Pour one out for poor Janine. “The Bridge,” which climaxes on an actual bridge, is a swan song to Gilead’s most damaged and endearing handmaid. It was obvious from the start that things wouldn’t go smoothly for her — she got her eye plucked out in the first episode, for god’s sake. But for some foolish reason, I kept hoping that she and Warren would ride off into the sunset together or whatever the far-right Christian version of that is.
The episode opens with all the handmaids gathering at the Putnam house for a new kind of ceremony: Baby Angela is officially being handed over to her new family. It’s time for Janine to be transferred to a new house, to do the deed all over again.
Needless to say, it does not go smoothly. Janine is reluctant to part with her child, convinced that the Putnams won’t be able to care for her as she could. (Example: “You have to burp her when she’s halfway through feeding.” One does not just know these things.) Eventually Warren cajoles Janine into leaving Angela with him, silently playing on their relationship to soothe her.
Offred would never fall for this, but this is Janine we’re talking about As she leaves, she whispers. “Don’t be sad, he’s coming for me.” Oh, Janine. In a rare act of defiance, Offred brings up her concerns with Aunt Lydia, who answers that Janine is tougher than we think. We’ll see about that.
As the van pulls away, Offred approaches her handmaid friend who always seems to know what’s going on (I don’t know her name). “I want to help,” she says, referring to Mayday. Unfortunately, her friend plays dumb, leaving Offred to ponder the fact that she may have outed herself as a member of the resistance.
Janine’s next stop is a pleasant-looking brick house with white columns. It’s not as grand as the Putnams’ mansion, but maybe these people will be kinder. Oh, and she’s Ofdaniel, now. (This practice seems like it will get confusing.) Janine is a little worried — “they live really far,” she mutters. How will Warren know where to find her? For all her talk of “open flowers,” the look on Aunt Lydia’s face tells me she knows something’s off.
Meanwhile, Serena Joy and Mrs. Putnam celebrate by going for a walk with baby Angela. Mrs. P. is complaining about the baby’s fussing, and being generally unpleasant. She praises Serena for having such an “obedient handmaid,” and tells her that she’s sure “your miracle will come soon.” She’s odious.
Offred is out on her own walk when her handmaid friend (if anyone remembers her name, please comment) accosts her. She apologizes for blowing her off earlier, but says if Offred really wants to help Mayday, she has to go back to Jezebel’s — tonight. There’s a package that needs to be picked up from Rachel at the bar. This seems tricky. Offred makes the same face I do when I was planning on spending a night with Netflix and someone makes me go out instead.
That night, Offred surprises the Commander in front of his office. He is…less than pleased. At first. She plays him like a badly-tuned violin, and pretty soon, he’s suggesting they go back to Jezebel’s. How about tonight? Perfect!
And so, back in the car they go. I feel like Fred’s really pushing his luck by handing over Serena Joy’s cloak for a second time. Nick is none too pleased about having to drive his lady love to her hotel tryst, but who cares about him —he’s forfeited any right to be jealous.
Once again, they sneak in through the freight elevator, but this time the Commander wants to head straight to the room. Um, what? What about the bar? “Maybe after, if there’s time,” he says. Nick warns his boss to watch out for any unwanted attention, which brings to mind his conversation with Commander Price in last week’s episode. Waterford is pushing his luck.
Poor Serena Joy is back at home sewing in front of the fire. When she goes to store the scarf/blanket/garment she just finished in her hope chest, she finds unused baby mittens. This is all too sad.
Rita finds her rummaging around the kitchen cupboard, looking for booze, sorry, “chamomile.” After almost outing the Commander’s absence (“I thought the Commander came home hungry”), Rita suggests that they both cut the crap and enjoy something “with a bit more flavor.” It’s a nice moment — Serena vents about Mrs. P., and Rita opens up about her own son, who died fighting in the war. By the way Rita says “Praise be,” I suspect her son wasn’t a Son of Jacob.
Janine is getting ready for her first ceremony in her new house. The Monroes seem nice enough, but something’s been threatening to snap where Janine is concerned, and it gives way just as her mistress takes hold of her wrists. “No, I don’t want it,” she cries, the first vocal acknowledgment we’ve had so far of the lack of consent implicit in the ceremony. “Get the fuck off me!” she screams. “Don’t you fucking touch me!” Huddled in a corner, she cries for Warren to come get her.
Meanwhile, Offred is lying back at Jezebel’s, waiting for the Commander to get it over with. He is in an especially perverse mood: “Did you like that?” he snarls. “Let me know next time. You don’t have to be quiet here, you can be free.”
Someone needs to tell Offred to stop mentioning the bar — he’s getting suspicious. For a second, it looks like her cover’s been blown, but rather than a squadron of Eyes, Moira walks in. “Relax,” he says. “I did something nice for you.” With that, he leaves them to catch up while he showers.
Down in the kitchen, Nick is enjoying some really good carbonara. (Damn, I would work at Jezebel’s just for some of that.) He’s been asking around about Offred — is she involved in anything she shouldn’t be? Iron Chef Martha grills him about how he feels about this particular handmaid, and seems unconvinced by his answers.
Moira is not happy that June is taking risks on behalf of ALMA (That’s her name!) The two get into a big fight — June calls Moira a coward and a liar, and reminds her that she promised to help find Hannah. “Do not let them grind you down,” she says. “You keep your fucking shit together and you fight.” Moira says she was doing just fine until June came knocking, and storms out.
Using his spectacular timing, the commander picks this time to exit the bathroom, so June doesn’t even have time for a good cry before she has to put her Offred face back on.
The ride home is bleak. Offred has lost the faint hope that gave her the strength to keep going, and Waterford is glum that he’s no longer the center of attention. As he sneaks up the stairs, he is surprised by a fully awake Serena Joy, who pretends not to know that he’s been out. Offred climbs into bed and dreams of her family.
Suddenly, though, she’s awoken by Serena Joy. It’s an emergency — Janine has kidnapped baby Angela and is threatening to jump off a bridge.
The only person who can talk her down is June — it’s interesting that in a real crisis, all pretense of Gilead is dropped. No one steps forward to police June as she steps out of character and tells Janine that all of this will end, and they’ll go out drinking. This is what she needs to hear to hand over the child — and that’s all that matters. For a second, June is tempted to join her, but she can’t. She has her daughter, and Janine must save hers. “You have to give her the chance to grow up,” she says. Janine and June may not always have seen eye to eye (I apologize for this distasteful pun), but in this moment, they’re linked by fate and by friendship.
Janine kisses her baby, hands her to June, and leaps off the bridge. “Bye,” she says, as if she were only stepping out for a moment. In a way, that’s the case. Janine doesn’t die — we see her later in the hospital as Aunt Lydia hovers over her — but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.
But there’s still an upside to this whole mess: After Janine calls him out publicly for cheating on his wife, Warren is carted off into a black van. Just one more reason for Waterford to watch his back. It’s becoming more and more apparent that he’s just one Serena Joy confrontation away from losing everything, and that doesn’t seem very off, given her reaction to Mrs. P.’s goading. (“Why don’t you worry about your own husband? We all know what happened with your first handmaid. Men don’t change.”) The last we see Serena Joy in this episode, she’s marching determinedly into her husband’s office.
And despite everything, the episode ends on a high note. While shopping, Offred receives an extra package with her meat order. “Saved it for you, special,” the butcher says. Attached is a note: “Praise be, bitch. Here’s your damn package. XOXO, Moira.”
Our girl came through — and pretty spectacularly. We end with Moira shivving her john, stealing his clothes, and taking his car. She’s free!
Guys, can you believe there’s only one episode left? See you next week for the FINALE.
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