What Serena Joy Returning To Gilead Really Means For The Handmaid’s Tale

WARNING: Contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 4.

After previously being sent back to Toronto, Serena Joy returns to Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 4, bringing into question her future as an ambassador for Gilead and whether she’s safe where she is. Using her typical politicking, Serena attempted to obtain a position in Gilead following Fred’s funeral, but the Commanders saw a much better use for her. They wanted Serena to return to Canada as a Global Ambassador for Gilead. Serena’s idea for Fred’s funeral had been used against her, and she returned, only to be confronted by June over Serena bringing Hannah to Fred’s funeral.

The Commanders of Gilead may have wanted a Global Ambassador, but they also seemed to know that June could possibly kill Serena. If Serena was killed, it would take care of one problem while garnering sympathy for Gilead as they embark on an international campaign to improve their image. This nearly comes to pass with June almost killing Serena after a violent fight breaks out in front of the Gilead Center that Serena has procured in Toronto. However, June stops short of pulling the trigger.

This incident prompts Serena to be escorted into Gilead, but she may not be any safer there than she was in Canada. The Commanders were quite eager to rid themselves of Serena, likely because they suspect she is a traitor like her deceased husband. She is also an unmarried pregnant woman who is not afraid to speak her mind, a problematic thing to be in Gilead. How this will influence her status in Gilead (and how long she stays) will likely determine Serena’s future and when could return to Toronto. However, upon arriving at the safe house, it seems like Gilead is either tricking Serena into feeling safe, with more sinister motives hiding beneath.

Mrs. Wheeler greets Serena with open arms and, compared to the somewhat icy reception she received upon arriving in Gilead before Fred’s funeral, things seem to look up for Serena. She may have finally found an ally in Gilead, but Mrs. Wheeler leans down in front of Serena’s baby bump and recites scripture, something that clearly makes even Serena uncomfortable. It’s possible Serena is recognizing the danger she’s in – Mrs. Wheeler seems to covet her baby and could be using this as an opportunity to have control over Serena and ensure her baby stays in Gilead before they either send Serena back to Toronto or find some other use for her.

Another small detail at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 2 is the song played during Serena’s return to Gilead, juxtaposed against June and Luke’s sex scene. The montage is set to Fleetwood Mac’s « The Chain » and, as Serena enters the Wheeler house, the lyrics, « Never break the chain, » repeat over and over again, emphasizing how Serena will always be chained to the monster she helped create. This ominous foreshadowing, combined with Mrs. Wheeler’s overenthusiastic response to Serena’s arrival, may hint that Serena may be in danger after all.

New episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 premiere Wednesdays on Hulu.