“We only wanted to make the world better. Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some.”
Commander Fred Waterford is the head of the household where June Osborne is enslaved as the Handmaid Offred, and the husband of Serena Joy. Waterford is portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. In the novel, this name was stated as being a likely candidate for his real name.
- 1 Profile
- 2 Story
- 2.1 In the past
- 2.2 Present, season one
- 2.3 Present, season two
- 2.4 Present, Season 3
- 3 References
Profile[edit | edit source]
Appearance[edit | edit source]
Fred is tall, has brown hair and a brown beard, and soft brown eyes. He is in his early 40s and has generally handsome looks. He is often seen in a suit, as he is an esteemed commander in Gilead.
Personality[edit | edit source]
On the outside, he seems like a decent and well-meaning man. Though he almost comes across like a 'victim' of Gilead, he was actually involved in designing and establishing it. In the way he treats his wife and everyone else below him, his cruel side is revealed.
Fred likes for others to believe that he is a kind, just man. He has forgiven Serena and Offred several times in the series, making the viewer believe that he has a soft side. He definitely has a weakness for Offred. He breaks many of Gilead's rules for her. However, he also can be ruthless at times. For example, he supported the punishment of his wife when she read a book. Serena holds this against him.
Story[edit | edit source]
In the past[edit | edit source]
Before Gilead[edit | edit source]
Before Gilead, Waterford managed a marketing agency that worked with far-right fundamentalist nonprofits, such as the Family Research Council, Chalcedon Foundation, One Million Moms and Serena Joy.
In a flashback, Serena nervously prepares to speak in front of a crowd on a college campus to promote her book "A Woman’s Place", where the audience is already booing loudly before she even gets to the podium. When someone throws a water bottle at the stage, the organizers hustle her out, with Fred loudly protesting that his woman has a right to speak, because "This is America". When heading back to the car, Serena is shot in the stomach by a sniper. In the hospital, Fred promises Serena to find the "terrorist" who shot her.
Fred later gets to catch the sniper and his wife and holds them at gunpoint. He kills the wife first.
Fred returns home from a meeting with other Sons of Jacob where they devised a plan to take over the total power over the USA. He later explains to Serena that the Committee issued orders to attack the Congress, the White House, and the Court, which was what they originally proposed. 
After the takeover[edit | edit source]
To Fred's dismay, Serena is not allowed to give an (eagerly anticipated) speech in a government building, now controlled by the Sons of Jacob. Warren blames the current society for Serena's frustration, since they gave women "more than they could handle" and "let them forget their real purpose"..
Nick is driving Commanders Pryce, Waterford and Guthrie, who are discussing women's roles and The Ceremony in the new society they want to build, with Fred scarcely participating. Fred later refers to the conversation as "the handmaid issue", first time introducing the name of the story.
Before the main storyline[edit | edit source]
Nick (now working for the Waterfords) and Rita discover the previous handmaid hanged herself in her room. As the body is carried away, Serena Joy asks Fred "What did you think was going to happen?". Nick is later ordered to spy on Mr. Waterford for the Eyes .
Present, season one[edit | edit source]
The Commander's Room
Nick tells Offred that the Commander wants to see her alone, which is forbidden. Offred goes to the Commander's office unsure of what's going to happen, but he just wants to play the game Scrabble with her. He reveals he’s going away to Washington DC next week to attend meetings, but says he’d like to see Offred again in private when he returns.
During the next Ceremony, the Commander is unable to get an erection and Serena Joy orders Offred to leave. Later, Offred goes to see the Commander in his study. She asks him about a Latin phrase "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum". He reveals it is pseudo-Latin meaning "Don't let the bastards grind you down" and Offred realizes her predecessor heard it from him. He asks if Offred knew the previous Handmaid; Offred is evasive and asks what happened to her. The Commander reveals she hanged herself from the chandelier that used to be in her room. Offred, seeing a chance to manipulate the Commander, persuades him to allow her outside, saying she has been feeling like "giving up".
