- Baby Factory: Their own purpose in life is to give birth to more children, whether they like it or not.
- Broken Bird: All of them are this by default, considering the kind of crap they are forced to. Some find better way to cope, but they are still this at their core.
- Color Motif: Red.
- Fate Worse than Death: Even though they live in relative luxury, the life of an handmaid is nothing short of a hellish and miserable experience: on top of having all your civil rights stripped like all women, you also lose your ties to your past, identity and name being referred to as whoever owns you, reduced to a Baby Factory whose only purpose in life is being raped and give birth to children for your master. And when no longer of use (whether by being too rebellious, growing old or infertile), then its off to the Colonies to die a slow and painful death. It is no wonder that a number of Handmaids attempt suicide to escape this wretched life like Offred's predecessor, Janine and June herself (though she survives) and even some econowives like Heather say she'd sooner die than become one. Tragically, she is turned into a Handmaid after they found out she is a mother (therefore fertile) and her husband helped June escape. The only thing comparable to being a Handmaid is becoming a Jezebel, whose purpose is to provide pleasure rather than children.
- Lady in Red: Played completely for drama. They wear red because it symbolizes fertility and establishes them as breeding stock. And while their fully concealing garments aren't supposed to be titillating, some male perverts have fetishes for the Handmaids in-universe.
- Made a Slave: They are selected for their fertility and if, in pre-takeover society, they were divorced, married to divorced men or were single - same-sex relationships aren't acknowledged, and lesbian women that happen to be fertile are legible to become Handmaiden.
- Rape as Redemption: In pre-takeover society, they were "fallen women" that committed illicit relationships, were divorced or lesbian. Gilead justifies "redeeming" into "proper women" by turning them into breeding slaves.
The main protagonist. Her real name is June Osborne.
- All for Nothing: Offred spends the first half of season 2 attempting to escape Gilead, only to be caught and returned to The Waterfords from the "kidnappers".
- Adaptational Heroism: Notably in the book, due to the first person format, she betrayed an irrational irritation and envy toward Janine, despite knowing what she has gone through, to demonstrate the toxic effects of Gilead. In the series, she looks out for Janine as much as she can.
- Agony of the Feet: At the Red Center, she has her feet whipped into a pulp for helping Moira escape.
- Badass Bookworm
- Big Sister Instinct: To Janine, who has a less stable mind and is presumably younger than her.
- Deadpan Snarker: Offred is much more sarcastic in the series than in the novel.
- Despair Event Horizon: In "Other Women", June is sent back to the Waterford House after she comes tantalizingly close to fully escaping Gilead. This along with learning of the horrific punishments which were delivered as the consequence of her recent defiant actions, such as Ofglen having her tongue removed, and Omar's execution and his family being split apart, deal a heavy blow to her quietly defiant spirit. Guilt-ridden and seemingly accepting of her lot, Offred prays for Hannah and herself to forget June, and at the end of the episode doesn't react when Nick refers to her by that name.
- Determinator: Among many other things, in Holly, heavily pregnant, in early stages of labour June, tries so desperately to escape that she tries to break down a garage door with a car, and when that doesn't work, starts going at it with a shovel.
- Dub Name Change: Called "Defred" in France and Spain, "Difred" in Italy, "Freda" in Poland and "Desfred" in Germany.
- Ear Ache: After Nick helps free her, she burns her Handmaid clothes and cuts her hair per his instructions, then goes a step further by cutting out the tag that was implanted in her ear.
- Happily Married: To her husband Luke before Gilead took over and she was separated from him.
- Made a Slave: The premise of the series.
- The Mistress: She was this to Luke before he finally left his wife for her, which makes her position as a Handmaid even more bitterly ironic.
- Named by the Adaptation: In the novel, her name is heavily hinted to be June. The series confirms it.
- Raised Catholic: In the first episode, she refers to a Catholic church that is being demolished as her "Dad's parish" and says that her daughter was baptized there. Her Catholic upbringing attributes to her knowledge of the Bible and the sincere prayers she gives to those who are fallen.
- Secular Hero: A downplayed aversion. Gilead may have suppressed her Catholic faith, but she still calls out to God occasionally.
- The Unfavorite: To Aunt Lydia, due to her history of attempting escape and her "adultress" past with Luke.
- Your Cheating Heart: She isn't the cheater in question, but is stigmatized as an adultress because she was the "other woman" in a relationship with an already married man.
A fellow Handmaid assigned to be Offred's shopping partner. She's also the second of three women to carry this title. At first Offred doesn't trust her and finds her to be a stickler for rules, but soon warms up to her as they share stories of their previous lives, finding out that Ofglen has quite the rebellious streak.
- Adaptational Sexuality: Is a lesbian in the series; her sexuality is not stated in the book.
- Beware the Nice Ones: She's a genuinely good person, but she is ruthless against Gilead's higher-ups.
- Crippling Castration: A rare female example. After it's discovered that she was married to a woman in the Before Era and being caught having an affair with a Martha, Emily is spared from death, but punished for her 'gender treachery' with a clitoridectomy.
- The Dog Bites Back: After all her abuses that she has suffered in the first two seasons, she unleashes her fury on Aunt Lydia when the Aunt continues to demean her in her face.
- Happily Married: To her wife before the coup.
