After two rather slow episodes for The Handmaid’s Tale, the hit Hulu drama comes roaring back with “The Bridge.” It’s an episode that utilizes every strength in the shows arsenal. From Moss and Wiley scenes to an Emmy Award worthy performance from Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale knows how to create a gripping penultimate episode to its freshman season.
The episodes that make this show stand out from other drama’s on TV right now are the quiet moment. The moments where you can audibly hear yourself breathing as danger and death close in. Where you can see the fear in Elisabeth Moss’ eyes as Gilead proves it’s just as bad, even worse, than we could’ve ever imagined. It’s in these moments that The Handmaid’s Tale goes above and beyond expectations.
In “The Bridge,” Janine takes center stage and it’s unbearable to watch at moments. Janine/Ofwarren has done her Handmaid duty. In a painful moment, she has to give up her child and swiftly becomes Ofdaniel. It’s a fleeting scene in the grand scheme of the episode, but holds a lot of weight. Even Aunt Lydia has a great moment with Offred when she says Janine is tougher than Offred thinks. The Handmaid’s Tale highlights the insensitivity of Gilead with this one scene.
Later, Janine, now Ofdaniel is getting ready for this month’s ceremony. Once again, she’s held down against her will and forced to have sex with her new Commander. For the first time in The Handmaid’s Tale, Janine stops the ceremony and runs. She’s done pretending everything is okay. Janine wants her child and eventually reaches a breaking point.
Serena Joy wakes up Offred abruptly as they head to the bridge. Janine is standing on the edge of the icy river, ready to jump with her child. This is one of those moments we’re talking about. When everything goes silent and you’re focused on the palpable silence emanating from your TV screen. With Janine inching closer to the edge and June/Offred pleading with her to step down, this is when we get one of the best performances of the season.
Madeline Brewer gives an unbelievable performance in this episode. Since the show began, Brewer has been a stand out player and this episode solidifies her rank amongst the best in The Handmaid’s Tale. June tries to talk Janine down as she paints a picture of the days after Gilead. She tells Janine to have hope that this will all end and one day they will go to a bar, have a drink with Moira and live life again. And this is when we start to cry. We cry for the life that will never be for our characters.
Now, as the tears stream down our faces as we have an image of June, Janine and Moira having fun, Janine hands her daughter to Offred and leaps. She leaps into the icy river, leaving her daughter to have a childhood, a life. It’s heartbreaking. Brewer is amazing in “The Bridge” and we give her a standing ovation.
On the opposite side of Brewer’s performance is Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia. A character that is one of the villain’s in our story, finally shows a crack in her hardened exterior. When Janine leaps of the bridge, it’s Aunt Lydia’s whose screams can be heard over the muffled noise. The friction between Aunt Lydia and The Handmaid’s crumbles for just a split second. Dowd is a heavy hitter in The Handmaid’s Tale and this episode utilizes her perfectly. One of the final chilling scenes between Janine and Aunt Lydia is when Janine lies in a hospital bed after jumping in the river. It’s unclear whether she’s alive or being kept on life support simply because she’s fertile. Either way, we have chills, and not the good kind.
Elsewhere in “The Bridge,” June/Offred makes a trip back to the Jezebels with The Commander and Nick in order to get a message for the resistance. In another moment that makes our heart stop, The Commander brings Moira into his room with Offred. He knows they know each other and gives them time to figure everything out. June finally has a moment to tell Moira how upset she is that Moira left. She needs Moira to keep fighting for the resistance, she can’t give up now.
Samira Wiley and Elisabeth Moss have created a remarkable partnership in The Handmaid’s Tale’s first season. In every scene they share, they not only build their characters, but also their bond as actresses. It’s been amazing to watch them grow together throughout this season. By episode’s end, Moira has a renewed fire within her. She steals a car and drive towards the possibility of stopping Gilead.
After two somewhat flat episodes, The Handmaid’s Tale revamps the season with “The Bridge.” Madeline Brewer and Ann Dowd command a chilling and gripping hour that plays into the shows strengths. As we reach the end of season one, it’s hard to determine how much more damage can be done, but we know it can’t be good. The Handmaid’s Tale has given us heart-wrenching hour after hour and the finale will surely do the same.
The Handmaid’s Tale is currently streaming on Hulu