“"Never mistake a woman's meekness for weakness."”— Serena Joy in her book about "domestic feminism"
Serena Joy is a major character in The Handmaid's Tale. She is the Wife of Commander Fred, who is using Offred to try and obtain a child, being unable herself to conceive. In the film adaptation, she is portrayed by Faye Dunaway, and in the television series, she is portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski.
In the novel Edit
Offred states that Serena Joy's real name is Pam, and that Serena Joy is a stage name. Before the creation of Gilead, Serena was a televangelist and talented singer, who advocated for women to return to 'traditional' family values and roles and supported Gilead's creation. At some point, she married a man named Fred, who became a high-ranking Commander in Gilead. However, after Gilead's triumph, Serena was left bitter and miserable. She was stuck at home all day and had to rely on Handmaids to conceive a child.
Serena Joy is apparently aware that the Commander breaks rules in regards to keeping contraband items, but turns a blind eye out of love for him. She herself smokes cigarettes, a banned item. What she does not tolerate though, is her husband becoming too familiar with their Handmaids. When Serena found out that Offred's predecessor had been visiting her husband behind her back, she was furious. It is implied that the Handmaid committed suicide partly out of fear as to what Serena would do. Serena makes it plain that she doesn't like Offred, but views her as her only chance to gain a child. She secretly strikes a deal with Offred, arranging for her to meet with Nick in private - whom she trusts - so as to conceive, stating that many Wives do this. She offers Offred cigarettes and information on her daughter - whom Offred has not seen for years - in exchange.
When Serena learns that Offred has been conducting an emotional affair with the Commander, after finding lipstick stains on her blue shawl (which Offred had worn as a disguise when she visited Jezebel's with the Commander), Serena Joy angrily confronts her, asking how she could betray her like this after she tried to help her. When Offred is arrested by the Eyes, it becomes apparent that Serena Joy did not turn her in in revenge, as she looks horrified and calls Offred a "bitch", apparently believing Offred had reported Fred to the Eyes in either revenge or an attempt to save herself.
The epilogue discusses Serena Joy's real identity; the most likely candidate for her husband is Commander Fred Waterford, however, his wife's name was Thelma, not Pam; the other most likely candidate did not have a wife named Pam, either. This would suggest that Offred misremembered Serena's real name, that she is a completely different person or even that Offred used a false name for some reason; using Serena's real name could've identified Offred, endangering her loved ones, or it's possible that, despite Serena's generally horrible treatment of her, Offred was attempting to protect Serena herself, as she would likely have gotten into a great deal of trouble for helping Offred commit adultery with Nick.
In the TV series Edit
Serena Joy is portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski. In this adaptation, Serena Joy seems to be younger (in her thirties) than she is in the novel, where she is implied to be middle aged, though she is still apparently infertile.
In the past Edit
Before Gilead Edit
Serena is a right-religious cultural activist. According to Castillo, she was once even arrested for inciting to riot, and she wrote a book about her beliefs, titled "A Woman's Place", which contains the famous line "Never mistake a woman's meekness for weakness".
Serena nervously prepares to speak in front of a crowd on a college campus to promote her book "A Woman’s Place", where the audience is already booing loudly before she even gets to the podium. When someone throws a water bottle at the stage, the organizers rush her out, with Fred loudly protesting that his woman has a right to speak, because "This is America". When heading back to the car, Serena is shot in the stomach by a sniper, leaving her unable to conceive children. In the hospital, Fred promises Serena that he'll find the "terrorist" who shot her. He later catches the sniper and his wife and holds them at gunpoint. He kills the wife first. .
Serena is considering writing another book about "fertility as a national resource" and "reproduction as a moral imperative". Fred is one of the conspirators who devise the (alleged) "terrorist" attacks. Serena is confident that the staged attacks will help quickly propel the envisioned society that is conducive to her own theocratic beliefs.
