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The Most Brutal Deaths In The Handmaid's Tale

It's no secret that Gilead is a pretty deadly place. The misogynistic, semi-apocalyptic world first fashioned by Margaret Atwood in her 1985 tome "The Handmaid's Tale" has evolved into an even more terrifying place in the Hulu series of the same name. The rules in Gilead are designed to keep its population in check — in particular, its women. The women of Gilead are divided by a caste system into Econowives, Marthas, Handmaids, Wives, Aunts, and Unwomen. Infractions are punishable by horrific acts ranging from bodily mutilation to public execution. Gilead might swathe itself in holiness, but the reality of its rule is soaked in blood.

Both men and women can lose their life for not behaving properly "under His eye" in "The Handmaid's Tale." But Gilead isn't unshakable: This is, after all, a show about rebellion. The series' dazzling cast of rebels, led by the one and only Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne, has even managed to strike back at the regime, resulting in some of the most shocking and brutal deaths in "The Handmaid's Tale." Let's take a look at those departures, from Natalie's tragic end to the violent demise of Fred Waterford.

Fred Waterford

Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) is on a power trip from the very beginning. In order to survive, June is forced to submit to him in a variety of awful ways. That kind of trauma sits with a person, something made very evident in Season 4. Once June has escaped to Toronto (where Fred is in jail), she finally has the chance to confront her rapist in court. However, Fred strikes a deal to inform on Gilead in exchange for his freedom. June snaps. Rather than roll with another punch, she strikes a deal of her own.

Working with Tuello (Sam Jaeger) in the Season 4 finale "The Wilderness," June convinces Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) to release known female Mayday supporters in exchange for Fred, who has betrayed Gilead with his testimony. All parties agree, and suddenly, Fred Waterford's deal is off.

Once Fred is back at Gilead's borders, however, Lawrence turns Fred over to Nick (Max Minghella). Nick takes Fred to No Man's Land, where June, Emily (Alexis Bledel), and a slew of other former Handmaids have congregated in the woods. They beat a terrified Fred to death with their bare hands. Later, in one final act of rebellion against her former tormentor, June cuts off his finger and sends it to his incarcerated wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).

High Commander Winslow

If things in what was once Boston seem bleak, they're nothing compared to Washington D.C., where High Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni) leads the charge with even stricter rules. Here, Handmaids' mouths are literally sewn shut.

Winslow immediately hits it off with Fred Waterford, who has made the journey with Serena Joy to mount a campaign to get baby Nichole back. Unbeknownst to Fred, Winslow is interested in men, which is strictly forbidden in Gilead. But since when do the rules apply to those in power?

Fred doesn't interact with Winslow for long, but when Winslow shows up at Jezebels in Season 3's "Liars," he runs into June. He brings her to a private suite and tries to attack her, but at this point, June has been pushed to the absolute brink. She grabs a pen and stabs the man multiple times, then finishes him off by bashing a statue into his skull.

A number of Marthas help June hide the evidence by cleaning up and cremating the body. But, as we learn in Season 4's "Nightshade," the higher-ups eventually figure out where Winslow went missing. They take brutal revenge on Jezebels.

Alma and Brianna

The various underground networks June interacts with become more prominent as the show goes on. Things reach a high point in the Season 3 finale "Mayday," when our heroes manage to spirit away a flight full of children to Canada.  

Alma (Nina Kiri), and Brianna (Bahia Watson) are among the women who make this happen. While Alma is one of June's closest rule-breaking confidants, Brianna is more meek. Regardless, both women want freedom. After they're recaptured in Season 4, they're ready to do whatever it takes to get it.

In Episode 3, "The Crossing," Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) rounds up Alma, Brianna, June, and Janine (Madeline Brewer), putting them in the back of a truck to transport them to a newly conceptualized birthing commune. When the train crossing lights up and the guard driving them takes a bathroom break, the women overpower Aunt Lydia and make a run for it. In a slow-motion scene directed by Moss herself, June and Janine make it across the tracks and turn around to grab their friends ... only for the scene to speed up as Alma and Brianna are hit by the oncoming train. It's an utterly shocking end for these characters, who have survived so much else.

