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    June Osborne/Offred/Ofjoseph 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/elisabeth_moss_the_handmaids_tale_season_2.jpg
Played By: Elisabeth Moss

The main protagonist. June was an editor Happily Married to her husband Luke, with a young daughter named Hannah—both of whom she was separated from when Gilead took over. June is one of many Handmaids, fertile women who did not comply with Gilead's views (as Luke was a married man when they began dating) and are thus forced to bear children for Commanders in light of the population crisis.

At the start of the series, June is the Handmaid of Commander Fred Waterford (and is thus named Offred) and his wife, Serena Joy. She's living a life of constant fear and pain in Gilead, but the series kicks off when she learns of the underground organization Mayday, who are trying to help Handmaids and others escape.


  • Action Girl: She graduates into one of these in Season 3, being an Action Survivor before this. She finally has enough of Gilead and gets into a brutal fight with High Commander Winslow when he tries to rape her and is substantially more physically imposing than she is. Not only does she manage to get a number of good hits on him, she manages to kill him. By the end of the episode, Joseph gives her a gun, trusting her to be able to use it. Which she does by faking out an Eye and shooting him. Twice.
  • All for Nothing: June 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: She was an editor before America became Gilead, then she rebels against the regime when she becomes a Handmaid, doing all she can to escape and take her children with her.
  • Big Sister Instinct: She eventually develops a friendly, protective relationship towards Janine who has a less stable mind and is presumably younger than she is.
  • Deadpan Snarker: June/Offred is much more sarcastic in the series than in the novel. She's mostly a First-Person Smartass or occasionally a Servile Snarker because if she badmouths anyone, she's gonna be punished by her 'masters' or by Aunts.
  • 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 to reflect the grammatical pattern of genitive/possessive case.
  • 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.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Over the series, June does whatever she can to help her others survive or even escape Gilead's oppression, and is regarded well by her fellow Handmaids for it. However, as the situation grows more dire, June has to start putting her foot down harder and harder. This includes almost shooting a Martha that backs out of their escape plan, and later, despite Eleanor being by far the kindest Wife (and people in Gilead, really) that June has ever met, she ultimately decides to let Eleanor overdose out of concern that she would tell others about their plan to get children out of Gilead, thus compromising the whole thing.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Goes down the same road Emily did before her. Although, rather than killing people herself she resorts to contributing to Ofmatthew's breakdown to the point it becomes murderous.
  • Happily Married: She was very happy with her husband Luke before Gilead took over and she was separated from him.
  • Idiot Ball: Going back into the regime at the end of Season 2 instead of escaping with Nichole, despite the fact that she is absolutely no closer to getting Hannah out.
  • Made a Slave: The premise of the series. She's a sexual slave whose purpose is to procreate with a member of the ruling class.
  • Mama Bear: She tries to be, as shown when she flees through the forest holding Hannah, and goes back into the regime, but she views it as being taken from her.
    I would die before I gave up my child.
    June: Yeah, I used to think that, too.
  • The Mistress:
    • She was Luke's mistress before he finally left his wife for her, which makes her position as a Handmaid even more bitterly ironic.
    • Fred certainly sees June in this light.
    • Technically becomes Nick's mistress after Nick is married off to Eden.
  • My God, What Have I Done?
    • While her relationship with Luke is genuine, she feels responsible for Luke's ex-wife.
    • Just as she finally gets out of her vigil, June realizes that as much as she hated Ofmatthew, she was ultimately a victim just like her and did not deserve to be treated as an incubator solely so her son could live. After spending the whole episode trying to find ways to kill her, June instead goes back to keep her company until she passes.
    • As their plan to get children out of Gilead comes closer and closer to fruition, June starts putting her foot down hard, as there is no room for mistake. This includes almost killing a Martha who backs out. However, when the child the Martha brought runs after her, and June turns the gun on her, she's clearly shocked at just how desperate she's become. She tells Joseph as much later.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the novel, her name is heavily hinted to be June. The series confirms it.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Delivers one to Ofmatthew in Under His Eye when she admits to informing on June to Aunt Lydia.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Bullies Ofmatthew into the Rage Breaking Point. And seems very pleased with herself when it leads to Ofmatthew being killed (although it doesn't last).
  • Plot Armor: While some of it can be explained away with Fred's obsession with her and her being pregnant during some period, it's still truly incredible that this woman managed to keep all of her body parts, while some of the other Handmaids ended up mutilated for committing less than 10% worth of her transgressions. This is even lampshaded by Aunt Lydia after June's failed attempt to retrieve Hannah; Lydia wanted June to be executed but the other aunts somehow disagreed, likely because of her history of being able to carry children.
  • 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.
  • Rank Up: In the Season 3 finale, she usurps command of the Boston rebels from Commander Lawrence, with him being reduced to one of her aides.
  • Sanity Slippage: Aunt Lydia forces her to keep vigil over the braindead Ofmatthew as punishment for bullying her before. This ends up having the same effect as solitary confinement, and eventually June becomes so desperate to get out that she starts having homicidal thoughts. Especially noteworthy is that the doctor specifically told Aunt Lydia that this would happen.
  • Secular Hero: A downplayed aversion. Gilead may have suppressed her Catholic faith, but she still calls out to God occasionally.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: She sometimes appears like this, such as when she bullies Ofmatthew and is happy when Ofmatthew is killed.
  • Stepford Snarker: In Season 1 and 2, she pretends to be contented with her lot in Gilead through a series of very deadpan remarks especially to Fred.
  • The Unfavorite: Aunt Lydia seems to especially despise June, due to her history of attempting escape and her "adultress" past with Luke. But Aunt Lydia enjoys torturing all the Handmaids because all of them are perceived as sinful for one thing or another. After Ofandy's baby dies in childbirth, Aunt Lydia wonders to other Aunts why God lets "good" Handmaids suffer so while women like June get to have two children.

    Commander Fred Waterford 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/joseph_fiennes_handmaids_tale_season_2.jpg
Played By: Joseph Fiennes

Commander Fred Waterford is the head of the household for whom June serves as their breeding slave at the start of the series. Fred is highly esteemed in Gilead, as one of the founding members who allowed its takeover in the first place. The result of this, however, is a very strained relationship with his wife Serena Joy, who has to partake in his monthly ceremonial rape of their Handmaid. Fred turns to June for some form of companionship, but as the series goes on, we see more and more that he's a man obsessed with control.


