Handmaid’s tale the commander

Table of Contents

The Commander poses an ethical problem for Offred, and consequently for us. First, he is Offred’s Commander and the immediate agent of her oppression. As a founder of Gilead, he also bears responsibility for the entire totalitarian society. In person, he is far more sympathetic and friendly toward Offred than most other people, and Offred’s evenings with the Commander in his study offer her a small respite from the wasteland of her life. At times, his unhappiness and need for companionship make him seem as much a prisoner of Gilead’s strictures as anyone else. Offred finds herself feeling sympathy for this man.

Ultimately, Offred and the reader recognize that if the Commander is a prisoner, the prison is one that he himself helped construct and that his prison is heaven compared to the prison he created for women. As the novel progresses, we come to realize that his visits with Offred are selfish rather than charitable. They satisfy his need for companionship, but he doesn’t seem to care that they put Offred at terrible risk, a fact of which he must be aware, given that the previous Handmaid hanged herself when her visits to the Commander were discovered. The Commander’s moral blindness, apparent in his attempts to explain the virtues of Gilead, are highlighted by his and Offred’s visit to Jezebel’s. The club, a place where the elite men of the society can engage in recreational extramarital sex, reveals the rank hypocrisy that runs through Gileadean society.

Offred’s relationship with the Commander is best represented by a situation she remembers from a documentary on the Holocaust. In the film, the mistress of a brutal death camp guard defended the man she loved, claiming that he was not a monster. “How easy it is to invent a humanity,” Offred thinks. In other words, anyone can seem human, and even likable, given the right set of circumstances. But even if the Commander is likable and can be kind or considerate, his responsibility for the creation of Gilead and his callousness to the hell he created for women means that he, like the Nazi guard, is a monster.

Commanders of the Faithful, or just simply Commanders, are a social class of powerful men in Gilead. They are the highest ranking members of all Gileadean society.

Role Edit

Commanders serve as politicians, military leaders and lawmakers, working in Gilead’s government. A hierarchy exists among Commanders, with some ranking higher than others. In the TV series, it’s implied that they are individually distinguished by military-style ranks (such as Colonel).

In the early days of Gilead, the Commanders were primarily men who brought about or supported the rise of the regime and most are staunch believers in Gilead. That being said, some Commanders are known to secretly break Gilead’s laws to indulge in forbidden luxuries or activities, such as using the black market to gain contraband items such as alcohol and cigarettes and visiting the brothel, Jezebel’s, or having illicit sexual affairs with their handmaids (Commander Guthrie, Commander Putnam).

Because of their high status, Commanders are permitted to marry, though because most of them are older men, many already have Wives. They are also allowed the ‘privilege’ of having a Handmaid assigned to them. Commanders are the ones that have a lot of money and that live comfortable lives, served by Guardians and Marthas. However, their lives are not all rosy; they are watched by the Eyes, like every other citizen, and can have their privileges revoked, or even face imprisonment or execution if found guilty of subversion. Many Commanders were killed and replaced during political Purges in the early years of Gilead. Some Commanders also feel stifled by the regime, as it takes away things they enjoyed about the old world and forces them to conform to the new society’s beliefs and values, although many seem to be either oblivious or uncaring of the more severe loss of rights and freedoms to women under Gilead.

Field CommandersEdit

Offred mentions in the novel that Commanders are separated into different “fields” in terms of what they command, however, they do not have separate titles.

In the Hulu series, “field commanders” are mentioned. It appears to refer to Commanders that are engaged in military leadership roles, such as the Commander who took New York, Commander Guthrie.

High CommandersEdit

Fred Waterford addresses Commander Winslow from Washington, DC as the “High Commander”, indicating a hierarchy within the class of Commanders. Since a junta (“Committee”) in charge of the regime has also been mentioned, this suggests “High Commanders” to be its members or immediate subordinates.

Known Commanders Edit

In the Novels Edit

  • Commander Fred
  • Commander Warren
  • Commander Glen
  • Commander Kyle
  • Commander B. Frederick Judd
  • Commander Saunders
  • Commander Tucker

In the TV Series Edit

Confirmed Alive: Edit

  • Commander Andy Allston (unseen)
  • Commander Nick Blaine (formerly a Guardian, still an Eye)
  • Commander Matthew Calhoun
  • Commander Carver
  • Commander Ray Cushing (removed from position and arrested for treason)
  • Commander Eric
  • Commander Grinnel
  • Commander Hollbeck
  • Commander Howard
  • Commander Horace (a promoted Commander)
  • Commander John
  • Commander Joseph Lawrence
  • Commander Logan (presided over and spoke in a Prayvaganza)
  • Commander MacKenzie (Hannah’s placement father)
  • Commander Warren Putnam (Head of the Eyes)
  • Commander Quinn (unseen, but mentioned by June to Natalie/Ofmatthew)
  • Commander Steven Scott (implied by his wife Grace who continues to appear in the attire of a Wife)
  • Commander Fred Waterford (arrested for war crimes, currently in Canadian custody)
  • Commander Webber
  • Commander Zachary
  • Dr. Yates (implied since he wears a Commander’s star)

Status Unknown: Edit

  • Commander Bennett
  • Commander Derek Chambers
  • Commander Davidson
  • Commander Robert Ellis
  • Commander Guthrie (arrested for corruption)
  • Commander Daniel Monroe
  • Commander O’Conner (his wife was sent to the Colonies for adultery)
  • Commander Samuel
  • Commander Wells
  • Commander Wyatt

Confirmed Deceased: Edit

  • Commander Glen Deeds (executed)
  • Commander Andrew Pryce (killed in the Red Center Bombing)
  • Commander Roy (died from a heart attack)
  • High Commander George Winslow (murdered at Jezebel’s by June Osborne/Ofjoseph #4)

Gallery Edit

Commander Fred Waterford, with a Commander’s star on his suit.
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ReferencesEdit

The Commander

The Commander’s independence

The first time we encounter the Commander, ‘he is violating custom’, standing in the hallway near the door to Offred’s room. Offred is concerned: what does this mean? ‘It could mean attack, it could mean parley.’ As the novel progresses we find that the Commander does indeed violate custom, talking to his Handmaid as if she is more than just an anonymous servant.

Developing relationship

Offred’s feelings towards the Commander are complex. At the end of chapter 10, well before he has asked her to go in secret to his office, Offred tells us:

‘I ought to feel hatred for this man … What I feel is more complicated than that. I don’t know what to call it. It isn’t love.’

After going to his office to play Scrabble, and talking to him, Offred realises (chapter 26) that ‘he was no longer a thing to me.’ When he takes her to Jezebel’s, and wants to have more intimate sexual intercourse than the Ceremony allows, Offred is aware that she cannot make the response he wants, but does have a sense of pity, and comments that:

‘he is not an unkind man … under other circumstances, I even like him.’