Beth and Sienna

Alma and Brianna aren't the only members of June's inner circle to perish in Season 4's "The Crossing." Earlier in the episode, June is forced to confront Lawrence's Marthas (and fellow Mayday rebels) Beth (Kristen Gutoskie) and Sienna (Sugenja Sri) while she's tortured by Aunt Lydia. Determined to learn where the rest of the escaped Handmaids are hiding, Aunt Lydia brings the two women to the rooftop and has them stand at the edge.

There, Beth tells June not to say a word. The man responsible for physically and mentally torturing June (an unnamed character played by Reed Birney) pushes her over the side. Moments later, as June and Sienna tearfully look at each other for strength, Sienna is also flung to her death. It's yet another brutal example of how little women's lives mean to those in power, and what the people at the top are willing to do in order to remain in control.

Eleanor Lawrence

As one of the architects of Gilead, Commander Lawrence is majorly responsible for the way things have become. Yet he refuses to participate in the monthly ceremony with Emily, and even helps her and Baby Nichole escape to Canada. He's dangerous, strange, and unpredictable — an explosive combination in Gilead.

One thing that makes his character more sympathetic, however, is his wife, Eleanor (Julie Dretzin). From the moment she makes her first on-screen appearance in Season 2's "Postpartum," it's clear her mental health is in decline. She blames her husband for his part in this new society, and his guilt over her hatred is potentially what drives him to try and make things right.

During her time in the Lawrence household, June bonds with Eleanor. But in Season 3's "Witness," Fred Waterford decides to make it his mission to ensure the ceremony is proceeding as ordered. Lawrence is forced to rape June, much to Eleanor's disgust. Later, in "Liars," June finds Eleanor pointing a gun at her husband, further proving Eleanor's fragile state of mind.

Perhaps that's why, in "Sacrifice," June decides not to help Eleanor after she finds her dying from an overdose of medication. In a move straight out of "Breaking Bad," June leaves her mistress to perish, either out of mercy, or because she doesn't want her ruining her big escape plans. Either way, it's a tragic ending for one of the few "good people" left in Gilead.

Eden Blaine and Isaac

"The Handmaid's Tale" digs even deeper into the horrors of Gilead in Season 2, by exploring what such a system means for the next generation. Enter Eden Blaine (Sydney Sweeney), a child bride procured by Serena Joy for Nick.

Sure, this arrangement is meant to hurt June and keep her under Serena Joy's thumb. But there's also a ruthless practicality at work: Gilead needs babies. Eden has been raised for this task, but Nick is less into it. In the end, that disinterest drives Eden into the arms of Isaac (Rohan Mead), one of the Waterford's Guardians. Eden and Isaac carry on an affair for a while before trying to escape Gilead together. Unfortunately, they're captured and convicted of infidelity in "Postpartum."

Both characters are put on a diving board above a swimming pool and sentenced to their deaths. Eden is given one final chance to save herself by renouncing her sins, but she refuses, and plunges into the pool alongside her lover in his watery grave. Even women who have known nothing but Gilead find themselves destroyed by it.

Martha 6715-301

We never learn this character's name, but her death is one of the most devastating of the entire show. Martha 6715-301 (Laura Wilson) is Emily's lover back in Season 1. Their affair takes place offscreen, but is thrust into the center of the story in Episode 3, "Late."

Ofglen, a.k.a. Emily, and Martha 6715-301 are arrested for being "gender traitors" in this episode. During their trial, they're found guilty (big surprise), and the Martha is brutally hanged right in front of Emily's eyes. As though that isn't awful enough, Emily is forced to undergo female genital mutilation. She's then sent right back into service as a Handmaid. Unsurprisingly, she holds onto the trauma and anger of this moment for years.

It all comes bubbling up in Season 4's "Testimony," when the Aunt who informed on Emily and her lover, Aunt Irene (Carly Street), surfaces in Toronto. She wants Emily to forgive her, which Emily cannot do. In the end, just as Emily decides to seek out Irene and attempt to forgive and forget (or at least convince the former Aunt to rat on Gilead), Irene kills herself.


One of June's biggest motivators is saving her daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake). June has done some pretty extreme things to find her, and people have ended up hurt as a result — people like Frances (Ordena Stephens). Frances is one of the women raising Hannah in her new household. We meet the character in Season 2's "The Last Ceremony," when Fred Waterford arranges for June to see Hannah. Frances later appears in Season 3's "Night," when June sneaks away to Hannah's house and tries to see her in the middle of the night.

