There's no denying that The Handmaid's Tale is dark, but over the course of the first season, the Hulu drama has begun to focus more on the hope that this world can change rather than just how those trapped in Gilead manage to survive it. And in the season finale, the handmaids acted on that hope and finally experienced a much-needed (and much-deserved) win.
[Spoiler alert: The following contains spoilers from The Handmaid's Tale season finale.]
In Wednesday's episode "Night," Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) gathers the handmaids for a ritualistic stoning. And though we've seen the enslaved women brutally beat a man to death earlier this season without hesitation, this time is different. This time, it's one of their own in the center of the circle.
The women are horrified to learn that the person Aunt Lydia wants them kill is Janine (Madeline Brewer), who was sentenced to death after kidnapping and nearly killing her child. Ofglen is the first to speak out against this ghastly order, saying it's insane to ask them to kill their friend. When she refuses to get back in line, a Guardian hits her in the face with the barrel of his gun and drags her off.
With everyone else frozen in indecision, it's up to Offred (Elisabeth Moss) to take action. With a steely poise, she walks into the center of the circle until she's face-to-face with Aunt Lydia. Offred holds out her hand and drops the rock to her feet before issuing a faux apology."I'm sorry, Aunt Lydia." Soon, the other handmaid's follow suit, throwing their stones to the ground where Janine continues to sit unharmed.
Having never faced a rebellion like this, a shaken Aunt Lydia orders the women to return to their homes, but warns them that there will be consequences -- not that the women seem too worried about it in the moment. Instead, they seem empowered. Refusing to kill Janine was only the first step, but it was an important one. It was proof -- to the handmaids and those in charge -- that they have more power than Gilead leads them to believe.
It will be interesting to see how the handmaids and Mayday rebellion are able to build upon this public showing of solidarity, autonomy and strength in Season 2. It'll be even more interesting to see the role Offred plays in the rebellion's next steps seeing as the finale left her in the back of an Eye's van pregnant with Nick's (Max Minghella) child.
But no matter where Offred is headed in the final moments of the season, she'll find her way back into the fray of the rebellion soon enough. We have a feeling they'll need her.
The Handmaid's Tale's entire first season is available on Hulu now.