The Handmaid’s Tale: Night Recap
Synopsis 1×10: Serena Joy confronts Offred, who struggles with a life-altering revelation; the handmaids are faced with a brutal decision.
As far as finales go, I can’t say too much of “Night” actually shocked me or surprised me. After the slew of surprises that have happened throughout the season, this episode served almost as a form of catharsis. We saw Hannah again, Moira made it out safe, the Handmaid’s stood up for their friend, Offred gains a small bit of power, and even Serena doles out some much needed real talk to Fred.
It makes sense that, here at the end of the season, we go back to the beginning with a flashback to when June was first brought to the Rachel and Leah Center. The women there, all with terror in their eyes, were told to humble themselves, keep their head down, and obey. Or else, suffer the consequences. There, they were tagged and effectively dehumanized totally.
I can’t say that there is a real sense equilibrium in “Night,” because Offred doesn’t gain back her agency and she doesn’t free herself from the grasp of Gilead. But the women in the world do start to fight back. Even in the background of the story we hear talk from Fred that there are Aunts in the west that are fighting back against Gilead. But for Offred, she becomes shackled to the Waterfords even more.
After finding out that Offred has been illicitly going out with Fred, Serena busts into Offred’s room and hits her. She’s furious, but before she lets her anger get her fully, she makes Offred take a pregnancy test, which ends up reading positive. This protects her from Serena’s wrath, but it also binds her to the family for the entirety of her pregnancy. On top of that, Serena’s aware that the baby is Nick’s and not Fred’s.
She confronts Fred about his stupid decisions, especially since the last time he screwed around with their handmaid it lead her to commit suicide. It’s interesting that in this episode both Serena and Fred really bare their teeth and show a darker side. They don’t just show it to Offred but also to each other. When Serena confronts Fred, he callously ignores her and tells her to go to her room and that she answers to him. But Serena bites back, telling him that the baby is not his, adding, “You’re weak, and God would never let you pass on that weakness.” Damn, I think she won that one.
While Serena and Fred harden their hearts, Nick softens up. Finding out that Offred is pregnant has chipped away at his stony exterior. It’s still up in the air where Nick’s loyalties lie within the government, but after finding out about the baby, it’s clear that he’s ready to defend Offred and protect her.
Which comes at a good time, since Serena takes this time to show Offred exactly what she’s willing to do for a child. She takes Offred on a long drive and they arrive at a home where she watches as Serena goes into the house and brings out Hannah. Offred is not only furious, but inconsolable at the idea that her daughter could end up in the clutches of Serena. Serena uses Hannah as leverage to keep her unborn child safe, but it’s hard to reason with Offred when her sole reason for living was literally just dangled in front of her.
For some reason, Offred decides to seek out Fred for help in protecting Hannah. I get so frustrated with Offred, mostly because when the “June” part of her comes out, it’s often not for the better. She makes daring choices that so often land her in more trouble than she was in to begin with. Fred is unreadable and only confirms Serena’s claim that the baby she’s carrying isn’t actually his. I wonder if he knows that he’s the problematic contributor in this equation?
Outside of the household, Warren and Janine face the consequences of their actions. While Warren is given the chance to defend himself, Janine is lead to her death by stoning come Salvaging Day. It’s interesting to watch Warren’s trial and watch as Fred, who always seems so sure of himself, get shot down by a superior who questions his broken moral compass. It repeats the idea set in place by the novel that this is a world in which no one really follows the rules, not even the rule makers.
While Fred is ready to forgive Warren for his actions, he is not so lucky. Not only has Warren broken the rules, but even his own wife has asked that he receive the harshest punishment. To me, I would think he’d be castrated or something now that they actually have a kid, but apparently, it’s just losing a hand. I guess it’s not that easy for Janine, is it? She becomes the new subject of a stoning. And while the commanders stand by as Warran receives his punishment, the handmaids cannot.
Even the new Ofglen, who is all too willing to cling to the safety of Gilead in exchange for her past life, is opposed to killing Janine for her actions. Even Aunt Lydia, who has already begun to show cracks in her harsh exterior, struggles to do her duty and take command of the situation. In the end, the handmaids win the day. But there will be consequences, there are always consequences.
In a moment of desperation, Offred opens the package that she was told specifically not to open — god damn it, Offred — but it’s not anthrax or some kind of virus or bomb, instead it’s a bunch of testimonials and stories about other handmaids who have had their children stolen from them. Although thematically and symbolically this is an apt way of delivering the message of all the women who have had their voices taken by Gilead, on paper, it’s difficult to see how this will play a role in the resistance. Is it merely a record of the women and the names of their children for the future? Or does it have a more nefarious role?
After Salvaging Day, Offred makes her way home. But then a van drives up to the residence. Nick comes into her room and tells her to go with them and to trust them. With everything to lose, she still decides to trust Nick and let the Eyes take her without protest. On her way out she tells Rita about the package, which she’s hiding under the bathtub. Serena and Fred both freak out and try to stop them from taking her, but it’s no use. Just as they’ve gotten what they’ve wanted from her, it’s been taken away. Offred is ready to embark on a new path in her journey.
As the side plot, we witness as Moira finally makes her way north into Ontario. Her journey, having been arduous and winding, is finally over. We watch as she reclaims her own freedom, becoming a refugee and gaining basic necessities and the ability to do whatever she wants. On coming into the country, they contacted Luke, who put her down as a family member and the two of them reunite tearfully.
Again, it’s hard to say I was shocked or surprised by anything that happened in this episode, it all felt inevitable. But it left both a feeling of finality while also leading us into the next chapter of the story, which is all that I could have asked from this episode. The season itself asked for a huge emotional investment that often felt so overwhelming and depressing that in many ways this was the perfect season finale. The Handmaid’s Tale has become one of our favorite shows, and we look forward to when the next season premieres!