Until the commanders put Serena Joy on the train to Canada, she thought she had her future mapped out in Gilead. Since then, nothing has gone the way she wanted. June got one up on her, Luke shut their Gilead information center down, and now she’s been sent to stay with the Wheelers as her due date approaches. First, it was Alanis Wheeler who creeped out The Handmaid’s Tale fans, but her husband, Ryan Wheeler, may be even worse.
Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Episode 5 follow. Serena Joy’s arrival at the Wheelers’ home had a touch of desperation to it, like a fugitive in need of a safe house. From the moment she was greeted by Alanis, viewers’ eyebrows shot up. Even Serena Joy’s face said she was a little unnerved, but a day or so later, she seemed to have settled in. Alanis brought her friends around, who worshipfully treated her houseguest like the goddess of fertility come to Earth, and Serena was happy to bask in that.
But the first sign she was not really among friends was Alanis refusing to join Serena on a call with the commanders to talk about how to pivot on their Gilead center plan, when she pointedly stated that wives shouldn’t bother themselves in business affairs. This gave Serena no outlet to vent after Commander Putnam dismissed her idea to rebrand it as a “fertility center” and hung up before Serena could even finish her pitch.
But things didn’t get truly disturbing until Alanis’ husband finally showed up, all smiles and apologies for having been away at work. Ryan Wheeler was a gentle-speaking man, but his words were velvet-covered steel. It immediately became clear that Serena — and, more importantly, the fetus growing inside her — was a project for the Wheelers. Ryan let Serena know that her rebranding idea for the info center was going forward, but she wouldn’t be doing any of the implementations because it would be stressful, and the last thing the baby needs is for her to be stressed.
Serena was free to come and go; they’d take her everywhere, as long as it didn’t threaten the baby’s health or seem like something that might take away from her need to rest. And they’d be taking her phone; if anyone needed to contact her, they would deal with it since she needed to focus on the baby. Serena seemed slightly dazed by the time she handed over her phone, watching all her freedoms slip away, forced into being little more than a walking womb with no career, agency, or space. She’s a virtual prisoner in the Wheeler home, where the bars are wrapped in kindness.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 continues with new episodes streaming every Wednesday on Hulu.