“"Never mistake a woman's meekness for weakness."”
— Serena Joy in her book about "domestic feminism"
Serena Joy Waterford is a major character in The Handmaid's Tale. She is the Wife of Commander Fred Waterford who is using June Osborne as Offred to try and obtain a child, supposedly being unable herself to conceive. In the film adaptation, she is portrayed by Faye Dunaway, and in the television series, she is portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski. In this adaptation, Serena seems to be younger (in her 30s) than she is in the novel, where she is implied to be relatively elderly.
- 1 Appearance
- 2 Personality
- 3 In The Past
- 4 Present, Season One
- 5 Present, Season Two
- 6 Present, Season 3
- 7 Photo Gallery
Serena Joy is a tall, thin, woman, with blue eyes and shoulder-length blond hair. In the old modern world, she wore chic, professional clothing and always presented herself properly.
In Gilead, she is only seen in the blue (and sometimes teal) dresses, tights, and the clothing that all Wives of Gilead wear. Her hair is always tied back in a neat and tidy bun.
Serena has a determined and severe personality. She is intelligent, strong-willed, and calculating. She was a passionate antifeminist and instrumental in the formation of Gilead. In the first couple of seasons of the show, Serena was often cruel, emotionless, and harsh with Offred and other staff in the house. She only cared about having a baby and didn't care who she hurt in the process.
By Season 3, Serena starts to show her rebellious side. After she is subjugated to the same torture that June and the other handmaids have endured ever since the establishment of Gilead, she starts to reconsider its structure. Serena also begins showing how much love she had for Nichole, at the loss of "her" child puts her in constant grief. She shows compassion, especially in regard to June, and begins to change her mind about the existence of Gilead and all of its rules. However, it didn't work following her arrest alongside her husband at the Canadian Border at the end of Liars with more followed by during Mayday for her role in June's treatment by Gilead to begin with.
As June remarks, Serena is pathological, sociopathic, deceitful, rage-filled, angry, needy, disillusioned, self-serving, manipulative and the most compliant actress. All in all, Serena Joy possess the personality and traits of a true vile human being, fittingly commented on as a "monster".
In The Past
Serena is a right-wing religious cultural activist. According to Ambassador Castillo, she was once even arrested for inciting to riot, and she wrote a book about her beliefs, titled "A Woman's Place", which contains the famous line, "Never mistake a woman's meekness for weakness".
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 rush her out, with Fred loudly protesting that his wife has the 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 that he'll find the "terrorist" who shot her. He later catches the sniper along with the sniper's wife and holds them at gunpoint. He mercilessly kills the wife first. .
Serena is considering writing another book about "Fertility as a National Resource" and "Reproduction as a Moral Imperative". Fred is one of the conspirators who devise the alleged "terrorist" attacks. Serena is confident that the staged attacks will help quickly propel the vision of society conducive to her own theocratic beliefs.
After The Takeover
Serena is shown to be completely shut out of the new government planning since the new society won't let women "forget their real purpose" again, as Commander Warren Putnam points out to a dismayed Fred. Rather symbolically, as she prepares to accept her new limited role in the society she helped create, a copy of her book is seen being thrown out in the trash.
Before The Main Storyline
Present, Season One
Serena Joy takes Offred to the Putnam's house to see Ofwarren and the baby. Ofwarren tells Offred that her Commander is in love with her and that they're going to run away. She's also given her daughter a different name, "Charlotte". Offred fears Ofwarren is delusional and comments on her behavior to Serena Joy. Nick drives Offred home and there is a black van waiting. Offred is interrogated by an Eye and Aunt Lydia about her knowledge of Ofglen. Serena intervenes, yelling at them to stop beating her because Offred is pregnant. Offred later reveals to Serena that she's not pregnant, prompting Serena to drag her to her room and order her not to come out. 
Serena Joy calls Offred outside to tell her she's asked Nick to try and impregnate Offred. She suspects the Commander is infertile, so she secretly brings Offred to Nick's apartment, where she waits as they have sex. They finish, and Serena tells Offred to lie down in her room, after saying a prayer to encourage her to become pregnant. 
The Waterfords receive a Mexican delegation being lead by Mrs. Castillo, who is intrigued by the idea of Handmaids. She asks Serena if she ever imagined a society in which women can no longer read her book, to which Serena replies that God asks for sacrifices.
Serena presenting children at the banquet
(Children in Gilead)
The local administration organizes a gala dinner to honor Gilead and show the foreign delegates their success, including presenting the children of Gilead. Serena instructs Aunt Lydia to "remove the damaged ones" of the handmaids invited to the banquet due to their visible mutilations done by the regime (Alma later remarks to Offred that the delegates are interested in fertile women as a commodity to be traded between the two nations).
