One of the most fascinating new characters introduced in season two of The Handmaid’s Tale was Commander Joseph Lawrence, a man who helped build Gilead and at the same time flouts its rules. Just as interesting, however, is his wife, Eleanor Lawrence. She frequently steals the scenes sheis in with dynamic acting and interesting character development.
Ten Things About Eleanor Lawrence Every Handmaid’s Tale Fan Should Know
Season three promised more time to learn about Eleanor, and it delivered. As you work your way through the latest season of the series (now streaming on Hulu), you’ll want to be aware of all of the most important information. To understand Eleanor, keep reading, but keep in mind there may be spoilers.
10. She is played by Julie Dretzin.
Julie Dretzin is an actress who was born on May 24, 1968. She is married to Sam Catlin. As an actress, Dretzin has incredible range. Aside from The Handmaid’s Tale, she has been in Breaking Bad, which is another drama. She played an FBI agent in How to Get Away with Murder and was a guest actress on the sit-com Mom. That range makes her performance as Eleanor even more impressive.
9. She values beauty more than anything…
Before the takeover, Eleanor—like Serena, June, and practically every other woman in Gilead—was a working woman. Just like Emily, Eleanor was a college professor. In her case, however, she was an art professor. She loved beauty, especially natural beauty. Not only did Commander Lawrence strip Eleanor of her rights as a woman by constructing Gilead’s economy and building it from the ground up, but he was the mastermind behind the Colonies, which completely decimated the natural world.
8. …which led to a nervous breakdown.
It was impossible for Eleanor to mentally justify the horrors of what her husband had created. She could no longer see him as the man who wooed her in college by giving her mixtapes. However, she stays with him because she can’t help but love him. The knowledge of what he’s done is too much for Eleanor, and she had a breakdown. Joseph had to try to smuggle in medication to treat Bipolar disorder for her, something banned in Gilead.
7. She genuinely wants to help the women hurt by Gilead.
Cora uses Commander Lawrence’s house to hide a Martha who was shot by Guardians. It makes Joseph furious, and in the end, he sends Cora away. First, however, he tells June to fix it. The Martha smeared blood on the kitchen wall and June panics trying to clean it. When Eleanor walks into the room, June assumes she’s in trouble, but Eleanor steps up and takes over the cleaning. June has to bury the Martha’s body alone, and the next day Eleanor plants flowers on it.
6. She is a Wife, but not a mother.
Eleanor does not have any children. In her time with Joseph before Gilead, she desperately wanted to have children, but he didn’t want any and thus they remained a family of two. After the creation of Gilead, the only possibility for bearing children was, of course, the Handmaids. Eleanor hated the idea of Joseph sleeping with a Handmaid and begged him to never do it, a promise he was able to keep for most of their time in Gilead.
5. That love of children gets her into trouble.
June tries to take advantage of Eleanor to see Hannah. She asks Eleanor to go on a walk with her, only to reveal that she wants Mrs. Lawrence to go to Hannah’s school and convince a Guardian to let her in and see Hannah. They make it to the school and Eleanor is even able to get into the building by saying she was promised a tour of the school. Unfortunately, in her unwell state, Eleanor begins rambling about how she needs to see the children, which gets her kicked out.
4. June is good for Eleanor.
As Eleanor’s mental state deteriorates, everyone in the Lawrence household realizes that June does a good job taking care of Eleanor and makes her happy. On the walk to Hannah’s school, June notices that Eleanor came alive, enjoying the world a bit again. Joseph knows that June made a positive impact on his wife and asks him to spend more time with her. June, of course, is furious at him for creating the world that made his wife sick in the first place.
3. She tries to kill her husband.
Eleanor is devastated by Gilead. Things become even worse in the Lawrence household when Beth reveals that they will no longer be able to get any mood stabilizers for her. Instead, Eleanor can only be treated by herbal tea in Gilead. June sees this as a reason to get Eleanor out of Gilead so she can receive treatment. Originally, Eleanor says no because Joseph would be arrested if he came with her. He is upset when, without medication, she grows more violent with him, even threatening him at gunpoint. June has to talk Eleanor out of shooting Joseph, saying she needs him to help children escape.
2. When she finds out there’s an escape plan, she wants to help as many children as possible.
Eleanor becomes even more reckless without the medication when she finds out that June is trying to help fifty-two children escape from Gilead. She wants to help all the children get out, but she grows more and more incapable of making smart choices. At one point, she dresses to go out so she can go to another household and get a boy named David to help him escape. Eleanor then says she also wants to tell the parents of a girl across the street. June has to be assertive to explain to Eleanor how dangerous and irresponsible that would be, inciting a meek apology from Eleanor.
1. Tragically, she is no longer living.
Without mood stabilizers and without hope that she and her husband can ever live happily together again, Eleanor feels like she is completely out of options. She overdoses on an unknown medication, and June walks in on her dying. She tries to wake Eleanor for a moment and almost calls for help, then decides that Eleanor is a liability and stays with her until she dies. Then, June pretends she never entered the room and leaves Eleanor for a Martha to discover in the morning. Now that Commander Lawrence’s wife is dead, it is a heartbreaking end to one of Gilead’s long-suffering victims.
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