For much of The Handmaid’s Tale, June’s relationship with Nick Blaine has provided her a sanctuary of comfort and safety within the brutal, misogynistic regime of Gilead. The father of June’s second child, Nichole, appeared in all but two episodes of the first two seasons. But during Season 3, he appeared in just three episodes.
Despite his conspicuous absence amid June’s daring plot to get dozens of children out of Gilead, multiple interviews with the cast and crew of The Handmaid’s Tale suggest Nick still has a major part to play in the upcoming fourth season. Here’s what we can expect from Max Minghella’s cryptic character going forward.
Where Was Nick During ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3?
In the third episode of Season 3, June learns Nick has been promoted to the rank of Commander, and dispatched the battlefront in Chicago. Minghella told multiple outlets in interviews that his character would get to fire a machine gun this season, though the showrunners ultimately decided to cut a number of the character’s scenes planned for the latter half of the season.
Executive Producer Bruce Miller said that choice was made to place the narrative focus on June’s rebellion plot, and to give her the emotional distance necessary to motivate her to take on such a substantial risk.
“When Nick’s gone, he’s truly gone for June, because it’s not like she can look on the Internet or call,” Miller explained in a recent interview with Bazaar. “It’s like he was plucked off the face of the earth, and in the novel that was such a strong feeling, that he kind of disappeared.”
There’s Still More to Learn About Nick’s Radicalization
Way back in the Season 1 episode, “Jezebels,” we learn how Nick was recruited into the radical conservative group that overthrew the government. After getting into a fight at a job center, the counselor follows him to a coffee shop. That counselor is Andrew Pryce, later Commander Pryce, who tells Nick about the Sons of Jacob and its efforts to “clean up” the country. The group later orchestrates a massive attack on Washington D.C., killing scores of lawmakers and officials and suspending the U.S. constitution. In the Season 3 episode “Household,” we learn that Nick served in the Crusades, meaning he likely participated in this bloody coup.
We know Nick was poor and down on his luck in the pre-Gilead years, but that alone seems an inadequate explanation for why he would willingly adopt such a radical ideology. In Nick’s flashback conversation with Pryce, we learn he had a brother named Joshua, who died as a result of alcoholism shortly after Nick joined the Sons of Jacob.
The show has yet to explore Nick and Joshua’s relationship in detail beyond this flashback, but given that his loyalties are now squarely divided between June and Gilead, we’re bound to learn more about how his brother’s death influenced his past actions in Handmaid’s Tale Season 4. Minghella even hinted toward these tensions in a June interview with Den of Geek.
“He’s clearly tortured and has had to experience quite a lot of trauma, and inflicted quite a lot of trauma, and I don’t know how anybody reconciles that. He’s always struggling with it,” the actor said. “Everything in his life is extremely complicated except for June, and that’s just like, ‘I just love this woman,’ and it kind of clarifies all that stuff for him.”
Will Nick Remain Loyal to Gilead?
While Nick’s love for June might be straightforward and simple in Minghella’s view, things are a bit more complicated from the rebel Handmaid’s perspective. She’s clearly horrified after learning about Nick’s participation in the Crusades from Serena, and if anything his absence seems to liberate her to pursue the bold plan of getting the children out of Gilead. At some point, Nick will likely be forced to choose between June and Nichole and his loyalty to the regime.
Nick has shown sympathy for rebel causes throughout the show’s first two seasons, and he’s been involved with the Mayday network that helped organize the Canada flight to freedom that capped off Season 3. He’s also got no great love for the Waterfords, given that they essentially stole his child and have treated June abominably for years. Back in May 2017, Minghella described Nick’s relationship with Fred and Serena as a submissive one, where he holds none of the power Vanity Fair: “his role on paper is as a guardian and a lawn boy to the Waterford house.” Now that he’s a Commander and the Waterfords are in prison, he no longer needs to fear the repercussions of defying them.
Miller declined to elaborate on Nick’s role in the Waterfords’ storyline in Season 4 in a recent on-camera interview with Entertainment Tonight, clearly made uncomfortable by the reporter’s assumption Minghella’s character would be “intimately involved in where Serena’s story’s going.”
Did Nick tip off the authorities to get Serena arrested? Has he made a heel turn, or is he using his new authority as a Commander to take down Gilead from within? We’ll have to wait until The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 finally lands on Hulu to find out.
Seasons 1-3 of The Handmaid’s Tale are available to stream now on Hulu.