After the takeover Edit
Serena is shown to be completely shut out of the new government planning since the new society won't let women "forget their real purpose" again, as Commander Warren points out to a dismayed Fred. Rather symbolically, as she prepares to accept her new limited role in the society she helped create, a copy of her book is seen being thrown out in the trash.
Before the main storyline Edit
Present, season one Edit
Serena Joy takes Offred to the Putnam's house to see Ofwarren and the baby. Ofwarren tells Offred that her Commander is in love with her and that they're going to run away. She's also given her daughter a different name, "Charlotte". Offred fears Ofwarren is delusional and comments on her behavior to Serena Joy. Nick drives Offred home and there is a black van waiting. Offred is interrogated by an Eye and Aunt Lydia about her knowledge of Ofglen. Serena intervenes, yelling at them to stop beating her because Offred is pregnant. Offred later reveals to Serena that she's not pregnant, causing Serena to drag her to her room and order her not to come out. 
Serena Joy calls Offred outside to tell her she's asked Nick to try and impregnate Offred. She suspects the Commander is infertile, so she secretly brings Offred to Nick's apartment, where she waits as they have sex. They finish, and Serena tells Offred to lie down in her room, after saying a prayer to encourage her to become pregnant. 
The Waterfords receive a Mexican delegation being lead by Mrs. Castillo, who is intrigued by the idea of Handmaids. She asks Serena if she ever imagined a society in which women can no longer read her book, to which Serena replies that God asks for sacrifices.
Serena wakes up Offred to rush to help Janine (formerly Ofwarren), who is threatening to jump off a bridge with her daughter. Offred convinces her to release the baby, which Janine does right before she jumps off. Commander Warren is arrested. Serena tries to offer comfort to his wife Naomi and offers help with the baby, which she curtly refuses. Naomi then reminds Serena of the first Offred, saying that "Men don't change". 
Serena discovers that Offred went to the Jezebel's club with her husband and strikes Offred down on the ground to punish her. She then forces Offred to take a pregnancy test, which is positive. Serena reveals the good news to her husband and tells him the baby isn't even his because he is weak. She then takes Offred on a surprise trip, several hours away. Serena meets with Hannah, Offred's daughter, to show Offred that if she harms herself or the baby then Hannah will be in danger. Offred screams in misery and calls Serena an evil monster. 
Two armed guards come in 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. 
Present, season two Edit
Commander Fred and Serena Joy take Offred to be examined by a doctor. They are shown their child on the monitor and Serena kisses Offred's forehead in thanks. Offred is left alone and begins to put her shoes on when a key falls out from her boot. The key gets her into a stairwell and allows her to escape. Serena later eavesdrops on her husband as he tries to find Offred. She goes up to Offred's old room and sits on her window sill.
After June's recapture, the Waterfords greet her stiffly and formally. Commander Fred speaks of the tremendous effort it took to save June from her “kidnapping” at the hands of an "insidious terrorist network." Serena later dashes into June’s bedroom and pins her into a chokehold. As June catches her breath she reminds Serena that "as long as my baby is safe, so is yours."
At the baby shower, Serena opens many handmade presents from the other Wives. June, who’s supposed to stay silent, pipes in by saying that the baby kicked for the first time last night. Serena retreats to the yard with a cigarette. Aunt Lydia tells Serena that everything that happens now must be for the good of the child, and thus she should stop smoking cigarettes.
That evening, June begs for forgiveness in front of all the members of the Waterford household and for her to be Offred again. Serena later crawls into bed with Offred and caresses her stomach. When Serena leaves, Offred goes into the closet, repeating to herself: “My fault. My fault. My fault." 
Aunt Lydia is still regularly monitoring Offred’s pregnancy at the Waterfords. She weighs her, measures the size of the baby, considers her mental state. She even gets to take notes with a pencil, in a case of "special dispensation" for aunts, as she explains to an astonished Serena. Serena encourages Aunt Lydia to leave, but she takes clear offense when Lydia says one of her jobs is to observe the "mood" of the home in which Offred is carrying the baby.