Serena wakes up Offred to rush to help Janine (formerly Ofwarren), who is threatening to jump off a bridge with her daughter. Offred convinces her to release the baby, which Janine does right before she jumps off. Commander Putnam is arrested. Serena tries to offer comfort to his wife Naomi and offers help with the baby, which she curtly refuses. Naomi then reminds Serena of the first Offred, saying that "Men don't change". 
Serena discovers that Offred went to the Jezebel's club with her husband and strikes Offred down on the ground to punish her. She then forces Offred to take a pregnancy test, which is positive. Serena reveals the good news to her husband and tells him the baby isn't even his because he is weak. She then takes Offred on a surprise trip, several hours away. Serena meets with Hannah, Offred's daughter, to show Offred that if she harms herself or the baby then Hannah will be in danger. Offred screams in misery and calls Serena an evil monster. 
Two armed guards come in 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
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.
After June's recapture, 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." Serena later dashes into June’s bedroom and pins her into a chokehold. As June catches her breath she reminds Serena that "as long as my baby is safe, so is yours."
At the baby shower, Serena opens many handmade presents from the other Wives. June, who’s supposed to stay silent, pipes in by saying that the baby kicked for the first time last night. Serena retreats to the yard with a cigarette. Aunt Lydia tells Serena that everything that happens now must be for the good of the child, and thus she should stop smoking cigarettes.
That evening, June begs for forgiveness in front of all the members of the Waterford household and for her to be Offred again. Serena later crawls into bed with Offred and caresses her stomach. When Serena leaves, Offred goes into the closet, repeating to herself: “My fault. My fault. My fault." 
Aunt Lydia is still regularly monitoring Offred’s pregnancy at the Waterfords. She weighs her, measures the size of the baby, considers her mental state. She even gets to take notes with a pencil, in a case of "special dispensation" for aunts, as she explains to an astonished Serena. Serena encourages Aunt Lydia to leave, but she takes clear offense when Lydia says one of her jobs is to observe the "mood" of the home in which Offred is carrying the baby.
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.
The Waterfords with Offred, Nick, and Eden return from the Prayvaganza. When Offred retreats to her chamber, she struggles up the stairs, still evidently bleeding. She moves around her room. Serena leads Eden into Nick's apartment and kindly advises her to enjoy the "act" she’s now required to have.
Offred wakes up in a hospital bed after her breakdown, Serena sleeping in a chair opposite her, and appears stunned by her and the baby’s survival. She goes to get the doctor.
During an ultrasound, the doctor tells Serena that Offred’s bleeding was due to a subchorionic hematoma and she should be fine now, adding the baby "needs harmony within the household". Back at home, Serena has Offred move in the sitting room so she doesn’t have to go up and down the stairs. Serena later sits by the couch while Offred gets ready to go to sleep and lets Serena put her hands on her belly.
Conversation with Offred in the nursery See also: Serena and June
Serena invites four handmaids (Alma, Ofglen #2, Oferic, and Ofsamuel) for a surprise lunch with Offred. Later, Serena takes Offred up to the nursery to see how she’s decorated it. Offred tells her it's beautiful. Serena promises to be the best mother possible, making Offred uncomfortable. She tells her about Hannah's room. When Offred asks to see Hannah, Serena sternly refuses and tells her to get her things out from downstairs to go back to her old room. .
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. At home, Serena Joy talks about Ray Cushing with Offred and says that he's always been a blowhard even when they vacationed in Antigua together with his wife Sonia. She wants her to be very careful about what she says to Cushing. Offred reminds Serena thatCommander Deeds' entire house was slaughtered, and if Cushing came to believe she has a connection to the underground, he won't hesitate, nor would he ever let a baby grow up in that house.
When Nick returns to his apartment that evening, he finds Serena inside waiting alone. She learns from him that submitting warrants to the "Consular of Divine Law" needs the Commander's signature. Nevertheless, Nick agrees to help Serena "walk through the process".
Nick exchanges glances with the guards in front of the Waterford's house and heads to the front door. As Cushing comes up to the house, a van of the Eyes stops by and guardians surround him. Commander Putnam explains he's being arrested for treason on the word of Commander Waterford, due to the "overwhelming" evidence submitted by the Eyes.
Serena Joy asks June to accompany her to the office where she has already put together new security policies, explaining she'd like things to start getting back to normal. Reminding her of her former profession as editor, she asks June to read over the policy drafts. June grabs a pen.