A cultured man

The ‘other circumstances’ to which Offred alludes may include her games of Scrabble with the Commander, which he first suggests in chapter 23. As Scrabble is a word game, involving reading, creating words and thinking about the possibilities of language, it is a dangerous and forbidden activity in Gilead. Hence, as Offred realises, the Commander has ‘compromised himself.’ The fact that his office contains books and magazines – also forbidden by Gilead – might suggest that he is a thoughtful and cultured man, and his desire to be kissed ‘As if you meant it’ seems to indicate a certain rejection of the lovelessness of Gilead. In chapter 25 he tells Offred that Serena Joy:

‘won’t talk to me much any more. We don’t seem to have much in common, these days.’

He is not simply concerned with power: Offred realises (chapter 32) that:

‘there are things he wants to prove to me … services he wants to bestow.’

The Commander’s sexism and complacency

The conversations Offred has with the Commander, both in his office and at Jezebel’s, in fact reveal his limited mind and his acceptance of much of Gilead’s dogma. He is not a deep thinker, and after their first game of Scrabble Offred realises (chapter 25) that:

‘his motives and desires weren’t obvious even to him. They had not yet reached the level of words.’

She senses that, ‘For him… I am only a whim.’ She recounts (chapter 29) how the Commander had once told her:

‘Women can’t add … For them, one and one and one and one don’t make four.’

He was laughing at women’s supposedly poor mathematics, but Offred tells us that this is a strength of women and reveals a sensitivity which the Commander does not have. For Offred,

‘One and one and one and one doesn’t equal four. Each one remains unique.’

In his conversations with Offred the Commander also tries to justify the oppressive theocracy that is Gilead. ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs,’ he tells her (chapter 32). ‘We thought we could do better.’ Offred is appalled: ‘How can he think this is better?’ In chapter 34 he tells her that:

‘We’ve given them more than we’ve taken away’

He then asks her, ‘What did we overlook?’ ‘Love,’ Offred tells him.

Hypocrisy

When the Commander takes her to Jezebel’s, Offred realises fully the hypocrisy of Gilead and of men like him. They purport to believe in sexual purity and restraint, but in fact frequent state-run brothels where the sex-workers are slaves. The women are not even real people for him: when Offred asks him ‘Who are these people?’, he talks about the officers and trade delegations. She has to explain to him that she means the women, at which point the Commander laughs, and comments that these women, once professional career women, ‘prefer it here … to the alternatives.’

The Commander’s fortunes in Gilead

As Offred is supposedly arrested for ‘violation of state secrets’, she sees the Commander with ‘his hand to his head’, aware that he may now be purged – that is, executed – by the state. In the Historical Notes, Pieixoto speaks of attempts to identify the Commander who may be either Frederick R. Waterford or B. Frederick Judd:

  • Waterford was responsible for borrowing and using the terms ‘Particicution’ and ‘Salvaging’, and for calling the Aunts by the names of ‘commercial products’ with names which were ‘familiar and reassuring’
  • Judd was supposed to have devised the form of the Particicution ceremony.

Pieixoto thinks that Waterford may well be Offred’s Commander; Waterford had ‘a substantial and unauthorized collection … of literary materials’ and:

‘met his end … in one of the earliest purges, accused of harbouring a subversive.’

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“ We only wanted to make the world better. Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some. ” — Fred Waterford reveals (to Offred) a political conviction

Fred Waterford

Commander Fred Waterford is the head of the household where June Osborne is enslaved as the Handmaid Offred, and the husband of Serena Joy. Waterford is portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. In the novel was stated as being a likely candidate for his real name.

ProfileEdit

AppearanceEdit

Fred is tall, has brown hair and a brown beard, and soft brown eyes. He is in his early 40s and has generally handsome looks. He is often seen in a suit, as he is an esteemed commander in Gilead.

PersonalityEdit

On the outside, he seems like a decent and well-meaning man. Though he almost comes across like a ‘victim’ of Gilead, he was actually involved in designing and establishing it. In the way he treats his wife and everyone else below him, his cruel side is revealed.

Fred likes for others to believe that he is a kind, just man. He has forgiven Serena and Offred several times in the series, making the viewer believe that he has a soft side. He definitely has a weakness for Offred. He breaks many of Gilead’s rules for her. However, he also can be ruthless at times. For example, he supported the punishment of his wife when she read a book. Serena holds this against him.

StoryEdit

In the pastEdit

Before Gilead Edit

Before Gilead, Waterford managed a marketing agency that worked with far-right fundamentalist nonprofits, such as the Family Research Council, Chalcedon Foundation, One Million Moms and Serena Joy.

In a flashback, 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 hustle her out, with Fred loudly protesting that his woman has a 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 to find the “terrorist” who shot her.

Fred later gets to catch the sniper and his wife and holds them at gunpoint. He kills the wife first.

Fred returns home from a meeting with other Sons of Jacob where they devised a plan to take over the total power over the USA. He later explains to Serena that the Committee issued orders to attack the Congress, the White House, and the Court, which was what they originally proposed.

After the takeover Edit

To Fred’s dismay, Serena is not allowed to give an (eagerly anticipated) speech in a government building, now controlled by the Sons of Jacob. Warren blames the current society for Serena’s frustration, since they gave women “more than they could handle” and “let them forget their real purpose”..

Nick is driving Commanders Pryce, Waterford and Guthrie, who are discussing women’s roles and The Ceremony in the new society they want to build, with Fred scarcely participating. Fred later refers to the conversation as “the handmaid issue”, first time introducing the name of the story.

Before the main storyline Edit

Nick (now working for the Waterfords) and Rita discover the previous handmaid hanged herself in her room. As the body is carried away, Serena Joy asks Fred “What did you think was going to happen?”. Nick is later ordered to spy on Mr. Waterford for the Eyes .

Present, season one Edit

June has been (re)assigned to the Waterford’s household as their new handmaid “Offred”. As part of the Ceremony, Commander Fred tries to impregnate Offred as she lies in the lap of his wife.

The Commander’s Room

Nick tells Offred that the Commander wants to see her alone, which is forbidden. Offred goes to the Commander’s office unsure of what’s going to happen, but he just wants to play the game Scrabble with her. He reveals he’s going away to Washington DC next week to attend meetings, but says he’d like to see Offred again in private when he returns.

During the next Ceremony, the Commander is unable to get an erection and Serena Joy orders Offred to leave. Later, Offred goes to see the Commander in his study. She asks him about a Latin phrase “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”. He reveals it is pseudo-Latin meaning “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” and Offred realizes her predecessor heard it from him. He asks if Offred knew the previous Handmaid; Offred is evasive and asks what happened to her. The Commander reveals she hanged herself from the chandelier that used to be in her room. Offred, seeing a chance to manipulate the Commander, persuades him to allow her outside, saying she has been feeling like “giving up”.

Offred and Commander Fred continue their nightly game of Scrabble. On one of these nights, the Commander gives Offred a present; a fashion magazine from before Gilead. During the Ceremony, the Commander touches Offred’s thigh and looks at her, which is forbidden. She tries to tell him so, but is scolded, called an adulteress, and told to leave. In their ensuing conversation, the Commander admits that while they thought they were building a better world, they knew that “better never means better for everyone – It always means worse for some.” Offred gets sick and goes to throw up in the kitchen sin.

