The Handmaid's Tale: The Bridge
June 7, 2017 9:35 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Offred embarks on a dangerous mission for the resistance. Janine moves to a new posting. Serena Joy suspects the Commander's infidelity.
posted by mochapickle (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
And June stands alone, doing the emotional heavy lifting by herself, while the Wives and Aunts comfort each other on the sidelines as if they'd lost something.

I hope baby Charlotte gets taken away from that stupid wife and given to someone else.

I'm less curious about what's in the package and more about how Moira got it to All Flesh...
posted by elsietheeel at 9:55 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Much, much better than the previous two episodes. Moira's grin at the end is going to energize me for days.

And you know, it's not like a feel a sense of sisterhood with every woman (I'm never going to stand in solidarity with Ivanka Trump, as a woman or a Jew, for example), but part of Gilead's power is keeping the women, of all castes, separate and suspicious of each other. The Wives maintain a superficial friendship because of their station, but there's so much jealousy and judgement. The Handmaidens are encouraged to report each other, for their own sense of safety, but that jealousy and judgement runs there, too. Janine knew June wasn't offering real friendship. She knew June thought she was crazy, too. There was never going to be any dancing, even if things did change.
posted by Ruki at 12:37 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

I don't think think Aunt Lydia would have come to get June if there hadn't been a connection there, and I don't think Janine would have given her the baby and a kiss on the cheek if she didn't think that June really cared about what happened to them, crazy or not. But maybe that's just me being a big dumb empath who still gets surprised when people do cruel and hateful things.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:10 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]

I'm a stereotypical empath, but just because I empathize with someone doesn't mean I like them. I think June empathized with Janine but didn't actually like her, because she made things dangerous. June is focused on survival, and Janine threatens that. Aunt Lydia recognized that quality in June, to be sure, and was right to call on her, but there's also a danger in being the hero.
posted by Ruki at 3:15 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]

Good point. I can see the difference between caring about someone and not liking them. For example: all of my family members who voted for Trump.

Anyway, how about that package? And what is Serena Joy going to do now that she suspects Fred is fooling around with the handmaid AGAIN?
posted by elsietheeel at 3:21 PM on June 7

We know of at least two handmaids who've committed suicide now -- three, if you count Emily (yes, there's a remote chance she's still alive and it's possible she wasn't actually planning to die when she got in the car, but I think it's fair to say at that moment, she no longer cared what happened). I mention this because it seems ... almost commonplace? After all, they've removed everything handmaids could use to take their own lives.

I think, even though they called on June to "save" Janine, everyone mostly cared about getting the baby back. They knew June and Janine were friendly and that Janine was likely to respond to a handmaid more than she was to anyone else.

I was happy there were no flashbacks here! I think we'll probably get a Moira flashback at some point (next season?).

I like the overall idea that there is a growing resistance (the package getting to June through Moira through All Flesh) and there are a lot of cracks in this system. Some people have (maybe rightfully) criticized that they don't believe everyone would've just gone along with this whole thing and it's clear not everyone has. I think that's an interesting and powerful message and one the show has been delivering overall -- you take power where you can find it.

I admire how much depth the show has given to all of its women characters. I liked the scene between Serena Joy and Rita -- these two women just want friends! They are both so incredibly lonely and isolated, as is everyone in this world.

The commander continues to be gross. He thinks he's so much smarter than he actually is (the whole "You wanted to see Moira!" thing, for instance) and remains blinded by the power he thinks he has.

I hope Moira has actually escaped this time. Precedent for women stealing cars hasn't been great so far.

I guess we'll find out next week. Or not. I have enjoyed this season quite a bit.
posted by darksong at 4:12 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

I find Serena Joy way more compelling here than in the book. Ideally, if I were the Martha, I'd have thrown my drink at her, but I also know I'd never, ever, really do that in that situation.
posted by Ruki at 4:29 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

The things I think are tin the package are foreshadowed in the Luke episode...

Agree that getting the baby back was everyone else's only concern.
posted by tilde at 8:08 PM on June 7

Praise be, bitch.
posted by Grandysaur at 8:13 PM on June 7 [20 favorites]

I LOVED it when she read that! Like Nolite the Bastard Carborundorum, I want a tee shirt that says: praise be, bitch. Or another protest sign.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:45 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

-- me yelling at my TV when she got in the car and grinned, because dear God did I need that moment of catharsis and triumph after the previous hour.