- He Who Fights Monsters: In the Colonies, she meets a Wife who was caught having an affair after her husband had long been ignoring her in favor of their Handmaid. For a while it looks like she's formed an Odd Friendship with this woman who's been newly introduced to the receiving end of the terrors she endorsed, but she's actually setting her up for a slow, painful death by poison, and then sets up the body as if crucified.
- Made a Slave: Used to be a college professor who taught cellular biology, now a Breeding Slave.
- Named by the Adaptation: Emily.
- Nerd Glasses: Seen wearing a pair in her flashbacks to her pre-Gilead life as a professor.
- Replacement Goldfish: The second Ofglen.
- La Résistance: But gets eventually booted out of it due to her recent arrest and stricter surveillance on her behavior.
- Spared By Adaptation: In the book she hangs herself, but in the series she is sent to the Colonies for her defiance. She later returns after the suicide bombing took the lives of 31 Handmaids.
A fellow Handmaid whom Offred associates with.
- Adaptational Heroism: Not that she was evil in the book, but we get to know her a good deal better in the series, making her come off as less of a brown-noser and more of a woman who has been horribly broken, even more than other Handmaids.
- Child by Rape: The implication of her firstborn son and explicitly with her daughter.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: After having lost her eye and being subjected to torture at the Rachel and Leah center, Janine seems to become mentally frail, or as Offred would call it, "batshit insane". Whilst at the "Particicution", where the handmaids are allowed to kill a male criminal, Janine can be seen in the background, dancing by herself and staring proudly at her belly (likely reveling in the fact of a rapist getting beaten and killed, due to past traumas).
Janine: You said we would be a family!Warren: She's not well.Janine: I was well enough to suck your cock! I did every fucked-up thing you wanted. All the freaky shit you'd never do, because you promised me we would run off and we would be a family!
- Commander Warren Putnam attempts to use her fragile sanity to his advantage, gaslighting her into believing that he'll leave his wife for her and will run away with her and then when she calls him out, saying that she's delusional.
- Cuddlebug: She's remarkably affectionate with her friends. Her response to seeing June for the first time in months is to Glomp her.
- Driven to Suicide: She fails to drown herself in the river.
- Eye Scream: In the series, she loses an eye.
- Foil: To Moira and the first Ofglen. Like the first Ofglen, she's Driven to Suicide, but she succumbs to her brokenness and Offred understands it's a completely valid emotion to have in Gilead.
- Made a Slave: In her case, is psychologically broken into accepting it, too.
- Morality Pet: Becomes one to Aunt Lydia as she descends into one of the more compliant Handmaids. It's also implied Lydia's kindness to her assuages Lydia's conscience.
- Nice Girl: She's a genuinely sweet girl.
- Offing the Offspring: What she nearly does, perhaps in hopes that she and her child would be Together in Death. She ultimately accepts that her child should have a chance to grow.
- The Ophelia: Gilead has turned her into this.
- The Pollyanna: She eventually becomes one as she descends into insanity, talking constantly of how God has a plan for her, and cheerfully pointing out the (minimal) bright side in every situation.
- Sanity Slippage: Starts off as normal and defiant, but a combination of ripping out her eye and and group slut-shaming her for being an underage rape victim, results in this.
The Replacement Goldfish of the last Ofglen. A former drug-addicted prostitute. Her real name is Lillie Fuller.
- Berserk Button: She keeps up the pious charade for a long time, but being forced to stone Janine makes her mad enough to speak out.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: As distasteful as it might be to label a suicide bombing as one, her wiping out Gilead's entire upper government in one fell swoop is simply jaw-dropping.
- Foil: To her predecessor, the rebellious Emily, who plays piety to hide her subversive activities, while this Ofglen plays pious as an act of self-preservation.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Downplayed. She can't stop musing - rationalizing - that Janine/Ofdaniel has it all better when the the latter had been re-stationed to a wealthier, "nicer" Commander, showing how Gilead wields twisted exaltation to turn Handmaids against one another. This doesn't stop her from being protective of Janine at her stoning.
- Happiness in Slavery:
- Her reasons for snatching Offred away from interacting with Emily. She had a worse life in the Before and this life in Gilead seems better by comparison, so she wants to protect her life and play the pious rule-abider. Though it's also up to interpretation whether she really thinks this way.
- Her delight at being permitted to the fancy dinner with the Mexican ambassador indicates that she enjoys whatever privilege chances her way due to her position.
- Her vocal way of refusing to stone Janine suggest she has limits over how much she can follow Gilead.
- Characterisation Marches On: After her tongue is pulled out, she Took a Level in Badass and carried out a suicide bombing to take out many of Gilead's commanders. In the end, she dies fighting against Gilead.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Her way of pulling Offred away from talking to her traumatized friend may seem harsh, but she has no malice in doing so, as she's on survival mode in Gilead. She also seems genuinely protective of Offred over the driving incident and tries to offer Offred encouragement in the aftermath. Her camaraderie with her fellow Handmaids is also shown when she stands up for Janine at her stoning and methodically shows her fellow Handmaids her detonation button in order to warn them to run off before she dashes to suicide-bomb the room of Commanders.
- Kick the Dog: Pulling Offred away from talking to Emily and then later scolding Offred for taking too long to walk to the Salvaging. It becomes evident that it's part of her survival mode.