  • 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 June or allowing for women to be brutally subjugated and denied basic rights, he's quite polite and kind, going so far as to invite June 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, June 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).
  • Didn't Think This Through: High Commander Winslow makes it clear he’s interested in Fred sexually. We next see Fred benefiting politically. The scary part is now Fred ‘knows too much,’ and his admirer has every reason to kill Fred if the arrangement turns sour.
    • Fred agrees to take Serena on a secret, clandestine meeting with an American named Mark Tuello, all to negotiate for Nichole's return off the books. He doesn't see any problem with this arrangement, beyond asking Serena if she trusts Mark (not actually verifying if Mark is simply willing to help, or is actually and ENEMY AGENT working against him) to give them Nichole. He'll have plenty of time to reflect on his stupidity in prison.
  • Drunk with Power: As the show progresses, he begins to abuse his power and do more and more horrific acts. By the end of season two, he has committed murder, adultery, domestic abuse and rape (even outside the ceremony). He was willing to let a baby die instead of allowing a female doctor to see her, did not defend his wife (which led to her being maimed) and even hinted at possibly planning to have her murdered just so he can keep having sex with June.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Deconstructed. He does genuinely care for Serena, but it's not going to stop him from torturing her under his "beliefs", as shown when he bargains in Season 3 to save her life after she lets Nichole go with Emily...after he cut off her finger and beat her.
    God has made me master of an incredible woman.
  • 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.
  • Foil: To his wife. While Serena is openly bitchy and antagonistic to June (and presumably the Offred before her), Fred likes to play the good cop... to get gratitude to flatter his ego and extort sexual favors. It's made clear that Fred "romancing" the previous Offred made more harm than Serena's behaviour.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: By "Seeds", a little bit of jealousy toward Nick (whom he deduced is the father of June's child) kicks in enough for him to try to get Nick assigned away from him.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: He is at least Affably Evil in the first season, but in season 2 he truly degrades into this trope, blaming the women he abuses for all difficulties in his life. In the third season he's forced to retract a bit to win back his wife.
  • Hypocrite:
    • When somebody who isn't a Commander (even his wife) breaks the law, he's very quick to apply the Gileadan brand style Disproportionate Retribution of a punishment. But if the transgressions are committed by a Commander like himself or Warren Putnam? He tries to hide behind his Commander and husband status and is apprehensive of the punishment that is given to Commander Putnam.
    • He seems genuinely outraged at Eden's act of "lust", conveniently ignoring that in her case it was genuine love, and he and his collegues regularly visit Jezebel's.
  • 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.
    • A third one, when Serena helps him "accidentally" cross into Canada and the two are arrested by Loyalist American troops- and Fred has a gun shoved in his face before being taken away to await trial for war crimes.
  • 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 female partner, whom Fred shoots.
    • Whipping Serena. Later even mutilating her pinky.
    • His role in raping a pregnant June.
    • He refuses to allow the best neonatologist doctor in the country to see the ill baby Angela, only because the doctor was a woman.
  • Obliviously Evil: He seems completely aloof to the fact he’s given every woman around him more than enough reason to kill him, and still tries to play up some weird, childish “Ladies Man” persona.
  • Pet the Dog: Deconstructed Trope. He practically spells out how he believes that "a bit of kindness" would prevent their slaves to be "unloyal" to him and Serena. What he misses is that they are not pets who want a good master, but people who want to be treated as such. The fact that in 95% of the cases he is nice to June, he wants sexual favors in return, doesn't help his case in the slightest.
    • His treatment of June 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 June.
    • The one time he does something sincerely decent is to persuade Commander Warren to let June 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 June should be let outside after being shut in for days, as June plays to his remaining morality to not cause her to be Driven to Suicide like the last Offred.
    • Invokes this trope by setting up June's meeting with Moira, though he finds her ungrateful for not thanking him automatically and disappointed that they're not lovers.
    • While he congratulated June likely to just probe into the matter, he implies to June that he knows she's fibbing about the father of the baby and compliments her pretend game. Since he shows no grudge or anger, June even reacts with amusement rather than fear.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: After the fallout of Serena helping smuggle Nichole to Canada, Fred gives a heartwrenching speech about how he loves Serena so much, always has, and always will. Subverted. He's practicing the speech with a Jezebel.
  • Smug Snake: Although it seems he might genuinely not be aware of it, he's always very softly spoken and doesn't hesitate to punish those who step out of line.
  • 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. It's implied they finally sleep with each other in "Liars" right before Serena betrays him.
  • 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.
  • Taking You with Me: After Serena sells him out to the Canadians and the American government in exile, he makes sure she goes down too by informing them of the one crime her plea deal with them doesn't cover, forcing June to have sex with Nick.
  • Tsundere: He constantly insists that he still loves Serena, while humiliating her and cheating on her with June (even outside of the "ceremony").
  • 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.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Any time he does something remotely nice to June? He expects she will "thank him properly".
  • Would Hit a Girl: Has no problems striking any women who comes to cross him, as Serena and June come to find out.
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    Serena Joy Waterford 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/yvonne_strahovski_the_handmaids_tale_womens_work.jpg

Serena Joy worked alongside her husband Fred Waterford to found Gilead. Prior to its takeover, she published a very polarizing novel, A Woman's Place, advising all women to be housewives and mothers to fulfill their "biological destiny." While their efforts succeeded, Serena Joy now lives a life of misery, as Gilead's misogynistic laws also apply to her now. She is no longer allowed to read or write, and has to partake in her husband's ceremonial rape of June—something she holds the Handmaid in contempt for, although she is hopeful that June will provide them with a child.