The Waterfords receive Mexican delegates in their home in an effort to create partnerships in trade. The head of the Mexican delegation, Mrs. Castillo, questions Offred about her experience in Gilead, to which she replies she has found happiness. Fred reveals to his wife in an unobserved moment that the Gileadean currency will fall off if they don’t make progress on trade. After the meeting, Offred visits Fred’s office for their usual discussions where some tensions flare up between them. He asks her to kiss him “like you mean it”. She kisses him and leaves, ferociously brushing her teeth afterwards.

Offred returns to her room and is surprised to find Commander Fred Waterford waiting for her with gifts including makeup, a revealing dress and high heeled shoes. After shaving her legs and getting dressed up, the two, driven by Nick, head to a surprise destination. Disguised as Serena Joy Waterford, Offred slips by the guards. Fred, Offred and Nick enter the back of a building, meandering through hallways and elevators, finding themselves in Jezebel’s, a secret brothel/sex club that well-to-do men frequent. Offred sees Moira across the bar and excuses herself to the women’s restroom to follow her. Fred and Offred later go in a hotel room and as he tells her all about his current frustrations and fears, he seduces her. Offred silently cries as he advances on her. Later while Fred is sleeping, Offred sneaks down to see .

Offred goes to Fred’s office to flirt with him and convince him to take her again to Jezebel’s. He complies and they sneak out that night after Serena goes to bed. When they’re in the club, they go straight to the room. Fred has ordered Offred a “surprise” – a girl, Ruby, aka Moira, since he noticed that they looked friendly the last time they were at the club so he thought it would be a nice surprise.

Serena Joy reveals Offred’s pregnancy to her husband and tells him the baby isn’t his because he is weak.

Fred participates in Warren’s trial chaired by Commander Pryce. Waterford is all for leniency, reminding that no one is free of mistakes and that Warren Putnam has a family, a wife and a new child. Pryce replies that the council should always stand against sin. Ultimately, Putnam’s left hand is amputated.

Two armed guards come to the Waterfords’ home 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 Edit

Offred (TV Episode)Edit

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.

Other WomenEdit

June is taken back to the Red Center, where she is retagged and chained to a small living space. As Aunt Lydia explains, the Waterfords are willing to take June back for a “trial run”. June’s other option is to stay in that room, counting flowers on the bedspread (there are 71), and to be eventually executed after giving birth. 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.”

Commander Fred is out skeet-shooting with some other Commanders (among them Putnam, Pryce, and Cushing). He insinuates that he’d like to travel to Canada along with Cushing to “ease sanctions” and states to have his house in order. Pryce corrects him “back in order”. That evening, June begs for forgiveness in front of all the members of the Waterford household and to be again Offred.

SeedsEdit

In a Gileadean office building, Commander Waterford suggests Commander Pryce to reward Nick for his loyal service by a job opportunity in Washington. Pryce replies he should “find a way to keep him around”.

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, , who is much younger than him.

First BloodEdit

Commander Fred inpects the almost finished construction site of the new Red Center, along with Aunt Lydia and the Commanders Pryce, Putnam, and Cushing. Aunt Lydia is pleased about the increasing number of “girls” they “can process here”. Waterford assures a suspicious Pryce that the “finishing touches” on the site will be done within two days.

Fred sneaks into Offred’s room while she sleeps and shows her a Polaroid of Hannah in her pink Subservient-in-Training uniform. Offred thanks him and cries as she stares at the photo, which the commander takes as an invitation to start pawing at her belly, then her breast, telling her he missed her. She responds that sex probably wouldn’t be great for the baby. He backs off quickly, leaving the photo with her.

To the opening of the new Rachel and Leah Center, Commanders from all of the districts are there. When Nick sees Commander Pryce, he begs for reassignment and says there’s a lot he hasn’t divulged about Fred. He then asks Pryce to promise to “protect the handmaid”, to which Pryce replies he has his word.

As Fred addresses the men who’ve gathered, a whole bunch of handmaids stand along the auditorium’s back wall. Ofglen#2 steps out of line and turns to face her fellow maids, raising one hand so everyone can see that she’s holding a detonator. The women start to run. Ofglen then walks into the assembly, holds up her hand once more and presses the buttom. As the red-clad women run for safety, a huge explosion rocks the center.

AfterEdit

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.

Women’s WorkEdit

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. .

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.

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. Offred later goes downstairs and apologizes to Fred for what she did. She asks if he’ll forgive her and he says to go to bed.

Smart Power Edit

Rita comes to Offred’s room and tells her that they’ve been summoned. They are told by Commander Fred that he and Serena are going to Canada, introducing a new Guardian, Isaac, to watch over the house during his absence. Serena tells Fred that he doesn’t need her to go but Fred says that they need to show Canada that women aren’t oppressed in Gilead.

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.

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.

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. Moira is there protesting with a sign that shows Fred that her name isn’t Ruby.

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.

The Last Ceremony Edit

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 Commander 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. Eden takes out the trash and runs into Isaac. They share a kiss as Nick watches from the balcony. Eden realizes this and runs up to the house to apologize. He says not to worry about it and Eden asks why he doesn’t care that he just caught her cheating on him. He doesn’t say anything and Eden realizes that he likes June. Nick tells her that he’d never get involved with a handmaid. She realizes that he just doesn’t love her and starts to cry.

June is laying in bed when Fred comes into her room. He tells her that he’s planned a surprise for her. He puts her in a car and instructs Nick to bring her back in 3 hours. On the drive to where they’re going, Nick asks her what happened but she doesn’t respond. They arrive at a house where inside Hannah is waiting. She rushes towards her but Hannah gets scared and hides behind a Martha. June asks if she remembers her and Hannah nods, the Martha telling June that Hannah’s name has been changed to Agnes. Hannah asks if it hurt when they hit her on the head and if she tried to find her. June says yes but Hannah asks why she didn’t try harder. Hannah tells her that it’s okay because she has new parents now. Hannah notices that June’s pregnant and tells her that she doesn’t get to keep it. The guard says that it’s time to go so June tells Hannah that she’ll always love her and that she should enjoy her life. The guard separates them but Hannah runs back to June. June tells her that she has to go and that she loves her. Hannah leaves leaving June kneeling in the snow as she cries.

Holly Edit

Serena Joy and the Commander Fred arrive looking for Offred. 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 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.

Fred continues to console her, telling her they can’t have gotten far and he will call local security. He urges her to leave, and they move outside. Offred relaxes as they drive away.

Serena tells Fred that Nick is the father of the baby.

Postpartum Edit

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. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding with some overzealous guards but he’s been returned safely to work. Commander Fred tells him opportunities are going to open up for Nick and Nick says he appreciates that. 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.

Commander Fred walks in telling him that guardian Isaac never showed up for his shift this morning. Nick puts two and two together and realizes that they must’ve run off together. Serena is dealing with a crying Nicole. She gets the idea to try and breastfeed her but of course it doesn’t work.