Offred and Commander Fred continue their nightly game of Scrabble. On one of these nights, the Commander gives Offred a present; a fashion magazine from before Gilead. During the Ceremony, the Commander touches Offred's thigh and looks at her, which is forbidden. She tries to tell him so, but is scolded, called an adulteress, and told to leave. In their ensuing conversation, the Commander admits that while they thought they were building a better world, they knew that "better never means better for everyone - It always means worse for some." Offred gets sick and goes to throw up in the kitchen sin.
The Waterfords receive Mexican delegates in their home in an effort to create partnerships in trade. The head of the Mexican delegation, Mrs. Castillo, questions Offred about her experience in Gilead, to which she replies she has found happiness. Fred reveals to his wife in an unobserved moment that the Gileadean currency will fall off if they don't make progress on trade. After the meeting, Offred visits Fred's office for their usual discussions where some tensions flare up between them. He asks her to kiss him "like you mean it". She kisses him and leaves, ferociously brushing her teeth afterwards.
Offred returns to her room and is surprised to find Commander Fred Waterford waiting for her with gifts including makeup, a revealing dress and high heeled shoes. After shaving her legs and getting dressed up, the two, driven by Nick, head to a surprise destination. Disguised as Serena Joy Waterford, Offred slips by the guards. Fred, Offred and Nick enter the back of a building, meandering through hallways and elevators, finding themselves in Jezebel's, a secret brothel/sex club that well-to-do men frequent. Offred sees Moira across the bar and excuses herself to the women's restroom to follow her. Fred and Offred later go in a hotel room and as he tells her all about his current frustrations and fears, he seduces her. Offred silently cries as he advances on her. Later while Fred is sleeping, Offred sneaks down to see [Moira].
Offred goes to Fred's office to flirt with him and convince him to take her again to Jezebel's. He complies and they sneak out that night after Serena goes to bed. When they're in the club, they go straight to the room. Fred has ordered Offred a "surprise" - a girl, Ruby, aka Moira, since he noticed that they looked friendly the last time they were at the club so he thought it would be a nice surprise.
Serena Joy reveals Offred's pregnancy to her husband and tells him the baby isn't his because he is weak.
Fred participates in Warren’s trial chaired by Commander Pryce. Waterford is all for leniency, reminding that no one is free of mistakes and that Warren Putnam has a family, a wife and a new child. Pryce replies that the council should always stand against sin. Ultimately, Putnam's left hand is amputated.
Two armed guards come to the Waterfords' home and lead Offred away, to the surprise and horror of Serena Joy and Fred. Offred walks off willingly, unsure if this is her end or a brand new beginning.
Present, season two[edit | edit source]
Commander Fred and Serena Joy take Offred to be examined by a doctor. They are shown their child on the monitor and Serena kisses Offred's forehead in thanks. Offred is left alone and begins to put her shoes on when a key falls out from her boot. The key gets her into a stairwell and allows her to escape. Serena later eavesdrops on her husband as he tries to find Offred. She goes up to Offred's old room and sits on her window sill.
June is taken back to the Red Center, where she is retagged and chained to a small living space. As Aunt Lydia explains, the Waterfords are willing to take June back for a "trial run". June’s other option is to stay in that room, counting flowers on the bedspread (there are 71), and to be eventually executed after giving birth. The Waterfords greet her stiffly and formally. Commander Fred speaks of the tremendous effort it took to save June from her “kidnapping” at the hands of an "insidious terrorist network."
Commander Fred is out skeet-shooting with some other Commanders (among them Putnam, Pryce, and Cushing). He insinuates that he’d like to travel to Canada along with Cushing to "ease sanctions" and states to have his house in order. Pryce corrects him "back in order". That evening, June begs for forgiveness in front of all the members of the Waterford household and to be again Offred.
Seeds[edit | edit source]
In a Gileadean office building, Commander Waterford suggests Commander Pryce to reward Nick for his loyal service by a job opportunity in Washington. Pryce replies he should "find a way to keep him around".
The Waterfords head to a Prayvaganza chaired by Commander Pryce in which the handmaids and wives sit in rows while a ceremony takes place down below. Nick, among other Guardians, is escorted out to the main floor. Young brides, their faces covered by veils, then march onto the floor and stand opposite the men being “honored.” As Nick lifts his bride's veil, he sees a girl, [Eden], who is much younger than him.