Janine broke my heart. The new wife, who moves so quickly from acting nice to holding her down as she fights to escape - this is the first Ceremony that truly felt like watching an assault, as opposed to the "let's get through this thing we all know has to happen" sense of tedium from June et al. I cheered when she yelled and fought them off, and was frankly relieved for her when she jumped off the bridge. What else is she supposed to do? Gilead has stolen two of her children and one of her eyes and she may be crazy but she still understands that even if everything switches back tomorrow, things can't be as they were before. Poor Janine, just wanted to end her story on her own terms. At least she took Putnam down with her.

The hospital scene was terrifying. Are they keeping her alive to be executed as an example later? Or because hey, a womb is a womb and just because she's mentally and physically broken is no reason to let it go that easily? No reason she needs to be conscious for the ceremony to proceed, right? God, I need a shower.

(abrupt tangent)
Someone was credited as Econowife. Was that the woman Serena Joy and Mrs. Putnam met on their walk, the one who admired the baby and got moved along by the guards? She didn't look to be wearing stripes, just a more drab version of the Wives' blue.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:09 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]

Oh, Janine.

Oh, June.
Oh, Moira!

Moira's escape was so satisfying. I want so badly for Moira to floor it all the way to Canada, and I think she'll do that, but we won't see her until next season.

Fred continues to horrify me. This time, he moves in with the squicktastic (and yet surprisingly common!) assumption that all especially close women friends are always game for a threesome. He's like a bingo card of awfulness. It's breathtaking how absolute the rise of Gilead was, and how flawed and incompetent its rulers are.

I'm not sure what the leaders of Gilead had in mind for the end game. All the babies being born are the children of commanders and probably intended to become the next generation of commanders and wives. But who will be their cooks and drivers and guards? Who will be their handmaids?
posted by mochapickle at 9:31 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

> This time, he moves in with the squicktastic (and yet surprisingly common!) assumption that all especially close women friends are always game for a threesome.

I read his attitude as more opportunistic than that, even. I'm sure he was kinda maybe hoping for a threesome if things went that way, but MUCH more importantly, he got to get one up on June by surprising her with Moira, and then got to shame both Moira and June by revealing (so grossly) that he had purchased Moira's services.
posted by desuetude at 9:40 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

Thinking about Janine reminded me of the Baby M verdict.
She was guilty of a breach of contract, and indeed, she did break a very important promise, but we think it is expecting something well beyond normal human capabilities to suggest that this mother should have parted with her newly born infant without a struggle. Other than survival, what stronger force is there? We do not know of, and cannot conceive of, any other case where a perfectly fit mother was expected to surrender her newly born infant, perhaps forever, and was then told she was a bad mother because she did not.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:53 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]

Is it me or are they styling Fred a little worse each time as his monster-ness reveals itself more and more? They had him carefully coiffed for the first time he let June play boardgames, but as it's been more and more about a power play and not an act of kindness, it seems like his hair is receding more, he's more unkempt. When he yelled at her in the hotel room he was completely disheveled. Of course he was always a monster, I'm just talking about seemingly preplanned makeup and costuming to highlight it.
posted by bluecore at 11:09 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

That was some hard watching, I was heartsick thinking he was going to force the point, as a queer woman that hit harder than I expected, I still can't believe he accepted the "not like that", but I am glad he did. Another 'nice' little real-world-jab with him denigrating Moira as a deviant moments after he was well up for a bit of deviance if he were let.
posted by Iteki at 3:09 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]

Someone was credited as Econowife. Was that the woman Serena Joy and Mrs. Putnam met on their walk, the one who admired the baby and got moved along by the guards? She didn't look to be wearing stripes, just a more drab version of the Wives' blue.

When that scene happened, I did think "Is that an Econowife?" but the styling didn't seem to be right. I had been wondering if they were going to incorporate that element of the book but then as the season progressed, I figured it was just going to be too complicated. So maybe next season?
posted by darksong at 4:18 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]

I found this interesting: Where Are All The Fat Women In The Handmaid’s Tale?

Note it was written a couple of episodes ago before the Jezebel's episode, and I'm still weighing how I feel about the cut to the fat woman in BDSM gear... it felt like creepy exploitation to me, but I could also be reacting to the entire essence of Jezebel's.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:33 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

I like how this episode seemed to be about friendships between women, however tenuous and superficial. I loved the scene between Rita and Serena. My understanding was Rita's son died fighting against the Son's of Jacob, right?

Bluecore, I did notice during the bridge scene that Fred looked pretty unshaven but I asssumed that was because they'd all rushed out of the house so early. If they are intentionally grubbing him up that's some pretty genius preplanning.

I can only assume Janine's paralyzed (or whatever) body will continue to be used for handmaiden purposes.

The things I think are tin the package are foreshadowed in the Luke episode...

