Serena Joy was banished to Canada at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Episode 3, ensuring she and June would come face to face sooner rather than later. This meant, despite wanting to stay in Gilead, Serena merely left one den of snakes to enter another — especially when surrounded by people like the woman who introduced herself as Alanis. The Handmaid’s Tale’s newest character, aka “Mrs. Ryan Wheeler,” may seem like a blessing to Serena, but people aren’t always as they seem...
Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Episode 4 follow. Serena Joy’s arrival back in Canada was awkward. She had dismissed Mark Tuello’s warnings about Gilead, confident she would remain safe and sound in her homeland under Commander Lawrence’s protection, only to learn she had not won the man over. As the Commanders told her, her mission was to make a “cultural center” in Toronto, spreading the word of Gilead to the outside world. She ended up in a dump of a building, a poorly staffed crew, and people outside her building either protesting or worshipping her, depending on their opinions of their neighbors across the border.
But pretenses must be kept up, so Serena smiled and acted like this was all part of her plan. Even when her closest thing to a bodyguard, Ezra, turned out to be reporting back to Commander Lawrence, she kept smiling. And she couldn’t help but poke the bear by sending an invitation to the grand opening of the cultural center to the Osborne house, addressed to “Offred.”
Viewers already know June was not in a good place mentally, and the message sent her spiraling. June’s outsized reactions — driving to Serena’s house to stare up at her window, waving a pistol around in front of the cultural center — were precisely what Serena Joy wanted. However, she miscalculated by not taking Luke into account. He’s not been idle in Canada; he knows who’s lost family members to Gilead’s totalitarian state and thus he got the cultural center shut down by the city.
With nowhere to go, Erza took Serena Joy someplace “safe,” an upper-middle-class house out in the suburbs, where she was greeted by Mrs. Ryan Wheeler, who introduced herself as Alanis (Genevieve Angelson). The woman then proceeded to behave in the most over-the-top manner, kneeling and Serena’s feet, worshipping her belly, and citing scripture. It was all very uncomfortable, and although Serena kept her composure, her eyes showed her fear.
And she should be scared, as viewers aren’t sure if Alanis is even this character’s real name — IMDB lists Angelson’s character’s name as “Alanis Wheeler” in Episode 4, but it’s “Gladys Wheeler” in all the eps after that. Whatever this means, it can’t be good for Serena.
Serena Joy may be drawn to the power Gilead gives her, but true believers are another matter. She knows there’s danger here, and it’s in the wild eyes of the woman who just took her in for the night.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 continues with new episodes streaming every Wednesday on Hulu.