Commander Fred inpects the almost finished construction site of the new Red Center, along with Aunt Lydia and the Commanders Pryce, Putnam, and Cushing. Aunt Lydia is pleased about the increasing number of "girls" they "can process here". Waterford assures a suspicious Pryce that the "finishing touches" on the site will be done within two days.
Fred sneaks into Offred’s room while she sleeps and shows her a Polaroid of Hannah in her pink Subservient-in-Training uniform. Offred thanks him and cries as she stares at the photo, which the commander takes as an invitation to start pawing at her belly, then her breast, telling her he missed her. She responds that sex probably wouldn’t be great for the baby. He backs off quickly, leaving the photo with her.
To the opening of the new Rachel and Leah Center, Commanders from all of the districts are there. When Nick sees Commander Pryce, he begs for reassignment and says there’s a lot he hasn’t divulged about Fred. He then asks Pryce to promise to "protect the handmaid", to which Pryce replies he has his word.
As Fred addresses the men who’ve gathered, a whole bunch of handmaids stand along the auditorium’s back wall. Ofglen#2 steps out of line and turns to face her fellow maids, raising one hand so everyone can see that she’s holding a detonator. The women start to run. Ofglen then walks into the assembly, holds up her hand once more and presses the buttom. As the red-clad women run for safety, a huge explosion rocks the center.
After[edit | edit source]
After the bombing, Commander Fred is lying half-conscious in his hospital bed. Nick offers to take Serena home for sleep and a change of clothes. She refuses his offer. Commander Putnam enters the room with a visibly injured Commander Cushing and announces Commander Pryce "has gone home to God" and Cushing will be taking on Pryce's "security duties". Cushing promises he will find everyone responsible for the gruesome attack. Offred gets to the hospital. Serena Joy is happy to see her and to show Fred his baby is safe.
Offred and Serena work together to do Commander Fred's work while he's in the hospital. The Commander returns to the house after being hospitalized and is welcomed back by Serena and the staff. Serena goes over the work she did for him while he was away. He's grateful but ushers her out of the office so that he can look over it. .
Serena and Offred arrive home and are told by Nick that they are wanted in the Commander's office. Fred tells them that he knows that Serena forged his signature so that the Martha could see the baby. He asks Offred if that's her handwriting on one of the papers and she says yes. As punishment, Fred whips Serena with his belt and forces Offred to watch as he does. Offred later goes downstairs and apologizes to Fred for what she did. She asks if he'll forgive her and he says to go to bed.
Rita comes to Offred's room and tells her that they've been summoned. They are told byCommander Fred that he and Serena are going to Canada, introducing a new Guardian, Isaac, to watch over the house during his absence. Serena tells Fred that he doesn't need her to go but Fred says that they need to show Canada that women aren't oppressed in Gilead.
The Commander and Serena land in Canada. Moira recognizes Fred and she points him out to Luke and Erin as they watch television. Moira and Luke go to the U.S. embassy and ask Rachel to arrest Fred but she tells them that it isn't possible. She encourages Moira and Luke to attend a planned protest.
Serena watches the people go about their daily activities as she rides by in a limo. Fred is greeted by Canadian delegates. Mr. McConnell comments to Commander Waterford that he and his husband were frequent visitors to the former United States, and responds to Waterford's suggestion that they both visit Gilead in the near future with a curt "when we feel welcome." They leave Serena alone to attend cultural activities.
At the protest, Luke confronts Commander Fred. He's taken away by the police but not before Serena and Nick realize that he's Offred's husband. Serena and Fred head up to their room where Fred says that they've made progress with the Canadian government.
The next day, Commander Fred and Serena are told to go directly to the airport because the letters were uploaded to the Internet and the public outrage was overwhelming. McConnell blunty tells the couple that they are no longer welcome. As they leave, one of the women tells Serena that she doesn't know how Serena lives with herself. At the airport, they can barely pull their car onto the tarmac. Moira is there protesting with a sign that shows Fred that her name isn't Ruby.
Fred and Serena arrive home. While unpacking, Serena comes across the matches that she was given by the American representative. She throws it into the fire.
