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 Handmaids in line is just one of the impediments she has to 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 guardians pass by the farm asking questions, June is beckoned off site by a mysterious woman. The guardians’ arrival means the Handmaids’ time at the safe house is about to come to an end. Before leaving they question whether moving on to another safe house or heading south to the Republic of Texas is the best move. Amid the uncertainty, June is resolute and calms their fears somewhat before heading out for her rendezvous.
Nightshade is like a callback in some respects and also touches on some of the lesser developed aspects of The Handmaid’s Tale universe. One way it achieves this is by further exploring the way in which men of Gilead use women for their amusement. This was previously touched upon when June posed as an escort, went to Jezebels in Boston and eventually ended up killing Commander Winslow. June’s presence at a nearby Jezebels is required once again, this time by Daisy a member of the resistance, played by Laura Vandervoort. Intel on a new safe house is shared during a clandestine chat in a greenhouse 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. 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 of 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. Growing up in Gilead was normal for him and with that taken away he rejects his new family dynamic. Trying to do the right thing can be hard and it’s a lesson Moira learns. The unintended consequences of June’s actions complicate Moira’s ability to do her job – that is until she reaches out to Rita, who arrived in Toronto on the same plane as Asher.
June’s low key assault of Jezebels 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 suddenly explodes. Scared and covered in blood she watches Nick step into the darkness. Nick wants to know where the Handmaids are while promising to do what he can to keep her alive.
Nightshade breezes along from scene to scene with some 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.