Let's hear it. Only thing I can think of is the gun?
posted by Brittanie at 8:47 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

As a fat submissive who does the collar thing, I felt like the fat woman at Jezebel's was supposed to be an example of extreme kink instead of body diversity (along the lines of the man licking the woman's stump in the elevator) but I couldn't help but be thrilled to see someone who looked just like me as a sexual being on screen nonetheless.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 8:55 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

> As a fat submissive who does the collar thing, I felt like the fat woman at Jezebel's was supposed to be an example of extreme kink instead of body diversity (along the lines of the man licking the woman's stump in the elevator)

I totally agree that she was presented as kink.

I also wonder where all the fat women are in Gilead. I feel like I vaguely recall some plump unnamed handmaids in very early episodes, but maybe I'm imagining that, as the recurring cast seems to be all within a distinctly size 8 or less range? Which is weird, really. I mean, that's just not how bodies work.
posted by desuetude at 11:18 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

(sort of related: when Serena Joy took her uniform out of the box, I wanted to know the production and product management of the design: was a woman involved? do they order new dresses from amazon? are there different sizes? is there a uniform factory in China producing them?)
posted by armacy at 5:23 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

Funnily enough, I was thinking about fat women too. Aunt Lydia is the only fat woman I recall. The Martha at Offreds house does seem to have the middle aged chunk on. And the econo-or-not wife wasn't a tall thin yoga wife body set.
Let's hear it. Only thing I can think of is the gun?

The spoiler item from the book was in the episode as well. Caught my eye because I was given one at my fifth Christmas and because it's a key element in the source material. But to be fair I only think I caught it on the second watching.
posted by tilde at 5:37 AM on June 9

(sort of related: when Serena Joy took her uniform out of the box, I wanted to know the production and product management of the design: was a woman involved? do they order new dresses from amazon? are there different sizes? is there a uniform factory in China producing them?)

posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:24 AM on June 9 [16 favorites]

Regarding their bodies, I assumed that the nutrition of the handmaids is tightly controlled to keep them 'healthy' i.e., ready for pregnancy in this case, as being significantly over or underweight does cause difficulties with conception and pregnancy.

Also the Mexican delegation implied that there are problems with trade and food production so highly sweetened, calorie rich food like chocolates are less available. There's a definite 'back to nature' feel to Gilead and most of the food we've seen is basic fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and bread. It also seems to be rationed even for the Commanders.

And we've only seen The elite of Gilead. I wouldn't be surprised if normal people are starving. There's probably just not enough food to legit feed everyone.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 7:32 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]

It was so refreshing to see June have some agency! It felt like this episode was the first time we saw her really initiating a plan of her own in the Gilead age. I mean she's certainly taken as much control as she could in previous episodes but circumstances have mostly forced her to go along with what is happening around her, at most sneaking into the Commander's office even when not called for. But here she plans a whole spy mission! And manipulates Fred to take her there! It comes at great personal cost, and it's a little clumsy, but it's freedom of a sort.

The key thing is her mission takes her out of the house. So does Moira's mission, the stabbing and carjacking escape. Even Janine's mission to the bridge is her taking agency and trying to escape in the only way she thinks she can. Three escapes from captivity, three results. I hope Moira's is permanent!
posted by Nelson at 8:10 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]

I'm finding myself weirdly fascinated by Aunt Lydia, and I'm wondering if we'll get a flashback episode for her. I want to know just how much of a true believer she is, and if she started out that way.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:50 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]

Yes! I find Aunt Lydia such a compelling character and would love to see some backstory on her. How did the Aunts get recruited? Were they given a choice between serving or going to the colonies? Or were the Aunts true believers who were involved in the creation of Gilead from the beginning? I am fascinated!

I am also so bummed to have to wait until 2018 for the second season!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 1:04 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Aunt Lydia is fantastic, agreed. She seems to genuinely care about her girls, a true loving Aunt, just one who does not spare the rod. It's hideous.

The actress Ann Dowd is terrific; she was great in The Leftovers, too. I posted this a couple weeks back; there's a great interview with her where she talks about how she sees Aunt Lydia's character and motivations.
posted by Nelson at 1:06 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]

I also wonder where all the fat women are in Gilead.

I think there's a couple factors of Gilead society in play there. First off, the extreme cultural rejection of 'frivolous' items seems to cover food as well - in the groceries, junk food seems nonexistent and fresh produce is put to the forefront. Similarly, I recall the diplomatic talks with Mexico seemed to spend some time talking about environmentally friendly agriculture flourishing. All in all, the consumables seem distinctly divergent from the empty calories of a majority of american food today.

