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Max Minghella as the married Commander Nick Blaine in 'The Handmaid's Tale'

This Tiny Moment With Nick On The Handmaid's Tale Changes Everything

Ring alert! Ring! Alert!

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In The Handmaid's Tale's first season, the show trod carefully in the romance department. The story of June’s relationship with chauffeur Nick was a complicated one, in which the two found a strange sort of love affair under the most horrendous of circumstances. When the series extended to Season 2 and June and Nick had a baby together, it further twisted the story. The pair’s connection blossomed into a genuine relationship, even as their paths went very separate ways. But Season 4 just revealed just how much distance lies between them, as The Handmaid's Tale fans are pretty certain Nick is now a married man. Like everything about their relationship, there's a lot to unpack here.

Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid's Tale Season 4, Episode 9 follow. The temptation to make June and Nick's relationship fit into the typical “happily ever after” romance is one the series has carefully sidestepped at every opportunity. On the one hand, Nick is a hero, inspired by June's rebellion. He’s the one who smuggled the Handmaids' letters into Canada in Season 2. He’s also the one who attempted to get June out of Gilead and into Canada multiple times over the seasons. But he's also a white, privileged man who benefits from his connections in the Gileadean power structure. And, as was suggested in Season 3, he may have been instrumental in the massacre of the American government that led to Gilead coming into power in the first place.

Moreover, since reaching Commander status, Nick’s work with June has had to stay well below the radar. That meant he had to be the one to bring her in when the Keyes farmhouse was raided. And although he seems to be working with Lawrence to further June's aims from the inside, both men have to be very careful, lest they find themselves caught.

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Considering all this, it was a bit of a shock when Mark Tuello arranged for Nick to meet June in Canada in Episode 9. Fans could be forgiven for suspecting it was a trap as she drove out to meet him at a safe house with Nichole in tow, hoping that some time with his daughter would convince him to help her find Hannah.

But June was correct in her assessment that Nick was loyal to the end. He’d already gathered tons of intelligence on Hannah’s current whereabouts, recent photos, and records. During their time together at the house, the moments of reflecting what could have been if they’d tried to run away together, as well as their wistful goodbye, were both lovely and sad. As June drove away, she was a disaster of emotions, knowing she might never see Nick again.

But it was a brief moment with Nick after she drove away that had fans really freaking out: Once June left, Nick pulled a wedding ring out of his pocket and slipped it on before heading home.

Fans should have seen this coming. As June said in Season 2, when he was first given Eden as a Wife, this was necessary. By taking an assigned Wife, he showed himself to be the correct sort of Gileadean man for a promotion. Did no one think that his rise to the rank of Commander hadn’t come with a new woman in a blue dress to stand silently and piously by his side?

It was a kindness, in a way, for him not to let June know the truth. But if she thought about it, for even a moment, June would know Nick was married and understand he was doing what he had to do.

The Handmaid’s Tale continues Wednesdays on Hulu.