In the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, absolutely no one is who they seem. A Martha could be a pious housekeeper or a revolutionary hiding in plain sight (with the bomb making skills to match). A wife, like, say, Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), could help “her” baby escape Gilead one moment and start an international incident to get her back in the next. But, one person seemed to be a warm, trusty, sexy constant for June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss): Nick Blaine (Max Minghella). Nick, June’s romantic oasis against the terrifying backdrop of Gilead.
After three seasons of building Nick up as June’s stoic-but-abiding love interest, Handmaid’s Tale finally starts to tear him down with Wednesday’s “Household.” The episode reveals Nick may be to blame for June’s life-threatening, spirit-breaking situation — and he’s only making matters worse as he heads to the warfront in Chicago. The explanation for the Hulu series’ big Nick bombshell comes down to the crusade.
June first starts to realize something is amiss with Nick when Lena (Workin’ Moms’ Sarah McVie), a Swiss delegate, shows up to the Winslow mansion. June, Serena, and Fred (Joseph Fiennes) are all staying in the D.C. home as the Waterfords try to put pressure on Canada to return Nichole to Gilead. June, on the other hand, is working to keep Nichole with her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) in Toronto. The key to June’s plan is Nick. The Swiss delegates initially promise June they’ll keep Nichole in Canada if Nick, a rising commander and powerful Eye, will spill secrets about the highly mysterious Gilead.
After meeting with Nick, the delegate visits the Winslow home to rescind the deal. “I don’t think you know who Mr. Blaine is,” Lena says. Whoever Nick is — or, as Lena emphasizes, whoever he was in his past — is not someone the Swiss can do business with. According to their research, he is someone “not to be trusted.”
Serena then saunters in to fill in a few blanks for June, sharing the biggest revelations about Nick in Handmaid’s history. According to Serena, Nick “served Gilead” before becoming Fred’s driver. The tone in her voice proves she is talking about something bigger than acting as the now-dead commander Andrew Pryce's (Robert Curtis Brown) right-hand man, as Nick did before entering the Waterfords' home. “He was a soldier in the crusade. We wouldn’t be here without him,” she continues.
While Serena doesn’t come out and say it, all of these hints suggest Nick was part of the original group of men who brought down the capital, turning America over to the terrorist Sons of Jacob, who would then create Gilead. What else is a true crusade, but a war — or, attack — meant to cleanse a country of alleged heretics? For true believers in Gilead, that is exactly what the people who blew up D.C. did.
At minimum, all of these revelations prove Nick was a leading force in the initial war for Gilead to overtake America (the same war where Rita the Martha’s son died). As we see at the end of “Household,” Nick’s military career continues to rise. Earlier this season, Nick told June he was “being sent” to the warfront of Chicago to continue battling the American forces. However, “Household” proves this was a minimization of his involvement in the war effort. Nick isn’t a mere soldier — he’s a general leading an entire train’s-worth of men, all of whom salute him with pure reverence. Nick has a lot of power in Gilead.
If there was ever a time to reveal this secret about Nick, it’s with “Household.” This an episode that lingers on the painful horrors of the American capital remade in the commanders’ extremist vision. The Washington Memorial is now a gigantic cross. The Lincoln Memorial is blown up, destroying the Great Emancipator’s image. The flag now looks an awful lot like Nazi propaganda. No matter what, all of these visuals are are painful for June. But, they're even more painful for June to digest knowing Nick — the closest thing she has to an in-Gilead savior or confidant — probably shoulders a huge portion of the blame for these upsetting sights.
When Handmaid’s Tale started, it revealed that Nick, originally a down-on-his luck and unemployed man, was seduced by the upward mobility promised by Pryce and the Sons of Jacob. But, we never saw what Nick did to really get into Pryce’s inner circle. Now, it appears we know.
When this show tells you who someone is, believe them — no matter how dreamy they happen to be.