There is a lot to unpack in the Handmaid’s Tale season 1 finale, "Night." Although everyone is rightly stunned by the ending, anyone who read Margaret Atwood's original book knows Offred (Elizabeth Moss) ends up in the exact same situation, albeit different circumstances lead her to the back of an Eye van. While watching the Hulu heroine stare, almost unblinkingly, in the darkness while Tom Petty’s "American Girl" plays is unsettling, this isn’t the finale moment that will haunt me until Handmaid’s returns for season 2 in 2018. That honor goes to Moss’ tear-streaked, no-holds-barred explosion over seeing her daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) while trapped in a car.
At the top of "Night," Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) backhands Offred, who we prefer to call June, over her trips to Jezebel’s and then forces her to take a pregnancy test. It’s positive. Although Serena says "praise be" as much as possible now that June is with child, it’s obvious she’s jealous of the handmaid's pregnancy and her illicit relationship with Fred (Joseph Fiennes). To remind June who’s boss, she takes her on a little drive and warns "don’t touch the curtains." When the women reach their destination it’s revealed why Serena put that idea in June’s head: the Wife desperately wants June to peak out of the curtains, so her villainous scheme can begin.
While peering out the window of a very locked and likely bulletproof car, June watches Serena saunter up the stairs of an unknown building. Mrs. Waterford goes in for a moment and comes back outside with none other than the adorable Hannah, who’s now sporting her Gilead-approved all pink outfit. It’s already heartbreaking to see how this fanatical, criminal government has indoctrinated such an innocent young girl. Moss’ rollercoaster of emotions performance makes the entire scene 100 times more upsetting.
June is first overjoyed to see her daughter alive, even if she can’t touch her. "Hiiiiii," she whispers, her grin nearly breaking her face open. Then, the gleeful mother realizes her passenger door is locked and that’s not changing anytime soon. Her elation turns to alarm as she begs the guard to let her out. The man ignores her, as Serena specifically ordered him to make sure June stays in the car during their visit. "Please, let me out! That’s my daughter!" she screams with wild eyes. "No! Let me out! Hannah! Hannah! Hannah!" Of course, the little girl can’t hear her mother. June is probably in a soundproof car, considering just how paranoid the Gilead elite are. The agony that plays across Moss’ desperate face is impossible to watch as she claws at the windows like a trapped animal and sobs.
After a few short seconds, Hannah is escorted back into her new mystery home. This drives June to the anger stage as she watches Serena calmly walk back to the car as though she didn’t just use a woman’s child against her. Serena continues her devious plot by behaving as though June is overreacted and telling her, "You don’t have to worry about anything. Listen to me. As long as my baby is safe, so is yours" Finally, June realizes she’s dealing with a true monster and begins raging against the dividing glass of their car. "What is wrong with you? How can you do this?" she asks while hyperventilating, all the faux politeness seeping out of her body. "You are deranged. You’re fucking evil. You are a goddamn motherfucking monster." She even calls her tormenter the c-word, spitting, "Fuck you, Serena. You are gonna burn in goddamn motherfucking hell, you crazy, evil bitch!" All Serena can say through her safety glass is, "Don’t get upset. It’s not good for the baby."
There are a lot of powerful moments throughout Handmaid’s Tale, but the sheer range of emotions June plummets in and out of in about three minutes makes this one stand out. And Moss’ handling of her gutting material makes it even better. After years of watching the wonderful Peggy Olson get the short end of the awards show stick, this scene proves Elisabeth Moss better be dropping an acceptance speech for the ages at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards this September.
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