When we first met Serena Waterford back in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 she was a force of pure evil, a symbol of Gilead and its enslavement of women like June/Offred. Season 2 explored Serena’s backstory, revealing her direct role in creating a society where women are legally banned from reading books, and Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 seems to be putting Mrs. Waterford on a path towards redemption — or is it?
If Serena’s story feels familiar, that’s because we just saw the same thing play out in Game of Thrones with Jaime Lannister. Both characters began as villains and flirted with redemption. Both traveled north (either to Winterfell or Canada) before ultimately returning home. They’re both amputees too: Jaime lost a hand, Serena lost a finger.
Ok, point proven, the good-looking blonde baddies in Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale share a few similarities, but why does that matter? Well, after watching Jaime team-up with the good guys only to ultimately return home to his evil sister/lover Cersei (“She’s hateful, and so am I”), it’s easy to see this same narrative repeating itself for Serena.
Handmaid’s Tale spent two seasons carefully chipping away at Mrs. Waterford’s icy exterior to reveal the person underneath, turning Serena into a believable character despite her countless contradictions. By the end of Season 2, she willingly gave up her child Nichole so the girl could live a better life in Canada. When Season 3 began it looked like that arc would continue, but by the end of Episode 5, it’s already become clear that just like Jaime, Serena can’t escape her evil origins.
After returning from the North, Serena immediately goes back on her promise to June and demands Nichole’s return to Gilead. Her husband mobilizes the entire government, and by the end of Season 3, Episode 5, it seems like she might just get her way.
Heading into the second half of Handmaid’s Tale Season 3, it might be tempting to think that Serena will course correct and ultimately redeem herself. But if Serena is anything like Jaime then the opposite is much more likely. Maybe she isn’t a hero or even a sympathetic character. Maybe she’s just hateful.
New episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 release each Sunday at midnight on Hulu.