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Handmaid’s Tale: Why June & Gilead Set Up Fred, But Not Serena Joy

On The Handmaid’s Tale, June and Commander Lawrence worked together to take down Fred, but why didn’t Gilead and its least likely ally spare Serena?

On the season 4 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, why did June Osborne and Gilead set up Commander Fred Waterford and not Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski)? After Mark Tuello revealed in episode 9, “Progress,” that Fred decided to betray Gilead in exchange for his freedom, both Waterfords were poised to go free. Instead, June and Gilead made Tuello an offer he couldn’t refuse, and Fred was sent home, where he was sure to be executed. In a shocking twist, Fred wound up hanging from a wall, and it was June and a group of former Handmaids who killed the Commander and put him there.

Fred’s Salvaging marked a grisly end for one of the series’ biggest villains, and everyone involved got what they wanted. Gilead garnered some goodwill with America and Canada by releasing female members of the Resistance, Tuello exchanged one asset for 22, June got her revenge, and Gilead was willing to look the other way as a credible threat was executed. June’s hatred for Serena runs as deep or deeper than it did for Fred, so why didn’t she strike a deal with Gilead that included Serena, and why did Gilead pass up the chance to punish another traitor?

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RELATED: Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Finale Supports Serena & Mark Affair Theory

June’s focus was to exact revenge on Fred, and that hinged on his deal with Tuello. Commander Lawrence’s long-term plans for Gilead don’t rely on procuring the wife, who he views as neither useful nor formidable, of a disgraced Commander. There was the chance that demanding the return of a pregnant woman who fled the country would have upset potential allies, undermining what Lawrence was trying to accomplish. Tuello still sees Serena as a potential asset: Given her political cache and his personal feelings for her, he wouldn’t give her up, especially since Serena’s crimes pale in comparison to Fred’s. With Fred’s deal nullified, Serena could still stand trial, and without her husband, she’s more vulnerable. For June, there was no other option than to kill Fred. Her relationship with Serena is more complicated, and she sees different avenues she can pursue when dealing with her enemy.

June and Serena Joy in The Handmaid's Tale

Serena’s pregnancy gives June the opportunity to make Serena suffer in the ways Serena made her suffer, or June believes it will happen without her intervention. Maybe despite June’s hatred for Serena, June can’t bring herself to send Serena back to Gilead or let Serena’s child suffer the consequences of growing up there. June’s actions in the finale were motivated by what Fred had done to her, but Serena will suffer the consequences. Although Fred and Serena’s marriage had become a transactional arrangement, they had a long history and were expecting a child together. Serena will feel the loss one way or another. Showrunner Bruce Miller discussed with THR how Serena would react to Fred’s death. “She will want to find a way to metaphorically or realistically get June for this. June hit her house, and she wants to hit her back.”

So far, Serena has remained out of Gilead’s reach, but whatever protection Fred may have afforded her is gone. A popular fan theory is that Serena will end up back in Gilead as a Handmaid, but Strahovski told Elle that while the punishment would be just, it would also be too obvious an outcome. Fans are still reeling from the season 4 finale and what it means next for The Handmaid’s Tale, but with Fred out of the picture, Serena should be worried, which is undoubtedly what June intended.

NEXT: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4’s Biggest Unanswered Questions

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