  • Abled in the Adaptation: Due to the Age Lift in the series, Serena does not require a cane to move around like her literary counterpart.
  • Abusive Parents: Serena's mother in Season 3 shows where her nasty streak may have come from. A cold, calculating, and emotionally abusive woman? Check. Ranting about how kids these days are spoiled rotten and don't know their true place? Where have we heard that before? Firm belief that a marriage is what truly gives a woman value? You don't say!
  • 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.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Serena is an elderly woman who requires a cane in order to walk. In the series, she's an able bodied woman in her mid 30's and played by the stunning Yvonne Strahovski.
  • Adult Fear: She slowly starts to realize that the Gilead she helped create is a terrible place for any woman... including baby Nichole. Because even herself, as a woman of the highest status, Serena gets her finger removed for advocating very basic women's rights. Eden's fate especially shatters her: Eden was a young girl, barely a woman, assigned to marry an older guy and willing to make it work. Eden seemed to genuinely believe in Gilead's values and God's ways, but she still got executed.
  • 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.
    • Doubled down on in the aftermath of the house fire she sets in Season 3. Serena's own mother berates her, blames her for her strained marriage with her cheating husband that allowed her to be mutilated, and humiliates Serena in private- calling her a "spoiled little girl" for feeling upset. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree...
  • 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.
  • Chaotic Stupid: She promoted the system that would become Gilead, where women are 2nd class citizens. Then she tries to use the rights she no longer has, and is shocked when she’s punished for doing so. In one-to-two episode increments, she’ll side with June, and do a 180 as soon as she stands to get even short terms gains from the system.
  • 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.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: In the first episode of Season 3, she burns down her and Fred's home, starting with the bed where they performed "The Ceremony" (raped June).
  • Deuteragonist: As of early Season 3, she's become June's closest ally in rebelling against Gilead, and the narrative shifts between the two of them while in Gilead as they act largely separate from one another. Her abilities are still limited given her gender, but she also has more sway than even other Wives given that she was one of the founders of the country.
  • Didn't Think This Through: It is not completely clear if she planned for the “women’s place is in the home” policies to apply to her, or if she didn’t realize she was campaigning against her right to campaign. Either way, she gets punished severely, on multiple occasions, for assuming she’s above retribution for violating the rules of her own society.
    • While her plea agreement covers most (if not all) crimes she committed as the wife of Commander Waterford, she conveniently decides not to tell them about the exact circumstances of Nichole's conception (that she essentially forced June and Nick to have sex to have Nichole). That one omission costs her at the end as Mark says it is still rape and no longer covered by her plea agreement.
  • Female Misogynist: Given her treatment of June and her religious view of women in general. She also can't seem to admit she paid the price for this mindset.
  • The Fettered: By the end of season two, she can no longer ignore just how powerless she is in Gilead, but she still follows their customs and upholds the status quo because there are no other viable alternatives.
  • Foil: To her husband. While Serena is openly bitchy and antagonistic to June (and presumably the Offred before her), Fred likes to play the good cop... to get grattitude to flatter his ego and extort sexual favors. It's made clear that Fred "romancing" the previous Offred made more harm than Serena's behaviour.
  • Fingore: Gets her pinky finger cut off for reading.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Was at one point horrible to June; 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.
  • Forgotten Aesop: Despite regularly being hit by the proof that Gilead is hell for women (even of high status) and that her husband is not an ally, Serena still repeteadely sides with them.
  • Good All Along: Her supposed heel turn and apparent breaking of her alliance of June was all part of a long con to trick Fred into getting arrested and prevent Nichole or any of the refugees from being dragged back to Gilead.
  • 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.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: She gives up Fred to the Canadian government, gaining a relatively cushy arrangement for herself that even includes visits with Nichole. Then it goes up in smoke when Fred lets them know about her forcing June to have sex with Nick, which wasn't included in her plea bargain and puts her in a cell alongside him.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: One step forward, two steps back. Serena starts Season 3 by burning down her and Fred's home and leaving Fred, accept's that Nichole has a better future in Canada, and conspires with June to gain more power and make changes to Gilead's government. Then she has one "goodbye" visit with Nichole and all of a sudden she's all-in on Gilead again, wishing she'd had June's mouth wired shut like the other D.C. Handmaids when she first joined the household. It’s ultimately revealed that all her supposed heel turns were really a prolonged facade to get Fred to trust her enough to walk into a trap on Canadian soil, where he’s promptly arrested.
    • Season 3 she seems to be wavering on her Face turn. Serena doubts how well she can apply her very limited power, and even tries to justify the laws of Gilead when Aunt Lydia beats Janine bloody at a formal party. Then she slides right back to being a Heel again after one "goodbye" visit to Nichole in Canada, helping Fred make propaganda videos to get Nichole shipped back to Gilead so she can play at being a mother again.
    • And then she slides back into a Face in the third to last episode of Season 3 by conspiring with Tuello to defect to Canada and get Fred arrested.
  • 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!
    • She taunts Fred with the revelation that he isn't actually the father of June's baby, since she forced June and Nick to have sex. When she betrays Fred and hands him over to the American government in exile, it is revealed that she never told Mark Tuello about the circumstances of Nichole's conception. Fred then tells Mark exactly what she did, which leads to her being arrested too.
  • Hysterical Woman: In Season 1 she's a ticking bomb always in the verge of bursting into a hysteria attack. Ironically, it's heavily implied that it's her self-chosen "woman's place" that's made her like this and she used to be in a much better mental shape when she had more to do in her life.
  • Ice Queen: She is cold and reserved, possibly as a result of the stifling environment she must live in.
  • Idiot Ball: Hoo boy, big time in Season 3, which is especially jarring considering that she's one of the more cunning characters in the series. Let's review her performance:
    • You would think that she would inform her erstwhile ally June of her long con to expose Fred to extradition, thereby having help in the plot, or at least passive approval, as June was no fan of Fred and wanted to see him go down. She doesn't do this, and June only sees her as someone going back to her old ways. As a result, June not only chews her out without knowing the full story, but also attempts to kill her at a later time. Had that succeeded, not only would Fred have not been extradited, June would also have been executed, and Serena would have never seen Nichole again or escaped Gilead.