Offred is in the kitchen helping clean the kitchen when Rita is called by Serena. Offred takes the chance to smell some of Nicole’s clothes. Commander Fred walks in and asks her why Eden would runaway. Offred says she doesn’t know and he asks where she was hiding when they went searching for her in the house. She says the attic and he says that she was avoiding going home with him. Offred tells him that she wanted to spend more time with Hannah and he asks how was her reunion. Offred says she was surprised to see her. Fred says that he was glad he made it happen for her. She thanks him and he asks if that’s all the thanks he gets. She offers to play scrabble with him.

The Word Edit

Nick gets visited by Eden’s father who apologizes for Eden. Commander Fred asks if he has another daughter and he says yes. Commander Fred tells him to make sure that their other daughter is raised better. Eden’s father tells them how he was the one who turned in Eden to the authorities. This shocks Offred who asks Commander Fred what he’ll do when they come for his daughter. He closes the door and slaps her. She slaps him back. He grabs her by the face and shoves her down. Later, Rita helps Offred by giving her an ice pack. Nick arrives so Rita leaves to give them some alone time.

Serena approaches the Council about an amendment. Other wives walk in after her in support. She tells them about how they want to teach the sons and daughters of Gilead to read. Commander Fred thanks them and that the Council will discuss the issue. Serena pulls out Eden’s bible and begins to read. As she does, wives begin to leave. Naomi tells her that she shouldn’t have done that. Commander Fred thanks them for coming but essentially dismisses them. The other wives leave but Serena stays behind to talk to her husband. She tells him that she did this to set an example for their daughter. Fred agrees that she has done this just as two other men come and drag Serena away. She screams at him for help but he just walks away.

Offred opens the front door and lets Serena and Fred inside the house. Serena can barely walk so Fred guides her to their room. He tells Offred that they had a difficult day but that from now on everything will be better. Offred waits until he leaves before she asks Serena what happened. Serena begins to unwrap her hand and shows her that they took one of her fingers. She says that she tried and Offred sits on the bed and holds her hand.

Offred goes downstairs into the kitchen where Fred is calling for Rita. She tells him that she can’t believe he let them do that to Serena. He says that they all have roles to play and that Serena needed to be reminded of hers. Fred tells her that maybe Offred could stay in the house with her baby and that they could try again but for a boy this time. She tells him to go fuck himself. He then brings up Hannah and how if she agreed she’d be able to see her more. He tells her to think about it as he goes back upstairs.

Offred is feeding Nicole when she hears a commotion outside. Rita comes in and tells her that they can get her out but that she needs to leave now. Rita tells her where to go so Offred hugs her and then leaves. Inside, Fred watches what’s going on from his office. He goes and asks Rita what’s going on but she says she doesn’t know. Realizing something is up, he runs upstairs to check on Nicole. Nick follows him up and when Fred tells him to put together a search party Nick tells him to stay inside.

Present, Season 3 Edit

Night (Season 3) Edit

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 takes a drag.

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, but June only speaks to Serena telling her that the baby is safe. Serena gets very upset knowing that Nichole was handed over to Ofjoseph #3 (Emily), 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.

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.

Useful Edit

When the Commanders start to arrive at Commander Lawrence, Fred Waterford and June have a brief conversation in the dining room. She wonders how Serena is doing, and he says she’ll be OK. Then she asks what he knows about Lawrence. He calls him “an interesting man” and a “visionary” who helped bring Gilead into being, but admits he’s always been hard to read. When she presses him for more, Fred says, “He does not like to be bored.”

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.

June visits Lawrence in his study where he starts quizzing her on whether she’s good at making friends, influencing people, and “intimacy”, getting closer to her face only to ask if this “really worked on Fred” and how the Waterfords could not notice how “transactional” she is.

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.”

God Bless the Child Edit

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”.

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 with Chicago. 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. She walks out of the room and sits on the floor.

References Edit

After three seasons of near-invincibility, Fred Waterford finally got his long-overdue comeuppance in last week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s been undeniably satisfying to watch Fred’s authority gradually diminish in small ways this season—June’s “At least it wasn’t you” back in Episode 10 got a round of applause from me—but it was even more gratifying to watch him slapped into handcuffs and marched off to jail by police at the Canadian border.

The revelation that Fred’s downfall comes at the hands of his wife, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), makes this cathartic moment that much sweeter. She’s been playing him like a fiddle, and in the latest episode, “Sacrifice,” Fred learns Serena orchestrated his arrest, giving him up in exchange for the promise of visitation with Nichole.

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Below, Joseph Fiennes digs into Fred’s abusive relationship with Serena, his confrontation with Luke, and that ambiguous predatory dynamic with Christopher Meloni’s now-deceased Commander Winslow.

Fred’s comeuppance at Serena’s hands has felt like a long time coming. As the actor playing him, did you feel the same way?

From the book, I knew he’d come to some kind of demise, but I wasn’t sure quite how his downfall would play out. He’s certainly done enough damage that he deserves to be constantly looking over his shoulder. All season, he’s been dragging Serena along with this promise of Nichole and of a family, while actually being seduced by the idea of power and the political game in Washington, D.C. He’s trying to have his cake and eat it.

At the same time, when they’re on that road trip, I think he really does want to win Serena back. When they come to that eco-house in the village, this represents their fucked-up idea of a Gilead utopia, and Fred in that moment genuinely believes, “Actually, we could just settle here, and I could go without pursuing yet more power.” But in reality, I don’t think he ever can. Fred’s so used to being in a position where he’s allowed to feel more powerful and intelligent than he really is. I don’t think he could ever deal with a reality where he doesn’t have those trappings to elevate his ego.

Jasper Savage

He underestimates Serena too. Even after everything he’s done to her, he never imagined she could turn on him.

He’s too wrapped up in his own egotistical world of control to contemplate it. She does a great job of convincing him too. For her to allow him back into bed is a signal, in his mind, that he’s won her back. They haven’t had physical relations for quite some time, and once they’d re-consummated their relationship, he was hoodwinked. He was completely blindsided by . And good! We need that moment of satisfaction!

I think he’s really crippled and devastated by it on many levels, by the betrayal but also that he doesn’t know his wife. Part of the abuse is that he thinks he knows her inside out, and can win her back and manipulate her with the baby. He’s such a controlling little fuck that the idea that he doesn’t really know his wife is unbearable.

He clearly has no remorse about his role in Gilead or his treatment of the Handmaids, but does he feel any remorse for how he’s treated Serena? There are hints of that in Episode 11, but it’s hard to tell how genuine he is.

I think it’s like a lot of abusive relationships, heightened by this awful reality of being in a place like Gilead where he will always be welcomed back. In this awful theocracy, he can use scripture, and the word of God, in order to justify his pathetic, evil, patriarchal violence, and try to convince Serena that she’s wrong to want a husband who treats her better. That she’s wrong to advocate for women to read and write. There’s nothing he can’t justify to himself.