Also, women have been completely removed from the workforce and re-delegated to 'domestic' responsibilities, and are then judged entirely on their desirability to men based on fulfilling these constrained roles along with their physical partnership. I imagine there's a lot of 'body is a temple' style exercise regiments going on in the background along with all the other ritualized behaviors.

Also also wik, even the wives at the top of the social hierarchy are kept pets, only valued for their fulfillment of male demands and restrictions. On top of that, it seems most men don't even qualify for marriage, so the supply of 'desirable wives' will far outstrip the demand of the limited pool of men at the top of the social pyramid. This will compound into hyper-competitive adoption of the traits those men are conditioning the captive women to conform to... and in a culture like this, 'traditional' beauty standards are likely even more strict.

All in all, these social market forces will likely combine to form a very specific type of woman who gets to be elevated to visibility in Gilead. One would hope that the spectrum of humanity outside that stunted culture would be a little broader, but aside from a brief glimpse of a few people in Canada it hasn't really been explored.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:22 PM on June 9

I suspect that Aunts were once midwives. Possibly other obgyn professionals, but midwives feels right. They get told what's going to happen and are offered the option of either bootcamping these women any way it takes or letting them go in unprepared to the horror of their situation and also risking both mother and child's lives in childbirth. I think it's possible the aunts aren't unequivocably monstrous.
posted by Iteki at 2:05 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I see the Aunts as the post-menopausal True Believers. Specifically, I see the Aunts as a collective embodiment of Phyllis Schlafly.
posted by Ruki at 7:33 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I don't see the Aunts as having any actual expertise in women's health, just that they're older women capable of efficiently and competently projecting a sort of pastoral authority over women, while nonetheless comfortable operating in a highly patriarchal society.

Drawing from my own experience, I'm picturing lay church leaders, widows heavily involved in volunteer work, and women with traditionally "feminine" careers like secretaries, schoolteachers, etc. who championed "traditional values."
posted by desuetude at 10:13 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]

I would also assume Lydia and the Aunts have no medical background. That birth was laughable. Wasn't it the other Handmaids who began quietly coaching when the baby was being born, using their own experience of giving birth as reference? And this society has so many damaged births. Probably high maternal deaths along with high infant and fetal deaths. There is no prenatal care. The Aunts seem like former anti abortionists who run those horridly inept pregnancy centers of misinformation now. Maybe Lydia means well but her misogyny makes her repeatedly cruel.

Come to think of it I bet the 'doctor' the Handmaids go to for monthly check ups isn't a doctor either. That man could easily be an overconfident lab tech, who would know how to collect a STD swab but not be smart enough to challenge the party who put real doctors up on the wall.

This culture is doomed. It's just a question of how cruel each of the converted will chose to be.
posted by dog food sugar at 2:29 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

He is a real doctor. We first see him in the before time delivering June's daughter.
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:46 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

How do you know really with no governing body certifying their creditials or fitness to practice? I doubt Gideon has state licensing boards verifying them. What's the difference between that guy and the doctors on the wall? It's not any sort of ethical practice going on.
posted by dog food sugar at 3:13 PM on June 12

I'm assuming the entire healthcare community fell apart before Gileon took over. Maybe people began to trust doctors less and less as providers only had bad news for patients. And then maybe government funding got cut for research. No one knew what caused the decrease in birth so religious leaders could fill in the holes. And then any sort of funding like Medicare or Medicaid got cut. Then hospitals couldn't support case managers or social workers who found help or grants for marginalized groups. So even less trust in the industry developed. The government agencies that regulated care were unsupported financially and positions unfilled so unethical staff remained unsupervised and rewarded. I now need to rewatch the birth of June's daughter episode but it bugged me the first time even. The nurse saying 'praise be?' And what sort of healthcare unit sends all their patients to the ICU overnight? Or allows strangers to pass security and handle a healthy baby and potentially take it? In incompetent one, that's who. Yes environmental factors had something to do with the decrease in births world over. But the silencing of the sciences allowed for zealots to make up their own nonsense and dependable institutions like healthcare collapsed. This show and the places it makes my head go is terrifying.
posted by dog food sugar at 4:06 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

This show and the places it makes my head go is terrifying.

Hello, welcome to the state of mind most of us have been in for months, if not years or decades.

I'd say 'enjoy your stay', but...
posted by elsietheeel at 8:41 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

I know the "colour-blind" casting isn't accurate to the book, or realistic compared to current institutional racism... but damn, Samira Wiley's gleeful grin at the end of this episode is amazing. I loved her in OITNB and I'm glad we get to see her Moira. I hope that at least one factor in the show-runners' decision-making was the opportunity to give great roles to actors and actresses of colour who deserve the exposure, even if it was a trade-off for other important factors.
posted by harriet vane at 8:49 PM on August 1

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