The Handmaid's Tale Finale Recap: So, About That Ending

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Like Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale ends on a cliffhanger. But unlike the book, the story won't end there. With the show renewed for another season on Hulu, we'll hopefully get to find out more about Offred's fate after she's escorted out of the Waterford house by a squadron of Eyes. But for now, let's dive into what we do know.
"Night" starts with a flashback to June's early days at the Red Centre, back before she knew to automatically keep her eyes lowered, and hands clasped. (Aunt Lydia is in fine form: "Look at these outfits; it's a parade of sluts," is catchphrase material.) June is taken to a scary room where something is implanted into her ear (a tracking chip of some sort?), because, as the Aunts croon, "you are so very precious, we wouldn't want to lose you." (Will this become significant in season 2? It seems kind of weird to throw it in at the end for no reason.)
Throughout this memory, June muses about the looks of terror on her fellow handmaids' faces. That look, so common during the early days of Gilead, is gone now, replaced by one of defiance. "It's their own fault," June says. "They should never have given us uniforms if they didn't want us to be an army."
Speaking of defiance, Offred hides the package sent to her by Moira behind the bathtub for safekeeping. She's still basking in the light of her recent triumph when she enters her bedroom, only to be smacked in the face by a very angry Serena Joy. She holds up the Jezebel's dress. Fuck. She's terrifying, but at the same time, I feel bad for her as she cries: "You could have left me with something." But then she violently grabs Offred and makes her take a pregnancy test. I have never in my life been so anxious to see those blue bars predict a positive result, for Offred's and Serena's sake.
Praised be! Turns out Nick is a rare jewel — Offred is pregnant. This is good and bad news. Good, because Serena Joy won't harm her while she's carrying a baby. And bad, because as Offred points out, nobody wants to bring a child into this insane world.
Now that she can't knock Offred around, Serena takes her rage out on her husband, who is, by the way, the appropriate recipient. She's waiting for him in his office when he gets home that night, the Scrabble pieces spread out around her. As I predicted, dressing your sex slave in your wife's cloak is a bad idea. Serena found the makeup on the collar, and guessed the rest. She warns Fred to keep his hands to himself. She doesn't want a repeat of last time, especially now that Offred is pregnant.
Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
In a classic passive asshole move, he puts his lack of control on her, basically accusing his wife of seducing him and leading him into sin. How convenient. He tries to send her to her room (like a child, or a handmaid), but Serena is waaaay past that. This woman is leaving nothing but scorched earth behind her. "She's pregnant," she says. "It isn't yours. You're weak, and God would never let you pass on that weakness. You can't father a child because you're not worthy." My ears are literally still burning. I don't know how Fred isn't just a pile of ash.
The next morning, Serena takes Offred on a secret outing sans Nick, whose reaction to the pregnancy is way cuter than I thought it would be. The reason for her needing an anonymous driver becomes clear when they arrive at their destination: the home where Hannah, Offred's daughter, is being kept. Locked in the back seat, June can only scream and scratch at the windows while Serena Joy laughs with her child. As they pull away, the message here is clear: Don't harm her baby, and she won't harm yours.
Meanwhile, Moira is crossing a frozen tundra, attempting yet another escape from Gilead. Turns out, she needn't worry — she's already in Ontario! Mazel tov, Moira, you made it! Her escaping alone like that surprised me, though — why isn't she helping June?
In other good news, it looks like Warren Putnam is going down for the crime of being a gross cheater. Waterford missteps by suggesting they let him off with a warning, but the mood in Gilead has shifted — there have been too many abuses, and examples need to be made. And so poor Warren loses a hand. Yay, but also ew.
Back at the house, Offred tries to go see Nick but he's not in his garage house. Instead, she pays Waterford a visit. She needs him to protect her daughter. He asks her if the baby she's carrying is his. She lies, and says yes. Of course. "You do that so well," he replies, indicating he knows she's lying. (Later, he'll spin a yarn to Serena about how once Offred gives birth and gets transferred they can all be a family. He does that so well, too.)
That night, Offred unwraps the package that she hid behind the tub. It's not Anthrax, or a bomb, as Moira feared. It's a stack of letters, cries for help from handmaids whose lives have been ripped apart, their children stolen. It's proof of the violence and horror of Gilead.
We catch up with Moira at a Canadian refugee centre. In 5 seconds, she gets more social benefits than she probably ever had living in the United States before Gilead. But her attitude is less confident than the Moira we've been used to so far. It's as if she's forgotten how to be free. (But also, shouldn't the refugee greeter be more equipped to deal with trauma? Like, presumably you know what these women have been through, maybe don't offer them a book so casually?) When she's asked if she has any family in Canada, she says no. She's wrong, though. Later, Luke shows up for a surprise visit. The government called him when her name came up, because of course Luke put Moira down as family; he is the best. The two share a nice moment as Moira finally lets go and allows herself to feel. As the camera pans away, the walls lined with missing persons flyers remind us how many people will never get to experience such a happy reunion.
Offred wakes to the sound of three bells — a salvaging. A stoning, in fact. And the victim is...Janine?! Even Aunt Lydia has trouble getting behind this one. She can barely get the words out when reading the sentence out. "I know how difficult this is girls, I do," she waffles. "But God gives us blessings, and he gives us challenges." Yada yada yada.
Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Surprisingly, the first to speak up is new Ofglen, the same woman who pretty recently told Offred not to fuck with her new life. For her efforts, she gets her jaw bashed in with a rifle butt. That's the last straw for Aunt Lydia, who is simultaneously trying to assert her authority and protect "her girls." In the end, she fails. Offred drops her stone in protest, leading all the others to do the same. Janine is spared — for now. There's still no way she's escaping unscathed.
As Aunt Lydia warns, there will be consequences. But for now, the handmaids are feeling their rebellion, strutting their stuff to the empowering beats of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." ("It's a new dawn/ it's a new day/ it's a new life for me/ And I'm feeling good")
"We said no. We refused to do our duty. To kill Janine. And for that sin we will be punished, I have no doubt," Offred reflects, staring out the window once home. "I ought to be terrified, but I feel serene. There is a kind of hope it seems, even in futility. I tried to make things better, for Hannah. Change the world, even just a little bit."
When the black van pulls up in the driveway she barely moves. Nick arrives first, pulls her close and whispers: "Just go with them. Trust me." Did he organise this? Is it good — an escape? Or has he been fucking with her this whole time? In any case, June goes along. Under the guise of a hug, she tells Rita where to look for the letters, thus ensuring they'll get passed on. Serena accosts them in the hallway, yelling for Fred, who is just as powerless as she is. They've created a monster, and that monster has come to take their baby from them.
The back of the van beckons, June climbs in. Is this the end? Or the beginning? I guess we'll have to wait for next season to find out. See you all next year, which I, for one, will be spending fighting off all the bastards who try to grind me down.

More from TV

R29 Original Series