[Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season 3, episodes 11,“Liars,” ahead.]
I told you last week—when Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) went all jealous ex on June (Elisabeth Moss)—that Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) had his number. Well, it didn’t take long for her to cut the head off that snake.
After calling her husband out on his faux attempts at getting their daughter Nichole back through “political means,” the Waterfords embark on a road trip to bring her home personally. At least, that’s what Fred thinks.
It seems like he’s gone through a complete transformation from last episode to now. Not because he lets Serena Joy drive (what, does he want her to lose all her fingers?), but because he tells her he’d happily give up his place in Gilead’s succession (aka his position in line for top dog) in favor of moving with her and their baby to the middle of nowhere.
Serena softens to Fred and they even share their marriage bed once again during their stop for the night at a nice religious Gilead family cabin. They commiserate over their pasts and where they would be if they never led the charge for a new world order. Fred even admits he never realized how hard life would get for her. Progress, I guess.
So, imagine Fred’s surprise when their meet-up with Serena’s American contact, Mark Tuello (click here for a refresher on him), turns into an ambush. Fred unknowingly crosses the line into Canada where he’s met by Mark (Sam Jaeger) and way more Canadians than necessary to complete an arrest. The whole time he’s being arrested, Fred insists they leave Serena Joy alone and that she did “nothing wrong.” Serena also seems pressed.
However, I have to wonder, did Serena Joy plan this? I would bet a lot of money I don’t have on yes. She doesn’t smile maniacally or outright say “fooled ya!” or anything like that, but she and Mark lay out a few hints.
First, and most obvious, although she’s led away by Canadian soldiers, she’s never actually arrested. Mark is very clear about his target when he reads Fred his rights. Serena’s name is never mentioned.
But let’s back up to Fred and Serena’s talk in the woods. She’s no fool. When Fred starts glamorizing his and Serena’s relationship, claiming that had they stuck to their path, he would have been “the man behind the woman.” It would have been Serena who was powerful and lauded. If they were to divorce, it would have been her to have left him. He’s almost wistful about it.
Serena calls him out at every turn. No, if Serena went on to be this famous writer, he would have resented her power. No, he would have left her for a younger, more fertile model. “You’re just saying that in this place,” she responds to Fred. Because what could have been doesn’t matter now that he’s gotten everything he’s ever wanted. Fred might say he’s willing to move out to the country and leave his commandership behind, but Serena Joy hasn’t been asleep these last few months. She knows better.
Lastly, as they wait at their initial meeting spot, Serena’s facial expressions don’t reflect a woman about to be reunited with her child. This may not be the face of a completely vindictive traitor, but it’s definitely the face of a woman grappling with a choice:
You know what choice Serena Joy would never struggle making? Whether or not she wants to be with Nichole.
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