- Named by the Adaptation: Although none of the Handmaids ever find out her name, it is revealed to the audience as Lillie Fuller.
- The Oldest Profession: In the Before era. This experience allows her to twist her current Handmaid station into something better.
- Recovered Addict: Before Gilead she was a drug addict, but she is now clean, presumably due to the lack of availability of drugs in Gilead. Getting clean and having a place to live under the Gilead regime is part of the reason that she initially, at least, does not care so much about fighting back and mostly keeps her head down and plays the pious true believer.
- Tongue Trauma: Her fate after standing up for Janine.
- Spanner in the Works: Possibly. Her call-out of Aunt Lydia and her subsequent beating at Janine's stoning help inspire Offred to drop her stone. Thus, this possibly leads to the moment where the Eyes, or Mayday, whisk Offred into a van to possible escape.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Due to the stress of Gilead's operations and limited time spent with Offred, the two don't really get along much, and their bickering is akin to two sisters feeling resentment for the other getting them into trouble. However, like sisters, they do truly care about one another, with Offred feeling awful about her Tongue Trauma and Ofglen trying to to pull Offred away from a danger zone. Later, Offred wishes she knew Ofglen's name.
A Handmaid Offred met at the Center, who occasionally chats with Offred during shopping trips.
- Deadpan Snarker: When out of the Eyes' earshot.
- La Résistance: Her involvement with Mayday is heavily implied by "A Women's Place" when she asks Offred if she overheard talks of trade routes and dates regarding the trafficking of handmaids. And then confirmed when Offred asks to join Mayday and gets tasked by Alma with returning to Jezebel's to receive a package.
- Death by Despair
- Driven to Suicide
- Due to the Dead: The living Offred finds a camaraderie with her. Part of what helps the current Offred to survive is to help cherish the last Offred's memory.
- Small Role, Big Impact: We may not know her name and her only on-screen appearance is of her dead body, but the Latin phrase she carves in the closet wall offers inspiration for Offred.
Commanders of Gilead / Sons of Jacob
- 0% Approval Rating: So far, the Republic of Gilead is an pariah state in the international community, with Europe shunning them for implementing an authoritarian regime that institutionalizes rape and the only countries willing to deal with them are their immediate neighbors Mexico and Canada. In Season 2, Canada cuts off relations after several letters are released into the public showing how bad things are in Gilead.
- Adaptational Villainy: Zig-Zagged. In the original books, they were racist, sexist, homophobic, militarist, anti-science and just plain A Nazi by Any Other Name since they shipped off minorities to the Colonies to die painfully. The show omits the racism aspect by permitting racially-diverse residents within their republic, as well as featuring non-white Handmaids. They still retain their homophobia and amplify their misogyny by mutilating women like taking out their eyes, tongues, clitoris or fingers, something which was absent in the book.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A group of religious fanatics characterized by deep bigotry and hatred for the female gender who govern a pariah state among the world community with a only handful of countries recognizing them and locked in civil war with the remnants of the legitimate government. They are the Christian equivalent of the Taliban note .
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: In contrast to their book counterpart, they have no problem accepting non-whites into their ranks or employing non-white Handmaids. The survival on the human race supersedes any notion of racism in their eyes.
- Evil Is Sterile: Both literally and figuratively; as a society, Gilead is culturally stagnant since intellectuals were targeted under their regime and the proliferation of knowledge is probably looked down upon to not promote reading or writing among women. On a individual level, its heavily implied that most Commanders if not all of them are actually sterile since unlike other male characters, they were unable to beget children of their own.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Homosexuality or "gender treason" is punishable by death, which is considered a Mercy Kill. Lesbians are exempted so long as they can be used as Handmaids, but if anyone else (like "Marthas") is caught in the act, they are fair game.
- Hiding Behind Religion: According to Margaret Atwood, they are not "truly Christians and are interested only in power and control". Keen viewers can notice they never mention Jesus by name, though they do occasionally quote some passages of the New Testament to twist it into their agenda.
- Holier Than Thou: Not only other religions are illegal, but all of Christendom might as well be considered heretical to them. Catholics are officially persecuted and its heavily implied that they are at war with other Protestants when you consider the South (which is heavily Baptist) is in revolt against the Republic of Gilead. Yet for all their blabbering about pure and modest lifestyles (even their own rape rituals with the Handmaidens aren't supposed to be pleasurable for either party), they have an state-sanctioned brothel which only high-ranking officials can enjoy.
- The Fundamentalist: They follow a literal interpretation of the Old Testament to impose their laws.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: They legitimized a twisted variation of a Marital Rape License by naming the coerced procreation act the Ceremony. They even discuss the Ceremony in terms of trying to make it sound appealing to their Wives: The process is designed to not be pleasurable for the rapist either, since its purpose is to impregnate the victim.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Flashbacks show they enjoyed some level of popularity when they started out by "helping kids out of gangs into better lives" and even had sympathizers among the government. By the time they have taken power, this is no longer the case.
- Western Terrorists: Involved in the massacre of Congress, which they blamed on outside terrorists.
Commander Fred Waterford is the head of the household for whom Offred serves as their breeding slave.
