As The Handmaid’s Tale enters the tail-end of its first season, rebellion is starting to heat up. While the first half of the ten-episode season mostly Hulu viewers to the horrible world of Gilead and the stomach-churning conditions the handmaids have to endure, the later episodes began to focus on the movement to change things. Between Offred’s increasingly serious (and dangerous) involvement in Mayday and the knowledge that her husband Luke is trying to fight the good fight from his post up in Canada, The Handmaids Tale is transitioning into a show about fighting back. Except, as the penultimate episode reminds us, not everyone can join the resistance. The very thing they’re fighting against is still powerful and terrible, and it can still break people.
“The Bridge” focuses on two major plots: Offred’s journey back to Jezebels on a mission for Mayday, and Janine’s reassignment as a handmaid. Offred’s story is harrowing, but it ends in triumph, and also sparks a renewed sense of rebellion in Moria, who ends up assisting her friend before making another escape attempt. Both of these women are making a dangerous choice to fight against their situation. Janine also rebels, in a way, but her actions aren’t those of a freedom fighter, but of an understandably broken woman.
Janine — or Ofwarren, as she’s then known — kicks off the episode by handing over her baby to her commander and his wife. Of course, in Gilead, it’s not her baby. She’s distraught, but takes comfort in believing that Commander Warren loves her, and will come rescue her. Her time as Ofdaniel is only temporary.
That’s not what happens. By the end of the episode, Janine is in a coma after attempting suicide by jumping off a bridge — thankfully, without her baby. Janine, emotionally broken, one-eyed Janine, has always served as an example of what Gilead can really do to a person. When we meet her in flashbacks, she’s sassy and crass. Aunt Lydia punishes her by carving out her eye. As Ofwarren, she’s a little loopy, but she’s embraced the handmaid lifestyle. She’s been pushed so far that she has no other option than to embrace her twisted new normal. When that “normal” changes again, and she learns that Warren didn’t care for her as her new Commander, Daniel, rapes her, it’s too much.
Gilead warped Janine into a handmaid “success story” and then broke her. However, her fall doesn’t mean that she’s weaker than Offred or Moria as they flee and fight. The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t look down on Janine — it uses her to illustrate just how terrible Gilead is, in case you’ve forgotten. Part of the reason why Offred fight is on behalf of those, like Janine, who can’t.
The final episode of The Handmaid’s Tale hits Hulu on Wednesday.