Summary: In flashbacks, Lydia captures Offred and introduces her to the Red Center. In the present, Serena confronts Offred about what she did with Fred. Offred learns she is pregnant. Serena shows Offred where Hannah is living and ensures that she will be kept safe. Offred shares some venomous words with Serena. Warren is amputated as punishment for his crimes. Janine is to be executed by the handmaids, but they all disobey Aunt Lydia and refuse to do it. Offred open the package to discover letters from other handmaids. Nick takes Offred from the Waterford residence into a van. Moira reaches Little America and reunites with Luke.
The Good: This was an excellent season finale which had a lot of great cathartic moments and also consisted of a lot of unclear scenes which served to set up a fantastic cliffhanger leading into the next season.
I'll start by discussing the early parts of the episode first. Offred and Serena's scenes were simply excellent throughout. Serena was brilliant as she was awful to Offred while also managing to be relatable as she is so clearly desperate to have a child. It was wonderful to see Serena berate Offred for what she did with Fred before immediately forcing her to take a pregnancy test. That scene alone does a great job of demonstrating what Serena's priorities are. Better yet though, was their subsequent tri where Serena takes Offred to show her where Hannah is currently living. What followed was one of the show's most powerful moments as Offred was forced to helplessly watch as Hannah was mere metres away from her but she was unable to get her attention. And if that wasn't enough, the show follows up with a wonderfully cold outburst from Offred towards Serena which was effective on pretty much every level of emotional storytelling (see: Best Moment).
Another major character who had some great scenes was Fred. While we unfortunately still don't know much about him (see: The Bad), it's made crystal clear that Fred is an awful human being at this point. We learn that Serena is aware of what Fred had been doing with Offred and is very upset by it, and Fred very clearly doesn't care. But after a tremendous scene where Fred learns that people actually do listen to the wives' opinion when laying down sentences on the husbands, Fred does a total 180 and tells Serena exactly what she wants to hear: he made mistakes but it's okay because now they are going to have a baby. It was a really good way to set up season 2 which I presume will have a fair bit more focus on the relationship between these 2, especially with Offred seemingly going somewhere else.
Let's talk about that ending now. We know very little about what actually happened to Offred and that makes it a fantastic cliffhanger going into season 2. Nick tells her to trust him but we can't say for sure where his current allegiances lie, and I can't say if he is making a move for himself against the Waterfords or if he is genuinely helping her. It's wonderfully ambiguous and does a great job of putting us in Offred's shoes as we have as much of an idea of what's happening as she does. A great ending.
I really loved the climactic scene with Janine's attempted execution. It was suitably grim when we realized what was happening and I thought Ann Dowd was spectacular as she conveyed the conflict within Aunt Lydia as she sentenced Janine to death. The subsequent refusal from the handmaids was a great moment and finally gave us something to cheer about in this show so filled with misery. The "I'm sorry Aunt Lydia" line was superbly used as well and was a great callback to the flashback which opened the episode, giving the moment even more power. Lastly, the group walk from the handmaids felt very earned after that scene and I thought it was 100 times more effective than the weak ending from "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum".
Seeing Moira meet Luke was a nice moment as well. Her actual arrival in Little America was great and Samira Wiley did an excellent job of conveying the shock of actually being able to live her own life without being somebody else's tool for the first time in years. Her meeting with Luke didn't feel hollow at all despite my complaints about their characters, and I think it had a suitable amount of emotional resonance to it, created by the idea that these 2 characters were alone for so long and now they finally have somebody again.
The Bad: It was disappointing to not get any information on Fred's backstory. He had been such a fascinating mystery throughout the season, so to discover that he is a total scumbag without any motives behind why he chose to be a scumbag was extremely weak. It feels really lazy in the same way it was lazy that no detail was given to how Gilead functions.
I was very displeased with Moira's escape from Gilead. We had a whole episode wasted on Luke leaving Gilead, which established how hard it was to escape, yet Moira just casually drives out of Gilead with no focus given to her. That's such a cop out and is completely disappointing on every level while also making "The Other Side" feel like even more of a waste of time. Furthermore, we know that Moira was caught when she left before but we never found out how. Had we been explained this, it could have created some genuine tension as Moira left in the previous episode with her knowing that she can't afford to make the same mistake again. It could have made for a tense story which gave us a bit more insight on Moira's character and it also would have made the scene where Moira reaches Ontario much more powerful than it was. Instead we got practically nothing for her which was a huge waste of storytelling potential.
The Unknown: What consequences did Aunt Lydia have in mind for the handmaids? Could the end of the episode be those consequences coming to fruition?
What are Nick's motives at the ending? He openly displayed his love in front of Serena earlier in the episode, so could that have had something to do with it? Was Nick perhaps choosing to escape before Serena learns anything more? Or is it nothing to do with that? Is Nick saving Offred from Aunt Lydia? Or has he turned the other way and decided to turn Offred in for something? Will Offred's pregnancy save her? Could Offred's pregnancy be why she was taken away? Could it be because Nick told somebody about Fred's activities with Offred? There are so many questions to keep us hooked into season 2 which is great.
Best Moment: Offred throwing everything at Serena for teasing her with a simple view of Hannah was tremendous. It felt real because we know that Offred has been on the edge for a long time, and this was the shove over the edge that sent her into emotional hell. Her words had real venom to them and really hit hard.
Character of the Episode: Offred.
Conclusion: This was an excellent finale with a lot of extremely powerful and memorable moments. It had some flaws throughout, but the storytelling was more than good enough to overcome them to make this episode stand out. I'm definitely excited for season 2.
As for the season as a whole, I thought it was pretty good, but it had a lot of weaker aspects including its side characters and world-building. Honestly if this show's acting and storytelling wasn't as stellar as it was, this would have been a pretty big flop of a TV show. Thankfully though the performances invested me into the storylines and even if the writing dropped the ball a number of times, I still enjoyed it because I had gotten invested to a few of the characters. In the end this season was good, but I think it could have been great had some things been handled better. Let's hope that season 2 fixes the problems I had so this show can hit the next level which I know it's fully capable of hitting.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.