The Handmaid’s Tale S01E10 “Night” REVIEW

The Handmaid’s Tale S01E10 “Night” REVIEW

0 comments 📅31 July 2017, 13:17

Airing on Channel 4, Sunday at 9pm
Writer: Bruce Miller
Director: Kari Skogland

Essential Plots Points:

  • We’re back in the Red Centre, on June’s first day there. The women are all individuals, dressed differently, still moving like people in control of their lives. Aunt Lydia establishes control, tasering Offred.
  • Back in the present, Offred’s Handmaid companions return home, as does she. Only she still has the package. She frantically searches for a hiding place, finally settling on the back of the old bath in her home. She walks downstairs, opens the door and…
  • …Serena Joy backfists her, bouncing her head off the door frame. Stunned and bleeding, Offred crawls across the floor as Serena Joy yells at her and shows her the dress from Jezebels. She spits, “You could have left me with something,” and when Offred gives her attitude, Serena Joy forces her to sit and take a pregnancy test. Serena snatches the test and kneels outside the room, praying and in tears as she waits for it to resolve.
  • It’s positive.
  • Offred is pregnant.
  • That night, Offred falls asleep listening to the music box and dreaming of Luke and her discussing their baby during her first pregnancy. It’s sweet and kind and romantic. And not where she is now.
  • Downstairs Serena Joy confronts Fred about his hypocrisy. She tells him that the baby can’t be his because he isn’t strong enough.
  • The following morning, Rita, the house Martha, greets Offred with an awkward hug and gives her her breakfast.

  • Nick is in the dining room, sees the scar on her face and asks what happened. Offred tells him. Everything. The pair reconcile, Nick embracing her and Serena Joy seeing it. She pointedly tells Nick they will not be the needing the car and orders Offred to get her cloak. They have a long drive ahead.
  • Out in the wilds, a terrified Moira stumbles across a snow-covered landscape. She breaks into a garage, finds a car with an Ontario license plate and collapses with laughter. She’s over the border. She’s made it.
  • Offred and Serena Joy arrive at their destination. She orders Offred to stay in the car and goes into a large building.
  • She emerges with Hannah.

  • Offred, locked in the car, absolutely loses it. Serena Joy gets back in the car and drops her bombshell: “As long as my baby is safe, so is yours.”
  • Offred calls her every name under the Sun. Serena Joy looks back at her just once and says, “Don’t get upset. it’s not good for the baby.”
  • Ofwarren’s old “host”, Commander Putnam, is being tried by his peers. He makes his plea and is dismissed.

  • Commander Pryce, the man who recruited Nick, is pushing for severe punishment. Waterford, because he’s done the exact same thing, tries to make them lenient.
  • Pryce tells them Putnam’s wife has asked for the harshest possible punishment because she fears for his immortal soul. We see Putnam wheeled into a surgical white room. His ring is removed and he’s strapped down and his arm surgically removed below the elbow.
  • At the Waterford’s, and in shock, Offred tries to see Nick but he’s either not in or won’t see her.
  • So she goes to see Waterford and asks him to protect Hannah.
  • Waterford tries to play it off but she isn’t having it. He seems distant… cautious… bored even. He implies, heavily, that it’s impossible for him to have kids and then asks if it’s his. She tells him what he needs to hear and he sees it for what it is.
  • Later, alone in her room, Offred opens the package. It’s a pile of letters from Handmaids, all telling their true names, all telling their stories.
  • It’s the history of the Handmaids. All prisoners, all individuals, all strong, all defiant. Offred, overjoyed, weeps as she reads them.
  • In Canada, Moira is walked through the refugee intake system. She’s given money, food, a phone, medical insurance, clothes. She’s treated with total respect, absolute kindness and it’s like she’s on an alien world.
  • Waterford and Serena Joy try and make up. It’s like watching sharks reconcile, especially when Serena Joy, weeping with disgust at what’s been done to her, realises she’s trapped with this man.
  • Offred wakes up next to the letters.
  • Three bells. A salvaging.
  • She tidies the letters up, hides them away and heads off to the salvaging with Ofglen 2, bickering with her the whole way.
  • Aunt Lydia reveals the subject of the Salvaging:
  • Janine.
  • She waves as she’s brought in. A ripple of horror moves through the Handmaids. Aunt Lydia tries to sympathise with them, openly weeping as she orders them to throw the rocks. Janine, terrified but still smiling, says, “Not too hard, okay?” and kneels.
  • And then Ofglen 2 steps forward. She’s had enough. She won’t do it.
  • She’s clubbed in the mouth and Janine asks if she’s okay.
  • Aunt Lydia blows the whistle.
  • No one moves.
  • Then Offred walks forward, drops her rock and apologises to Aunt Lydia.
  • Then another Handmaid.
  • And another.
  • And another.
  • Not one of them is prepared to kill their friend.

