‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5 Episode 3: Serena’s Conversation with Commander Lawrence, Explained

In The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Serena Joy returns to Gilead for Fred’s funeral. Shockingly she hopes to stay in Gilead as her permanent home, but episode 3 revealed this wouldn’t be the case. Before Serena gets the news about her new position, she has a cryptic conversation with Commander Lawrence. Here’s what it means.

[SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 3.] 

In The Handmaid's Tale Season 5, Serena and Lawrence talk in a hallway in Gilead.
Yvonne Strahovski as Serena and Bradley Whitford as Commander Lawrence in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

Serena Joy attends a dinner at Commander Lawrence’s house

Serena Joy returns to Gilead with Mark Tuello in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5. In episode 3, she attends a dinner at Commander Lawrence’s home. Commander McKenzie and his wife, as well as Nick and Rose, are also present.

During their dinner, Commander Lawrence’s status as a single man comes up. Lawrence’s wife Eleanor died in season 4 from an overdose. Lawrence tells his guests that he has no plans to remarry. “Well, we’ll have to discuss that later as well,” Commander McKenzie responds. “A single man has no place in leadership.”

Serena hopes to stay in Gilead in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5

Later that evening, Serena sits down to talk privately with Commander Lawrence. Serena mentions that the house must feel very empty without Eleanor. She also states that she’s beginning to think that it’s a good thing Fred won’t be raising their son with her.

“I loved Fred, but a boy needs a strong father to guide him in this life,” she tells Commander Lawrence. Serena then reiterates what Commander McKenzie said about an unmarried man in Gilead having “limited influence.” Lawrence, however, advises against marrying for power.

While this conversation may seem like a bonding moment between Serena and Lawrence, it seems that she had ulterior motives. In a conversation with Mark Tuello, Serena reveals that she hopes to stay in Gilead.

When Tuello remarks that it isn’t safe for an unmarried woman in Gilead, she replies, “I don’t believe that will be my situation for much longer.” When Serena is summoned by the council for the following day, she quickly asks if Commander Lawrence called the meeting.

Here’s what Serena and Commander Lawrence’s conversation means

Before Serena attends the meeting, she chats with Commander Lawrence. He asks her: “Serena, do you have some kind of expectation of me?” She responds no, but it’s clear that Serena has been scheming. In Gilead, both she and Lawrence could benefit from remarrying. Serena attempted to make this clear to Lawrence, suggesting, without saying anything, that he take her as his new wife.

However, Commander Lawrence does not comply. He apologizes to Serena before the Council meeting. Inside, Serena learns that she won’t be allowed to stay in Gilead. Rather she will serve as a diplomat while living in Canada. Her plan has ultimately failed, but she will still be a dangerous force to be reckoned with as Gilead’s influence in Canada grows.

Don’t miss new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Wednesdays on Hulu.

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