- Affably Evil: High-ranking commander happily taking part in a totalitarian, Christian fundamentalist, and in the books, racist government where, among many things, women are forced into sexual slavery. But when he's not raping Offred or allowing for women to be brutally subjugated and denied basic rights, he's quite polite and kind, going so far as to invite Offred into his office for games of Scrabble or giving her gifts such as permission to read magazines from the Before Eranote . He continues these meetings with Offred/June in hopes that, unlike her predecessor, Offred won't commit suicide. However, episodes 9 and 10 imply that there was more than one Offred who killed herself and it was because of the Commander's secret meetings with the girls.
- Age Lift: Was an old man in the book. Here he is played by Joseph Fiennes, who is in his late forties.
- Big Bad: He's one of the men who founded the Sons of Jacob, planned the overthrow of the government, and created the Ceremony, as well as being one of Gilead's Commanders. June even refers to him as "the boss." Despite his involvement, Commanders are still subject to the laws of the new regime, in which case Price, who controls the Eyes (the spy network in charge of reporting bad behavior by Commanders), can be seen as a Bigger Bad.
- Evil Is Sterile: The reason for massacring Congress, shredding the Constitution, and taking women into sexual slavery. Serena has no problem spitting this into his face whilst confronting him for his infidelities with Offred.
- Green-Eyed Monster: By "Seeds", a little bit of jealousy toward Nick (whom he deduced is the father of Offred's child) kicks in enough for him to try to get Nick assigned away from him.
- Meaningful Name: "Frederick" is German for "victorious."
- Oh, Crap!:
- Realizing that Wives, like Naomi Putnam, have enough guile to influence punishments upon their Commander husbands.
- An even bigger one when the second Ofglen tries to run at him with explosives strapped on her person.
- Kick the Dog:
- In the Before time, he is seething with rage in the ear of Serena Joy's would-be assassin. At first, it's understandable enough, until the camera reveals the assassin's wife, whom Fred shoots.
- Whipping Serena. Later even mutilating her pinky.
- His role in raping a pregnant June.
- Pet the Dog:
- His treatment of Offred during the times he isn't performing the Ceremony with her is quite polite and almost charming, if not unnerving. It's one way he exploits the power imbalance to subjugate Offred.
- The one time he does something sincerely decent is to persuade Commander Warren to let Offred talk Janine down.
- In the Before time, he tries to persuade the other Commanders to give Serena Joy a voice in Gilead's design.
- At least, he recommends Serena Joy, off-screen, that Offred should be let outside after being shut in for days, as Offred plays to his remaining morality to not cause her to be Driven to Suicide like the last Offred.
- Invokes this trope by setting up Offred's meeting with Moira, though he find her ungrateful for not thanking him automatically and disappointed that they're not lovers.
- While he congratulated Offred likely to just probe into the matter, he implies to Offred that he knows she's fibbing about the father of the baby and compliments her pretend game. Since he shows no grudge or anger, Offred even reacts with amusement rather than fear.
- Sexless Marriage: Suggested between himself and his wife Serena due to their inability to have a child. It's also suggested that the Commander may be sterile, though Gileadean doctrine forbids men to be mentioned as sterile and instead puts the blame on the woman.
- Slowly Slipping Into Evil: While he was no hero at the beginning of the narrative, he at least was gentle to his wife and had a facade of kindness to June. Season 2 has him do more and more heinous things, including harming his wife and sanctioning her physical deformation, to the point that any sympathy he may have had is gone.
- Villainous Crush: Maybe "crush" is the wrong word for it, but it's clear he has an interest in June that is way beyond the interest a Commander should have in his Handmaid. June is suitably creeped out.
- Would Hit a Girl: Has no problems striking any women who comes to cross him, as Serena and June come to find out.
Another Commander. Husband of Naomi.
- An Arm and a Leg: Has a hand amputated after Janine's suicide attempt.
- Gaslighting: Does this in spades to the already unstable Janine.
- Meaningful Name: In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Thomas Putnam is a greedy man who abuses the Bible by getting his daughter to accuse people of witchcraft so he can obtain their property. Meanwhile his wife, Ann Putnam, is unstable from having lost seven infant children.
- Villainous Crush: Similar to Waterford for June, Putnam may have this for Janine too.
The head of Gilead's economic strategies.
- Affably Evil: He often jokes around and sometimes shows kindness to his Handmaid between enforcing the government's brutal policies, leaving her quite confused how to feel about him.
- The Atoner: Between his household full of misfits and his smuggling Emily and June's baby out of Gilead, it seems as if he really regrets his role as a commander.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He seems like a pretty weird dude and definitely stands out among the Commanders because of it.
- Creepy Good
- Moral Asshole: Seems kind of creepy, created the Colonies, has a slightly unhinged wife he keeps hidden away, but he's heavily implied to be a part of an underground network of rebels or Mayday and helps smuggle Emily and June's baby out of Gilead. It's also implied this is not the first time he has done this.
- Necessary Evil: He may be a part of Gilead's top government, but he doesn't seem to think too highly of them.
Wives of Gilead
A former publicist, she becomes the Commander's housewife due to the new laws of Gilead preventing women from having self-sustaining employment.
- Adaptation Personality Change: While the novel's Serena was also unhappy with her lot in the misogynistic society she helped establish, she was far more resigned to it. In the series, she's not only much more resentful and embittered, she's eventually driven to begin actively manipulating events.