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. Upstairs, Offred finds a music box and a rose on her bed, supposedly a gift from Serena. Serena tells Offred that baby Angela isn't well. She leaves to offer Naomi support.
Later, Serena tells Offred that the baby isn't doing well and that they don't know what's wrong with her. Offred asks if there is something they can do and Serena says that they could ask one of the top female doctors but that would mean bending the law. Offred says that if it was her baby that she'd do whatever she could. Serena asks Fred if he can allow the female doctor, who is now a Martha, check on the baby. Fred says no because they can't question the will of God. Serena tells Offred that Fred said no. Offred tells Serena about Janine and how she knows about the baby. Offred asks if Janine could see the baby but Serena tells her to not be stupid.
In the hospital, Serena asks Naomi if Janine, who is brought by Aunt Lydia, could see the baby. Her husband is okay with it but Naomi isn't. Offred takes Janine to see the baby in the ICU. Dr. Hodgson arrives in her Martha dress, changes clothes and is briefed by Dr. Epstein. She runs some tests on the baby. The doctors give Angela's parents bad news. Serena goes after the doctor but the doctor says is that all they can do is pray for the baby's recovery. Janine is able to hold the baby in order to say goodbye.
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.
Serena is in her room crying as she looks at the scars on her buttocks. Offred asks her if there is anything she can do but Serena only sends her back to her room. Instead, Offred 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. Fred fins her in the greenhouse and Serena tells him that he doesn't need her to go ,but Fred says that they need to show Canada that women aren't oppressed in Gilead. Contradictorily, to this is the fact that Serena is still frightened of Fred's previous reminder of what happens if women "go against God's intentive prupose for them". Hence, she shakes when Fred convinces her to join him (as if she had a choice).
Nick loads up the car with their luggage when Eden shows up and gives him some cookies to take with him. She tells him that she's going to miss him but he says he's only going to be gone a couple of days. Serena goes to see Offred before she leaves. She tells Offred that she'll be leaving the house as soon as the baby is born.
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.
Serena runs into a mother and her child but the mother wants nothing to do with Serena. She later heads to the bar where a man named Mark Tuello approaches her. Initially, Serena assumes that he works with the press. He reveals to her that he is a representative of the US Government-In-Exile. He attempts to persuade Serena to start a new life away from Gilead, offering safe passage to Honolulu and encouraging her to write a book about the Republic that they will publish. Realizing that he seeks to use her a propaganda tool, Mark appeals to her desire to have a baby, arguing that American scientists have been working on the fertility crisis for years and have the ability to make her fertile again. She would also be guaranteed 'freedom'. Serena states that she will never betray her country, to which Mark replies that she already did.
When June and Isaac return home without any shopping, Rita questions Isaac about what she is supposed to make that night. When he curtly tells her that the shopping trip was cut short, Rita backs away and begins to prepare whatever is still in the house. He then sends June upstairs for a nap and begins talking to Eden about the strawberry jam she is making. Upstairs, June talks to Rita about how Serena wants her to leave the house once the baby is born. She asks Rita to watch out for her daughter while she's gone because she wants her child to know only kindness, and Rita says she'll do what she can.
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. Nick goes looking for Luke and finds him in a bar. He tells Luke that June is alright but Luke says that she isn't fine. Nick tells her that June is pregnant. This upsets Luke and he tells Nick to get out but then changes his mind and goes after him. He asks about Hannah but Nick doesn't know if she's okay. Nick gives Luke the stack of letters June gave him and tells him to get them out somehow. Luke asks Nick to tell June that Moira got out.
Aunt Lydia visits Offred. Offred tells her about how Serena wants her to leave right after the baby is born. Aunt Lydia tells her that it is Serena's prerogative.
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.
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.
June starts to get contractions and is taken home by ambulance where Nick helps her into the house. Serena comes out and greets June before she is taken to Serena and the Commander's room.
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 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.
Fred and Serena arrive looking for June. 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's 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. 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. 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.
Serena is dealing with a crying Nicole. She gets the idea to try and breastfeed her but of course it doesn't work.
When Offred is going back upstairs, she spots Serena in the baby's room. She asks Serena if she's okay. The baby starts to cry and Serena surprisingly offers the baby to Offred. Offred sits and holds Nicole. She begins to breastfeed her as Serena watches.
Following the unfortunate execution of Eden, whom Serena had been fond of given Eden's respect for traditional values and scripture, there is an inspiration among the the Wives to attempt to change the laws of Gilead to allow for more dignity for women. After an unpleasant confrontation, June shows Serena Eden's Bible marked with commentary; this has an effect on Serena. During a gathering of the Wives, Serena and Mrs. Putnam exchange their opinions regarding the Bible, particularly the right to read it as women are banned from doing so. They realize most of the Wives share their feelings and call a meeting.