    • Given that Serena knew that Fred was becoming increasingly Drunk with Power despite her seemingly falling back into good graces with him, she should have triple checked every single crime she committed while in Gilead, especially those she used to needle him during a fight, so as to avoid any ammunition he could use against her as retribution when she sold him out. She didn't do that. As a result, Fred immediately and correctly tells Tuello of her forced rape by coercion of Nick and June to conceive Nichole, and she's quickly arrested.
  • It's All About Me: Not uncommon in the Wives. She values her comfort in Gilead at the expense of her handmaids.
  • Ironic Name: Serena Joy. Given how she handles her forced retirement as the wife of the Commander — she's anything but serene or joyful. It's also ironic that the initials of an ultra-conservative woman complicit in the formation of an oppressive regime spell out SJW (as in social justice warrior).
  • Kick the Dog: Many, but the clincher is letting June 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: By forcing June and Nick to have sex so that she can claim the resulting baby, at the end of Season 3 she gets arrested by the American government in exile, even after she cuts a deal with them by turning in her husband; her abuse of June and Nick isn't covered by her amnesty.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: She so desperately wants a child. Unfortunately getting shot in the uterus makes all of that impossible, unless Mark Tuello isn't lying about technology allowing uterine reconstruction.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: She's done numerous despicable things in the series and before, but still displays bits of basic moral decency that her husband lacks - for example prioritizing a baby's life over Stay in the Kitchen law. Until Season 3, at least.
  • 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.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The showrunners have stated that Serena is heavily based off of Phyllis Schlafly, an ultra conservative who strongly supported very traditional gender roles, campaigned against the ERA (which she successfully blocked), and held homophobic and sexist views. Like Schlafly, Serena has also been accused of being a traitor to her gender.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Mark Tuello arrests her for forcing Nick and June to conceive a child for her, Serena tries to defend her actions, inadvertantly calling June Offred. A disgusted Tuello (who'd made a point to refer to June by her name beforehand) disgustedly retorts her actions still constitute rape and has Serena tossed in a cell.
  • Nothing Nice About Sugar and Spice: Especially the flashbacks. She was one of Gilead's main architects and their impeccably dressed public face before the Sons of Jacob took over, and could be found espousing sexist rhetoric while wanting to be treated differently. Her motif is a ballerina (although she herself doesn't do ballet), her hair is always perfectly curled, and she wears pink and white.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: This is one way in which she's a Foil for someone like June, who works to do as much as she can to free the victims of Gilead's tyranny out of a sense of altruism. While Serena is indeed still an ally to June as time goes on, she's never officially part of a rebel network against the Gilead regime like people such as June, Lawrence, or Emily are. Instead, her reasons for defiance against Gilead are primarily selfish and only serve to benefit and protect those very select she cares about, namely herself, Nichole, and rarely Rita and June. While she show herself to be disgusted by the more heinous acts that Gilead commits, her only real proactive actions against the regime, such as getting Fred arrested, are those that come with a caveat of benefiting herself. The rest of the victims in Gilead are just collateral in her eyes.
  • Oh, Crap!: When she meets Moira for the first time and she promptly informs her that she is June's friend.
    • Also when she realises referring to June as Offred was probably not the best thing to say to Mark Tuello while he's arresting her.
  • Pet the Dog: Deconstructed, as her moments of empathy and kindness offer no long-term solace for June's station. Until she let's June's baby escape Gilead. Which she tries to undo later.
    • Giving June 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 June 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 June had visited her friend Janine, a fellow Handmaid.
    • Also acknowledging to June 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 June the 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 June to adjust Gilead's policies in hopes of rescuing baby Angela/Charlotte, she assures June that she will handle the consequences.
    • Allowing June 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.
    • After being so resistant to the idea, she comes far enough to tell June about the whereabouts of Hannah's school.
    • She's a powerful woman who could punish June even further after their fallout, but when June stabs and injures her, Serena doesn't resolve it by reporting it to the Gilead authorities but leaves a doctor to heal June in confidentiality, as if she doesn't want to inflict Disproportionate Retribution on June.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: The treachery in this case being against her entire gender. She helped put laws in place to systematically subjugate, oppress, and silence every woman in Gilead, only to realize when everything was all said and done that she herself was also bound by those same laws.
    • She betrays her husband to the American government in exile in exchange for legal immunity from prosecution for her role in Gilead's rise to power. When he finds out she betrayed him, Fred informs his captors about a few things Serena's done that weren't covered by her deal, and the Americans promptly arrest her for those crimes.
  • Sexless Marriage: Implied due to her and her husband's inability to have a child together, and all sex in Gilead should be performed only with the goal of procreating.
  • 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.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Once a happy wife in an equal marriage, she slowly becomes this to Commander Waterford, because of Gilead's toxic influence on their relationship. They now have a sexless marriage because they cannot procreate (sex is officially only accepted for the purpose of procreation in Gilead) and Gilead's view of women contaminates her husband's opinion of her over time. He resents her usurping his authority and going behind his back, even though it was for noble reasons, and ends up beating and humiliating her, as well as allowing her to be maimed for reading the bible. He also cheats on her with (unwilling) handmaidens and visits a brothel. In season two, he creepily suggests to June that he could somehow remove Serena from the house and keep her instead.
  • Wild Card: Constantly. Is Serena on June's side? Does she actually want to destroy Gilead? Does she care about other women who suffer, like other Handmaids or young brides like Eden? Is her loyalty with June, Fred, or the regime?
  • Women Are Wiser: She wouldn't be that among any moderately-grounded men, but compared to her husband she at least gets some life basics. Number one: yes, your Sex Slave hates you and is not going to stop because of minor favors you pay to her.
  • Woman Scorned: Fred saw to it that Serena's finger was removed. Serena saw to it that Fred played himself into a self-extradition into Canada, where he's promptly arrested and charged with war crimes.

