Did ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Make A Mistake Cutting Nick’s Scenes?

Max Minghella The Handmaid's Tale Nick
Max Minghella plays Nick | (David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

The Handmaid’s Tale made headlines for its tense and emotional season finale. For the third season in a row, the last episode of the season ended on a cliffhanger. In some ways, the finale left viewers with more questions than answers. Showrunner Bruce Miller answered one of those questions and admitted the show cut Nick’s scenes from the final episodes of the third season.

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Why did ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ cut Nick’s scenes?

At the start of the season, Max Minghella told fans he filmed scenes where he shot a machine gun. Fans waited expectantly for these scenes, but Nick never appeared again. After the finale aired, Bruce Miller admitted Nick’s scenes were cut from the final episodes. 

“We just don’t have the real estate in the show,” said Miller. “… sometimes you have to make those decisions when you’re trying to make a good TV show overall.”

The harsh question must be asked. Was a good TV show made when Nick’s scenes were cut? Over the past three years, The Handmaid’s Tale has objectively decreased in quality. The first season of the show earned a critic’s score of 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of 91 percent. The second season dropped to a critic’s score of 89 percent and audience score of 80 percent. After the finale aired, the third season dropped to a critic’s score of 81 percent. To make matters worse, the audience score dropped to 56 percent. This made it the show’s first season to earn a “Rotten” score overall. 

In the first two seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale, Nick appeared in all but two episodes. In the third season, he only appeared in three episodes. After Nick’s final episode, the following two episodes each only earned a critic’s score of 63 percent. That is the lowest critic score in show history. Objectively speaking, The Handmaid’s Tale was not a good TV show for a large part of its third season.

Maybe there is another reason ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ cut Nick’s scenes

In an interview, Minghella described his character’s journey as “The family is no more.” Executive producer Warren Littlefield said that while Nick was in Chicago, Nick still had an effect on June and their daughter’s lives. He also mentioned a revelation about Nick’s past was debated in the writing room. It seems the revelation Littlefield referenced was that Nick was a soldier during the start of Gilead.

This revelation did not go over well with fans. Most assumed Nick always had a shady past and did not need it specified. Others did not appreciate Nick being made out to be a villain when his character in Margaret Atwood’s novel and the first two seasons of the show had ties to the resistance. Were Nick’s scenes cut to prevent further backlash from fans?

Nick’s absence pushed June on her season’s journey

According to Miller, producers decided to cut Nick’s scenes to make the audience feel the same way June does. “When Nick’s gone, he’s truly gone for June, because it’s not like she can look on the Internet or call,” Miller said. “It’s like he was plucked off the face of the earth, and in the novel that was such a strong feeling, that he kind of disappeared.”

Nick’s revelation and disappearance apparently pushed June to become the ruthless person she was during the final episodes. “If you look at it from a slightly different direction, June is learning that even a nice guy could’ve done horrible things. And that gives her permission to be a nice person who does horrible things,” he said.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has more than a Nick problem

Cutting Nick’s scenes was not part of the show’s original plan, and the showrunners have now given three different reasons explaining his absence. This hints at a different problem for The Handmaid’s Tale. From a viewer’s perspective, the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale was short on plot. Instead, it attempted to make viewers sympathize with its villains and turned its heroes into villains in an effort to keep things interesting. 

For countless episodes in The Handmaid’s Tale, fans were forced to empathize with Serena as she mourned a child she kidnapped. They wasted screen time to show Serena and Fred make friends in Canada. Three painfully slow episodes showed June being reckless and losing Hannah again followed by a poorly handled story line with race dynamics

Miller admitted the show cut other characters’ scenes. “We had all sorts of other stuff with Nick, and with characters like Janine and Moira,” he said

Some of the show’s most cathartic moments come from the supporting characters in Canada. In previous seasons, the love between Nick and June provided fans with a sweet reprieve from the violence. If The Handmaid’s Tale wants to be successful, it needs to make a change. It needs to stop attempting to make the show’s irredeemable characters nuanced and find a way to include more supporting characters into the plot. If the show does not develop the confidence to move away from June versus the Waterford family, there won’t be much of a show to watch.