Serena presents herself in Gilead court alongside the rest of the Wives; she is the sole speaker before a group of Commanders. Her husband, Fred Waterford, stares at her with contempt as she requests that Women and their daughters be allowed to read the Bible. Most of the Wives are solid in their standing with her until she reveals Eden's Bible and reads directly from it. Many of the Commanders are offended by her disrespect of Gilead laws while most of the Wives, scared of the repercussions, begin to walk out as she reads from the Bible. Serena remains unfazed.
In a gathering outside in the hall, Fred, despite attempting to conceal his lie, says that Serena's request will be considered. However, moments later, two Guardians come and forcibly remove Serena. Serena, realizing that Fred has opted to punish her for the Sins of both reading, possessing literature, and disobeying her husband, screams and begs Fred to stop. As consequence, Serena's left pinky finger is partially amputated.
Serena later returns home in a state of distress and shock. June asks Serena what happened, and Serena shows her the partially amputated pinky finger. This punishment disposes of the contempt June and Serena had for one another, and June puts her hand over Serena's as an affectionate gesture It also amps up June's hatred for Fred as she asks him how he could let that happen to Serena.
Later in the night, members of the resistance stage a plot to help June and the baby escape by setting fire to a nearby home across from the Waterford's to distract the Guardians and Commanders. During the fiasco, Serena was in the backyard greenhouse and notices June and the baby hiding from nearby Guardians who are attempting to control the situation. Knowing that June intends to leave with the baby, Serena begs for June to give her back. However, June explains that Gilead is not an ideal place for a child, specifically a daughter, to grow up in as their very existence is risky. She manages to convince Serena, who then tearfully says a prayer and hands the baby back over to June. June, in turn, gives Serena a blessing as well and leaves behind a tearful Serena as she and another Martha leave to escape Gilead.
Present, Season 3
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 draws heavily.
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; June only speaks to Serena, telling her that the baby is safe. Serena gets very upset, knowing that Nichole was handed over to Ofjoseph, 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. These women shared the feeling of having a child taken from them, leaving them with a deeper understanding, if not admiration and kinship, for each other.
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.
Serena is staying at the house of her mother, Pamela, along with Rita, who makes a leather cover for her mistress’ hand that makes it look like she’s got all of her digits. She encourages Serena to "get through this, by His hand", to which she replies “What’s left of it”. Serena joins her mother’s prayer circle and cries as they beseech God to bring Nichole home.
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.
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.”
June comes down to find Serena in the Lawrences’ parlor who asks her how to stop thinking about their daughter. June urges her to think about all the women who’ve had their children ripped away from them. She adds that they have to help each other and may be stronger than they think.
When Serena arrives to the reception at the Putnams, she and June have a quick exchange of words in the hallway. June reminds her that a number of women who shared her plan to teach Gilead’s girls to read hadn’t abandoned her, and explains her she didn't escape when she had the chance because there was still hope she would get to see her daughter again. 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”.
June follows Serena to the Putnams’ indoor pool room, where Serena is smoking on a chaise lounge, announcing her that she made a suggestion for Serena to have more freedom in her marriage. Serena hands her the cigarette case and lighter, and the two women sit there, smoking in silence.
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 withChicago. 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.
Fred invites Serena into the meeting of the Council where the Commanders are discussing how to get Nichole back. They tell her what they know about Luke, and report from Nichole’s medical records that they’ve somehow been able to access, promising to bring Nichole home. When Serena's alone with Fred, she confesses she just wants to be with her.
The Waterfords show up at the Lawrence household and ask an initially reluctant June to call Luke and ask him to agree to a visit in Canada. Only when June learns it is essentially Serena's personal request to meet Nichole, she eventually agrees, pointing out she wants Serena "to owe her".
With the Waterfords and Commander Lawrence looking on, June phones her husband and reassures him that she and Hannah are both OK. She then tells him to bring Nichole to meet the Waterfords at the Toronto airport the next day. Luke agrees to see "not him, just her." The call cuts off as June is telling him she loves him.
At her parents’ house, Serena gathers photos of her as a child and a necklace bearing a biblical verse. She just has enough time to slip a covert package from Rita into her bag before Fred shows up to say it’s time to catch the flight. When he brings her to the cargo plane, he assigns her a Guardian named Jeremiah, to accompany her. In Toronto, Mark Tuello meets her on the runway, causing Serena to dismiss Jeremiah before preparing to see Nichole.