    Dr. Emily Malek/Ofglen/Ofsteven/Ofroy/Ofjoseph 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/alexis_bledel_handmaids_tale_costume_6.jpg
Played By: Alexis Bledel

A fellow Handmaid assigned to be June shopping partner. She's also the second of three women to carry the title of Ofglen. At first June doesn't trust her and finds her to be a stickler for rules, but soon finds out she's a member of the underground organization Mayday. Emily was formerly a college professor Happily Married with a son—while Gilead now executes people for "gender treachery", i.e. homosexuality, Emily has instead been forced to be a Handmaid due to being fertile.


  • Adaptational Expansion: Her character is Driven to Suicide early in the book, while, in the series, she manages to survive knocking down one of the guards, goes to the Colonies, and eventually escapes from Gilead to Canada.
  • 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. Subverted later, when she makes it to a hospital in Canada which can build her a new one.
  • 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: She was in a happy marriage with her wife before the coup. They have a son together named Oliver. Both her wife and Oliver made it to Canada because they had Canadian citizenship and passports.
  • 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 and the rejection of the rest of the prisoners, but she's actually setting her up for a slow, painful death by poison, and then sets up the body as if crucified.
  • I Have Many Names: Due to her having so many "Commanders" in Gilead.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: A mild version, but she dresses fairly femininely in flashbacks.
  • Made a Slave: Used to be a college professor who taught cellular biology, then shes forced to become a Breeding Slave.
  • Mugging the Monster: Heroic retribution variety. The abuse Gilead heaps on her becomes this. When she gets the weird distant look, someone is likely to die very gruesomely. She crushes a guard’s head, kills a commander's wife, and even shanks Aunt Lydia and knocks her down some stairs in a very brutal fashion.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Emily.
  • Nerd Glasses: Seen wearing a pair in her flashbacks to her pre-Gilead life as a professor. She gets them again after she escapes to Canada.
  • Plot Armor: Maybe even thicker than June's. Emily has killed a few guards, and suffered what's later revealed to be a reversible mutilation. She's sent off to the colonies, only for sheer luck to bring her back to the Handmaids before the pollution killed her. She's able to get away with maybe poisoning a few commanders. Then she shanks the head aunt, and drops her down a staircase. The aunt survives, and Emily is whisked off to Canada before Gilead can gut her.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The second Ofglen, who inherits the same name and acts like it's always belonged to her when June asks her about Ofglen.
  • La Résistance: She's involved with the secret organization that tries to bring Gilead's regime down. She gets eventually booted out of it due to her recent arrest and stricter surveillance on her behavior.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: After escaping into Canada, her horrific life in Gilead combined with the resulting PTSD makes it very difficult for her to adjust to life as a free woman. She even has extreme difficulty in calling her wife to let her know she is safe.
  • 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. She eventually escapes to Canada.

    Janine Lindo/Ofwarren/Ofdaniel/Ofhoward 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/handmaids_tale_madeline_janine.jpg
Played By: Madeline Brewer

A fellow Handmaid in Gilead. Janine was formerly a fiery woman with a young son named Caleb, but after being separated from him and tortured by Gilead (losing an eye for talking back to Aunt Lydia), Janine is now rather ditzy and tender-hearted. Despite this (and a rather unhealthy relationship with Aunt Lydia), June has a soft spot for her. Janine is the Handmaid of Commander Warren at the start of the series, and is pregnant with a baby girl.


  • 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.
    • Come the final episode of Season 3 she comes to join the escape attempt to Canada, helps June pelt the armed guards with stones, and finally brings other handmaids to rescue June after she's shot and left bleeding to death.
  • Butt-Monkey: A dark example, definitely not played for laughs. She gets put through the wringer far more than any handmaid that we have seen so far. From her surgically removed eye, to her mental breakdown, to nearly drowning herself, to getting a beatdown from both Lydia and Ofmatthew.
  • 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).
    • 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.
    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 she'd never do, because you promised me we would run off and we would be a family!
    • This becomes subverted in Season 3 as she relays critical information about the rogue Martha to June and why there is a sudden Guardian presence. Not only that, she helps June with distracting the Guardians at the airport and is the first one to help June after the latter is shot.
  • Cuddlebug: She's remarkably affectionate with her friends. Her response to seeing June for the first time in months is to Glomp her.
    • This eventually saves her daughter's life, as skin-to-skin contact and motherly love bring Charlotte/Angela back from the brink of death.
  • Driven to Suicide: She fails to drown herself in the river.
  • Eye Scream: In the series, she loses an eye for her defiant attitude.
  • 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.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted. She got an abortion after she got pregnant a second time, right before the rise of Gilead, since she was a Struggling Single Mother with a irresponsible boyfriend. Sadly, since the new government is ultra-conservative, this could have been the “crime” that got her demoted to a Breeding Slave.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Not as happy as some examples, but she does maintain her positive outlook after jumping into the river.
  • The Lancer: Upon their escape, Janine becomes June's second-in-command, and is often the one who can most get away with calling June out on when a particular plan of hers isn't the wisest.
  • 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.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Janine’s scene with her baby in the 2nd half of season 2. Its just “a mom playing with her baby.” In the context of the universe, its a massive crack in the foundation of Gilead’s society. If the legal mothers can’t provide the attention the babies need, the babies self destruct. Of all the scenes involving proactive resistance on the Team Modern’s part, this scene is probably the most damning to Gilead’s future prospects.
  • 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. Its implied even more types of psychological torture happened to her off-screen, but not elaborated on. This becomes subverted at the end of Season 3 in which not only does she help with June's plan to evacuate over 100 children, but also helps June distract the guard at the airport so the children can sneak aboard the plane.
    • Sanity Strengthening: What Janine eventually has shown to have gone through. By Season 4, she's now lucid and stable enough for June to trust her as her closest confidante and second-in-command.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Janine appears and acts like The Ingenue a good chunk of the time, but when she's pressed, she's capable of being just as emotionally strong as June.
  • Struggling Single Mother: She was this before the establishment of Gilead. She was an unmarried diner waitress with a toddler son and an on-again-off-again boyfriend.
  • Took a Level in Badass: After almost 3 seasons of being a Butt-Monkey, she finally comes to her senses in the season finale and helps June with her extraction plan. She is seen throwing rocks at the Guardians at the airport and is one of the first to recover June after the latter is shot.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • While she was definitely subjected to Disproportionate Retribution for her mouthing off in the Red Center, it was admittedly very stupid. When there are guards with guns around and everyone else is sitting down silently, looking terrified, there is probably a reason to it.
    • Later in the series, she becomes a tragic example. She lives, but in a “too good for this cruel world” sort of way. She never seems to drop the positivity after her failed suicide, while the other female characters definitely harden from their experiences. This keeps her ultra sympathetic... and if anyone is gonna get beaten within an inch of her life in a scene, it's her.
  • Tragic Dream: That she will be reunited with her children and live happily ever after.

    Aunt Lydia Clements 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ann_dowd_handmaids_tale.jpg
Played By: Ann Dowd

The brown-garbed head of the Red Centre. As an Aunt, Lydia's job is to train the Handmaids—which means brutally punishing them when they step out of line. Despite her often sadistic treatment of the women forced into sexual slavery, Aunt Lydia insists that it's her job to protect Handmaids, and has an oddly friendly relationship with Janine.


