Warning: This post contains spoilers for season 3, episode 11 of The Handmaid's Tale.
Time to celebrate, kiddos. The state of Gilead was just dealt a mighty blow — in fact, it was dealt a few. Three of Gilead's most prominent leaders, Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni), and Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), were all knocked off their thrones this episode.
But did Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) have any say in her husband's downfall? There's evidence to suggest that Serena, like her former handmaid June (Elisabeth Moss), is fed up enough with her place in the system to change it. Unlike June, who wants to save many children (52, to be exact), Serena just wants to "save" one: her adoptive child, Nichole.
Earlier this season, Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger), a representative for the ex-U.S. government based in Canada, gave Serena an emergency phone. She rang, he'd be there. After months of stalling from the Gilead government about baby Nichole, she and Fred decide to enlist Mark's help to expedite the process. They drive up north to meet him. Their trip gradually takes on the feel of a weekend getaway — until it doesn't.
Immediately after crossing the Canadian border, Canadian soldiers surround Gilead's golden couple from both sides. There's no escaping, except into the impenetrable woods.
"Commander Waterford, you have now crossed into Canada. We are arresting you for war crimes and crimes of aggression in violation of international human rights treaties and international law," Tuello, master bamboozler, says. He continues to rattle off charges against Fred: The persecution and torture of civilians, cruel and inhuman treatment, kidnapping, slavery, and rape, among others. Fred may be deported to an international court.
Serena's face falls like she can't believe it's happening. Or can she? "Fred, just do what they say," she says, watching her husband get put in the back of a car.
Notably, only Fred is implicated in these charges. Serena is put into a different Jeep. Which leads us to wonder: What if she saw this coming? What if this was a set-up?
Ever since Tuello, a representative for the U.S. government-in-exile, met Serena in that Toronto bar in season 2, they've been flirting with the idea of an agreement. Serena has what Tuello wants: access to information about the Gilead's inner workings, and relationships to its major leaders.
And Tuello has what Serena wants, more than anything: the opportunity for motherhood. Back when they first met at that bar of the Toronto hotel, he revealed that U.S. doctors in exile had developed a treatment that could make her fertile again. This season, he facilitated a meeting between Serena and her "daughter," Nichole. Maybe he promised her more time with Nichole.
If Tuello was, indeed, playing the long game with Serena, then he just got the ultimate pay-off. Serena traded her war-criminal husband for access to Nichole.
If this theory is true, this arrest is "good news" for Tuello and Serena. But it's terrible news for the whole tribe of people that helped get Nichole safely to Canada, from June, who gave birth to her, to Emily (Alexis Bledel), who smuggled her out, to Luke (O.T. Fagbenle), who's raising her.
Regardless, Fred's arrest is a glimmer of hope for everyone fighting to take down Gilead. In the five years since Gilead was formed, this was the biggest chip in the infrastructure. With any luck, more Commanders will fall — and Fred will get his due.