ofwarren’s old house, the Commander is led away due to Ofwarren publicly stating the perverted things he did to her. Serena Joy tries to console Warren’s wife but she spits that everyone knows what happened to their first handmaid and ‘men don’t change’ Serena Joy storms into Fred’s office…
  • At the butcher’s, Offred gets her cut of meat.
  • And the package she was assigned.
  • Moira came through.
  • Offred hides and pulls a note from the package. It reads:
  • Her friend hasn’t given up. Her friend is still fighting.

  • And at Jezebels we see Moira greet a client, with a shank up her sleeve. Later, dressed like a driver and grinning, she leaves Jezebels and drives off…


The structure of this opening season is one of its most interesting features. For the first half, aside from the flashbacks, we were functionally locked inside the Waterford’s house. Our knowledge of this world has expanded with Offred’s own and it’s helped the series at every single turn. She emerges from her captivity into a wide variety of ever larger cells and we’re right there with her.

That’s made the second half of the season even more impressive as we’ve seen Luke, Nick, Serena Joy and Moira’s perspective on events. It gives Gilead scope, borders if you like, that it only just had in the book. But instead of limiting the horror those borders focus and strengthen it.

That’s never been truer than here. Returning to Jezebels on the orders of MayDay, Offred has to force Moira out of her fatalistically serene ‘retirement’ to help. In doing so she also has to accept being raped by Waterford as the price of the mission, to say nothing of being viewed with contempt and suspicion by her not-quite-former lover Nick.

This is Hell. This is something that would break anybody asked to do it. It’s something that in a sense has already broken Moira.

At the risk of being facetious, for Offred, it’s Tuesday.

This is where the show could fall over, casting her as some steely-eyed superwoman. And it never does that. Instead it portrays her as like her peers; a person whose own resolute normalcy contains incredible strength. Elizabeth Moss, now Emmy nominated for this and deservedly so, puts on a weekly acting clinic that tells you everything you need to know. Offred quaking with disgust the second she leaves Waterford’s office, knowing what she’s just bought for herself, is chilling. Offred shifting from murderous to dead eyed to faux passionate as Waterford assaults her is extraordinary. Offred, doubled over and weeping with joy at Moira’s letter, doubly so.

But this episode she’s joined by another breakout performance. Madeline Brewer’s Ofwarren was first introduced as the weak link in both the Handmaids and the cast. A seemingly off the peg character she’s evolved rapidly into something far more nuanced and interesting. This episode also places her neatly on one end of the scale and Offred on the other. Offred takes horrific, life altering damage with every choice and, so far, has found a way to power through it. Janine has done something so similar you half suspect it’s part of Handmaid training. Only with Janine it’s not taken. The last couple of episodes, in particular, have seen her start to run off the edge of the world a little and that culminates here with the Christening and removal from her of her baby. She’s okay, convinced her Commander will come for her right up until the point she isn’t.

This is a vital moment in the show, as Janine becomes terrifyingly aware of just what’s being done to her during the ceremony. Just like last week we saw that Gilead has ragged edges, this week we see that Handmaid training does too. Once she’s run off that edge, Janine can’t go back. Every sacrifice she’s had forced on her, she sees, means nothing.

So, of course she tries to kill herself.

And, of course, they don’t let her.

If Offred is at the far end of the scale to Janine, then Moira is finely balanced somewhere in the middle. The bitter recriminations this episode shows us the damage Moira has taken in a way nothing else has. She’s convinced herself she’s content, convinced herself this is all she’ll get. She’s convinced herself she’s okay being sexually assaulted to death over an extended period of time.

The fact it takes Offred to wake her up is both understandable and troubling. Understandable because of their friendship, troubling because it sails perilously close to White Saviour territory. Nonetheless, Samira Wiley lands every moment she’s on screen and more than holds her own against Moss.

This is a quiet, at times leisurely paced episode, that gets a lot done. Offred joins MayDay, Moira escapes, Nick realises he’s being left out and Janine is denied any kind of closure. It’s a definite refocusing on the Handmaids from the last couple of episodes and a great, harrowing, start to the end of the season.

The Good:

  • Elizabeth Moss. Time and again. The rape at Jezebels is one of the most impressive, and terrifying, pieces of physical acting we’ve ever seen. Her gaze shifts from murderous to terrified to enforced, plausible lust.
  • Amanda Brugel, as Martha, has been the least well-served cast member all season. But her scene with Serena Joy this episode is amazing, shifting from solidarity to reluctant friendship to the barriers between the two women being higher than ever before.
  • ‘Relax, I did something nice for you. Thank you, Fred.’
    ‘…Thank you Fred.’-Classic abusive control language, all rendered in the bland, dead-eyed ‘It’s for your own good’ tone of voice Fiennes excels at.
  • ‘Come with me.’-This is just heartrending. Janine finally lets herself see what the world is and the kindest thing she can think of to offer her only friend is mutual suicide.

The Bad:

  • It’s another slow episode at first but again, the pace is earned and the payoff is worth it.

And The Random:

  • Kate Dennis has done amazing work on this season, with last week’s ‘Jezebels’. She’s also directed recently for Glow, Preacher, Suits and the upcoming Amazon reboot of The Tick.
  • Eric Tuchman is a co executive producer on The Handmaid’s Tale as well as on shows like Eureka, Alphas and Stitchers. He’s written for those sh

Review by Alasdair Stuart

Read all of our reviews of The Handmaid’s Tale

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