  • Asshole Victim: Becomes an extreme version of this after Emily hands her a long over-due beatdown and stabbing when Lydia starts poking at Emily's Crippling Castration.
  • 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, June's brief glance at Lydia's bewildered expression at the dinner party suggest that she's appalled by the notion of Handmaids being trafficked.
  • Break the Haughty: Lydia definitely has a strong sense of moral superiority that she displays throughout the series. That's why it's satisfying to watch her be savagely attacked and beaten to a pulp by Emily, which she survives, though is now forced to walk with a cane and still suffering from physical pain from the attack. However, she still acts like a complete jerk when June attempts to help her, cattle prodding her in the process.
  • Character Development: Big time. It takes her almost dying by Emily's hand for it to happen, but she does eventually begin to grow beyond the cutthroat bitch she starts the series as. She's still an Ice Queen at most times to her charges, but she does begin to let her guard down just a bit, shows empathy and kindness to June (who, before this, was one of the Handmaids she absolutely detested), and even begins to stand up for "her girls" when she's able to do it. She even tells June that she doesn't want to see the Handmaids lose their voice, and subtly encourages her to be more assertive, while still toeing the party line.
  • 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. Seeing the tyrannical Aunt Lydia completely letting her guard down and just revel in sheer tender joy is very uplifting.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Gives June 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.
    • 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. She tells June point-blank that she would never let anything happen to a baby. Lydia has explicitly broken the laws of Gilead to save and protect children.
    • For all her heinous torture of them, Aunt Lydia does protect her Handmaids as best as she can. She is genuinely apalled and enraged when Ofmatthew is fatally shot following her breakdown. This doesn't seem to be purely out of her job, either, as even when Angela is brought to safety, she screams in despair when Janine jumps off the bridge.
    • In Season 3, the brief visit to Washington D.C. for filming the Propaganda videos, Aunt Lydia is appalled at the "silencing" of the local Handmaids. Silencing meaning having their jaws wired shut with metal rings. For someone who swings a cattleprod willy-nilly, orders female genital mutilation, and has people's eyes plucked out, there are some tortures even she can't abide. This leads to her one instance of kindness to June, as she tearfully comforts the woman as she's forced to gag herself.
    • During the Season 4 premiere, she doesn't take kindly to Commander Calhoun's assessment of Handmaids being "whores". Especially since one of her charges, Natalie, gave birth to his son (and died doing so).
  • Family Values Villain: Unlike a lot of Gilead's supporters, Lydia seems to genuinely believe that the Handmaids are completing a great wonder.
  • 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.
  • Freudian Excuse: Played with, but hardly sympathetic. Its implied she was lonely, but also with people trying to connect with her. How she deals with her own perceived moment of weakness? Doing what she always does, systematically make others miserable.
  • 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.
  • Hidden Depths: In the season 3 episode "Unfit" we learn more about Lydia's life before the rise of Gilead. Before serving as an Aunt in the regime she was an elementary school teacher and prior to that, she was a lawyer who specialized in family law. Lydia was also married at one point (claiming it didn't work out) and has a brief romance with the principal of the school she teaches at (which ended in bitter disappointment). It's clear that Lydia is a well educated woman who has always struggled in the romance department, which could explain her bitterness and angry disposition.
  • Kick the Dog: Time and time again—her job is not just to train the Handmaids, but to punish them and keep them in line. She'll burn their hands, electrocute them, torture them...Of special note is in season three, when Janine—the only Handmaid who shows her kindness, by virtue of Stockholm Syndrome—asks to be the Putnams' Handmaid again, resulting in Lydia beating her into unconciousness. It's pretty obvious in this case especially that it's not always about "punishment," and she treats Handmaids as her own personal punching bag.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Aunt Lydia subjected Emily/Ofglen to many forms of abuse and torture including having her clitoris removed and constantly disparaging her for being a lesbian. Emily responds by taking a knife and stabbing Lydia with it before cracking her across the jaw, sending her tumbling down the stairs, then kicking the crap out of her while she bleeds out and writhes in pain. She manages to survive this though, but later she develops PTSD, which is ironic since she’s put other women through far worse than what Emily did. It's pretty easy to have little or no sympathy for Lydia when this happens.
  • Mama Bear: She's a tyrant to the Handmaids (save for her Pet the Dog moments), but she is fiercely protective of children, and is more than willing to bend rules or speak in their defense if it involves the welfare of a child. For as tough as she is, it's shown that there are some in Gilead that are much worse than her, and she will readily stand up to those powers (many of whom outrank her) to protect the Handmaids under her care.
  • 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 June who seems genuinely distraught by Janine's attempted suicide, suggesting that she does form some attachment to her charges. She orders Janine's stoning and punishes the Handmaids for refusing to partake in it, but she's holding back tears as she gives the order.
  • 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.
    • In the third season, after Janine begs to be the Putnams' Handmaid again, Aunt Lydia punishes her (read: takes out all her anger on her) by beating her unconcious with her cattle prod. Once she gets a hold of herself, she dismisses herself to go into the other room and immediately breaks down sobbing.
  • Never Mess with Granny: She's a bit older in age, and she is very imposing and threatening to the Handmaids. She even is able to make some Guardians back off when she needs to.
  • Obliviously Evil: Like many of the Gilead tyrants she seems completely aloof to the atrocities she and the other tyrants inflict on the girls. When Emily tries to kill her, and Lawrence gets her out of Gilead before she could be punished, Aunt Lydia assumes Lawrence killed Emily, and uses that as justification not to trust him. The irony being, if Emily was caught, she’d be tortured, mutilated, and possibly killed anyways.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: On the receiving end of it when Emily decides to drive a knife into Lydia's back, punch her lights out which sends her tumbling down the stairs, then kicking the crap out of her while she bleeds out on the floor. It's hard to say that Lydia didn't have it coming.
  • 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 June'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.
    • After seeing what was being done to the Handmaids in Washington D.C., she breaks into tears and confesses to June that she does not want to see them silenced. When June asks Lydia to help her fasten the muzzle around her mouth for a propaganda piece, it's shown that Lydia deliberately leaves it loose enough for June to slip out of it on her own should she choose to and for her own comfort, which she does in order to give Serena Joy a well-deserved tongue-lashing.
    • The flashbacks into pre-Gilead era show Aunt Lydia before she became... well, Aunt Lydia. A religious but kind schoolteacher, she goes out of her way to take care of one of her students, Ryan, while his loving but neglectful mother struggles with being a single parent and making ends meet. She goes so far as preparing to take Ryan home with her and feed him until his mother answers her phone.
    • When high-ranking Commander Winslow subtly but clearly expresses his displeasure at the Handmaids under Aunt Lydia's control not being forced to wear the rings, Aunt Lydia politely but firmly stands up to him and pushes back against the idea. Here was a man who could have Aunt Lydia purged from the system with a stroke of his pen, and yet Aunt Lydia faced him to protect the Handmaids.
  • 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.
  • Sadist Teacher: She takes this kind of role on in training the Handmaids, which makes sense, as she was a teacher pre-Gilead.
  • Slut-Shaming: Does this to both Janine and June as part of their "training."
  • Start of Darkness: Lydia was a religious but kind school teacher. She tries to improve the life of a neglected student, Ryan, while his loving single mother struggles to make ends meet. Ryan's mother repays Lydia for her kindness by encouraging her to go out to a party. The night initially goes very well, but Lydia then breaks some of her personal and religious convictions by engaging in some heavy petting. Word of God says she was absolutely ashamed by this behavior, doubled down on her religious convictions, and had Ryan removed from his mother's household and placed into state custody without batting an eye - all while promising his mother she would pray for her immortal soul.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The book Lydia was stern, but Ann Dowd's portrayal in the series is terrifying.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: As of Season 3, she begins to lose her abusive nature against the Handmaids just a bit. While she's still a severe taskmaster who doesn't tolerate insubordination, she also shows that she's becoming disillusioned with the upper echelons of Gilead and how they treat Handmaids. For all of her faults, she's more than willing to stand up to anyone for the sake of "her girls" if she feels that they are being even more unfairly treated than they already are.
  • 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.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Aunt Lydia does some truly terrible things to the Handmaids and is quick to use corporal punishment to get her point across. However, when it comes to children, Lydia considers harming one to be "the greatest sin" and is even willing to defy the laws of Gilead if it means saving or protecting a child.

