‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: How the First Offred Helped Nick Become an Eye
Nick Blaine’s backstory in The Handmaid’s Tale hasn’t been frequently addressed. But there have been some scenes showing how he got involved with Gilead. Now, in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, he’s not just involved—he’s the Commander in charge of the Eyes. But how did he go from a low rung of the Sons of Jacob to a powerful Commander? It all started with the first Offred and the Eyes.
Is Nick an eye in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?
The Eyes are Gilead’s secret police. Ofglen/Emily (Alexis Bledel) warned June there was an Eye in her house in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1. Nick was the obvious assumption. And he confirmed as much to June when she asked him for the truth. But he showed a disapproval of Gilead early on.
Nick was poor and couldn’t hold a job before Gilead. He was recruited into the Sons of Jacob by Commander Pryce, and one of Nick’s first jobs was as Pryce’s driver. When Gilead took over the United States, Nick was taken care of. And we was reassigned to Fred Waterford. But Nick never truly shared Gilead’s beliefs. He was complicit in its actions because of his involvement in Gilead’s military during the coup. But he became more and more disillusioned as time went on. This progressed at the Waterford house.
Commander Waterford made Nick want to get involved in changing Gilead. He witnessed Fred’s treatment of the first Offred and couldn’t stomach watching him repeat the same behaviors with June. (Of course, his developing feelings for June had a lot to do with that as well.) While his relationship with June absolutely radicalized Nick more than before, it was the first Offred who initially lit that fire.
The first Offred’s death led to Nick becoming an Eye
While she was only briefly seen in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 Episode 8, “Jezebels,” the first Offred changed the Waterford house forever. She was Fred and Serena Joy’s first Handmaid, with whom Fred also had an affair. Like June, she was coerced into this relationship. And watching Fred take June to the Jezebels house in their district brought back Nick’s memories of the first Offred’s death.
Because of the abuse she endured in Gilead and at the Waterford’s house—and because of the affair she was forced into—the first Offred killed herself in her bedroom (June’s bedroom). A flashback in “Jezebels” showed the heartbreaking scene of Rita discovering what Offred had done and Nick trying to save her by cutting her down from the ceiling lamp. But it was too late. And as her body was taken away by Gilead officials, Nick had tears in his eyes. The flashback ended back in present day, as a clearly angered Nick watched Fred take June upstairs at Jezebels.
The first Offred’s death motivated Nick to become an Eye so he could fight Gilead from the inside. But also so he could bring corrupt commanders like Fred to task. Nick is similar to Aunt Lydia in this sense. They both think Gilead could work, if only the bad actors were dealt with. However, Lydia’s beliefs are rooted in her religious faith. Nick’s complacency comes from not being that affected by Gilead’s horrors. Fans on Reddit think Gilead wanted Nick to be an Eye for different reasons.
“I’m sure Nick was only accepted as an Eye because they wanted to keep an eye on Fred after the Handmaid killed herself,” one user wrote. “Also Nick’s boss seemed to be sick of Fred’s sh-t before he died.”
Is Nick loyal to Gilead?
It’s true that Nick’s disapproval of Gilead seemed to be more of a disapproval of Fred than the regime at large. But while his loyalty may seem to be with Gilead from time to time, Nick has never truly supported the regime. The first Offred’s death, witnessing June’s mistreatment by the Waterford’s, not being able to raise his and June’s daughter or even recognize her as his own, his marriage to Eden with its horrific ending—all of these things radicalized Nick further. In The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, viewers got to see him use the influence he’d been building up for seasons against his ultimate persona non grata.
In The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 finale, Nick delivered Fred to June to be killed. He and Commander Lawrence were the Commanders who “welcomed” him back to Canada before his imminent death. And it was a full-circle moment. The first Offred’s death marked the beginning of Nick’s rebellion against Gilead leadership. Now, with his power and influence as a Commander in charge of Gilead’s secret police, he’s helped orchestrate the death of the commander he hated the most. With Fred gone, Nick can focus his resistance efforts elsewhere. And based on what The Testaments says about Nick, he’s only going to get more and more involved in taking Gilead down.