Aunt Lydia and other handmaids arrive. They begin to set up the room for the birth of the child. Downstairs, the Marthas are setting up the kitchen with snacks and delicacies. Also, Commander Fred is handing out cigars. Serena is in another room surrounded by wives as she pretends to have a baby. Aunt Lydia interrupts the ceremony and tells her that June was only having false contractions. They call a doctor to come inspect her and learn that she isn't even close to giving birth. This upsets Serena who tells June that after the birth she is to be transferred to another district. June approaches Commander Fred about what Serena wants and asks for his help. She asks to be moved to her daughter's district. This upsets the Commander who asks her to get out. Before she leaves, June tells him that he'll never know what it's like to have a child of his own.
Commander Fred and Serena talk about the baby. Serena says that the best way for the baby to come is the most natural way. Rita tells June that Serena wants to see her. As she leaves, Rita tells June that she'll tell the baby about her. Serena forces June onto the bed as Fred forces himself into her. He sexually assaults her in order to get the baby to come early. After, Serena and Fred both leave the room leaving June alone as she cries. Eden takes out the trash and runs into Isaac. They share a kiss as Nick watches from the balcony. Eden realizes this and runs up to the house to apologize. He says not to worry about it and Eden asks why he doesn't care that he just caught her cheating on him. He doesn't say anything and Eden realizes that he likes June. Nick tells her that he'd never get involved with a handmaid. She realizes that he just doesn't love her and starts to cry.
June is laying in bed when Fred comes into her room. He tells her that he's planned a surprise for her. He puts her in a car and instructs Nick to bring her back in 3 hours. On the drive to where they're going, Nick asks her what happened but she doesn't respond. They arrive at a house where inside Hannah is waiting. She rushes towards her but Hannah gets scared and hides behind a Martha. June asks if she remembers her and Hannah nods, the Martha telling June that Hannah's name has been changed to Agnes. Hannah asks if it hurt when they hit her on the head and if she tried to find her. June says yes but Hannah asks why she didn't try harder. Hannah tells her that it's okay because she has new parents now. Hannah notices that June's pregnant and tells her that she doesn't get to keep it. The guard says that it's time to go so June tells Hannah that she'll always love her and that she should enjoy her life. The guard separates them but Hannah runs back to June. June tells her that she has to go and that she loves her. Hannah leaves leaving June kneeling in the snow as she cries.
Holly[edit | edit source]
Serena Joy and the Commander Fred arrive looking for Offred. When they enter, Fred calls out to the Commander MacKenzie and his wife. Serena runs upstairs, and notices the clothing armoirs have been uncovered. She sees Offred's cloak and head cover, and runs downstairs show it to Fred. Serena and Fred argue over Offred. Serena blames him for them running off together. He says Nick would not be that disloyal, and that he let Offred see her daughter, which he believes would have made her grateful. Serena tells him he is stupid and that they hate him, which is why Offred keeps running away from him.
Fred blames Serena constant cruelty to Offred for her escape attempts. She tells him he raped Offred last night, he points out that was her idea, and says this was "to fix her mess." Serena in her anger says that Nick is the father of Offred's baby, and he should have expected them to run after seeing Hannah/Agnes. She asks Fred if he expected to Offred to return after this visit and thank him. She calls him an idiot and he calls her a bitch. Serena says they can't explain it away or even report it. Especially to have a handmaid run away twice, and how they will think that they are part of the Resistance. She says they will hang them on the wall, and he comments it would be his bad luck to be next to her. She chastises him for making jokes.
In an upper level of the home, Offred spies a open box of ammunition on a storage chest. Inside, she finds a shotgun and loads it. Downstairs, Serena quietly confesses she gave up everything for "the cause," and all she wanted in return was a baby. Fred pins her against the wall telling her she demanded a baby. She cries that he has left her with nothing. At the same time, Offred has quietly opened a window in the breezeway, and has aimed the gun at them. Serena cries that she will never hold her baby, and Fred consoles her. Offred hears the entire conversation. Serena pushes Fred away, and Offred gasps as her target moves out of her sight.
Fred continues to console her, telling her they can't have gotten far and he will call local security. He urges her to leave, and they move outside. Offred relaxes as they drive away.
Serena tells Fred that Nick is the father of the baby.