Strong women have an effect on Fred. He’s drawn to them, because he’s so pathetic in his own nature.

Fred shows absolutely no humility when Luke confronts him, and actually ends up taunting him about how he’s “changed June.” What’s going on for Fred in that interaction?

He’s so used to these trappings of authority—the desk, the double-breasted suit, the committees, the power—that he feels slightly affronted by Luke in that scene, by his forceful presence. He can’t help but taunt him. Also, I think Fred genuinely does feel that June has changed, just through being brutalized and being forced to evolve in a way that might reveal an uglier part of her persona. Fred is cognizant of that, and off the back of Luke saying, “You’re gonna rot in this jail knowing your wife betrayed you,” he can’t resist turning it back on him. The message is, “Yes, I didn’t know Serena could deceive me in this way, but if you meet your wife again, Luke, she may not be the person you once knew either.” It’s both an honest response to the question and a taunt.

And he has this weird possessive thing with June, where he clearly likes the idea that he’s made his mark.

Which is all part of the Gilead philosophy, this ugly sense of ownership over Handmaids. I also think strong women have an effect on Fred. He’s drawn to them, because he’s so pathetic in his own nature. And when the strong women rear up too much, he tries to find a way to smack them back down again.

Joseph Fiennes and Christopher Meloni in Season 3, Episode 6. Hulu

There’s a homoerotic subtext to Commander Winslow’s behavior toward Fred, which is fascinating to watch, because for the first time, Fred is in the position of being made to feel pursued and uncomfortable. What was your take on their interactions?

I thought it was genius, and I wish we had opened up that narrative a little bit more. I loved the idea that Fred gets a taste of what it is to have a predator move on him. Chris Meloni brilliantly developed this power-hungry, black-hole energy that could move any which way he wanted. He’s got this corruptive sense of power, and there’s an unanswered question of how far would Fred have allowed it to go. The ambiguity of it was delicious: Is this guy putting his hand on me for a little bit too long? We talked a lot about how to do it, because originally, it was putting his hand on his lap or something, and we went around and discussed it a lot with Dearbhla Walsh, our director on that episode. We ended up liking the more ambiguous version, and I found it so brutal and deeply subversive and something that Fred needed to taste a bit more of.

Emma Dibdin Contributor Emma Dibdin writes about television, movies, and podcasts, with coverage including opinion essays, news posts, episodic reviews and in-depth interviews with creatives.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Star Joseph Fiennes on Finding the Humanity in Fred

As Commander Fred Waterford in the dystopian regime of Gilead, “The Handmaid’s Tale” star Joseph Fiennes walks a thin line between tough political figure and pure predator. It is not a line that Fiennes himself takes lightly, tasked with finding the humanity in a “warped, pathetic, brutal psyche,” as he says, so his work not only has nuance but also can further some uncomfortable conversations.

“Of course this is vehemently and quite rightly a female-focused piece, but on the sidelines of that conversation are elements of the male psyche,” Fiennes tells Variety. “You see it in , you see it in and you see it in Fred — you see the good parts and the most rotten parts. For me as an actor to engage in that ugly conversation, it makes it more complex, and it raises my fellow protagonists’ job. If there is a complexity to him then it makes their job more interesting and harder and thereby more engaging for the audience, I think.”

Here, Fiennes, who is a first-time Emmy nominee for the second season of the Hulu drama, talks with Variety about what still surprises him about the role, the scene he refused to do, and the fallout from the finale.

What do you still find challenging about playing Fred, two seasons in?

He can be something of a device mechanism, and I have to find the nuance in what little moments I can. It’s lovely when we go back in flashback to see the loving connection between Serena and Fred and you saw the humanity and the light. My challenge and struggle is when you deal with the device, how do you reach for the nuance? You’re given very little moments and pockets to do that, and that’s kind of my job, as it was, to try and identify a moment — reach into the character to bring his humanity to light.

Were there any moments in the second season that surprised you?

When he’s confronted in the car returning from Canada back to Gilead with all of the movement happening outside of the limo, the protests. I just think there’s a moment where it connects. He’s buried under the need for power — the corrosive need for power — but the human part of him, it comes hurtling back in that one second, and I think that jolts him and is deeply unsettling. And I love that because again he’s multi-faceted. The effects of his actions settle upon him, even if it’s brief, and you get a feeling that something, somewhere might be connecting with him. I’m not saying he’s good — he’s fallible — but in the deeper part of his nature, there’s a pinprick of conscience. And that shows he’s got somewhere to go.

Was there a moment this season you considered a turning point for him?

I think the turning point or the beginning of the change in Fred, at least from my perspective, in episode 10 when Serena and Fred decide to execute the ceremony. … After that horrific moment we get a moment of pause where Fred is altered by the extreme brutality of what he perpetrated, really for the first time. It’s all mixed and confused with manipulation and power and control decisions to reach out to June are based on recognizing that abhorrent part of his nature and seeing her suffer in that way.

Was that also a turning point for you as an actor?

I’m always struggling to find the nuance in him, and I was asked during a SAG question and answer session — and I didn’t expect it to hit the ‘net the way it did — about a scene in which I really stood up and said no. Of course there’s a lot of brutality in the show, and I was making the show without having seen any cuts or edits, so I didn’t know the nature of how brutal it is for an audience because we were still in the middle of making it. But I felt to protect the character, if you like — my sense of the complex character that he is — and to honor Yvonne’s beautiful portrayal, it didn’t really need something heavy to come a point of justification for her to leave Fred Gilead. … It foreshadowed what happened in episode 10, and also I felt like it made Fred more of a megalomaniac and not human, and I wanted to keep the conversation intelligent, relevant, difficult and engaging. And I guess that’s my job on the sidelines as a supporting actor. My day to day job is to try to enrich it on the side. … You know who Fred is; you know how he operates. What’s so wonderful about doing one, two, three seasons is the audience knows the history now, like the actors do, and it’s a wonderful challenge — I’ve never had the chance before — to rely on that wealth and thereby not have to always play the darkness of the guy, because we know what’s hidden behind.

He’s not a mustache-twirling villain, and yet he constantly gives in to more monstrous sides of his personality. To what do you attribute that?

I think the male hierarchy can really damage and cripple the psyche, and you feel that within the hierarchy of Gilead. And as a boy growing up, the way men are introduced through their childhood into the world, I think that moment in life reverberates with questions and conditioning. For Fred I think it could have happened really early, but I think given that we’re exploring this side of Fred in depth in the show, it is my job to have a thought process as to why and how, and it’s all about power at the end of the day. When his manhood is questioned or undermined or he feels it’s not evident enough, I think a lot of that stems from the male Gilead hierarchy and then he rising the ranks and is threatened by the machine. It invariably is taken out on the women in his household. When something fails in his life, they’re the first to be reproached.

How important is it for you to take some of the quieter moments where the camera lingers to depict some of his internal conflict?