Tuello informs her that the meeting is going to take place in public, and that he’s brought some clothes for her to change into because “We want you to blend in.”
A wary Luke won’t shake Serena's hand she extends to him, cradling a sleeping Nichole to his chest. Serena thanks him for agreeing to the meeting, but he makes it clear that he’s only there because June asked. Serena promises that June is safe and gives him the name of June’s new Commander. He refuses to promise that he will tell Nichole about her, harshly informing her she will never "be anything to her" since the girl's story is "how brave her mother was for getting her here". When a crying Serena points out it was her to let Nichole go because both June and her wanted a better life for her, adding she also "protected" June, he pockets the case with the necklace that Serena offers him.
Luke allows her to hold the baby, who’s woken up, before they part. Rejecting Tuello's renewed offer for “Treason and coconuts”, she barely makes it into the changing area before she has a sobbing breakdown.
Back on the plane, we see that there’s a satellite phone in Serena’s purse, along with a note that reads “if you need me.” Back in Gilead she tells Fred that at least “now it’s over” to which he replies “It doesn’t have to be.”
At the supermarket, some Eyes show up and load June into the back of a van. At her destination Aunt Lydia gets June dressed in a new red gown, then deposits her on a soundstage. Fred and Serena are there, too; the set is dressed to look like they’re in their living room. Aunt Lydia reminds June not to try any funny business before some TV cameras turn on and start rolling.
In Canada, Moira runs home to tell Luke he’s got to turn on the TV. When he does, he sees the Waterfords telling the world that they are a “family in mourning” who just wants the Canadian government to return their daughter to Gilead. Back on the set, the camera zeroes in on June’s face, her expression is in absolutely pure rage.
Arrived in Washington, Fred and Serena pick up June at the train station and tell her that they are guests of High Commander George Winslow. June walks with Rita, who tells her that the baby is the only thing that Serena ever wanted.
June and the Waterfords travel to Commander Winslow's house. Serena thinks they should have stayed in a hotel but Fred reassures them that Commander Winslow is humble and "down to earth." June and the Waterfords wait in the living room with two birds in a cage. Winslow greets the Waterfords, and then he and Fred talk about the preparations for their prayer ceremony.
George's surrogate daughter, Polly, greets her father and the guests. She is joined by Winslow’s other children, who hug their father. Commander Winslow's wife Olivia greets the guests and introduces her children to the Waterfords. Serena holds the Winslow's baby in her arms.
Serena and Fred settle into their room. Fred regards the Winslow family’s numerous children as a miracle. When Serena asks about the Canadians, Fred tells her that the Canadians are seeking a neutral intermediary before talking about their media campaign. Before leaving the room to do some work, he leaves their wedding ring behind for Serena. In private, Serena studies the slip of paper which Mark Tuello gave her in Toronto.
The following day, June and the other handmaids form a semicircle around a statue of angel wings. Aunt Lydia notices Ofgeorge's sewn lips. Fred asks June and Serena to stand at front of the statue. When June asks how many videos he is going to do, Serena replies "as many as it takes". Nick, newly appointed as Commander, enters the chamber and speaks with Fred. He has been sent by Commander Lawrence to keep watch.
While posing for a photo, Commander Nick stands beside June and the two hold hands briefly. Fred then stands beside June and Serena for the video shoot. June and the other handmaids kneel while Fred recites the prayers.
At the Winslow household, June enters the living room where the Marthas are attending to the children. June greets Serena. She tells Serena that she knows she doesn't want this. Serena is initially reluctant to talk to June. Serena is still bitter about the loss of Nichole. June says that Nichole didn't change this place and that she deserves better than Gilead. June tells Serena that she knows that to be true.
Fred tells Serena and June that the Canadians have asked the Swiss to conduct interviews. Fred reassures Serena that it will be a small step for Nichole. He tells June to put on a clean dress because they want to make a good impression.
June and the Waterfords travel to a large building. Having interviewed the Waterfords, the Swiss diplomat, Mattias, insists on speaking to June alone, who is now known as "Ofjoseph." Fred says that it is not appropriate in their culture. The Swiss official insists on speaking to June alone if she has no objection. June says she has no objection. Before the interview, Serena warns her not to be stupid.
Serena socializes with Mrs. Winslow, who says she is prepared to tolerate his vices. She tells Serena that she and her husband used to work as corporate lawyers and had no time for a family before the establishment of Gilead. Olivia also reassures Serena that she will have a family one day. Fred plays with a toy teddy bear and is about to offer Serena a toy kettle but Pauline grabs it.
