If anyone out there is planning a trip to Washington in the near future, do us a favour and post lots of IG snaps of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument so that we can remember how things used to be, will you? Because after dipping our toes into the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays, 9 p.m., Crave), we can’t get some of that horrifying imagery out of our heads.
“Household,” the sixth episode of the current third season, took us out of Boston and into the political heart of Gilead: Washington. There, the extreme ideals from this cult-like, religious society have been kicked into overdrive and life is pretty miserable for anyone who isn’t a Commander or Wife. Handmaids not only wear covers around their mouths to silence them, but their actual mouths are clamped shut with metal rings. (How do they eat? What if they get pregnant? Sick? So many follow-ups and no one to tell us WTF is going on.) There also seems to be a sea of these handmaids, more than in Boston anyhow, as that mind-boggling final scene at the Washington Monument (now a giant cross) showed.
The cold dark heart of Gilead
Yup, things are dire. And we knew that, but now that June has experienced it firsthand while also having all hoped kicked out of her by the Swiss, everything feel even more bleak. We’ve seen June (Elisabeth Moss) in fight-or-flight situations plenty of times before, but that was always when she had Nick (Max Minghella) by her side.
Let’s talk about him, shall we? We always knew Nick was a shady character who must have done some unspeakable acts in order to gain Eye status as Commander Pryce’s (Robert Curtis Brown) right-hand man. But as he and June developed their relationship and became each other’s beacons of hope, so to speak, they never really delved into what Nick did in his former life. Or how he came to be the person he is in Gilead. And those assumptions of him being a good guy were thrown in our face Sunday night. As it turns out, Nick probably isn’t an actual good guy at all.
June learned as much after she negotiated Nichole’s safety in Canada with the Swiss. As per her handshake deal with the delegates, if she got Nick to open up about Gilead’s secrets and the innerworkings of that whole society, they would let Nichole stay in Canada and ignore the Waterfords non-stop videos of handmaids “praying” for the baby’s safe return. And when Nick actually showed up to hold up his end of the bargain it looked as though this whole awful, international crisis storyline could finally be put behind us. Except in reality it became much, much worse.
Everything is a lie
When one of the delegates headed to the Winslow home (where the Waterfords and June are staying), to recommend the talks continue, everything June thought she knew basically exploded faster than a Martha-made bomb. Why? “I don’t think you know who Mr. Blaine is,” the delegate told June. It turns out, their research led them to believe he’s someone “not to be trusted.” There goes all hope of Nichole staying safe and sound with Luke (O-T Fagbenle) over in Little America.
Enter Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) who is there to smugly fill in the blanks for June: Nick was an integral part of Gilead’s creation as a soldier, and no one would be there without him. Flash over to Nick finally being deployed to the frontlines in Chicago, and he’s not a soldier at all as we’ve been led to believe—he’s the leader whom all the other men salute in a perfectly trained way. We can’t help but hate him a little bit in that moment, even if he does look rather fine in that newly pressed black garb.
Obviously June was devastated by the revelation. It was just last week that she relayed to Luke how Nichole was “born out of love” and that she wasn’t an ugly result of this truly awful Gilead world. (Of course the Swiss have heard that tape and they don’t care because everything is political at this point, but that’s a whole other conversation.)
We need something good to happen
That’s what makes it even harder to see Nick as a true bad guy here. Was he one of the men who physically killed those in power and allowed the Sons of Jacob to take over? Was it a matter of life-or-death? Did he have any other options? It’s easy to try and stand on a moral high ground with the information we (and June) do have, but one thing this show is excellent at is giving us morally ambiguous characters. Good people do bad things for good reasons, and bad people can sometimes surprise us by doing something good (oh, hey there Serena. You make our blood boil, but we’ll always have those pool darts).
Now that Nick is gone it seems like we’ll have to wait a while to find out more, but we’re sure that at some point we’ll pick up with him in Chicago. Here’s hoping he’ll actually pull some kind of coup over there and reignite the hope of resistance that we had in the first three episodes of the season. Because honestly, we’re feeling a bit heavy after these last three installments. We need something good to happen, and learning that Nick isn’t actually a sinister Commander who tricked June into believing he was worthy and a life raft in this terrible world would definitely, absolutely be something good.