The Waterfords head to a Prayvaganza chaired by Commander Pryce in which the handmaids and wives sit in rows while a ceremony takes place down below. Nick, among other Guardians, is escorted out to the main floor. Young brides, their faces covered by veils, then march onto the floor and stand opposite the men being “honored.” As Nick lifts his bride's veil, he sees a girl, Eden, who is much younger than him.
The Waterfords with Offred, Nick, and Eden return from the Prayvaganza. When Offred retreats to her chamber, she struggles up the stairs, still evidently bleeding. She moves around her room. Serena leads Eden into Nick's apartment and kindly advises her to enjoy the "act" she’s now required to have.
Offred wakes up in a hospital bed after her breakdown, Serena sleeping in a chair opposite her, and appears stunned by her and the baby’s survival. She goes to get the doctor.
During an ultrasound, the doctor tells Serena that Offred’s bleeding was due to a subchorionic hematoma and she should be fine now, adding the baby "needs harmony within the household". Back at home, Serena has Offred move in the sitting room so she doesn’t have to go up and down the stairs. Serena later sits by the couch while Offred gets ready to go to sleep and lets Serena put her hands on her belly.
Serena invites four handmaids (Alma, Ofglen (#2), Oferic, and Ofsamuel) for a surprise lunch with Offred. Later, Serena takes Offred up to the nursery to see how she’s decorated it. When Offred asks to see Hannah, Serena angrily refuses and orders her to get her things out from downstairs to go back to her old room.
After the bombing, Commander Fred is lying half-conscious in his hospital bed. Nick offers to take Serena home for sleep and a change of clothes. She refuses his offer. Commander Putnam enters the room with a visibly injured Commander Cushing and announces Commander Pryce "has gone home to God" and Cushing will be taking on Pryce's "security duties". Cushing promises he will find everyone responsible for the gruesome attack.
Offred gets to the hospital. Serena Joy is happy to see her and to show Fred his baby is safe. At home, Serena Joy talks about Ray Cushing with Offred and says that he's always been a blowhard even when they vacationed in Antigua together with his wife Sonia. She wants her to be very careful about what she says to Cushing. Offred reminds Serena that Commander Deeds' entire house was slaughtered, and if Cushing came to believe she has a connection to the underground, he won't hesitate, nor would he ever let a baby grow up in that house.
When Nick returns to his apartment that evening, he finds Serena inside waiting alone. She learns from him that submitting warrants to the "Consular of Divine Law" needs the Commander's signature. Nevertheless, Nick agrees to help Serena "walk through the process".
Nick exchanges glances with the guards in front of the Waterford's house and heads to the front door. As Cushing comes up to the house, a van of the Eyes stops by and guardians surround him. Commander Putnam explains he's being arrested for treason on the word of Commander Waterford, due to the "overwhelming" evidence submitted by the Eyes.
Serena Joy asks June to accompany her to the office where she has already put together new security policies, explaining she'd like things to start getting back to normal. Reminding her of her former profession as editor, she asks June to read over the policy drafts. June grabs a pen.
Offred and Serena work together to do Commander Fred's work while he's in the hospital. The Commander returns to the house after being hospitalized and is welcomed back by Serena and the staff. Serena goes over the work she did for him while he was away. He's grateful but ushers her out of the office so that he can look over it. Upstairs, Offred finds a music box and a rose on her bed, supposedly a gift from Serena. Serena tells Offred that baby Angela isn't well. She leaves to offer Naomi support.
Later, Serena tells Offred that the baby isn't doing well and that they don't know what's wrong with her. Offred asks if there is something they can do and Serena says that they could ask one of the top female doctors but that would mean bending the law. Offred says that if it was her baby that she'd do whatever she could. Serena asks Fred if he can allow the female doctor, who is now a Martha, check on the baby. Fred says no because they can't question the will of God. Serena tells Offred that Fred said no. Offred tells Serena about Janine and how she knows about the baby. Offred asks if Janine could see the baby but Serena tells her to not be stupid.