June asks Serena what Nick did before he worked as their driver. Serena replies that Nick served Gilead. When June asks for details, Serena tells her that Nick served as a soldier in the Crusades and that they wouldn’t be here without him. Serena senses that June is shocked that Nick disclosed his past.
Later, June visits the Lincoln Memorial where the statue of Abraham Lincoln has been beheaded. Serena approaches her from behind and says June's silence is a welcome change. June tells her to return the favor and walks away but Serena tells her to stop. Serena says that after they go home they will be free of each other. June replies that Serena will never be free of her until both of her children are safe. Serena says that is her constant prayer for Nichole.
June angrily tells Serena that she trusted her to give Nichole a better life. Serena counters that she trusted June to stay with Nichole. June says she named the child Nichole to honor her and that she will not let her go. Serena says that she loves Nichole but June says that Serena doesn’t know how to love. She tells Serena that she built this whole world of Gilead to have someone but that it didn’t work. June tells Serena that she is small, cold, and empty and that she will always be empty.
Serena angrily responds that she should've put a ring in her mouth the day they met. June replies that she should have let her burn in the fire. Serena walks away while June touches her head against the desecrated statue of Abraham Lincoln. She stares at the statue before donning her cap and mask.
Several handmaids have gathered at the site of the Washington Memorial, where the obelisk has been reshaped into a cross. Fred and Serena stand before the handmaids. June joins them. Fred leads the assembled masses in prayer. June kneels after an initial delay and the other handmaids follow.
Olivia Winslow encourages Serena Waterford to make her home in DC. Serena says she doesn't know where home is. Olivia then shows Serena an empty mansion and tells her that it is just waiting for the right owners. Serena asks who lived there before Gilead killed them all. Serena replies that they were Baptists. They find broken glass on the floor. They walk past a family photo into the baby room which had the name 'Phoebe' written on one of the walls. Serena replies that she will think about it. Olivia heads into the master’s bedroom. Serena looks out the window before joining Olivia.
Meanwhile, Serena attends a banquet with Commander Waterford, who asks about her visit to the gallery. She says she enjoyed seeing that so many intricate pieces were recovered from the art institute. Serena asks if he remembers the last time they were there. Waterford teases her that she skipped out on her cousin’s baby shower. Waterford expresses his love for his wife while gazing down at the menu.
Serena says she wanted to give the Winslows a break for their hospitality. Waterford thanks his wife for her patience. Serena hopes that the two of them will have a home together someday. Waterford reassures her that they will have a home together someday. Waterford vows to bring Nichole back. He tells her that he quit his job because other Gilead officials thought it would be more expedient for Baby Nichole to remain in Canada. He tells her not to press for a timeline because he doesn’t have one yet.
Meanwhile, Fred and Serena attend a ball where the Commanders and their Wives are dancing. Serena is greeted by Mrs. Winslow, who introduces her to Evelyn, Gabrielle, and Tacoma. Evelyn claims the credit for organizing the ball. They invite her to enjoy herself, claiming she is among friends.
As Serena approaches Fred, he tells her that she looks stunning. She offers her hand and the two dance against the background of romantic music. The other commanders and wives watch them dance.
In the hospital, June attempts to stab Serena Waterford with a scalpel she had stolen from the medical waste disposal box. Serena fights back and cuts June in the arm. Serena alerts Dr. Yates telling him that June stabbed herself.
Serena accuses her husband of getting "distracted" while they haven't made any progress on bringing Nichole home for months. She pulls out the satellite phone Mark Tuello slipped her in Toronto, making clear they could get their daughter back in exchange for some "cooperation".
Serena discusses preparations for an overnight trip with Rita. Serena is confident that Gilead’s diplomatic efforts to recover Nichole will succeed. Rita asks if she is sure that this is the best thing for Nicole. Serena thanks Rita and wishes her all the best before departing with her husband Fred Waterford, who has obtained a new car, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 convertible.
Fred and Serena take a drive along the open road. Fred and Serena talk about their plan to meet Mark Tuello. They drive along several fields which used to be occupied by derelict factories. They hear a broadcast from Radio Free America but Fred turns it off. Fred offers Serena to have a turn at driving, assuring her that there are no Guardians watching them for miles.
Serena takes over the wheel with the top down on the convertible and she puts on her favorite music. Serena and Fred stay in a country guest house along the way run by Econopeople. Serena is impressed by their large family. The Econowife says it takes a village to raise children.
