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Spoilers for the first 2 seasons of The Handmaid's Tale.

There are several instances in the show when I cannot explain June's behavior. But the one that seems most inexplicable is the one at the very end of season 2. Considering all the things Serena did to her, especially the aiding of June's rape while she's pregnant, June is for some reason nice to Serena.

  1. She goes as far to rename her own kid (that biologically is not related to the Waterfords whatsoever) after Serena's choice, i.e. Nichole. Why?

  2. She even cares about Serena being whipped (with a belt, after Fred discovers Serena's work in his study) and goes to her room to offer her comfort and confronts Fred over it. Why?

  3. She seemingly wants to have sex with Fred while pregnant (after Fred gives her a photograph of Hannah and then gropes her). Why? (Maybe she's acting as if she wants it, in return for more favors from him?)

I could list all of the insane number of physical and mental atrocities that the Waterfords did to her and for some bizarre reason, there's many more instances when she's nice and obedient.

  • 2
    June understands that despite that Serena helped make this world (and that she has problems), the reality is that the world ended up being hell for Serena too. She's a prisoner of sorts too. It also reflects that June's spirit is never fully broken, because she still has compassion, despite the infliction and trauma bestowed upon her. Season 2 in particular showed how Mr. Waterford (and other men) held power over Serena and through what happens with Marisa Tomei's character, that "wives" can receive ill fates too. Some of the instances however are also about survival/manipulation. It's complex – Darth Locke Mar 22 at 13:46
  • Yes, "survival/manipulation. It's complex" that says it all! – elbrant Mar 25 at 2:18
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It has to be due to compassion and sorority, the feminine version of the noun fraternity. It's a sort-of-new concept that has been airing all over the internet for some years now. It was definitely not as evident in the 1980s book as it is on the series, but I think it's an interesting topic to reflect about, how women tend to be way more competitive against each other than men. This is my answer to questions 1 and 2.

For question number 3, I'm pretty sure she feels powerful "controlling" the Commander that way. It's such a controversial topic, but it's also interesting to reflect about.

  • 1
    I think this is an interesting perspective, as a fan of The Good Wife/Fight, I have often thought about the argument that women on women crime/politics is a result of male patriarchy via male-lead institutions pitting women against each other for power or if some women would be naturally be competitive or create the same competitiveness when they are in power, despite the societal structuring?! – Darth Locke Aug 14 at 16:35
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Decided to turn my comment into an answer.

The main point in depicting June in this manner is simply to show that June's compassionate spirit, is not fully broken.

June is still capable of seeing that despite Serena is manipulative, abusive, and had a hand in Gilead's creation, being the religious-right wing author of a best-selling novel titled, A Women's Place, siting, "Never mistake a women's meekness for weakness." that Serena is in fact a victim herself, albeit a dangerous calculating one.

June and the series' second season begin to take the time in showing Serena/audience her mistakes and her potential "expendability", as characters like Mrs. O'Conner, a former Wife like Serena, is sentenced to The Colonies after committing adultery against her husband, which is echoed in the way Fred allows for Serena to be punished by other Gilead Male Heads at the end of the season, even though she teamed-up with June to help him stay politically on top, after he was injured in a bombing.

The evidence of June's compassionate influence is in the result of season three's climax where

Serena misleads Fred (and even June), making him believe that she can get "Nichole" back in Gilead, when really she has made a deal with her Canadian friend, which results in Fred and Serena being arrested and brought to Canadian soil.

In Serena's defense:

It's unclear if Serena's motives are truly pure and if she will not turn on the "Cs", but at the very least, Serena's motives in wanting to be with Nichole are genuine, despite that in reality, Nichole (having a child to raise) is either/or just an idea Serena needed in order to survive as a human being and/or an excuse to reign terror on someone else. Season three also began to touch on Serena's relationship with her mother, but not enough to know for certain if Serena's desperation for a child and religious fanaticism, stems from childhood trauma and abuse...

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