Serena Joy is seen bathing Holly, or Nichole as she calls her. Offred is seen using a breast pump when Aunt Lydia arrives. She commends Offred on her surviving and giving birth on her own. One of the Aunts mentions that Offred's milk is less than yesterday. Aunt Lydia says she knows this already. Apparently, Mrs. Waterford wants the milk. Aunt Lydia tells Offred that other families have made offers for her to be in their households. Commander Fred is seen setting up his office when Nick walks in. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding with some overzealous guards but he's been returned safely to work. Commander Fred tells him opportunities are going to open up for Nick and Nick says he appreciates that. Nick hangs up a picture on the wall and it's of Serena, Fred, and the new baby.
Eden is seen holding the baby. Rita walks in with a bottle and Serena takes the baby to feed her. Rita tells Serena that they are running low on breast milk because Offred is drying up. Serena says that they can't have that. Aunt Lydia leads Offred to meet with the Commander and Nick who have brought Nicole. Offred refuses to see the baby but Aunt Lydia tells her that it'll help her produce more milk. It's true because no sooner does she say this that her breasts start to leak. Fred turns to leave by Offred offers to nurse Nicole. Fred says no but Aunt Lydia convinces him to take Offred back to the house so that she can pump there. Offred returns with Fred but this upsets Serena. She says that Offred can't touch the baby and that she pumps in the room.
Commander Fred walks in telling him that guardian Isaac never showed up for his shift this morning. Nick puts two and two together and realizes that they must've run off together. Serena is dealing with a crying Nicole. She gets the idea to try and breastfeed her but of course it doesn't work.
Offred is in the kitchen helping clean the kitchen when Rita is called by Serena. Offred takes the chance to smell some of Nicole's clothes. Commander Fred walks in and asks her why Eden would runaway. Offred says she doesn't know and he asks where she was hiding when they went searching for her in the house. She says the attic and he says that she was avoiding going home with him. Offred tells him that she wanted to spend more time with Hannah and he asks how was her reunion. Offred says she was surprised to see her. Fred says that he was glad he made it happen for her. She thanks him and he asks if that's all the thanks he gets. She offers to play scrabble with him.
Nick gets visited by Eden's father who apologizes for Eden. Commander Fred asks if he has another daughter and he says yes. Commander Fred tells him to make sure that their other daughter is raised better. Eden's father tells them how he was the one who turned in Eden to the authorities. This shocks Offred who asks Commander Fred what he'll do when they come for his daughter. He closes the door and slaps her. She slaps him back. He grabs her by the face and shoves her down. Later, Rita helps Offred by giving her an ice pack. Nick arrives so Rita leaves to give them some alone time.
Serena approaches the Council about an amendment. Other wives walk in after her in support. She tells them about how they want to teach the sons and daughters of Gilead to read. Commander Fred thanks them and that the Council will discuss the issue. Serena pulls out Eden's bible and begins to read. As she does, wives begin to leave. Naomi tells her that she shouldn't have done that. Commander Fred thanks them for coming but essentially dismisses them. The other wives leave but Serena stays behind to talk to her husband. She tells him that she did this to set an example for their daughter. Fred agrees that she has done this just as two other men come and drag Serena away. She screams at him for help but he just walks away.
Offred opens the front door and lets Serena and Fred inside the house. Serena can barely walk so Fred guides her to their room. He tells Offred that they had a difficult day but that from now on everything will be better. Offred waits until he leaves before she asks Serena what happened. Serena begins to unwrap her hand and shows her that they took one of her fingers. She says that she tried and Offred sits on the bed and holds her hand.
Offred goes downstairs into the kitchen where Fred is calling for Rita. She tells him that she can't believe he let them do that to Serena. He says that they all have roles to play and that Serena needed to be reminded of hers. Fred tells her that maybe Offred could stay in the house with her baby and that they could try again but for a boy this time. She tells him to go fuck himself. He then brings up Hannah and how if she agreed she'd be able to see her more. He tells her to think about it as he goes back upstairs.
Offred is feeding Nicole when she hears a commotion outside. Rita comes in and tells her that they can get her out but that she needs to leave now. Rita tells her where to go so Offred hugs her and then leaves. Inside, Fred watches what's going on from his office. He goes and asks Rita what's going on but she says she doesn't know. Realizing something is up, he runs upstairs to check on Nicole. Nick follows him up and when Fred tells him to put together a search party Nick tells him to stay inside.
