‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Fred Waterford Actor Joseph Fiennes Wants This Fred and Serena Flashback Episode
Fred and Serena Joy Waterford’s past is briefly addressed in The Handmaid’s Tale. In past seasons, fans learned Serena Joy experienced some fame (or rather, infamy) after releasing a controversial book. And Fred stood by her side as a supportive husband. Flash forward to life in Gilead, and he does nothing when Serena’s finger is cut off for reading. Actor Joseph Fiennes wants another Fred and Serena flashback episode to show more details of Fred’s transition from supportive partner to a “weaker” man hiding behind power he didn’t earn.
[The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 spoilers ahead.]
What happened to Fred Waterford?
Fred Waterford starts outs season 4 exactly as he finished season 3: in prison. The Gilead commander was arrested for crimes against humanity in season 3 episode 11 with the help of his wife, Serena Joy. She exchanged Fred for the chance to spend time with baby Nichole. Fred then turned on her by reporting the crimes Serena committed in order for Nichole to be conceived. Serena is arrested at the end of season 3.
Trailers for the new season revealed what seemed impossible: Serena Joy is pregnant. At first, Serena wants to keep the news away from Fred, whom she deeply resents and no longer trusts. She tries to make a friend in the recently freed Rita, her former Martha, which is just laughable. Rita tells Fred the baby news. Before then, Fred had a vengeful attitude toward Serena. But the baby news changed everything for him.
Fred convinces Serena Joy it’s in their best interests to team up as a united front for their upcoming legal battle. She gives in, because let’s be honest—at this point, Serena Joy is an irredeemable villain just like her husband.
Did Serena Joy create Gilead in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?
There are moments when it’s hard to hate Serena, like when her finger is cut off for reading in front of a counsel of commanders. Helping get Nichole out of Gilead also showed a glimmer of humanity. But she has proven time and time again that she will resort to her old, cruel ways whenever she needs to get what she wants.
She and Fred were so desperate to improve the birth rate in the United States that they helped create Gilead. She literally created the system that now doesn’t even let her read. And as for Fred, he feels entitled to the power he’s received as a Gilead commander.
Their lives before Gilead showed Serena Joy was clearly the more successful, and Fred did support her in his own way. Better yet, he admired her success and bold public actions (even if it did get her shot). But once he was given the upper hand in Gilead just by nature of being a man, it didn’t take long for him to look down on his wife—seemingly the only woman he respected.
Joseph Fiennes wants ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ to show the depths of Fred’s weakness via flashback
This shift from supportive partner to the abusive, patriarchal, power-hungry, entitled commander viewers see is what Fiennes wants to dive into in flashback form.
The Shakespeare In Love actor told Fortress of Solitude:
“Though we don’t get a lot of airtime to examine this dynamic, we have seen a flashback in the early days of Serena in front of the crowds and Fred supporting her. I would love to see an episode where we delve back into the early days to examine the headiness and support that Fred provided Serena. Following how it went wrong would show the corrosive effects of power especially, when you have a weaker character like Fred, who hides beneath double-breasted jackets, political positions, and mahogany desks.”
Fiennes said Fred would never want to go back to life pre-Gilead because in that world, he would be held accountable for his actions. In Gilead, talking about male infertility is illegal—all the blame is placed on the wives. Fred enjoys living in a societal structure that validates his desire to never be questioned and never face consequences.
“Once he got drunk on that, he figured he could live out the fantasies, and never be held accountable. He then swiftly entered the darker side. Fred is a complex character and he is always cognizant of that element within him. He is aware of the pain he might have caused others, but he knows that he won’t be held accountable. Fred found an easy route in Gilead to fulfill his personal and political needs.”
Hopefully The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 will have the time to go into more of Fred and Serena’s backstory.