In the hospital, Serena asks Naomi if Janine, who is brought by Aunt Lydia, could see the baby. Her husband is okay with it but Naomi isn't. Offred takes Janine to see the baby in the ICU. Dr. Hodgson arrives in her Martha dress, changes clothes and is briefed by Dr. Epstein. She runs some tests on the baby. The doctors give Angela's parents bad news. Serena goes after the doctor but the doctor says is that all they can do is pray for the baby's recovery. Janine is able to hold the baby in order to say goodbye.
Serena and Offred arrive home and are told by Nick that they are wanted in the Commander's office. Fred tells them that he knows that Serena forged his signature so that the Martha could see the baby. He asks Offred if that's her handwriting on one of the papers and she says yes. As punishment, Fred whips Serena with his belt and forces Offred to watch as he does.
Serena is in her room crying as she looks at the scars on her buttocks. Offred asks her if there is anything she can do but Serena only sends her back to her room. Instead, Offred goes downstairs and apologizes to Fred for what she did. She asks if he'll forgive her and he says to go to bed.
Rita comes to Offred's room and tells her that they've been summoned. They are told by Commander Fred that he and Serena are going to Canada, introducing a new Guardian, Isaac, to watch over the house during his absence. Serena tells Fred that he doesn't need her to go but Fred says that they need to show Canada that women aren't oppressed in Gilead.
Nick loads up the car with their luggage when Eden shows up and gives him some cookies to take with him. She tells him that she's going to miss him but he says he's only going to be gone a couple of days. Serena goes to see Offred before she leaves. She tells Offred that she'll be leaving the house as soon as the baby is born.
The Commander and Serena land in Canada. Moira recognizes Fred and she points him out to Luke and Erin as they watch television. Moira and Luke go to the U.S. embassy and ask Rachel to arrest Fred but she tells them that it isn't possible. She encourages Moira and Luke to attend a planned protest.
Serena watches the people go about their daily activities as she rides by in a limo. Fred is greeted by Canadian delegates. Mr. McConnell comments to Commander Waterford that he and his husband were frequent visitors to the former United States, and responds to Waterford's suggestion that they both visit Gilead in the near future with a curt "when we feel welcome." They leave Serena alone to attend cultural activities.
Serena runs into a mother and her child but the mother wants nothing to do with Serena. She later heads to the bar where a man named Mark Tuello approaches her. Initially, Serena assumes that he works with the press. He reveals to her that he is a representative of the US Government-In-Exile. He attempts to persuade Serena to start a new life away from Gilead, offering safe passage to Honolulu and encouraging her to write a book about the Republic that they will publish. Realising that he seeks to use her a propaganda tool, Mark appeals to her desire to have a baby, arguing that American scientists have been working on the fertility crisis for years and have the ability to make her fertile again. She would also be guaranteed 'freedom'. Serena states that she will never betray her country, to which Mark says that she already did.
When June and Isaac return home without any shopping, Rita questions Isaac about what she is supposed to make that night. When he curtly tells her that the shopping trip was cut short, Rita backs away and begins to prepare whatever is still in the house. He then sends June upstairs for a nap and begins talking to Eden about the strawberry jam she is making. Upstairs, June talks to Rita about how Serena wants her to leave the house once the baby is born. She asks Rita to watch out for her daughter while she's gone because she wants her child to know only kindness, and Rita says she'll do what she can.
At the protest, Luke confronts Commander Fred. He's taken away by the police but not before Serena and Nick realize that he's Offred's husband. Serena and Fred head up to their room where Fred says that they've made progress with the Canadian government. Nick goes looking for Luke and finds him in a bar. He tells Luke that June is alright but Luke says that she isn't fine. Nick tells her that June is pregnant. This upsets Luke and he tells Nick to get out but then changes his mind and goes after him. He asks about Hannah but Nick doesn't know if she's okay. Nick gives Luke the stack of letters June gave him and tells him to get them out somehow. Luke asks Nick to tell June that Moira got out.