Meanwhile, Fred and Serena dine with the family, who sing the song Dona nobis pacem. While the family sings, Fred and Serena head into a nearby wood to spend time alone. Fred senses that Serena is worried about bring Nicole back. Serena replies that she is fine. She asks Fred if he remembers their time at a café. Serena responds that she wrote her first book there.
Fred says she is a good writer but Serena is bitter that he took that right away from her. Fred admits that he did not realize how much it would cost her. Serena asks him to imagine how their lives would be like if Gilead never happened. Fred replies that he would still be in marketing and might quit his job. Fred admits that he has been sterile all along. Fred thinks of the prospect of retiring to a quiet town. Fred vows not to give up on getting Nichole back, saying that she will grow up to be just like Serena. In bed, the two share a tender moment together.
Meanwhile, the Waterfords arrive at an abandoned gas station on the Gileadean side of the border where they rendezvous with Mark Tuello’s car, a 2018 Dodge Charger GT [LD]. He asks them to follow his car into a safe place where they will be able to talk just "up ahead." After reaffirming that Mark is trustworthy, Serena ultimately convinces Fred to follow his vehicle, though he becomes increasingly suspicious when he realizes that the journey is much longer than expected. It becomes clear that Mark has lured him and his wife into Canada. Citing war crimes and documented international human rights violations, Mark carries out an arrest on Fred with the help of the Canadian military.
Fred and Serena are both detained and separated as Mark watches. Fred tells the Canadian soldiers not to hurt his wife but Serena tells him to do what they say. Tuello warns that Fred may be transferred to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court on charges of kidnapping, slavery, and rape. Several officials from the exiled American Government are also present.
In Gilead, Rita tells June that the Eyes came to speak with her but that she told them that Serena Waterford was overjoyed before she left. June explains that she is only nice when she is planning something.
Fred is locked in a furnished cell which has a large one-way mirror disguised as a window. Serena visits her husband and the two embrace each other passionately. Serena claims that she did not say anything to them and tells Fred not to give any information. Serena says that she fears extradition. Fred vows not to let anything happen to his wife. Serena tells Fred to stop worrying about her and to save himself. Fred reassures her that he will be fine.
Fred’s mood soon changes and he asks her what she has done. Serena replies that she wanted to see her daughter and asks her husband to understand him. Fred responds that it has always been about her. When Serena says that Nichole needs her, Fred replies that he pities the child that has her as her mother.Serena says she will pray for him.He holds her by the neck and Serena replies that she will break from him. She pushes his hands away and leaves the cell.
Serena styles her hair and dons modern clothes. She is visited by Mark Tuello, who tells her that she is only detained until they finish the process with the Commander. He asks how he took it. Serena replies that he is her husband. Mark tells Serena that Nichole is here and introduces a social worker to them. She then lets the social worker know where supplies are for the baby, and Serena adds that Nichole will be fine with her. Moira soon arrives with Nicole and introduces herself as a friend of June.
Disgusted at Serena, Moira asks Serena who does she think she really is, adding that new clothes doesn't make her any different, and is still the woman who held June down while Fred raped her. She also reveals that Fred raped her too while she was working at Jezebel's. Before Mark takes her out of the room, Moira concludes by saying she's sinned a lot, but Serena is the gender traitor. Serena cuddles Nichole, who at first cries but settles down. When Serena identifies herself as the baby’s mother, the social worker tells her not to do so because that will confuse the child.
Later, Fred speaks to Mark, blaming him for exploiting Serena’s obsession with Nichole and political theater. Mark responds that Serena is too smart to be manipulated and tells him that he knows that. Mark tells Fred to consider it an opportunity to help them understand Gilead. Fred is uncooperative.
Serena has been sleeping on her couch. Mark brings her some pizza from Toronto as a treat despite it being contraband. He also brings her several magazines and a newspaper. Serena thanks Mark for the hospitality.
Mark Tuello brings Serena Waterford some coffee. Serena has been allowed to spend time outside of her cell. Mark explains that the prosecutors want to go over her written testimony and that the American intelligence debrief starts next week. Serena asks if she can decline any interviews but Mark responds that she has surrendered that right. Serena agrees to cooperate. Mark offers to push some of the sessions but she accepts them. Mark says that she traded her rights for her daughter.
Mark tells Serena that she will have permission to leave the facility from next week as part of her reward for cooperating with the International Criminal Court. He leads her back inside and gives her pass allowing her to travel through Toronto. Serena looks forward to traveling through Toronto without an escort.
When Mark points out that he has made an immunity agreement with Serena that she committed her crimes under duress, Fred tells Mark that what Serena did was beyond the laws of Gilead and that of God.