  • Aunt Lydia screams at them all to go home. “There will be consequences, believe me,” she says to Offred. Who smiles one last time at her friend, and leaves the circle. A few seconds later, the other Handmaids follow.
  • The Handmaids walk home in formation, Offred in the lead. Slowly they peel off as “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone plays.
  • In Canada, a still traumatised Moira is reunited with Luke. It turns out he’d put her on his list of family members and once she hears that she finally lets go. Moira wraps her arms around her best friend’s husband and sobs out three plus years of horror and degradation and brutality.

  • Back in Gilead, Offred waits. She has no idea what for. She knows she’s in disgrace. She doesn’t care. All she knows is this might be the last time she has to wait, for anything.
  • She doesn’t have to wait long.

  • A black van, sirens blaring, pulls up. A shaking Offred is met by Nick who asks her to trust him and to go with the Eye officers who’ve come for her. Offred does so, past a weeping Rita who she bequeaths the letters to. She walks past Serena Joy, who impotently demands to know where Offred is being taken. Offred says nothing, eyeballing both Waterfords one last time as she walks out of the house, down the stairs and into a van that will take her to either her death or something new. She doesn’t care and as the doors close there is the tiniest hint of a smile on her face.


A season finale, especially a first season one, is one of the hardest things for any TV drama to pull off. Legendary heist/thriller series Leverage always went to great pains to bring each season into land as a series finale. Star Trek: The Next Generation and all its successors made a point of telling a story in  two parts to make sure you had to come back next season.

The Handmaid’s Tale goes for option one and it works perfectly.

Like last week we’re back with Offred. This week her careening arc into a deeply weird part of Gilead society comes to an end. She’s clearly a troublemaker but is also a natural leader who Aunt Lydia recognises as such. She’s been “guilty” of hypocrisy and infidelity at Jezebels but she’s now pregnant. Offred is a liability but Offred is also just a little untouchable and for the first time she knows it.

That sudden, level(ish) playing field changes her relationships with the Waterfords forever. Fred finally admits he knows she’s playing him along and doesn’t care. Serena Joy reveals just how monstrous she is, holding Hannah hostage to ensure that Offred “behaves”. In retrospect, the moment those two things happen it’s clear Offred can’t stay in the house. She has to leave because she doesn’t fit, even in Gilead’s broken puzzle.

And just how broken it is is revealed by the two other women the episode focuses on. Moira’s escape to Canada all builds to that moment where Luke describes her as family and she breaks down, sobbing the years of horror out of her. Moira has always been strong, even when she’s been broken. Here, she’s safe for the first time and it’s been so long that the sensation terrifies her until she sees Luke and realises she really is okay.

It’s an immensely powerful strand of the episode but even that pales in comparison to the closing scenes. The fact it’s Ofglen 2, not Offred, who is the first to refuse to participate is a masterstroke. It implies that Offred is only the lead character of the story because we’re inside her head. It implies that every single other Handmaid is going through the same thing. More importantly it implies hope. They’re all alone but they’re all in this together.

That’s a hell of a note to end an amazing series on. Offred defiant, Moira free and the first cracks in Gilead very definitely appearing. If the show was cancelled, this would be a great ending. Given that we know season two is on the way, this is a fantastic end to the first chapter of what looks set to be a genre-defining TV show.

The Good:

  • The direction yet again. Especially the contrast between Offred, possibly concussed and bleeding into her bath, and Serena Joy praying for a positive result. Kari Skogland does great work.
  • The moment before the drive when Offred very clearly gives serious thought to taking the guard’s gun and shooting Serena Joy in the face is chilling, silent and crystal clear.
  • Hannah’s pink outfit, carefully designed to be somewhere between a Wife and a Handmaid’s outfit, is one of the subtlest cuts the show makes.
  • It’s notable that when Serena Joy gets back in the car, she gets in the front, not the back where Offred is.
  • In the letter montage, we’re pretty sure we hear the word “rape” for the first time in the show. What’s being done to these women is finally made real via their collective, anonymous, individual strength.
  • The music choices have been great all season long. But “Feelin’ Good” set to the Handmaid’s march and the closing use of “American Girl” are two of the best uses of music we’ve heard on a TV show in a very long time.
  • “It’s their own fault. They should never have given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army.”
  • “In any case, you know the law.”
    “Of course I do. I helped write it.”
  • “You do that so well.” This is the only time we’ve ever come close to feeling sorry for Waterford. He’s a monster, an irredeemable rapist and hypocrite. But this single moment shows us that he know what she’s doing and has no problem going along with it. For now.

The Bad:

  • We really could have done with much, MUCH less of Putnam’s arm being removed.

And The Random:

  • Kari Skogland has directed for The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Vikings, House Of Cards and many others.
  • Bruce Miller is a producer and writer on the show and has also worked on series like Eureka and The 100.

Review by Alasdair Stuart

Read all of our reviews of The Handmaid’s Tale

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