To just be able to think on camera — those moments are usually reserved for our protagonists, not really our antagonists, but when those moments do settle and we get into the mind or get a flicker of a glimpse of a conscience, that’s very important. We get to create a thinking, multi-dimensional character. You’re wholly reliant on the architecture of the lens. You can do whatever you want, but if the lens or the light doesn’t get to a point to allow to see it, it doesn’t land. The actor can do what they want, but the architecture around us is what allows it to get to the audience.

Do you find you try to create those moments for yourself more than they may be written on the page?

There are moments — I don’t always win them, but there are moments! … You saw it a lot with Serena because the beautiful performance Yvonne gives us makes it much more complex for the audience. There’s humanity in the horror, and that gives us great confusion. And that is the real world — there is no black and white, and it’s not that you forgive rapists, but it allows us to understand where the root cause comes from and the fallibility begins, and it only makes the conversation that much more engaging.

Where do you think Fred can go from the events of the second season finale?

I imagine there’s a lot of fall-out, there’s a lot to resolve. … Fred is trying to keep the house together and in order, but it’s in such an ugly fashion it has the opposite effect. Serena is obviously cognizant of what’s happened, and he has a lot of catching up to do. The baby is gone, and that has to have tremendous effect, both in the emotions and in the hierarchy of Gilead. It’s always been the goal for Serena and Fred to have this sense of family in their lives — it’s been haunting them for so long — and to have it come so close and be ripped apart, there’s a sense of it all falling apart and a sense of abandonment. And when it comes to the others in the household, the way they’ve all been colluding, there’s certainly a lot to play with.

Just when we thought the Commanders couldn’t get worse or more powerful, we met Commander Winslow on The Handmaid’s Tale. While Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) are integral to the organization, Winslow is at the center of it all in Washington, DC. (Or at least what’s left of it). We had to do a double-take when we saw him, because yes, that is TV veteran Christopher Meloni.

Known for his role as Detective Stabler in Law and Order: SVU and his latest dark comedy Happy!, he’s on the other side of the law in this new gig. DC is the epicenter of this new, brutal regime that forces women to give birth and subsequently give their children away. You can see this happened time and time again for Commander Winslow, who shares a whopping six children with his wife, played by Elizabeth Reaser.

We never really learned much about Commander Winslow, but we do know that he was willing to break all the rules. In episode 11, he attempted to rape June, but she stabbed him to death with a pen. Meloni spoke with Harper’s Bazaar shortly after his character’s shocking murder and about his character’s sexuality. Who could ever forget the very-non-Gilead moment when Winslow rubbed Waterford’s shoulder at the pool table?

Whether you want to call it Easter eggs or bread crumbs, I just thought there was something to play there. The action is just, I put my hand on Waterford. And I thought, This is a man of great appetite, and there’s also a sense that this is how things work when you have absolute power. Things are not what they seem to be, and there is a corruption and a perversion of norms. I’m not saying that to be bisexual is a perversion, of course, but that this person is not authentic. You’re propping yourself up to be one thing, and the truth is that you are something else.

When we talked to executive producer Warren Littlefield, he alluded to an intimate relationship brewing between Commander Winslow and Commander Waterford. But we never actually saw it play out. Let’s not forget, Gilead considers those who engage in homosexual relationships “gender traitors,” and they’re often killed, brutally punished, or sent to the Colonies.

“There’s a respect, there’s an admiration, there’s a bonding. Is there possibly some kind of attraction here?” he said. “And Commander Winslow is married with a large family, and that spins Serena Joy’s head, so it’s a wonderfully multi-layered relationship that Fred Waterford finds himself in, with a goal.”

Melano also spoke with Bazaar, about his character’s shocking death, and his final line: “My children.”

“I found that so layered, because that’s usually the final plea for sympathy, the idea of, Oh, the children, that’s something that a person would connect to. And in this instance, for June, I think it’s the opposite. It’s like, ‘F–k you, you mean the children you stole?’

With Commander Winslow’s death and Commander Waterford’s arrest, it looks like June is getting closer and closer to accomplishing her goal. As for us, we’re still trying to center our breathing as we await the final episodes of season 3.

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Blake Bakkila Associate Editor Blake is the Associate Editor for GoodHousekeeping.com covering beauty, celebrity, holiday entertaining, and other lifestyle news.Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Well, that was an unexpected turn of events for The Handmaid’s Tale’s Commander George Winslow.

(Major spoilers for this week’s episode, “Liars,” ahead.)

Christopher Meloni’s “high commander,” who didn’t behave like any of the other leaders we’ve met in Gilead and seemed to be the only one truly enjoying his authority, is gone. And the Handmaid’s writers left no room for doubt about that, having a group of rebel Marthas burn him to a crisp inside a furnace after June (Elisabeth Moss) murders him. Murders him!

Not that Winslow didn’t deserve it. The whiskey-loving father of six was about to rape her at Jezebel’s just for sport, and June just wasn’t going to take it anymore. After kicking him in the chest, which he liked, and an ensuing struggle, June gets the upper hand when she finds a pen in the rug and stabs him repeatedly in the chest. One of the blows leaves him gasping for air and pleading “My children!” before June clocks him in the head.

It’s a terrifying victory for June, but perhaps not for viewers, who won’t get to see Meloni rub up against Fred (Joseph Fiennes) again or navigate Gilead in his unsettlingly easygoing manner. In a phone interview with Vulture, Meloni spoke about how he learned Winslow was a dead man, his interpretation of the character’s last words, and why Winslow might not have been as fecund as we were led to believe.

Did you know the full arc of the character when you agreed to be on the show?

No, you never know. They just give you kind of the broad strokes. “He’s a commander from Washington, D.C. He’s a very powerful guy.” I thought it would be more with the Waterfords and their climbing up the ladder of power, so it was very satisfying to have it intersect with June, although it didn’t help me continue on the show.

When did you find out that this would happen to Winslow?
When I came up to shoot the episode preceding it and the regular cast said to me, “Oh my God, have you read the next episode?” ’Cause I’m a guest star, I don’t get the scripts as quickly as the regulars. So I was like, “No, was it good?” And they would say, “Oh my God, it’s so good. It was so nice having you on the show.” I’m like, Oh boy, the die is cast.

You do hear stories about painful calls between producers and actors when a character’s demise is imminent. This didn’t happen for you?
No. I’m there to provide shock value and to help the regular characters have their story arcs built up and built out.

Well, it was definitely a shocker. What did you think of the story?
The setting I understood: Jezebel’s. I thought it was a powerful, pent-up, cathartic expression, obviously, for June, and correctly ignominious for the commander, or at least for the power structure. It feels as though that’s what my character represented — the heart of Gilead. I was representing the federal government of Gilead. I thought it was very satisfying that sexual violence is met with violence. And I liked that his last words were “my children.” I felt that was poignant. I loved going through all of the stunt work and figuring out the dance of it all. And then I felt the ending and how they dispose of him was like, Oh my God. All I could think of was, for the viewers who are completely invested in this unjust saga, there’s no more satisfying way to dispose of a character. Even as we’re filming it, I’m like, Oh, man, this is gonna make so many people go, “Yeah! Man, this feels so good!”