- Age Lift: Serena was an old woman who walked with a cane in the book, whereas Yvonne Strahovski is in her mid-thirties.
- Asshole Victim: Despite being one of the earliest supporters of Gilead, as a woman Serena is often subject to various forms of indignities and abuse, specifically when Commander Waterford decides to discipline her by whipping her in front of Offred, or allows her pinkie finger to be cut off after her display of reading in front of the Commanders.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: She wanted a society where women's place was in the home. Now that's been achieved, she's going crazy for lack of anything to do; she's not allowed to read or write and there's nothing to occupy her time besides gardening and desperately hoping and preparing for a baby that may never come. She had written a book on "domestic feminism" that no women may now read.
- Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: She is ultra conservative, and her book A Woman's Place helped inspired a violent conservative revolution which ended women's rights and enslaved women with working uteri. She is quite sexy (she is played by Yvonne Strahovski) and implied to have had a media career before the series began. The character has been compared to Kellyanne Conway.
- Category Traitor: She helped write the laws of Gilead, including those that forbid women to read, under penalty of mutilation.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: She starts out downright rotten to June, striking her whenever she wanted to and only looking at her as breeding stock. As Season 2 progressed and she realized the horrible situation that she herself had helped create, she gradually let her guard down and became gentle to the point of a shaky camaraderie with the Handmaid.
- Female Misogynist: Given her treatment of Offred and her religious view of women in general. She also can't seem to admit she paid the price for this mindset.
- Fingore: Gets her pinky finger cut off for reading.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Was at one point horrible to Offred; after the two work together to subtly subvert some of Gilead's more extreme actions, they begin to see each other on more common ground.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Often seen with cigarette in hand. Before her Heel Face turn in Season 2, she comes off as quite the bitch.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Because she desperately wants a child to fill her empty life with, she is jealous of Naomi Putnam, whose handmaiden Janine gives birth to a daughter. She believes that Naomi is not grateful enough and feels that she would be a better mother - unfortunately, this only adds to her frustration towards Offred.
- Happily Married: What she wants to have back. Before Gilead's rise, she and her husband actually lived an egalitarian relationship and had a sincere, mutual practice of their faith-based marriage. However, it's when they both participate in Gilead's rise that it costs them the happiness they had in their marriage.
- HeelFace Turn: By the conclusion of Season 2, she's firmly a Face. While she hasn't yet garnered the strength to leave Fred, she also realizes that Gilead is not a place for any child, let alone a little girl, to be raised, and she rebels against it, being physically maimed in the process. June commends her and comforts her for it.
- Hoist by Her Own Petard: Congrats, Serena, you've successfully helped bring about the social change you wanted. Women are now forced to live by the rules you wanted them to follow - they can't read, they can't write, they can't work outside the home, and they are completely subservient to their husbands. Except, guess what, Serena? That includes you. You have to give up your career, you have nothing to do except prepare for a baby that might never come, and the very same men you helped put into power don't have an ounce of respect for you. Oh, and this whole thing has cost you your once-happy relationship with your husband. Have fun!
- Ice Queen: She is cold and reserved, possibly as a result of the stifling environment she must live in.
- It's All About Me: Not uncommon in the Wives. She values her comfort in Gilead at the expense of Offred.
- Ironic Name: Given how she handles her forced retirement as the wife of the Commander.
- Kick the Dog: Many, but the clincher is letting Offred catch inadequate glimpses of her daughter to keep her pregnant Handmaid on a leash through an implied hostage situation.
- Lack of Empathy: She manages to subvert this a few times (see Pet the Dog below) but overall is too proud of her privilege to apply empathy full-on.
- Morality Pet: Her husband's sole redeeming quality is that he does seem to sincerely love her. Before Gilead, they were actually quite Happily Married.
- Pet the Dog: Deconstructed, as her moments of empathy and kindness offer no long-term solace for Offred's station.
- Giving Offred a cookie, even if it's at the condescending urging of the other Wives. But even Serena seems to recognize the faux-kindness of the class stratification—and the whole birth ritual itself. She also seems to genuinely recognize how traumatizing it is for Janine/Ofwarren to surrender her child.
- Taking Offred out to visit another Wife's baby. Though it's implied she did that to parade her then-possibly pregnant Handmaid around, she also asked, kindly, if Offred had visited her friend Janine, a fellow Handmaid.
- Also acknowledging to Offred that things are hard and they must be strong. Pretty hollow when Serena Joy is too privileged to know the horrors a Handmaid has to go through.
- Gifting Offred a music box.
- She and Rita share a drink and speak about the time before Gilead, not as a servant and master, but as equals.
- After conspiring with Offred to adjust Gilead's policies in hopes of rescuing baby Angela/Charlotte, she assures Offred that she will handle the consequences.
- Allowing Offred to take Nicole/Holly to escape the Waterford home and Gilead, knowing that her adoptive daughter cannot grow up in a country that can never be safe for women and girls.
- Sexless Marriage: Implied due to the Commander's and inability to have a child.
- Stay in the Kitchen: What she believes women were meant to do, besides being stay-at-home mothers.
- Took a Level in Badass: Once she realizes that Gilead is actually terrible for her/June's child, she begins to openly subvert the government, reading a Biblical passage in front of them, even knowing what it could - and does - cost her.
