‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ 1×08 Review: “Jezebels”

After a week absent of any present day Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale picks up right where it last left Offred: in bed with Nick. Similar to “The Other Side,” this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale falls flat as compared to the other episodes from the season. While the performances continue to amaze, the last two episode of The Handmaid’s Tale have fallen somewhat flat and we think we know why.

Men. From the minute this season began, viewers were taught to not trust the patriarchy in Gilead. They are one of the major forces that have made Gilead the horrific society Offred must reside in. It’s easy to equate the male characters to evil and hatred. The only men currently in Offred’s life daily are the various Commanders and Nick, who is a known Eye. While we love Luke even his episode had us bored because The Handmaid’s Tale‘s spark lies with the female characters. So, when we get two episodes focused mostly on the men in this world, it raises a weird flag as a viewer.

This episode puts a focus on Nick and his backstory. Now that Offred and Nick have started a relationship, it’s time we know more about The Commander’s driver. We learn that Nick was recruited by the people behind the Gilead regime. He’s been a driver for The Commander since the early days when they were still deciding what to do with the fertile women.

While Nick is an intriguing character that appears to ride a fine line between evil and good, he’s definitely the weakest character on the show. This episode did add some depth to his character, but overall he’s not compelling enough to carry an entire episode of this show. With all the other amazing and complex characters on The Handmaid’s Tale, Nick isn’t our first choice to helm and entire episode, especially when so much else happens in “Jezebels.”

Max Minghella is a great actor. The scenes in previous episodes where he looms in the background and elevates the tension alongside Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski. The problem with this is, Minghella can’t carry the episode. His work in flashbacks can be seen as subtle and interesting, but when paired with “The Other Side,” this just feels like another slow episode for The Handmaid’s Tale.

In the present day, Offred/June gets dragged into another harrowing situation. The Commander dresses her up, gives her make-up, shaves her legs (yes, this is as weird as it sounds) and takes her to an illegal club in Boston. And on top of that, he lies and says she’s his wife. All kinds of creepy! Joseph Fiennes continues to bring his A-game to the show as The Commander. His cool demeanor only makes him all the more terrifying, especially when he gets closer to Moss. Every scene shared between Fiennes and Moss adds to the horrific nature of Gilead and everything happening inside the walls.

The most important moment in “Jezebels” somewhat gets swept under the rug, which is mainly why this episode is disappointing in the larger sense of the show. While at the Boston night club, Offred/June spies Moira across the crowded room. It’s emotional, even though no words are spoken. Moss and Wiley locking eyes is enough to send us into one of the biggest emotional frenzies this show has given us.

After heading to the bathroom, Moira and June have their long awaited reunion. Moss and Wiley thrive in this scene, further proving their the iconic duo to come out of The Handmaid’s Tale. Both actress become the roles they take on and this show has only proved that. Moira and June’s relationship is essential to the story being told. While June and Luke are also a priority, Moira and June are forever and this scene just proves it.

The last time we saw Moira, she was leaving June behind and getting on a train out of Gilead. We learn that June didn’t make it far before she was forced to either join the Jezebels or be sent outside Gilead, where people rarely live. Samira Wiley is one of the many assets in The Handmaid’s Tale’s corner and this episode proved it.

While their reunion is a highlight of the episode, it’s cut very short and doesn’t get a lot of time. This is the most intriguing part of the episode and we would’ve preferred more time spent on Moira and June. Instead we are sent back to Nick’s backstory and what he’s up to. Again, this could be to simulate how fleeting the reunion actually was so Offred isn’t caught, but still.

The overall issue is that “Jezebels” comes right after “The Other Side.” Two episodes focused heavily on the male characters that can’t truly carry such important episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. While Moss and Wiley’s performances continue to astound, they’re fleeting and we can’t help but go back to wondering why Nick is at the center of an entire episode.

The Handmaid’s Tale is currently streaming on Hulu.

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