The Marthas!
Yeah! The girlfriends are banding together. They have had enough.

Did you think June had that in her all along? Or did she just crack?
I think you follow June because in her prior real life, she was a real human. She’s no pushover. She’s been forced into a certain way of behaving just in order to get through life. She’s witnessed a lot of things and is lucky to still have both her eyes and all of her digits. To navigate cleverly in this environment, you’re going to start losing things. I think the dam finally broke and she is not going through this again.

June and Commander Winslow had that interesting moment in “Witness” where he asks her how things are going at Commander Lawrence’s house and she responds that he treats her with respect, which provokes the rape ceremony. The actual rape isn’t shown — we’ve seen enough of that on the show — but you still had to play being a part of a group of people that is, in a way, the audience for this heinous act. How did you feel filming that?
That’s a good question, because we’ve made it palatable by turning it into a ceremony. You know, just as much as the Aztecs killed virgins for the sun god or whatever. You ritualize brutality. And why do we do this? For the greater good. Sacrifices must be made. That’s how we can put children in cages — to protect ourselves. If I were part of the ritualizing of the rape scene, I don’t know what my choice would be because, as a viewer, I watch it and I cringe. And what’s cringe-y is the discomfort of the women. And how I’ve seen it played is that the men don’t feel that discomfort. They disconnect. They are pretending to connect, but it’s always disconnected. The wife has to be there. So, when you’re doing it, you build up your own rules and it becomes a character thing.

I know that sounds so actor-y. But what you do as an actor, you go, The character doesn’t believe in this, it’s wrong, but he’s stuck. Or, The character has completely bought into the fact that if you don’t do this, society will crumble. That whole situation was Waterford making a power play on Lawrence. And as much as George admires Lawrence and loves him, especially loves his whiskey, that’s how I entered that scene: Let’s celebrate in this. And, by the way, I’ll probably be aroused watching the proceedings. So did it bother me? Was it weird? Nope. I think this guy revels in this for sport, and maybe he’s paying a little bit of lip service to the idea that this is the only way our society can continue.

Speaking of Commander Winslow’s excitement, he is definitely the most fertile person in Gilead. Six kids!
You know what the writers were saying to me? They said he stole many of his children from other commanders that he killed.

What?
I know! I was like, No, you’re wrong! In my mind, those are all Winslow’s. Well, maybe one he stole. I was like, You got that wrong. Winslow is very fertile. That’s how I felt about it and about him. That’s what he is supposed to project. He was the biggest running bull in the herd.

That’s why I wasn’t sure about that scene where Commander Winslow is teasing Fred, flirting with him, touching him and rubbing up against him. I know some people saw that as a sign that George was making sexual advances toward Fred. But I wondered if he was just playing mind games, using his sexual power to put Fred in his place, because we don’t see that happen again.
Aha! Good! I think it was intentionally left, or at least I intentionally left it, ambiguous. This is a guy with many appetites. Take that for what you will.

Tell me about filming your final scene. There’s a lot of punching and kicking before the pen comes out.
I flew in and we rehearsed it a day earlier. The stunt people had blocked it out pretty clearly and cleanly. And then Elisabeth and I got to it and it took a day. We had a stunt person for Elisabeth but not for much of it. On the first take — and it almost always happens — adrenaline was ripping and Elisabeth popped me with that pen. It was like, Wow!

So it was a real pen that you used? Who knew you could cause that much damage with a pen?
It was! Yeah, the whole thing we were going for is that she punctured a lung. It’s kind of this cat-and-mouse, and then she hits something and she catches me between the ribs. That’s why he’s . He starts losing the ability to get as much oxygen as needed, and in that moment she’s able to get in there and, well, you know the rest.

His last words imploring her to save him for his children can be viewed in different ways. How did you see it?
Part of what makes this show so great, besides its visual style, is obviously the writing, which in that moment was so good. Let’s look at the ambiguity in that last thing, which is something that someone says to ask for mercy, right? Don’t kill me; I have children. But also value in Gilead is all wrapped up in children. If you don’t have children, you have no future. You don’t have a stake in the future. So they’re really a coin of the realm — hence why I have so many children. So it could be that what you have read into his psyche is “But I’m so rich! This can’t be happening because I’m rich and powerful. My children! I have all my children.” It’s a way to look at it. That’s what he’s thinking about. But I liked that in the middle of this brutality, there was an outward look, what looked like an empathetic tug at the heartstrings of viewers to make it a more difficult moment for June and for the viewer.

Are you sad that you’re not going to be on the show anymore?
Yes. I want you to start a campaign. Bring back Winslow’s brother — his identical twin.

’Cause we definitely can’t bring him back. We know where he went.
I’d have to get into a tanning bed for a long, long time and get a smoke machine to constantly have smoke emanating off me.

Happy! star Christopher Meloni and Elizabeth Reaser (The Haunting Of Hill House) are set to guest star in the upcoming third season of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Meloni and Reaser will play Commander Winslow and Mrs, Winslow in the Emmy-winning drama series.

Meloni’s Commander Winslow is a powerful and magnetic Commander who hosts the Waterfords on an important trip. Mrs. Winslow (Reaser) is Commander Winslow’s wife, who becomes a friend and inspiration to Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).

Season Three of The Handmaid’s Tale is driven by June’s (Elisabeth Moss) resistance to the dystopian regime of Gilead and her struggle to strike back against overwhelming odds. Startling reunions, betrayals, and a journey to the terrifying heart of Gilead force all characters to take a stand, guided by one defiant prayer: “Blessed be the fight.”

Production is currently underway on Season 3.

In addition to Moss and Strahovski, Joseph Fiennes, Alexis Bledel, Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella, Samira Wiley, and Bradley Whitford also star in the series created for television by Bruce Miller, who serves as the series’ showrunner and an executive producer. The series is also executive produced by Warren Littlefield, Elisabeth Moss, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Ilene Chaiken, Eric Tuchman, Mike Barker.

The Handmaid’s Tale is an eleven-time Emmy-winner among its numerous awards which include a 2018 Peabody Award and a BAFTA Award.

The series is produced by MGM Television and internationally distributed by MGM.

Meloni also previously starred on Underground and recently recurred on Pose. He’s repped by Industry Entertainment and Gersh.

Reaser was most recently seen as Shirley Crain in The Haunting of Hill House. Reaser is repped by UTA and Stone, Genow, Smelkinson, Binder & Christopher.

High Commander George Winslow was a minor recurring character in season three of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Season ThreeEdit

Household Edit

Fred and Serena tell June they are guests of High Commander George Winslow. June walks with Rita, who tells her that the baby is the only thing that Serena 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 he 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 ceremony.

George’s surrogate daughter, Polly, greets her father and the guests. She is joined by Winslow’s other children, who hug their father. The High Commander’s wife Olivia greets the guests and introduces their children to the Waterfords. Serena holds the Winslows’ baby in her arms.

