‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Serena Faces The Reality Of Her Shocking Decision

The Handmaid's Tale Serena
Yvonne Strahovski plays Serena|(Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu)

Serena Joy Waterford is one of the most divisive characters on The Handmaid’s Tale. Some viewers root for her and want her to redeem herself, while others think her villainous ways are irredeemable. Portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski, Serena is interesting and compelling to watch. While she has sympathetic moments, she has largely remained a villain and seems unable to move past her selfish ways.

The most recent episode of The Handmaid’s Tale revealed Serena orchestrated the plan to have Fred arrested. Even though she aided people looking to take down Gilead, she does not receive a hero’s welcome in Canada.

Serena betrayed Fred for visits with Nichole

Serena did not plan Fred’s arrest to help bring down Gilead. Instead, she betrayed him for visitation rights with June’s daughter, Nichole. Because she betrayed Fred for selfish reasons, Serena’s actions do not come across as heroic to viewers. When Fred discovers Serena arranged his arrest he tells her she has and always will be selfish. As satisfying as it is for viewers to see Fred face the consequences of his actions, he makes the valid point that Serena is not really a better person than him.

Moira reminds Serena she is not Nichole’s mother

Throughout the entire series, all Serena wanted was a baby. When June became pregnant in the second season, those around Serena constantly reminded her that June’s baby was not her child. Still, Serena clung to the idealization that June and Nick’s daughter was her own. It was not until the beginning of the third season that Serena admitted to June she was not Nichole’s mother. Every now and then, Serena has moments of clarity when she realizes the moral boundaries she crosses, but she always reverts back to her selfish and delusional thinking.

In the episode, a social worker allows Serena to visit Nichole for exactly an hour. It is clear from Strahovski’s acting that Serena imagined an idealistic and happy reunion. Instead, when Moira drops Nichole off she reminds Serena that Nichole is June’s daughter. Moira’s comments rattle Serena, and when Moira leaves the room Serena desperately tries to bond with Nichole. Except Nichole does not recognize Serena and she cries.

The social worker present assures Serena that Nichole is just experiencing stranger anxiety, reminding Serena once again that Nichole is not her child. To make matters worse for Serena, the social worker tells her she cannot refer to herself as Nichole’s mother because it will confuse Nichole. Even though Serena turned in Fred so she could have a chance to parent Nichole in Canada, she finds out that in reality, that is not possible.

At the start of the series, Serena gave up her past life for the chance to have a child through Gilead’s system. Because Gilead oppresses women, she gave up all of her rights only to never have the chance to parent a child. This season finds Serena in the same dilemma. She abandoned her life in Gilead, but found out she realistically cannot raise Nichole as soon as she arrives in Canada.

Serena still believes in the philosophy behind Gilead

Even though she orchestrated Fred’s arrest, the government detains Serena as well. Mark Tuello, the agent working with her, assures her it’s only until the government finishes collecting information from Fred. However, when Moira drops off Nichole, she reminds Serena of all the crimes she committed in Gilead. Is it possible Serena will be arrested too?

Mark Tuello first appeared in the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale as a spy for the American government. Even if he doesn’t have documentation of all the crimes she committed, it is likely he knows of Serena’s true nature from her books and arrest record before the formation of Gilead. Some fans speculate that the special privileges he gives Serena in Canada are simply to gain her trust. Technically, Serena is a war criminal and she admitted she still believes in Gilead’s philosophy. She just did not like when the rules applied to her.

Serena wants power, and although she has the right to read again in Canada, those who know of her crimes ostracize her. If she isn’t arrested later on, it’s unlikely she will successfully acclimate to Canada as a refugee.