This Tiny Detail In 'The Handmaid's Tale' Book May Reveal Fred's Ultimate Fate

by Ani Bundel

The Handmaid's Tale has been renewed for a third season. When asked about how long he thought the show could go, showrunner Bruce Miller stated he didn't have an endpoint planned out. But at some point, the series will come to an end. (Offred cannot continue to fail to escape to Canada forever.) The show will then most likely conclude with the book's epilogue, the only section that hasn't been used yet. But if fans are looking for clues for Season 3, this The Handmaid's Tale book detail from the epilogue might give a direction to where the story is heading.

For fans who have not read the book, the epilogue is set two centuries after the events of the novel. The book was written in 1985. Gilead was set in the near future ten years down the line, in 1995. The epilogue is therefore set in June 2195. The show has pushed the future a little farther forward, I estimate around 2024. But centuries are long enough a twenty year difference isn't a big deal. The show could keep the 2195 setting and it would still have the same impact.

In the epilogue, the Gileadean Studies' Twelfth Symposium is having their annual meeting, a historical society trying to piece together how Gilead came into being and how it fell.


Readers learn the story they've just read was pieced together "from transcriptions of thirty unnumbered tapes" found in a footlocker at a way station, part of the "Underground Femaleroad" in Bangor, Maine. The keynote speaker, one Professor Pieixoto has deduced "Offred" was "among the first wave of women recruited for reproductive purposes" (which the show has shown to be accurate.)

There is a "Fred Waterford" who was a high ranking member of Gilead, head of the Eyes and a Commander. But they're unsure if it's the same one she refers to, as he was not married to a "Serena Joy." Instead, his wife is listed as "Thelma."

But it's the epilogue's description of Waterford's fate which suggests how the show will proceed.

We know, for instance, that he met his end, probably soon after the events our author describes, in one of the earliest purges. He was accused of liberal tendencies, of being in possession of a substantial and unauthorized collection of heretical pictorial and literary materials, and of harbouring a subversive. This was before the regime began holding its trials in secret and was still televising them, so the events were recorded in England via satellite and are on videotape deposit in our Archives.

The symposium believes the "subversive" Waterford is accused of harboring is Nick, who helped Offred escape. They believe he was part of Mayday, a high-level operative. Whether he was caught and Waterford punished for Nick's sins, or if Nick turned in the Commander is not clear. They believe Waterford would not have considered Nick as a possible double agent:

Like most early Gilead Commanders who were later purged, he considered his position to be above attack. The style of Middle Gilead was more cautious.

Could this be a clue to how The Handmaid's Tale ends? Will Waterford be tried, live on television, while June and Luke watch from the safety of Canada? Season 3 is due out in 2019.