The Handmaid’s Tale 402 – Nightshade
Warning: Review contains spoilers!
Complications. If there is one word that comes to mind after watching Nightshade, the second episode of The Handmaid’s Tale’s fourth season, it is complications. Being the leader of a rebellion, particularly a fledgling one is no easy task, and June is discovering that keeping her Handmaid’s in line is just one of the wrinkles she must face. June isn’t the only one facing obstacles though as Moira has her own challenges to overcome and Serena’s plans hit a snag with some unexpected news.
After a couple of Gilead’s finest come by the farm asking questions, June is beckoned off site by a mysterious woman. Before leaving though the Handmaids question whether moving on to another safe house or heading south is the best move. June calms their fears somewhat before heading out for her rendezvous.
Nightshade is like a callback in some respects and touches on some of the lesser developed aspects of The Handmaid Tale’s universe. One way it achieves this is by further exploring the way in which women are seen as amusement for the men of Gilead. This was touched upon when June went to Boston as a high-priced escort and eventually ended up killing Commander Winslow at Jezebels. June’s presence at a local Jezebels is required once again, this time by Daisy a member of the resistance, played by Laura Vandervoort. Intel on a new safehouse is shared during a clandestine chat in a greenhouse. The conversation quickly turns to taking advantage of the current situation and a plot is hatched to wipe out members of Gilead’s military before they assemble in Chicago.
Serena’s loyalty to Fred has always been a complicated one, even if her motives appeared easy to comprehend. The conflict within her bubbles to the surface a few times in Nightshade beginning with her physical exam conducted by the Canadians. The line of questioning she faces lays bare the contradictions she lives by all in the pursuit of having a child. Trapped in a prison of her own making those contradictions become even more apparent when her appeal to Fred is flatly rejected. All the abuse she suffered by Fred’s hand, rationalized as just punishment for her sins, take on a new significance when Trullo reveals that she’s pregnant.
Gilead’s impact on children is another aspect of the show that up until now hasn’t been given a lot of focus. Moira’s interaction with Asher is a rocky one. Asher, taken from the only life he knows, struggles adjusting to life outside of Gilead. For him Gilead was normal, and he rejects his new family dynamic. Trying to do the right thing can be hard and it’s a lesson Moira learns with Asher. The unintended consequences of June’s actions complicate Moira’s ability to do her job – that is until she reaches out to Rita, who was on the plane to Toronto with him.
June’s low-key assault of Jezebel’s goes off without a hitch until she returns to the farm. Concerned for the safety of her Handmaids her suspicions are confirmed when her driver’s head explodes. Covered in blood she watches Nick emerge into the darkness. Looking for the Handmaids as well, Nick spares her life, but June knows that he can only do so much without blowing his own cover.
Nightshade breezes along from scene to scene with a couple of twists and one big revelation that is sure to reverberate throughout the rest of the season. While not as entertaining as the season premiere Nightshade delivers continuing June’s emergence as the leader of the rebellion and introducing a curious development for the Waterfords.