Serena is seen cuddling Nichole Osborne when she is confronted by Tuello, Murray, and a female officer. While Murray takes the child away, Mark tells Serena that he has a warrant from the ICC and the United States of America for her arrest. Mark informs her that she is charged with sexual slavery and rape. Serena protests that it was a state-sanctioned ritual that was covered by the immunity agreement.
Mark counters that this charge was not under duress. A second officer cuffs Serena, Mark tells Serena that she is charged with getting her driver Nick Blaine to rape June Osborne. Serena protests that Nick's relationship with Offred was consensual but Mark doesn’t believe her. He tells the female officer to take her downstairs. Serena pleads with Mark but he ignores her.
Serena's legal meetings are unexpectedly rescheduled. Confronting Tuello, Serena discovers that nine Marthas and eighty-six children escaped Gilead and landed in Toronto. Fred and Serena are sure that the children will be returned home to Gilead, but Tuello says that their true home has already been taken from them, and that they will be rehoused in Canada.
Serena has a medical exam, and is questioned about abuse with Tuello nearby. He is present when Serena's laywer, Ms. Matthews, wishes to proceed with the strategy claiming that she was an abuse victim. Serena tells Mark that it was a mistake to charge her for impregnating June, as now she is an accused sex offender and is useless as a witness against Fred.
When Serena asks Tuello for her interests to be separated from Fred's, she is stunned when he tells her that her blood test has revealed that she is pregnant.
Serena tells the court that she wants to see Rita, and Moira passes on the message to the woman at dinner. Some time later, Rita comes to visit Serena, and the former Wife warmly embraces her. She invites her to sit down, revealing an ultrasound and telling Rita of her pregnancy. Rita is moved to happiness, noting that it is a miracle. Serena notes that she has not yet told Fred, and that she does not intend to. She asks Rita to help care for her son, and tells her to keep the ultrasound, telling Rita that she is her friend, and asking her to pray with her. She uses this notion of friendship to manipulate Rita by asking her laywer to put in a request for Rita to testify that any actions Serena took against June were due to coercion by Fred, but Rita realizes what Serena is doing and coldly denies to testify, instead betraying Serena by giving the ultrasound to Fred on another visit to the prison.
Serena has reached further stages of her pregnancy and keeps praying to God under the presumption that she regrets her previous sins and asks Him to help her foster a son. Her still reliable ally, Mark Tuello keeps mentioning the numerous requests of Fred to have an audience with her, especially since learning of the pregnancy. Finally, she accepts a quick conversation due the guidance of Mr. Tuello, that his help could help both their predicaments. Fred laments that they have both been giving a second chance at parenthood and desires a redemption in their marriage as well. Serena denies him this of course, to which Fred counteracts with two harsh truths: she holds no more right to be a parent than he, and the arrival of June will influence both their sentences. For now, Serena dismisses Fred back to his cell, though she clearly thinks over his offer. First, Serena tries to make amends with June directly, when her former handmaid stands face to face with her abuser and enemy. The talk goes about as well as one would imagine, with Serena dropping to her knees and crying to June for forgiveness.
Whether she does it solely to aid her tribunal or genuine remorse is unclear. It is doubtlessly insincere, as Serena only ever expresses kindness or remorse when she is trying to obtain something. The following moment is a complete reversal of her oppression of June nearly five years ago, in which June explains that Serena will have her son die in her womb. The cold, ferocious tone of June's voice as she repeats the words: "Do you understand me?!" shatters Serena. Failing to recruit June on her side, Serena reluctantly agrees to team up with Fred in the following trial, even if it means letting him share their child.
At the detention center, Serena has some demands for Tuello- a house, security and an expedited court ruling. Mark agrees to ask his superiors and he’s surprised that Serena is going to live with Fred as husband and wife.
Fred prepares to leave for Geneva, telling Serena that he’ll return “a free man, a husband and a father. He asks Serena if she’d be willing to video chat with him and she agrees and says goodbye.
At the end of Season 4, Serena waits for a Zoom call from Fred. Someone in the hallway delivering her mail opens her package and finds a wedding ring and human finger inside, Fred's.
- Episode 6, "A Woman's Place."
- Episode 2.6, "First Blood."
- Episode 8, "Jezebels"
- Episode 3, "Late"
- Episode 5, "Faithful"
- Episode 9, "The Bridge"
- Episode 10, "Night"
- Episode 2.1, Offred (TV Episode)
- Episode 2.4, Other Women
- Episode 2.5, Seeds
- Episode 2.6, First Blood
- Episode 2.7, "After"
- Episode 2.8, "Women's Work"