    Luke Bankole 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/handmaids_tale_luke.png
Played By: O-T Fagbenle

The husband of June. Initially thought to be killed by Guardians, it is later discovered that he survived and made it to Canada. He's trying his hardest to get his wife and daughter out of Gilead, but he's been struggling for years.


  • Armour-Piercing Question: Lands a doozy on Fred when he asks Fred about raping June.
  • 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. Most of the time, his anger rises when his Relative Button is pushed, as shown in the following episodes:
    • "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.
    • "Sacrifice", where he decks Fred after the latter pushes his Relative Button one too many times.
  • Doting Parent: In the flashbacks, he's shown to be an affectionate father to Hannah. He becomes a loving father to Nichole, June's baby with Nick, whom Emily managed to get to Canada.
  • Foil: To most of the male characters, but especially Fred. Fred "cheats" on Serena with June both in and outside of Gilead's rules, but he's also a domineering, manipulative, and creepy bully. Luke, on the other hand, cheated on his first wife with June, but genuinely loves her, tries to sacrifice his life for June and Hannah's, and does what he can to protect her. And when it comes to caring for Holly/Nichole, Luke is shown to be far more caring than Fred, despite neither of them being the child's actual father.
  • Happily Married: He had a loving marriage with June. They were effectively separated when they attempted to flee the country once the regime became too oppressive for women in general and divorced people, too.
  • 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.
  • Kick the Dog: A traumatic-fueled one where he probes a little too much into Emily's past. He regrets it and is too prideful to really know how to acknowledge it aloud.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The main thrust of Luke's conflict. He's technically safe in Canada, but his main goal is to try and protect Hannah and June as best he can, which is difficult given that Canada is overflowing with American refugees and everyone wants to know where their loved ones are.
  • 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.
  • The Nicknamer: Shown in flashbacks calling his family members with Affectionate Nicknames — his wife "Junebug" and his daughter "Hannah Banana".
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Stayed behind to hold off the soldiers chasing them to let June and Hannah escape.
    • Initially is very protective towards Nichole when Serena comes to visit.
  • Race Lift: Is African-American in the series. Although his race is technically not stated, the race relations of Gilead in the novel suggest he's white.
  • 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: He cries upon receiving his long-lost wife's message and also when he's reunited with Moira in Canada. Moira is moved as well because it never occurred to her to reference Luke (her best friend's husband) as her family, which Luke obviously did.
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    Nick Blaine 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/handmaids_tale_max_minghella.jpg
Played By: Max Minghella

A driver who works for the Waterfords. He is later promoted to Commander and is implied to have played a critical role in the rise of Gilead. Serena Joy forces him to have sex with June to sire a child when it becomes clear Fred is infertile—but after this, he and June start a mutual affair. He tries to help and protect June as best as he can, but can only do so much when they're always being watched.


  • The Atoner:
    • He absorbs June's criticism of him, as he feels guilty of his complicity, thus his implied involvement with Mayday.
    • The reveal that Nick played a crucial part in the rise of Gilead may also explain this as well.
    • He tries to be this for Eden when he realizes what his treatment of her caused, but it's too late.
  • Badass Driver: In addition to driving for the Commander, Nick is also a spy.
  • Cool Car: Nick lovingly polishes the Behemoth, while June notes that "the way men caress good cars" hasn't changed.
  • Double Agent: At the start of the series, he's working for Gilead as an Eye, at least until the death of Commander Pryce. While it is suggested that he is trying to work against Gilead at the same time, his promotion to Commander and subsequent assignment to Chicago to conquer the city from the Rebels makes it difficult to pin down exactly where his loyalties lie, especially during The Reveal that he had a significant role in the rise of Gilead.
  • Friends with Benefits:
    • In the novel, both June 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.
    • His treatment of Eden in general, as not acknowledging that she's basically a child shipped off to a strange environment and needs moral support.
  • Papa Wolf: He holds back Commander Waterford when the latter realizes that June has run off with the baby. His baby.
  • Put on a Bus: Promoted to Commander, then is given an assignment to fight the resistance in Chicago during Episode 6 of Season 3. He is not seen for the rest of the season, despite Season 4 revealing that he had returned to Boston to take part in creating battle plans for this assignment.
  • Race Lift: Is played by the multiracial actor Max Minghella in the series.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Is unclear if he fell in love in June when he first saw her, but he's definitely interested before exchanging with her ten sentences in the series.
  • Terse Talker: He's not chatty at all. It annoys even June and is taken Up to Eleven when he's married to Eden and she has to force every word out of him.

    Moira Strand/Ruby 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/samira_wiley_handmaids_tale.jpg
Played By: Samira Wiley

June's best friend. Though she's a fiery woman who refuses to stand down for anything, Moira is forced to become a Handmaid when Gilead takes over—though she's a lesbian, being fertile has spared her execution. At the start of the series, June has not seen her for some time, as the two of them were separated during an escape attempt.


