Let's Break Down Serena & Fred's Complicated 'Handmaid's Tale' Relationship

by Ani Bundel

The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 has been somewhat hamstrung this season in its insistence on keeping June front and center after splitting up the Waterford household. There's been a fascinating story to tell about the slow implosion of Fred and Serena Joy's marriage. But it's been sadly kept to the margins for most of the season. Episode 11, "Liars," finally allowed the couple front and center, as they road-tripped it to Canada, only for fans to discover it was a trap the whole time. But why did Serena sell out Fred on The Handmaid's Tale? According to actress Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Serena Joy, it was a long time coming.

Serena Joy's transformation began with the birth of Nichole back towards the end of Season 2. Though the girl was not her baby per se, Serena's eyes were opening to the reality of Gilead for women. When Eden, a good, sweet girl who believed in Gilead so completely, was murdered by the state for trusting in God's love and forgiveness, Serena realized there was no safety for women here.

As Serena was part of the group who started Gilead, she believed she had the power to change it. In return, she was dragged off and her pinky finger cut off.

According to Strahovski, that was the beginning of the end. Speaking to Variety about her character's decision to turn her husband over to the Canadian authorities in exchange for visitations with Nichole, she went back to that moment. In her view, the entire season has been about Fred trying to make sure Serena believes it won't happen again.

He’s been trying to prove himself to her all season and show that he can be committed and that he’s not going to chop off another finger. So, he’s committed to pleasing her, and that means giving her what she wants... [and] she wanted to stick it to him.

Strahovski says that like many decisions Serena ultimately makes, this one was a "slow build."

We spent the whole first few episodes of the season basically walked away from Fred... the inspiration of seeing the Winslows and how perfect their family was and how many children they had and D.C. It was sort of like one last-ditch effort to entertain the idea that maybe Fred could work for her.

As for those who wonder why Serena didn't just defect the first time she went up to Canada in Season 3, Strahovski says that was never a possibility. Fred — and Gilead — would never have just let her leave.

I think he would just hunt her down and make her life miserable. They have people on the ground in Canada. She has to do that to protect herself but maybe wishes she didn’t have to do that — but that’s his own fault: He made the bed, and now he has to lie in it.

So is this a happy ending for Serena Joy? She sells her husband down the river and in return gets washed clean of the multitude of sins she willingly, nay, eagerly committed? Not so fast, says Strahovski. Her character will get a “shocking slap in the face” come the finale. Fans can only wait to find out what.