Present, Season 3[edit | edit source]
Scene changes to Serena Joy, focusing on the imagery of her missing finger. She walks to Offred's room where Commander Waterford is waiting and tells her to call 911. Serena looks him in the eye and says, "We should give her more time to get away," as Nick watches from the doorway and Fred comes to the realization of what happened. Fred is left alone in the room and looks at the carving, "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum," on the wall. A small moment in the stairway occurs between Nick and Serena. Nick offers his cigarette to Serena and she takes the cigarette and takes a drag.
June is brought back the Waterford house and is called in to speak to Serena and Fred alone. Where Fred yells at June telling her that they will all end up on the Wall, but June only speaks to Serena telling her that the baby is safe. Serena gets very upset knowing that Nichole was handed over to Ofjoseph #3 (Emily), grabs Offred and tells her that she killed her baby by giving her to a "murderer." The women emotionally speak to each other where June says that what is happening to Serena right now is like what happened to her when she and Hannah were captured trying to escape the first time.
The next day, Serena is sitting at her vanity putting antiseptic on her severed finger when Fred comes into the room. He tells her that he's on his way to the office and is working on setting up an investigation into Nichole's kidnapping. After he leaves, Serena dresses and pours the contents of the antiseptic bottle over her bed. Later, June steps out of her room and sees wisps of smoke, she senses something is wrong. Going downstairs, she notices light coming from Serena and Fred's bedroom, so she opens the door and sees Serena facing her burning bed. Sensing that the whole house is about to burn down, she beckons to Serena and reaches out her hand to her. Serena takes it and June leads them out of the room, on the way Serena asks Rita to leave quickly. As June leaves the house, it continues to go up in flames.
When the Commanders start to arrive at Commander Lawrence, Fred Waterford and June have a brief conversation in the dining room. She wonders how Serena is doing, and he says she’ll be OK. Then she asks what he knows about Lawrence. He calls him “an interesting man” and a “visionary” who helped bring Gilead into being, but admits he’s always been hard to read. When she presses him for more, Fred says, “He does not like to be bored.”
At night, we see Fred practicing a monologue on an escort at "Jezebel's", delivering an impassioned speech about how he used to revel in little glimpses of Serena when they were first married, and how if he loses her, he loses everything.
June visits Lawrence in his study where he starts quizzing her on whether she’s good at making friends, influencing people, and “intimacy”, getting closer to her face only to ask if this "really worked on Fred" and how the Waterfords could not notice how "transactional" she is.
The next day, Serena wants to tell her mother about her marriage to Fred, but the older woman won’t hear it, calling her a “spoiled little girl” for wanting things always to go her way while knowing her place to be at Fred's side. Deeming Serena's tears as "self-pity", she states “You gave that baby away, and it wasn’t even yours.”
Fred gets a moment alone with June to tell her he’s concerned about Serena. He’s sure Serena isn’t satisfied “planting flowers and knitting sweaters.” June suggests him to give Mrs. Waterford “a real voice behind the scenes”.
While June is waiting to leave the Putnams’ house, Serena creeps close to tell her how she can see Hannah playing outside after lunch at her school. A few minutes later, an officer of the Eyes comes in and wants to see Commander Waterford immediately: He’s got a video of a Canadian protest showing solidarity with Chicago. Luke is at the protest, and he’s wearing Nichole in a carrier. The Waterfords have June confirm Luke’s identity, which she does reluctantly. She walks out of the room and sits on the floor.
- Episode 5, "Faithful"
- Novel, Historical Notes
- Episode 2.6, First Blood
- Episode 6, "A Woman's Place"
- Episode 8, "Jezebels"
- Episode 1, "Offred (TV Episode)"
- Episode 2, "Birth Day"
- Episode 4, "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum"
- Episode 9, "The Bridge"
- Episode 10, "Night"
- Episode 2.1, Offred (TV Episode)
- Episode 2.4, Other Women
- Episode 2.5, Seeds
- "Episode 2.7, After"
- "Episode 2.8, Women's Work"