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Serena’s Freedom Confuses Handmaid’s Tale Viewers: ‘Isn’t She a Prisoner?’

How much freedom does Serena have on The Handmaid's Tale?

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The Handmaid’s Tale viewers have had one point of contention concerning recent episodes in Season 5: Why does Serena have so much freedom? Since they thought she was supposed to be a prisoner in the custody of the U.S., viewers aren’t really sure why she’s been able to make her own decisions. Last week’s episode made it look like she was merely a guest of Canada and the U.S., not in anyone’s custody. So what’s the deal? 

There will be spoilers for Season 5 Episode 3 below, and the Season 5 Episode 4 trailer. 

Serena’s Current Status Is a Big Topic of Discussion Among Viewers

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 4 (Hulu)

In Season 5 Episode 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale, Serena’s freedom was once again a big point of contention among fans. It was originally questioned whether she’d have permission from Canada (and Tuello) to go back to Gilead for Fred’s funeral at all. She was finally given the freedom to travel there, and she used her influence to arrange a much bigger funeral for the Commander than had originally been planned.

But then things got strange. Serena told Tuello that she decided to “stay in Gilead.” It didn’t make sense. If she needed permission in the first place to go back to Gilead, why could she just decide to stay (leaving Tuello basically trying to convince her not to do that.) Then on top of that, rather than having asylum in Canada, she’s now a representative of Gilead. It’s all very confusing. 

Here’s how fans are trying to figure out what’s going on. 

On The Handmaid’s Tale subreddit, one viewer made an entire rant thread about the whole thing and how confusing it is that she gets to be a representative of Gilead while still being in U.S. custody. 

Jawahara wrote, “Serena is a prisoner of the United States in custody in Canada. Right? And when they landed she was put back in detention. So…what this weird-ass Council decision about giving her a staff, money and protection? Is she suddenly going to be released? Are all these perks going to kick when/if she is released? Is she going to be released? Either she’s going to remain in detention OR she gets to be a weird-ass ambassador of Gilead. It can’t be both. Wth is this writing?”

Redditor caroline_andthecity replied, “The idea that a political prisoner (basically) getting that kind of trip budget is hilarious to me. There’s no way they’d spare that expense for a luxurious plane, security, and all that went into it. I imagine America paid for it too, not Canada, where the resources are clearly sparse.” 

They added that they just needed to suspend disbelief for this part of the storyline. Others chimed in, equally surprised at how posh the “jail cells” had been. 

Another Redditor had a different idea. Glitteringhellspawn (best username ever) suggested: “I think she is technically a free woman because Fred’s deal redacted his accusations against her and gained them both immunity. They were able to loop hole that and give Fred back because that’s technically freeing him from American detention BUT they still have to free her. Therefore she was able to choose to stay in Gilead but Gilead did not want her.”

Redditor u/drivesstick said they thought she was technically a prisoner of the ICC (International Criminal Court.) They wrote, ” I could see the ICC dropping charges once Fred was killed. The ICC is pretty lenient. No life sentences, etc.”

Another person suggested that she made a plea deal in Canada, but someone else replied that this doesn’t make sense either, because she was obviously still in detention. Another viewer suggested that maybe she’s in protective custody, not detention. But it’s still confusing. 

There was more than one Reddit thread about this. WayDowntheRedditHole wrote: “Isn’t she a prisoner of Canada? Isn’t she held by them on charges of rape, etc? So WHY then is she able to simply say I’m staying here. See ya.”

One person replied that she’s working on a plea deal in Canada to be free. RaevynSkye added, “As far as staying in Gilead, what can Tuello do? He’s not Serena’s husband, so he doesn’t have custody of her. If Gilead doesn’t want her to go Tuello can’t force it without causing an international incident.”

Glitteringhellspawn also added in this thread: “She already is free on account that Fred redacted his accusations and requested Serena’s immunity in order to talk. Tuello was going with to ensure protection aparently (but mostly to gain intelligence in my opinion)…”

But someone else wanted to know if she’s free, why she was escorted back to the detention center. One person guessed that maybe it was just to keep her safe. 

In my opinion, it seems confusing no matter what explanation you come up with. Maybe there was an explanation but it was cut from the script or the episode based on time. 

Season 5 Episode 4 Adds Another Layer of Confusion

Serena (Hulu)
Serena (Hulu)

If you watched the trailers for Season 5 Episode 4, you’ll know that the confusion just increases with the next episode. 

In one trailer, Tuello tells Serena that she’s “officially released from custody of the American government.” 

Maybe they’ll explain it more (this story was written before the episode aired), but if she was in the American government’s custody all this time, why was she able to decide to stay in Gilead? Sure, the Commanders turned her down, but why did she have the freedom to make that choice in the first place? 

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. 

Want to chat about all things post-apocalyptic? Join our Discord server here. You can also follow us by email here, on Facebook, or Twitter. Oh, and TikTok, too! (And don’t forget our Handmaid’s Tale FB page for show-only news.) 

    Stephanie Dwilson started Post Apocalyptic Media with her husband Derek. She's a licensed attorney and has a master's in science and technology journalism. You can reach her at [email protected].

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