The most intriguing and unpredictable new character on The Handmaid’s Tale, Commander Joseph Lawrence, will return to the show in Season 3. The Handmaid’s Tale showrunner Bruce Miller confirmed during a Monday Q&A that Bradley Whitford’s Commander Lawrence would return in the show’s third season. “Yes, Bradley’s coming back for Season 3,” Miller told reporters.
“He was exactly the kind of character we wanted to start building in Season 2,” he added, indicating that “we’re gonna learn a ton about him.”
Commander Lawrence first appeared on the show in Season 2’s Episode 12, “Postpartum,” as the fourth commander to which Emily (formerly Ofglen) is assigned. Aunt Lydia claims that he’s responsible for establishing Gilead’s economy, including the use of slave labor in the Colonies. He’s such an important but terrible figure that his wife Eleanor’s been driven insane with guilt. Even Lawrence himself comes off as a little unhinged.
Miller referred to Commander Lawrence as the show’s “Oppenheimer character — the man who designed an atomic bomb and then saw what it could do. He’s a designer of Gilead, and now he’s seen what it can do.”
“He is a mass of contradictions and dangers, so you never know what he’s willing to do, what he’s not willing to do,” Miller continued.
Big spoilers follow for the Season 2 finale.
At the end of Season 3, it’s revealed that Commander Lawrence orchestrated a complex effort to free Emily, June, and June’s baby using a network of Marthas. Seemingly because she could not leave Hannah in Gilead, June refused to go and sent Holly (renamed Nichole to honor Serena’s wishes) with Emily. It’s unclear to what extent these machinations put Lawrence’s station in jeopardy, but his actions here will have a lasting effect on what happens in Season 3.
“Now that June has crossed paths with him, she’s gonna cross paths with him a lot more in Season 3,” Miller said. “He’s been protecting himself for a very long time, and his adventure to keep himself alive certainly is not always an adventure that’s going to keep the people around him alive.”
So even when he’s become something of a freedom fighter by helping the Handmaids, it would appear that Commander Joseph Lawrence will remain an uneasy person to be friends with in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3.
Additional reporting by Catie Keck.