The Handmaid’s Tale delivers its hardest-hitting episode, based almost entirely on original material.

Titles: “The Bridge”
Cast and Crew
Director: Kate Dennis
Eric Tuchman, from the novel by Margaret Atwood

Elisabeth Moss as Offred / June
Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred Waterford
Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford
Madeline Brewer as Janine
Max Minghella as Nick
Samira Wiley as Moira
Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
Ever Carradine as Naomi Putnam
Stephen Kunken as Commander Putnam
Amanda Brugel as Rita
Kristen Gutoskie as Beth
Elena Khan as Martha
Matthew Olver as Commander Daniel Monroe
Birgitte Solem as Putnam Martha

Premise

Janine gets reassigned and finally breaks. Offred/June becomes involved with the resistance, as Gilead’s purge of its own wayward elite becomes apparent.

High Point

No one will ever fully explain the really f messed-up dynamics that exist between men and women, but this episode does an excellent job of showing how social circumstances shape those dynamics. The greater the level of inequality, the more disturbing and necessary those dynamics become. “The Bridge,” while containing original content, matches the satiric brilliance of its source.

Low Point

It’s nitpicking, but everything we have seen reinforces a comment I made earlier this season. Aunt Lydia is the busiest woman in Gilead. I understand they have a strong performer as a genuinely conflicted character and they want to make best use of her. However, they’ve created a character timeline that really doesn’t bear examining too closely.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6

Effects: 4/6

Acting: 6/6 This episode features several extraordinary performances. Elizabeth Moss deserves an Emmy.

Story: 6/6

Emotional Response: 6/6 The Ritual has always been creepy, disturbing, and distressing, but never so much as here, with Janine and her new keepers. Overall, this suspenseful, character-driven episode packs a powerful emotional punch.

Production: 6/6 This episode also contains some clever, paranoia-inducing cinematography.

Overall: 6/6 We have one more episode to close out this season, and bring us to something like the ending of Atwood’s novel1. In total, “The Bridge” receives 38/42

Note

1. Atwood’s novel ends with Offred escaping with the help of the resistance, but we never learn what happens next, other than she records her experiences on an audiotape, before disappearing from the historical records. Decades later, after the fall of Gilead, an academic conference in a Native-dominated Republic of Texas (the infertility plague apparently did not affect most Native people) discusses the significance of the tapes.

This series has been renewed for another, unexpected season. Since we’re nearly at the end of the novel, we’ll presumably get a season dealing with June’s post-Handmaid life and the beginning of Gilead’s end.