Season two introduces one of the most fascinating characters that Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale has had on the show yet. Commander Joseph Lawrence is a complex man whose role in the series is defined by contradictions and confusion. First Emily, then June struggles to understand him during their times as Ofjoseph.
The 10 Commander Lawrence Facts Every Handmaid’s Tale Should Know
As more of his character is revealed during the latest season’s progression, it sometimes feels like the audience receives new questions instead of answers. To fully understand Commander Lawrence, consult this list of the most important facts about him. Keep in mind that if you aren’t caught up in the series yet, you may consider parts of this article spoilers.
10. Commander Lawrence is played by Bradley Whitford.
Whitford was born in Madison, Wisconsin on October 10, 1959. A Juilliard-trained actor, Bradley Whitford found a place for himself in stardom and the spotlight with political drama The West Wing. He did stage performances both on and off-Broadway. He has a long resume of varied films, from Bicentennial Man to Get Out. For his performance in The Handmaid’s Tale, Whitford has been nominated for an Emmy. He believes that being a theater actor is what makes him so talented.
9. He played a very important role in the creation of Gilead.
Commander Lawrence was instrumental in the establishment of Gilead after the government takeover. If Aunt Lydia is to be believed, Joseph designed and implemented Gilead’s economy, though Commander Waterford suggests that the economy is now struggling. Lawrence’s wife, Eleanor, tells Emily that he is responsible for the Colonies. Eleanor is horrified by this because she was an art professor and she blames him for eliminating the beauty in the world.
8. Joseph loves his wife more than anything else in the world.
Commander Lawrence does his very best to protect Eleanor, who he loves even though she hates him for what he did to the world. With the assistance of his Martha, Beth, he tries to get help for Eleanor. She is mentally ill, and her condition has gotten worse in Gilead, where mental health is not taken care of. Beth asks around to try to get mood stabilizers to treat Eleanor until the household learns nobody can get them anymore.
7. His household is unorthodox.
When Emily arrives to take her role as Ofjoseph, the Lawrence household is not at all what she expected it to be. She knows he is an important man and expects him to mistreat her. However, his abuses of power are to make his household more comfortable. There are books all over the house, not limited to his office. He also raided art museums after the takeover, filling his house with artifacts like Rembrandts and Picassos.
6. He helps Emily escape Gilead.
Before June takes up the position as Ofjoseph, Emily is assigned to be the Handmaid at the Lawrence household. Joseph takes special interest her, as he requested her personally. He offers her a beer and they talk; he asks her about her former job as a professor and about her wife and son. After Emily stabs Aunt Lydia in the back (literally), she has no choice but to flee or be executed. Joseph, believing she can offer more to the world than children because of her intelligence, helps her escape with baby Nichole.
5. June and Joseph go head-to-head about helping people.
When a dying Martha seeks shelter at the Lawrence household, June risks helping her even though Commander Lawrence had no interest in any Martha hiding out at his home. He is furious, and when the Martha dies, he makes June bury her in the backyard alone. Cora, one of Lawrence’s Martha’s, is fired from the Lawrence household because she lied to him about hiding the injured woman. Beth explains that the Commander doesn’t like liars.
4. He thinks June is incapable of making tough decisions, hating her selfishness.
June frequently asks Joseph for favors, especially as she tries to work with the Martha network to help people suffering in Gilead. He tries to teach her a lesson about sacrifices and accepting small victories by taking her to cages containing hundreds of women. Only five of them can be Martha’s, while the rest will be sent to the Colonies. June has to choose the five. Lawrence accepts her decisions, who she picked based on usefulness to the resistance.
3. Commander Lawrence hates the Ceremony.
Even though he helped create Gilead, Lawrence hates one particular aspect of life there: the Ceremony. He promised Eleanor that they would never actually participate in it because they both were uncomfortable with it. To her, it would be cheating on her, and while she had wanted children before Gilead, Joseph didn’t want to try for any. Commanders Waterford and Winslow, with Serena in tow, force his hand, making him perform the Ceremony and having a doctor check June afterward to ensure it happened. The whole household is uncomfortable with it.
2. He tries to escape Gilead.
When it becomes clear that Eleanor needs real medical help for her condition, Commander Lawrence agrees to help June get children out of Gilead in exchange for helping Eleanor and himself escape. When June reveals to him that she wants to help fifty-two children escape, he is shocked and a bit dismayed. So, Joseph and Eleanor try to leave on their own, but ultimately fail when he’s unable to get out of even one territory. They have to return to their household and regroup.
1. He is still alive, at least for now.
Episode ten of season three revealed that June took some drastic actions, going so far as to kill Winslow when he tries to have sex with her. His escape attempt coupled with her murder means the entire household is in danger. Further, Eleanor’s health is running out of time. The next episodes could reveal the fate of the entire Lawrence household, for better or for worse.