The Handmaid's Tale takes mind games to a new level in "The Bridge"

Let the mind games begin.

Elisabeth Moss as Offred in The Handmaid's Tale. - Hulu
Hulu
Elisabeth Moss as Offred in The Handmaid's Tale.

The Handmaid’s Tale does not hold back in the last episode before next week’s season finale; “The Bridge” builds tension from the first shot and holds us through the final scene.

We begin with the handmaids gathering to usher Ofwarren (One-Eyed Janine) to her next home. As she clutches the baby she gave birth to, you can feel the tension in the room — and her unwillingness to leave (shortly after she gave birth, remember, she told the other handmaids she and the baby's father were in love). She hands the baby over, but you can tell this isn’t the last we’ll see of her.

We haven’t heard much about the Mayday resistance since Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) was taken out of the mix. However, after offering allegiance and support, Offred

gets her first task: Return to the Jezebels, get a package from the bartender and don’t open it. (This is already an impossible task for me; no way could I retrieve a top-secret-mystery-package and not open it.)

Here's where mind games begin.

Offred convinces the Commander she wants to go back to town with him so they can be alone. Elisabeth Moss (Offred) and Joseph Fiennes (the Commander) are so damn good I was holding my breath through this entire exchange because it’s impossible to tell who is playing who. In the end, he agrees but with the Commander flexing his power and Offred playing flirtatiously coy; it’s mental chess and the pieces are all over the board.  

After they have sex, Offred asks to go down to the bar (a second request) to which the Commander replies that he knows why she really wanted to come back; enter Moira, summoned by the Commander himself. With a slight confirmation that he’s aware of Offred’s intentions, the Commander goes to shower leaving the girls alone.

Pleading for her to fight back, Offred begs Moira to find the spark that she’s lost and get the mystery package. Moira is resilient in the fact that she has no desire to fight back anymore and Offred realizes she must get inside Moira’s head — and does — by using Hannah. She reminds Moira that they promised each other they would save Hannah together, and even thought Moira remains firm in her dismissal, you can tell Offred hit a nerve.

The following morning Offred is harshly woken by Mrs. Waterford and rushed to a bridge. Grey stone sitting high above freezing water, the bridge is blocked off by the Guardians because crazy-One-eyed-Janine is standing on the rail about to jump — baby in hand. I knew she was going back for that baby, but seeing her preparing to jump with a newborn is chilling. Janine refuses to listen to anyone so Aunt Lydia tells Offred to go save the baby.

Quick sidebar: I’m going to hand it to Aunt Lydia: she really got me in this episode. Several times in this episode there are glimpses that show Aunt Lydia’s bark might be considerably worse than her bite.

Offred goes to Janine and tells her everything she wants to hear. You can see Janine’s resolve fading as Offred mentions Hannah again, but at the same time you know where this is going. As she hands the baby to Offred, Janine jumps into the freezing water below.

After the last 24 hours, Offred is understandably shaken. Her best friend is being forced to live as a prostitute and has all but given up. She watched as a woman in her position chose to kill herself instead of living as a handmaid. Which is when it hit me: the true theme of the episode: the hardest person to manipulate is you. 

I can’t even count how many times I’ve manipulated people. Not always in a sinister way, but told them what they wanted to hear to get the result I wanted. Why then is it so difficult to convince yourself in the same way? Why does the story break down when we are the central character? Offred has the same realization: She can’t convince herself that any hope exists.

That is until she goes to the butcher. A seemingly mundane task ends with the butcher knowingly handing her two packages: the meat she came for, and the secret package that was delivered to her. Once out of sight she reads the note that says, “Praise be, Bitch. Here’s your damn package. Xoxo – Moira.”

Through a quick montage, we see that not only did Moira get the package, but also killed a man she was entertaining and is now on the run in a black van. Now, was it Offred’s pleas that got to her? Mentions of saving Hannah? Or did Moira simply decide to take control of the central character in her life again?

Next week is the season finale and after this week’s roller coaster. I couldn’t be more excited. 

Toni Jannell covers television for Creative Loafing. Email her here.

About The Author

Toni Jannel

Toni's a true Tampa native, equal parts Italian and Cuban — she's practically an ad for Ybor City. She's a USF graduate and a genuine enthusiast for anything with a script.

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