  • 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.
  • Mama Bear: She's fiercely protective of her goddaughter, and wastes no time in reminding Serena that no matter what she (Serena) thinks, Nichole is not her daughter.
  • Parental Substitute: Given that June is still stuck in Gilead, Moira is the closest thing that Nichole has to a mother in Canada.
  • 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. According to Word of God, the reasoning for this has to do with 1) the Evangelical movements becoming increasingly integrated since the publishing of the original novel, and 2) how in light of the Sterility Plague, Gilead would most likely be less concerned about race and more about fertility.
  • 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 Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivers a glorious one to Serena when she meets her for the first time.
    Moira: "I am who I am and I have sinned plenty, but you are the gender traitor."

    Rita 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/handmaids_tale_rita.png
Played By: Amanda Brugel

A Martha who works as a domestic servant in the Waterford home. She starts off rather stiff-lipped and icy, but has a soft spot for June and her plight and gradually warms up to her. She's one of the few people in Gilead June trusts.


  • 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 June behind her back. Here, Rita does no such thing, and becomes June's friend.
  • Composite Character: As Cora was Adapted Out, Rita takes on some of her characteristics and role.
  • Foil: Lower-class like June, but mostly abides by Gilead on the surface.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Rita goes from cold to June at the beginning of the series, to accepting Offred's offer of being her baby's godmother and helping June 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.
    • She also leads the effort to smuggle the 100 children aboard a plane to Canada.
  • 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 June. 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 June 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 June, 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 June dead, attributed to the last Offred's suicide, and June helps pick up the broken pieces of the dishes she dropped. Then later, Rita gives her a goodbye hug, indicating that she values June as a person more than a baby-vessel, convincing June to entrust Rita with the Handmaids' letters. During the second season, she is even more sympathetic to June, ultimately assisting in her escape in the second season finale.

    Commander Joseph Lawrence 

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/handmaids_tale_bradley_whitford.jpg
Played By: Bradley Whitford

The head of Gilead's economic strategies. Lawrence is a man so powerful, the other Commanders come to him when policy meetings need to be held—never the other way around. Shrouded in mystery, Lawrence at first seems to be the same as all other Commanders, but he's later revealed to at least partially be trying to help Handmaids trapped in Gilead.


  • 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.
    • He makes a true decision to become this in "Mayday" when he decides to not to opt out and escape to Canada, but stay in Gilead to "clean up his mess".
  • Break the Haughty: At the beginning of the third season he constantly snarks at June and suggests he thinks lowly of her intellect. Cue some Trauma Conga Line and he's heavily relying on her and practically taking commands from her.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He seems like a pretty weird dude and definitely stands out among the Commanders because of it.
  • Child Hater: States that he does not like kids very much and it attributes to him refusing to have children with Eleanor. That doesn't mean he won't look out for their welfare.
  • Creepy Good: Lawrence has taken concrete steps to house and operate a resistance cell in his household. His demeanor is that of a Sphinx, unreadable. Even the Marthas who wait on him hand-and-foot don't know how to read his emotions and moods.
  • Foil: He couldn't be more different than Fred. Rude outside, but at least partly decent inside, intellectual, mostly indifferent to PR concerns and, thankfully, uninterested in extorting sexually women in his household.
  • Good Is Not Nice: 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. While it is partially out of pragmatism, he is still an example of a brand of misogyny, not the kind that promotes the backward views of Gilead, but that women should be defined by worth and can be callous and insensitive to his subordinates.
  • Guile Hero: Both on June and the audience. To give an idea just how complex his scenes are with misdirecting, he has a meeting with fellow commanders and requests June fetch a book for him. His gives a short speech on “trying to assess the value of women,” asks June if she’s an editor, and has her fetch a book that says “Darwin, The Descent of Man” on its spine. Sounds like he’s declaring women evolutionarily inferior to men, right? Wrong. Look up the book. It's about how females dominate the mate selection process, and Darwin specifically had his daughter and wife edit the book before publishing to ensure there was nothing in it that would be interpreted as sexist.
  • I Choose to Stay: He could flee to the comfort of Canada and barter for immunity but he decides to honor Eleanor by staying in Gilead and "clean up my mess."
  • It Amused Me: The only thing Fred Waterford knows about Lawrence's motivations that he thinks might help June? "He does not like to be bored."
  • Karmic Rape: Although he had not been a rapist himself, he was essential in building a system based on raping people. And it comes to bite him too, when Winslow and Fred come to supervise his Ceremony and he has no choice but to sleep with June.
  • Necessary Evil: He may be a part of Gilead's top government, but he doesn't seem to think too highly of them. He also shows June that he has to pick-and-choose who survives and who dies in Gilead.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • After June contacts Luke, he has a tissue ready for her.
    • Reading to all the Gilead children to comfort them before their escape.
  • Sadistic Choice: When June chastises him for not doing all he can to help the women condemned by the government, he takes her to a huge pen of women bound for the Colonies and gives June herself the responsibility of picking just five of them to save and put in the available spots on his staff, implying that he’s had to make such an agonizing choice numerous times before.
  • Sincerity Mode: His very sincere "Godspeed" to Emily. It's rare he can be forward with this positivity.
  • Stealth Mentor: By prodding at June and referring to her as worthless, he actually gets her to toughen up and become one of his aides in the rebellion.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Joseph comes off as completely unreadable to June- he performs suicidal rebellious acts and also condemns millions of people to death in the same day. He all but laughs in June's face when she tries to use her usual methods of manipulating Fred on him, when she appeals to his "good" side, claiming the reason he helped Emily was because he feels guilty for all the evil he's done, he similarly shoots her down; and June has to appeal to Fred for any help he can give in understanding how Lawrence's mind works.
    "You're so transactional... Were [the Waterfords] really that easy to manipulate?"
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: There’s little question that Lawrence's scenes have layers upon layers of subtlety that will give viewers difficulty figuring out his true intent. The internet pieced together a lot about him from one of the most important scenes in Episode 3, when he gives June an order to fetch him a book in front of the other Commanders- to humiliate her and demonstrate her subservience to him, right? The image of the bookcase lasts seconds, but the books on his shelves each carry a hidden meaning- and all their spines are bent, showing they've been read by Lawrence. Probably the most important is the book he has June fetch, “The Descent of Man” by Charles Darwin. The book was a collaborative effort- both Darwin’s wife and daughter served the editors. It's right below “The End of Alchemy” which is an analysis on the ‘08 Financial Crises- its conclusion blames bad ideas for the economic disaster, which is a subtle nod to Lawrence’s opinion of Gilead. The book Lawrence wrote, “Problematic Populism” seems to be a nod to how the fertility crises led to populist ideas (Gilead) gaining more traction than they should have.


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