"We only wanted to make the world better. Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some."
          - Fred to Offred [1].

Commander Fred (also known as "The Commander") is the head of the household where Offred is enslaved as a Handmaid. He is the husband of Serena Joy. He often seems a decent, well-meaning man, and Offred sometimes finds that she likes him in spite of herself. He almost seems a victim of Gilead, making the best of a society he opposes. However, we learn from various clues and from the epilogue that the Commander (along with Serena Joy) was actually involved in designing and establishing Gilead.

In the television series, he is portrayed by Joseph Fiennes.

In the novelEdit

Commander Fred takes a liking to Offred and, despite the dangers, invites her up to his study in the evenings, where he keeps contraband items. Fred talks with Offred and offers her forbidden items such as hand lotion and fashion magazines. He also confides in her that he is lonely and finds that his wife no longer understands him, essentially beginning an emotional affair with Offred, though it is mostly one-sided.

Ofglen tries to get Offred to use Fred's affection for her to gain inside information, stating he is an important member of Gilead's government. Fred takes Offred to a brothel named Jezebel's for the evening, treating it as a date; however, he seems disappointed by Offred's lack of enthusiasm, simply treating it as an extension of her duties. Commander Fred merely watches helplessly when Offred is taken away by the Eyes (or possibly rescued by Mayday). It is unknown what ultimately became of the Commander. However, in the epilogue, it is suggested that is real identity was Commander Fred Waterford, who was one of the key founders and leaders of Gilead, who was executed in a political purge for harbouring an 'undesirable' (possibly referring to his Guardian, Nick, who claimed to be a member of Mayday).

In the Hulu seriesEdit

In the series, Commander Fred is portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. He is explicitly named Commander Fred Waterford, which in the novel was stated as being a likely candidate for his real name.

Before Gilead Edit

Fred returns home from a meeting with other Sons of Jacob where they devised a plan to take over the total power over the USA. He later explains to Serena that the Committee issued orders to attack the Congress, the White House, and the Court, which was what they originally proposed. [2]

After the takeover Edit

To Fred's dismay, Serena is not allowed to give an (eagerly anticipated) speech in a government building, now controlled by the Sons of Jacob. Warren blames the current society for Serenas frustration, since they gave women "more than they could handle" and "let them forget their real purpose".[2].

Nick is driving Commander Pryce, Commander Fred and Commander Guthrie. The three men are discussing women's roles and The Ceremony in the new society they want to build, with Fred scarcely participating. Fred later refers to the conversation as "the handmaid issue", first time introducing the name of the story. [3]

Before the main storyline Edit

Nick (now working for the Waterfords) and Rita discover the previous handmaid hanged herself in her room. As the body is carried away, Serena Joy asks Fred "What did you think was going to happen?". Nick is later ordered to spy on Mr. Waterford for the Eyes [3].

In the present time Edit

June has been (re)assigned to the Waterford's household as their new handmaid "Offred". As part of the Ceremony, Commander Fred tries to impregnate Offred as she lies in the lap of his wife. [4]. Nick tells Offred that the Commander wants to see her alone, which is forbidden. Offred goes to the Commander's office unsure of what's going to happen, but he just wants to play the game Scrabble with her. He reveals he’s going away to Washington DC next week to attend meetings, but says he’d like to see Offred again in private when he returns[5].

During the next Ceremony, the Commander is unable to get an erection and Serena Joy orders Offred to leave. Later, Offred goes to see the Commander in his study. She asks him about a Latin phrase "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum". He reveals it is pseudo-Latin meaning "Don't let the bastards grind you down" and Offred realizes her predecessor heard it from him. He asks if Offred knew the previous Handmaid; Offred is evasive and asks what happened to her. The Commander reveals she hanged herself from the chandelier that used to be in her room. Offred, seeing a chance to manipulate the Commander, persuades him to allow her outside, saying she has been feeling like "giving up" [6].

Offred and Commander Fred continue their nightly game of Scrabble. On one of these nights, the Commander gives Offred a present; a fashion magazine from before Gilead. During the Ceremony, the Commander touches Offred's thigh and looks at her, which is forbidden. She tries to tell him so, but is scolded, called an adulteress, and told to leave. In their ensuing conversation, the Commander admits that while they thought they were building a better world, they knew that "better never means better for everyone - It always means worse for some." Offred gets sick and goes to throw up in the kitchen sink [1].

The Waterfords recieve Mexican delegates in their home in an effort to create partnerships in trade. The head of the Mexican delegation, Mrs. Castillo, questions Offred about her experience in Gilead, to which she replies she has found happiness. Fred reveales to his wife in an unwatched moment that the Gileadean currency will fall off if they don't make progress on trade. After the meeting, Offred visits Fred's office for their usual discussions where some tensions flare up between them. He asks her to kiss him "like you mean it". She kisses him and leaves, ferociously brushing her teeth afterwards.[2]

Offred returns to her room and is surprised to find Commander Fred Waterford waiting for her with gifts including makeup, a revealing dress and high healed shoes. After shaving her legs and getting dressed up, the two, driven by Nick, head to a surprise destination. Disguised as Serena Joy Waterford, Offred slips by the guards. Fred, Offred and Nick enter the back of a building, meandering through hallways and elevators, finding themselves in Jezebel's, a secret brothel/sex club where well-to-do men frequent. Offred sees Moira across the bar and excuses herself to the women's restroom to follow her. Fred and Offred later go in a hotel room and as he tells her all about his current frustrations and fears, he seduces her. Offred silently cries as he advances on her. Later while Fred is sleeping, Offred sneaks down to see Moira [3].

Offred goes to Fred's office to flirt with him and convince him to take her again to Jezebel's. He complies and they sneak out that night after Serena goes to bed. When they're in the club, they go straight to the room. Fred has ordered Offred a "surprise" - a girl, Ruby, aka Moira, since he noticed that they looked friendly the last time they were at the club so he thought it would be a nice surprise[7].

Serena Joy reveals Offred's pregnancy to her husband and tells him the baby isn't his because he is weak[8].

Fred participates in Warren’s trial chaired by Commander Pryce. Waterford is all for leniency, reminding that no one is free of mistakes and that Warren Putnam has a family, a wife and a new child. Pryce replies that the council should always stand against sin. Ultimately, Putnam's left hand is amputated[8].

Two armed guards come to the Waterfords' home and lead Offred away, to the surprise and horror of Serena Joy and Fred. Offred walks off willingly, unsure if this is her end or a brand new beginning [8].

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Episode 5, "Faithful"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Episode 6, "A Woman's Place"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Episode 8, "Jezebels"
  4. Episode 1, "Offred (TV Episode)"
  5. Episode 2, "Birth Day"
  6. Episode 4, "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum"
  7. Episode 9, "The Bridge"
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Episode 10, "Night"