- Took a Level in Cynic: Serena initially believed in Gilead. Once it cost her her marriage in all but name and her purpose in life, she began to rebel against it.
- Took a Level in Kindness: She becomes a shaky ally of June's as Season 2 progresses and the two work together to fight the Crapsack World they live in.
The snide Wife of Commander Warren Putnam.
- It's All About Me
- Jerkass: She's even bitchier than Serena, believe it or not, and is often quite rude to Serena's face. Mostly in a maddeningly passive-aggressive way, to boot.
- Lack of Empathy: Oddly enough, whereas Serena Joy betrays bits of (mostly hollow) empathy for Offred's pain, Naomi gives none to her Handmaid.
- Pet the Dog: Begrudgingly lets Janine say goodbye to a dying Charlotte, though it's likely out of deference for her husband.
- Spanner in the Works: Her admonishment to Serena Joy is one of the final turning points where Serena Joy accepts that there's something going on between Commander Waterford and Offred.
- Ungrateful Bitch: Has zero regard for her Handmaid Ofwarren/Janine, despite the fact that the poor girl is forced to give birth, then surrender her own daughter to Naomi's custody.
A Wife who ends up in the Colonies by committing the "sins of the flesh."
- As the Good Book Says...: She is fiercely religious and quotes verses from the Bible. She has a strong belief that God and her faith will save her.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: She supported the rise of the fundamentalist regime of Gilead and ended up being forced to share her husband with another woman. As a result of feeling neglected and unloved, she has an affair, is discovered and sent to die a slow, agonizing death in the colonies.
- The Fool: Her romantic outlook on life is borderline delusional, and she is hopelessly out of her league in her new environment.
- Fool for Love: She must have surely known the punishment for sins of the flesh, but she still risked having an affair because she fell in love.
- Naïve Newcomer: She has no idea what awaits her in the colonies.
Eyes of Gilead
A driver who works for The Commander and Serena Joy.
- The Atoner: He absorbs Offred's criticism of him, as he feels guilty of his complicity, thus his implied involvement with Mayday.
- Badass Driver: In addition to driving for the Commander, Nick is also a spy.
- Cool Car: Nick lovingly polishes the Behemoth, while Offred notes that "the way men caress good cars" hasn't changed.
- Double Agent: He's working for Gilead as an Eye. However, he is also working against Gilead, and with the death of Commander Pryce, it is ambiguous who he is actually working for now.
- Friends with Benefits:
- In the novel, both Offred and Nick promise each other "no strings," but it doesn't work out like that.
- It is implied that he also has this with Beth although he no longer partipicates due to his relationship with June.
- Heroic BSoD: He goes through a silent one due to being emotionally neglectful of his assigned wife Eden and feels responsible for driving her to her execution.
- Kick the Dog: Harshly scolding Eden when she innocently organizes the illegal postcards of Handmaids' testimonies for him.
- Papa Wolf: He holds back Commander Waterford when the latter realizes that June has run off with the baby. His baby.
- Race Lift: Is played by the multiracial actor Max Minghella in the series.
A young guardian assigned to the Waterford house in the second season.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Despite him crudely treating women previously, his death is seen in a more sympathetic light, especially for both Serena and June.
- Defiant to the End: He remains wordless and unrepentant during his execution.
- Drunk with Power: When the Waterfords go to Canada, he is left in charge and it goes to his head. Other than Eden, he treats the women at the household with disdain, orders June and Janine to stop talking, and clocks Janine when she acts out.
- Improbable Age: He's around 20. Rita comments how he is so young but he's still in charge over her and everyone else in the house, when the Waterfords are away.Rita: That boy downstairs is maybe 20 years old. And he can tell me to do anything. He could break my jaw, and no one would say boo.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: With Eden.
- Through His Stomach: His flirtation with Eden seems to mainly involve him enjoying the food she cooks.
- Would Hit a Girl: He hits Janine with his gun when she talks back to him.
A Martha who works as a domestic servant in the Waterford home.
- Ascended Extra: In the book, Rita is an extremely minor character. Here, she gets more personality and development, especially in the second season.
- Adaptational Heroism: In the book, Rita and the other Martha in the Waterford house insult Offred behind her back. Here, Rita does no such thing, and becomes Offred's friend.
- Composite Character: As Cora was Adapted Out, Rita takes on some of her characteristics and role.
- Foil: Lower-class like Offred, but mostly abides by Gilead on the surface.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Rita goes from cold to Offred at the beginning of the series, to accepting Offred's offer of being her baby's godmother and helping Offred and the baby escape the Waterfords and Gilead.
- Hero of Another Story: As a mother who lost her son to Gilead, it's possible she will work to preserve/pass along the smuggled letters of enslaved Handmaids.
- She, along with many other Marthas, organizes June and her baby's escape from the Waterford home, with the intention of the two escaping Gilead completely.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Not as dramatic as many examples, but she laments that she never had a kind word for Eden after her death, and realizes that Eden was just a fifteen year old girl who wanted to be helpful.
- Not So Different: With Offred. And to some extent, Serena Joy, as they both seem to be disillusioned with the cost of living in Gilead.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Lost her young adult son in Gilead's warfare to demonstrate how Gilead ironically treats its adult inhabitants as disposable, perverting the very concept of motherhood it indoctrinates.