High Commander Winslow chats with Commander Waterford while playing snooker. Regarding the Swiss mediation as a triumph, Commander Winslow and Fred drink a toast to the latter. There was sexual tension in this scene, revealing that the High Commander is a gender traitor. Polly then breaks it by inviting over her father and Fred for a tea party.

Under His Eye Edit

Witness Edit

Liars Edit

Winslow runs into June at Jezebel’s. He takes her to a posh suite to talk, asking if Commander Lawrence brought her here. She replies she’s there for fun, with the purpose of telling him everything that happens. Winslow opens the doors to the bedroom and asks her to get on the bed and strip her underwear off and lie on the bed face down. When he tries to force himself on her, she fights back and an altercation starts between the two of them, ending in June stabbing him multiple times with a pen and knocking him out with a statue despite his pleas to her that he has kids. His body was later cremated by several Marthas.

RelationshipsEdit

  • Household
  • Under His Eye
  • Witness
  • Liars

GalleryEdit

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Why Christopher Meloni Thinks His Character Received a Satisfying End

This week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale saw the end of Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni) in a most satisfying end. June (Elisabeth Moss) killed him in self-defense and got her revenge for countless handmaids the man tortured and maimed. The character’s death was a fitting end to an unbelievably evil character arc. Meloni, who played Commander Winslow, thinks his character got what he deserved in the end and in the best way.

Christopher Meloni found his character’s death satisfying

Christopher Meloni | Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Meloni recently spoke with Bazaar.com about his character in The Handmaid’s Tale and how he enjoyed working with Moss. His character had a very satisfying end when you think about how evil of a man he was.

“It’s always so much fun to work with her, because you get to act a lot with what is said versus unsaid,” explained Meloni. “She’s very adept at saying a million things with her face, and I like that. I like working in that way, with an actor who really understands that aspect of it, so that you’re basically having all these scenes underneath and in between the words that are coming out of your mouth. And I must say that I found it very satisfying for her as well to be stabbing me with my own pen! I was like, “Finally! Girlfriend’s getting a whack at the piñata!” And also his final demise , I found that very satisfying. It’s like it’s a group effort to burn this mother******!”

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has been renewed for season 4

Unfortunately for Commander Winslow, she kept the pen. pic.twitter.com/vjgztnIk5n

— The Handmaid’s Tale (@HandmaidsOnHulu) August 1, 2019

To no one’s surprise, Hulu’s hit show will be back for season 4. The Handmaid’s Tale is based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name. This season has shown a new side to June as a fierce fighter that will do anything to break the chains of her oppression. The women are being forced in Gilead against their will in sexual slavery.

Things are coming to a head as handmaids and Marthas fight back even more this season. In this last episode, viewers saw June deal a final blow to Winslow. The Marthas clean up the evidence and incinerate his body, leaving no trace of what had actually happened. The women of Gilead are fighting back together and aren’t going down without a fight.

Will June get the children out of Gilead?

You did this, Resistors. Praise be. Season 4 of The #HandmaidsTale is happening! pic.twitter.com/uQfKEGE9cW

— The Handmaid’s Tale (@HandmaidsOnHulu) July 26, 2019

June has recently come up with a miraculous plan to get the children of Gilead out and to freedom. Her first thought was to get Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) involved. He agreed, but is apparently being watched and it’s unsafe for him to get out himself. As viewers saw in the episode before, the Marthas have agreed to get 52 children out. The downside is that the vehicle Lawrence has for their use only seats 10 people. “52 kids and 10 seats,” June says. “How does that math work?”

After everything we’ve seen this season, I think it’s safe to say June will get the children out. Executive producer Warren Littlefield told reporters at the Television Critics Association that the show will feature a huge cliffhanger this season.

“I hope you’ll feel shocked at what we accomplish and where we leave our key characters,” said Littlefield. “I think it’s quite a cliffhanger that we’ll leave you with. And I feel quite confident that if we had a 40 percent leap from Year 2 to Year 3, I’m looking forward to what that leap will be in Year 4.”

It looks like June will accomplish something great before the end of the season. After this last tumultuous episode, it’s almost impossible to imagine what’s in store for June and the other handmaids stuck in Gilead.

This post contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3, Episode 7.

What is it about Christopher Meloni? Whether he’s playing a mushy-hearted detective with a dark side, a weirdo cook whose best friend is a can of vegetables, and a cop turned hit man who hangs out with a winged blue unicorn, he slides into every role with equal ease. That chameleonic power is on display again in this season of The Handmaid’s Tale, which finds Meloni in perhaps his most menacing role yet.

As we saw last week, Meloni’s character—Commander George Winslow—is an imposing guy, even to other powerful people in the autocratic theocracy of Gilead. He speaks in a low growl; he leans in very close when he’s addressing someone; he’s got a lot of kids. To Meloni that last quality is an especially important indicator of how powerful this character is. As he explained in a recent phone interview, every society values certain things more than others. In the nation of Gilead, where a mysterious bout of infertility means that many women have trouble conceiving babies, “for one person to be hoarding so many children, I’m like, This guy’s basically Kublai Khan in a way,” he said.

Meloni had already seen the series when the opportunity to join its third season as a guest star arose. Still, he decided to study up, bingeing around eight of the show’s most recent episodes. “I don’t suggest it,” Meloni said. “It’s a lot of dystopian in one fell swoop…. It’s a tough slog.”

But Meloni’s studious approach did offer him some insights into the world of Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel, and how his character should operate within it.

“The commanders I’d seen so far…they commanded such power, and yet they were afraid,” Meloni said. “There’s always this fear attendant to their position in this society. I could be completely wrong, but…I felt like these guys were very tight.” Gilead’s leadership, the actor observed, is very cutthroat—with each commander seemingly determined to take out his comrades in order to enhance his own position. Commander Winslow, Meloni decided, would be different: “He wears his power effortlessly.”

“I don’t think you get in his position without being a master of manipulation and subterfuge,” Meloni said. He wanted Winslow to be unpredictable—and once he heard how many kids the character had, he felt he had the character locked down. “It’s a guy who has voracious appetites, you know? He can’t have enough works of art. Whatever the power and monetary things are, whatever gives someone status and power, he can’t have enough.”

The role is a relatively small one, at least so far this season. But Meloni makes the most of each moment he occupies—and, most delightfully, seems to intimidate even Joseph Fiennes’s slimy Fred Waterford, who deserves to get knocked down a peg. Then again, Waterford did vow this week to bring baby Nichole back to Gilead, directly defying Winslow’s instructions to let the infant remain in Canada so that she could be added leverage during negotiations between the nations. Given the way this world works, retribution for his action seems likely—and given the way Meloni describes his character’s management style, it seems safe to guess that his good-natured chats with Fred might be short-lived.

“I think he’s very much hands off—knowing that you know that if you eff it up, there will probably be severe consequences,” Meloni said. “Everything is great, everything’s fantastic, until it’s not. And then—. That’s how I would kind of think his governing style would be.”