Why Is Nick Such a Polarizing Character on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?

The Handmaid’s Tale finished its third season in August 2019. The fourth season of the show is expected to premiere sometime in 2020. Season 3 saw one character become divisive among viewers. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Nick Blaine, played by Max Minghella, surprisingly became a polarizing character.

Nick The Handmaid's Tale
Max Minghella plays Nick in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Nick has always been ambiguous

In The Handmaid’s Tale, Nick is a driver for the Waterford family and June’s lover. In the second season, the two have a daughter together named Holly. For the first two seasons of the show, Nick was a standout fan-favorite character, most likely because his scenes with June provided hope and were lighter compared to the show’s bleak tone.

The show is known for its dynamic and multi-faced female characters, even if they are villains. In comparison, the men on The Handmaid’s Tale range from complacent to downright evil. In both the TV show and the novel, Nick is written to be ambiguous, though he morally seems to be opposed to Gilead’s philosophy.

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Is there a future for Nick and June?

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The third season saw Nick promoted to a commander in Gilead. Midway through the season, June learned that Nick played a role in the start of Gilead. After the revelation, Nick was not seen or heard from. This revelation caused some viewers to detest Nick, while others always assumed Nick had a darker past.

Some fans of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ love Nick

In The Handmaid’s Tale fandom, there are hardcore Nick fans. Some viewers of the show love his relationship with June. Others like the nuance of his character as he was recruited by the Sons of Jacob before Gilead’s creation and found himself in too deep to get out.

“Nick is someone who, in the beginning of SoJ, was willing to go along. Honestly, I think most people who want to condemn Nick for that don’t understand totalitarian regimes or human nature,” one Reddit user wrote. “When push comes to shove, and one’s life is in the balance, instinct is to survive. I’m sure he has done some serious things to survive, but, as he started to learn about the more distasteful ideologies and practices, he turned to the resistance.”

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It's lack of love we die from.

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The same Reddit user also wrote, “As part of the resistance, Nick is playing a very dangerous game against a ruthless totalitarian regime. He has done some things to indicate where his true loyalty lies and has done a lot of damage to Gilead in the process.”

Other fans of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ despise Nick

For every fan that loves Nick, there seems to be another fan who hates him. While some fans can empathize with how Nick was recruited by the Sons of Jacob, other fans view him as a criminal. Fans also do not think Nick is morally opposed to Gilead as he has slowly climbed the ranks since its creation.

“Eh, I don’t like him, I never liked him & his storyline irritates me a lot…,” wrote a Reddit user. “I also don’t care what he regrets. He is a war criminal, and pre-war he knew exactly what he was doing, he was just too selfish to care.”

“I never liked Nick. The revelation of who he really was only confirmed my suspicious… Nick only looks like a good person by contrast. In contrast with people like Aunt Lydia and Commander Winslow, sure Nick’s not that bad… But that doesn’t mean he’s not also a monster in his own right,” another Reddit user wrote.

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Why can fans of the show not agree on the character?

It appears that Nick’s character is written so ambiguously fans are truly split down the middle. This most likely is on purpose, as many of the characters on The Handmaid’s Tale are nuanced. Some of the villains have sympathetic moments while the heroes make ruthless decisions because of the situations they are forced into.

When it comes to Nick, a lot of feelings about the character seem to be subjective. Fans who like him acknowledge his dark past but focus on the good he has done with the resistance. Nick risked his life multiple times to help June escape and he met with the Swiss to try and keep Holly in Canada. He also gave the Mayday letters to Luke which resulted in the Waterfords being forced to leave Canada.

On the other hand, fans who don’t like Nick focus on his involvement with the Sons of Jacob. To them, he was part of Gilead from the beginning and it does not matter why he ended up joining in the first place. He is a war criminal to those outside of Gilead and has not done enough for the resistance to be considered a good guy.