Throughout much of Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s been largely implied that Serena Joy and Fred Waterford are focused on keeping up appearances — especially as it pertains to their Handmaid Offred (previously June Osbourne). However, the dystopian drama appears to have lifted the veil on formalities amid the Waterfords’ increasingly strained marital problems.
Episode 11, titled “Holly,” finds June overhearing Serena admit one incredibly important but seemingly, willfully ignored fact about their household — and about June’s baby.
Spoilers for Episode 11 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale follow below.
During a heated exchange between the Waterfords as they search frantically for the pregnant Handmaid in an abandoned house, Serena Joy can be heard explicitly acknowledging that the couple’s live-in Guardian and June’s lover Nick is the real father of their soon-to-be adoptive child:
You sent her out here with the father of her baby to see her daughter. What did you think was going to happen? That she was going to go home and thank you?
While life as a Handmaid has no shortage of hardships — not the least of which include sexual slavery and a form of forced surrogacy — one such trauma highlighted by the show is the separation of Handmaids from the children they’re made to carry. And despite the Waterfords’ repeated assertion throughout Season 2 that Offred is carrying “our baby,” the series implies heavily that Fred is infertile.
Serena’s admission isn’t a big reveal so much for the individual characters — who all appear clear on the nature of how the pregnancy came to be, even if they wouldn’t admit it until now — as it is confirmation that the relationships within the Waterford household are becoming so frayed, it’s clear the guise is up.
Indeed, while the Waterfords had little idea that June was eavesdropping just above their heads, it’s likely safe to assume no such admission would knowingly be made in June’s presence. Further, this appears confirmed by another exchange during which both acknowledge June’s brutal, ritualized rape for which they were both responsible.
“If you’d shown that girl one ounce of kindness, she would never have left.”
“Kindness? You raped her yesterday.”
“That was your idea. I did this to fix your mess.”
While likely a minor plot point for the overarching trajectory of the series, it is a major admission for The Handmaid’s Tale’s most central characters. It’s certainly quite a confirmation from Serena herself, who seems increasingly disenchanted with the realities of the dystopian hellscape she helped create.
Though the acknowledgment means little for June in the immediate, foreseeable future, it may mean trouble for Serena down the line. After all, it’s in this episode that the resistance confirms it’s still very much alive.