Aunt Lydia visits Offred. Offred tells her about how Serena wants her to leave right after the baby is born. Aunt Lydia tells her that it is Serena's prerogative.
The next day, Commander Fred and Serena are told to go directly to the airport because the letters were uploaded to the Internet and the public outrage was overwhelming. McConnell blunty tells the couple that they are no longer welcome. As they leave, one of the women tells Serena that she doesn't know how Serena lives with herself. At the airport, they can barely pull their car onto the tarmac.
Fred and Serena arrive home. While unpacking, Serena comes across the matches that she was given by the American representative. She throws it into the fire. ==== The Last Ceremony ==== June starts to get contractions and is taken home by ambulance where Nick helps her into the house. Serena comes out and greets June before she is taken to Serena and the Commander's room.
Aunt Lydia and other handmaids arrive. They begin to set up the room for the birth of the child. Downstairs, the Marthas are setting up the kitchen with snacks and delicacies. Also, Commander Fred is handing out cigars. Serena is in another room surrounded by wives as she pretends to have a baby. Aunt Lydia interrupts the ceremony and tells her that June was only having false contractions. They call a doctor to come inspect her and learn that she isn't even close to giving birth. This upsets Serena who tells June that after the birth she is to be transferred to another district. June approaches Commander Fred about what Serena wants and asks for his help. She asks to be moved to her daughter's district. This upsets the Commander who asks her to get out. Before she leaves, June tells him that he'll never know what it's like to have a child of his own.
Commander Fred and Serena talk about the baby. Serena says that the best way for the baby to come is the most natural way. Rita tells June that Serena wants to see her. As she leaves, Rita tells June that she'll tell the baby about her. Serena forces June onto the bed as Fred forces himself into her. He sexually assaults her in order to get the baby to come early. After, Serena and Fred both leave the room leaving June alone as she cries.
Serena Joy and the Commander Fred arrive looking for Offred. When they enter, Fred calls out to the Commander McKensie and his wife. Serena runs upstairs, and notices the clothing armoirs have been uncovered. She sees Offred's cloak and head cover, and runs downstairs show it to Fred. Serena and Fred argue over Offred. Serena blames him for them running off together. He says Nick would not be that disloyal, and that he let Offred see her daughter, which he believes would have made her grateful. Serena tells him he is stupid and that they hate him, which is why Offred keeps running away from him.
Fred blames Serena constant cruelty to Offred for her escape attempts. She tells him he raped Offred last night, he points out that was her idea, and says this was "to fix her mess." Serena in her anger says that Nick is the father of Offred's baby, and he should have expected them to run after seeing Hannah/Angela. She asks Fred if he expected to Offred to return after this visit and thank him. She calls him an idiot and he calls her a bitch. Serena says they can't explain it away or even report it. Especially to have a handmaid run away twice, and how they will think that they are part of the Resistance. She says they will hang them on the wall, and he comments it would be his bad luck to be next to her. She chastises him for making jokes.
In an upper level of the home, Offred spies a open box of ammunition on a storage chest. Inside, she finds a shotgun and loads it. Downstairs, Serena quietly confesses she gave up everything for "the cause," and all she wanted in return was a baby. Fred pins her against the wall telling her she demanded a baby. She cries that he has left her with nothing. At the same time, Offred has quietly opened a window in the breezeway, and has aimed the gun at them. Serena cries that she will never hold her baby, and Fred consoles her. Offred hears the entire conversation. Serena pushes Fred away, and Offred gasps as her target moves out of her sight. Serena tells Fred that Nick is the father of the baby.
Serena Joy is seen bathing Holly or Nicole as she calls her. Offred is seen using a breast pump when Aunt Lydia arrives. She commends Offred on her surviving and giving birth on her own. One of the Aunts mentions that Offred's milk is less than yesterday. Aunt Lydia says she knows this already. Apparently, Mrs. Waterford wants the milk. Aunt Lydia tells Offred that other families have made offers for her to be in their households. Commander Fred is seen setting up his office when Nick walks in. Nick hangs up a picture on the wall and it's of Serena, Fred, and the new baby.