- Passing the Torch: As Offred is led away during the first season finale, she whispers to Rita to find the bundle of letters by Handmaids, implying that she trusts her to carry the Handmaids' stories. This is averted as she ultimately does not do this, and the torch is actually passed to Nick.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Downplayed with Offred, as they have limited interaction. Their first on-screen interaction isn't really pleasant and they mostly steer clear of each other. However, Rita freaks when she thinks she sees Offred dead, attributed to the last Offred's suicide, and Offred helps pick up the broken pieces of the dishes she dropped. Then later, Rita gives her a goodbye hug, indicating that she values Offred as a person more than a baby-vessel, convincing Offred to entrust Rita with the Handmaids' letters. During the second season, she is even more sympathetic to Offred, ultimately assisting in her escape in the second season finale.
A Martha who works at the kitchens in Jezebel's. She's also a contact of Nick's.
- Deadpan Snarker: She has a sarcastic and friendly disposition towards Nick.
- Friends with Benefits: Though Nick forgoes sex with her during his affair with June.
- Shipper on Deck: Although she's never met Offred, she good-naturedly teases him about his affair.
- The Informant: She provides information to Nick in exchange for illicit products, such as alcohol, prescription drugs and pregnancy tests.
The brown-garbed head of the Red Centre. There are several Aunts who train the Handmaids, but Aunt Lydia is one of the worst.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Like Serena Joy, there are a hints that Aunt Lydia has some disillusionment with Gilead's design. For example, Offred's brief glance at Lydia's bewildered expression at the dinner party suggest that she's appalled by the notion of Handmaids being trafficked.
- Cuteness Proximity: For all the terrible things she does, she dissolves into a puddle of cooing and delighted laughter that borders on tears of happiness when baby Charlotte unexpectedly survives. While some of this might be explained by healthy babies being both rare and the justification for Gilead's oppression, seeing the tyrannical Aunt Lydia completely letting her guard down and just revel in sheer tender joy is very uplifting.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Gives Offred a black eye and tasers her for quoting the second half of the same Bible verse she just quoted. Has Janine's eye removed when Janine lips off at her. Oh yeah... and delivers the news to Ofglen that she's been punished with a clitoridectomy.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: She carries a cattle prod, and seems to take delight in torturing her charges.
- Even Evil Has Standards: There are hints that Lydia is not without morals. She is disgusted by the notion of Handmaids being trafficked to Mexico, and she later is shocked when June tells her that Fred physically abuses Serena, and promises that she will protect June's child against the Waterfords.
- Female Misogynist: Her entire job description involves indoctrinating other women into becoming submissive servants to their commanders and does so through brutal methods. She also believes that women who've been raped are guilty of leading on their rapists and that they're sluts for doing so.
- Friend to All Children: One of Aunt Lydia's few positive character traits is that she is extremely protective of children, even going so far as to make an implicit promise to June that she (Lydia) would defy the Waterfords if it came down to protecting June's soon-to-be-born baby.
- Morality Pet: After sanctioning Janine's eye-gouging, she ironically treats Janine very kindly, though it could be just because Janine gave birth to a healthy baby, which makes Janine a valued asset in Gilead. She is the only one besides Offred who seems genuinely distraught by Janine's attempted suicide, suggesting that she does form some attachment to her charges. This is negated by sanctioning Janine's stoning, even if she finds no pleasure in it.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Ann Dowd confirmed that Aunt Lydia feels remorse for punishing Janine with losing her eye and subsequently her sanity, which is why she takes a particularly protective stance toward her.
- Pet the Dog:
- She feels badly that Serena Joy forces the physically deformed Handmaids away from the party that they were promised, and she offers to bring Janine a tray of desserts when the latter breaks down over it.
- Her expression at the party indicates that she is upset by the prospect of the handmaids being a potential resource to be traded with Mexico.
- While keeping a tough front, she doesn't shirk on answering Offred's question on Janine's welfare.
- Even though she condescendingly calls her a "stupid child," she sits by a comatose Janine's bedside with an expression of grief and guilt.
- She utterly adores babies, prioritizing them above all else. She melts into unbridled, tender joy when she sees that Charlotte has survived, assures June that she will never allow harm to come to a baby, and without ever letting down her harsh front, confesses to her that she was once godmother to her nephew.
- Psychotic Smirk: Responds with an absolutely chilling one to Janine, after the latter sasses her. And then she has the poor thing carted off to have her eye ripped out.
- Slut-Shaming: Does this to both Janine and Offred as part of their "training."
- Took a Level in Badass: The book Lydia was stern, but Ann Dowd's portrayal in the series is terrifying.
- Tough Love: According to her actress - who based in her part on a strict Catholic nun she knew as a child — Aunt Lydia sincerely loves "her girls" and is devoted to making sure everyone in Gilead remains safe. Which she does by ripping out eyes and cuffing hands to oven burners.
A lesbian and best friend of Offred that she was neighbors with prior to Gilead.
- Black Best Friend: In the series but not the book, although it's downplayed.
- Deadpan Snarker: Moira definitely has a biting wit that she keeps even during the takeover.
- Does Not Like Men: In both the book and the series, Moira seems to think men are the problem.
- Somewhat averted as her small rant about men seemed to be due more to momentary frustration and fear rather than any genuine bigotry. She is close with and quite fond of Luke and doesn't seem to dislike any of the non-Gilead men she encounters.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Moira does not particularly want children, but she's one of the few people after the Sterility Plague that can still have children. Because of this she did commercial surrogacy before Gilead.
- The Lost Lenore: Odette for Moira. Odette died in the Gilead take over.
- Race Lift: Gilead is a white supremacist society in the book, but this element is left out of the television series, where she's played by Samira Wiley.
- Sex Slave: She's captured by the regime after fleeing to Boston. Since she's too unruly to remain a Handmaid, she accepts becoming a Jezebel to avoid being sent to the Colonies, which is tantamount to a slow death sentence.
The husband of Offred.
- Affectionate Nickname: Shown in flashbacks calling his wife "Junebug" and his daughter "Hannah Banana".
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- He's a friendly and reasonable guy; even after being forced to live as a refugee in another country without his family, who he was separated from, has no idea what happened to, and is anxiously awaiting any news about them, we don't seen any outward signs of anger from Luke. Until "Smart Power," where he is furious after learning that the Waterfords (June's captors) are coming for a diplomatic visit. And during the protest against them, he breaks through the crowd of protestors and the police barricade to even attempt a swing at Waterford and to directly confront him, calling him a piece of shit and reminding him that he rapes June without skipping a beat.
- He also gives Nick a hard shove when the latter tries to bring him news about June.
- Happily Married: He has a loving marriage with June.
- Lawful Stupid: Luke tries to apply for Canadian visas for his family, but the man helping smuggle them over the border points out that U.S. passports don't mean anything anymore.
- Nice Guy: Played with. He is affectionate to June and his daughter and wholeheartedly considers Moira family, despite initial tension with the latter. But "Other Women" also brings up questions about how he treated his first wife. Because we're in June's headspace, she ignores Luke's culpability over how he treated his first wife and focuses on her own guilt.
- Papa Wolf: Stayed behind to hold off the soldiers chasing them to let June and Hannah escape.
- Race Lift: Is African-American in the series.
- Remarried to the Mistress: This is his backstory with June.
- Spared By Adaptation: In the book, Offred does not know whether he is dead or alive. On the show, he is shown alive, having successfully made it to Canada.
- Tears of Joy: Upon receiving his long-lost wife's message.
- Your Cheating Heart: He had a short affair with June while being married to another woman, then left his wife for June.
June and Luke's daughter.
- Abusive Parents: The Commander and Wife she was assigned to have physically punished her, "only twice."
- Defrosting Ice Queen: She can barely bring herself to acknowledge June when they're briefly and secretly reunited, having accepted her new parents and resented her mother for not 'trying hard enough' to find her, but she eventually breaks down crying and calls her Mommy.
- Meaningful Rename: After her forced adoption, her new parents have renamed her 'Agnes', presumably to erase her connection to her 'sinful' parents.
- Named by the Adaptation: She was never referred to by name in the novel, presumably because Offred wanted to protect her identity.
- Race Lift: In the novel, she is described as being blonde, whereas in the series she is biracial.
A 15-year-old Econowife (forcibly) assigned to Nick.
- Arranged Marriage: Gilead pawns her off as Nick's new wife.
- Children Are Innocent: Poor Eden doesn't seem to realize how awful Gilead is and is molded to believe it's 100% dutiful.
- Defiant to the End: Despite being hugely brainwashed to obey Gilead, she grows disillusioned enough to try to defy Gilead. At her execution, she does not renounce her sin but simply recites a Biblical verse.
- Hidden Depths: June finds a heavily annotated Bible among her personal belongings, suggesting that Eden did not buy into Gilead's doctrine to the extent that she appeared to - specifically, she was reading (which Gilead does not permit for women) and trying to understand or analyse the Bible beyond what Gilead teaches.
- Morality Pet:
- Despite his cruel nature, Isaac comes to love Eden and tries to elope with her but tragically dies before further exploring his love for her.
- Both Serena Joy and June also try to look out for her.
- Kill the Cutie: She is executed for infidelity after running away with Isaac.
- Unwanted Spouse: To Nick, he doesn't want their Forced Marriage and is not interested in her. Eden tries to be nice to him and make it work for some time.
- Woman Scorned: She comes to resent Nick's avoidance of her and neglect of their marriage, and picks up on his attraction to June.
- Your Cheating Heart: Nick catches her kissing Isaac. She immediately runs to him begging forgiveness, but becomes upset with him when he tells her that he doesn't care.
June's feminist mother.
- A Fate Worse Than Death: When Aunt Lydia is showing the handmaids photos in the Red Centre, June and Moira see one of her in the Colonies.
- Back-Alley Doctor: Unknown exactly what kind of medical professional she is, but she performs a vasectomy on an old friend after they've been made illegal.
- Cool Old Lady: Blasts 'Hollaback Girl' by Gwen Stefani whilst riding in June's car with her feet on the dash.
- Parental Marriage Veto: Downplayed, but she seriously disapproved of June marrying Luke.
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Again downplayed, but she doesn't understand June's happiness with her editing job, marriage, and normal family life and compares her unfavourably to Moira, who is more involved in political action and resistance.