Eden is seen holding the baby. Rita walks in with a bottle and Serena takes the baby to feed her. Rita tells Serena that they are running low on breast milk because Offred is drying up. Serena says that they can't have that. Aunt Lydia leads Offred to meet with the Commander and Nick who have brought Nicole. Offred refuses to see the baby but Aunt Lydia tells her that it'll help her produce more milk. It's true because no sooner does she say this that her breasts start to leak. Fred turns to leave by Offred offers to nurse Nicole. Fred says no but Aunt Lydia convinces him to take Offred back to the house so that she can pump there. Offred returns with Fred but this upsets Serena. She says that Offred can't touch the baby and that she pumps in the room.
Serena is dealing with a crying Nicole. She gets the idea to try and breastfeed her but of course it doesn't work.
When Offred is going back upstairs, she spots Serena in the baby's room. She asks Serena if she's okay. The baby startsAs to cry and Serena surprisingly offers the baby to Offred. Offred sits and holds Nicole. She begins to breastfeed her as Serena watches.
Following the unfortunate execution of Eden, whom Serena had been fond of given Eden's respect for traditional values and scripture, their is an inspiration among the the Wives to attempt to change the laws of Gilead to allow for more dignity for women. After an unpleasant confrontation, June shows Serena Eden's Bible marked with commentary; which has an affect on Serena. During a gathering of the Wives, Serena and Mrs. Putnam exchange their opinions regarding the Bible, particularly the right to read it as women are banned from doing so. They realize most of the Wives share their feelings and call a meeting.
Serena presents herself in Gilead court alongside the rest of the Wives; she is the sole speaker before a group of Commanders. Her husband, Fred Waterford, stares at her with contempt as she requests that Women and their daughters be allowed to read the Bible. Most of the Wives are solid in their standing with her until she reveals Eden's Bible and reads directly from it. Many of the Commander's are offended by her disrespect of Gilead laws while most of the Wives, scared of the repercussions, begin to walk out as she reads from the Bible. Serena remains unfazed.
In a gathering outside in the hall, Fred, despite attempting to conceal his lie, says that Serena's request will be considered. However, moments later, two Guardians come and forcibly remove Serena. Serena, realizing that Fred has opted to punish her for the Sins of both reading, possessing literature, and disobeying her husband, screams and begs Fred to stop. As consequence, Serena's left pinky finger is partially amputated.
Serena later returns home in a state of distress and shock. June asks Serena what happened, and Serena shows her the partially amputated pinky finger. This punishment disposes of the contempt June and Serena had for one another, and June puts her hand over Serena's as an affectionate gesture It also amps up June's hatred for Fred as she asks him how he could let that happen to Serena.
Later in the night, members of the resistance stage a plot to help June and the baby escape by setting fire to a nearby home across from the Waterford's to distract the Guardians and Commanders. During the fiasco, Serena was in the backyard greenhouse and notices June and the baby hiding from nearby Guardians who are attempting to control the situation. Knowing that June intends to leave with the baby, Serena begs for June to give her back. However, June explains that Gilead is not an ideal place for a child, specifically a daughter, to grow up in as their very existence is risky. She manages to convince Serena, who then tearfully says a prayer and hands the baby back over to June. June, in turn, gives Serena a blessing as well and leaves behind a tearful Serena as she and another Martha leave to escape Gilead.
With Serena handing over the baby to June, it is implied that she has officially defected from the Republic of Gilead.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Episode 6, "A Woman's Place."
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Episode 2.6, "First Blood."
- ↑ Episode 8, "Jezebels"
- ↑ Episode 3, "Late"
- ↑ Episode 5, "Faithful"
- ↑ Episode 9, "The Bridge"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Episode 10, "Night"
- ↑ Episode 2.1, Offred (TV Episode)
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 Episode 2.4, Other Women
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Episode 2.5, Seeds
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Episode 2.7, "After"
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Episode 2.8, "Women's Work"