While it's hard to tell Frances' exact stance on June returning to Hannah's life, she continues to help June right up until she can't. In Season 3's "Under His Eye," Frances reveals information that might allow June to rescue her daughter. Unfortunately for them both, June's new partner Ofmatthew, a.k.a. Natalie (Ashleigh LaThrop), sees the exchange and reports it to Aunt Lydia.

It all culminates in a heartbreaking hanging scene in which Frances is sentenced to death for endangering a child. June (who now has a huge death toll to her name) is left reeling with guilt — and hatred for Natalie. Furthermore, the entire situation makes it impossible for June to see Hannah again, let alone rescue her.


If we've learned anything from watching June, it's that she cannot stand "pious little sh**s." That's exactly how she pegs Natalie, a.k.a. Ofmatthew, especially after she rats out Frances. After Natalie tattles to Aunt Lydia, resulting in Frances' death, June and the other Handmaids shun and mock her, leaving her distraught.

That isn't the worst of it, though. Prior to coming into June's life, Natalie gave birth to three children. When she learns she's pregnant again, she has a hard time coping with the thought of giving another baby up. Her mental health is in serious decline by the time she arrives at the grocery store in Season 3's "Unfit." Finally, she snaps: Natalie beats Janine with a can, then attacks a guard with a jar. Eventually, she gets ahold of a gun and aims it right at June and Aunt Lydia, before she's shot through the shoulder.

In the following episode, "Heroic," June is forced to sit vigil with Natalie, who has been left brain dead. She is being kept alive long enough to give birth. The entire, months-long ordeal leaves June more than a little emotionally damaged.


In the first chunk of Season 2, June spends a lot of time on the run, trying to find a way to save herself and her unborn baby. Although she eventually finds herself back in the clutches of the Waterfords, that journey brings her into contact with Omar (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Omar is originally supposed to transport June to a safe house in "Baggage," but when he learns the safehouse is no longer safe, June begs him not to leave her behind.

In the end, he brings June to his own house, where his wife and young son live. There, June lays low while the family goes to church the next day. When they fail to return, she flees the house in the wife's clothes.

Later, after June is recaptured, Aunt Lydia brings her on a walk to the wall, where Omar is hanging. Lydia reveals that his son has been given away and his wife is now a Handmaid. No good deed ever goes unpunished in Gilead. As for June? Well, Omar is just one of the many deaths that remain on her conscience.


It isn't often that you see a Guardian help a Handmaid in Gilead, but in Season 4, David (Samer Salem) becomes an exception. Not only does the man help June and company out at the Keyes' farm, he transports June back and forth to the makeshift Jezebels located nearby.

When the Commanders and other Guardians learn of June's whereabouts, his life is immediately deemed expendable. Capturing June and the other escaped Handmaids is their number one priority. When June and David return from a field trip to the bullet-riddled Keyes farm on the night of their escape in "Nightshade," no one thinks twice about shooting him — not even Nick, who coolly emerges from the shadows to promise June that he'll do what he can to protect her now that she's back in custody. And no, for the record, he doesn't help her wipe David's blood off of her face first.

Mrs. O'Conner

When Hulu revealed that Marisa Tomei was joining "The Handmaid's Tale" in Season 2, there was a lot of secrecy surrounding her role. This was in large part due to the show heading to the Colonies, a place Atwood writes about but never fully explores. That's where we meet Tomei's character, Mrs. O'Conner, in Season 2's "Unwomen."

Mrs. O'Conner is a legit believer in Gilead, though she's been sent to the Colonies for having an affair. Regardless, the other women take an immediate dislike to her — especially Emily, who has been to hell and back by this point. Mrs. O'Conner winds up being Emily's way of fighting back against the system: She pretends to help the woman by giving her antibiotic pills, which Mrs. O'Conner gladly takes. Later, it's revealed that Emily has actually given her poison. It's an act of revenge for Mrs. O'Conner's participation in the rape of Handmaids, and her support of Gilead at large. Eventually, Mrs. O'Conner's body is hung on a cross, all her patriotism and piety rendered worthless.

Mr. Whitford

Gilead has always been brutal, evidenced by many of the series' flashbacks. But it is Season 1's "The Other Side" that fully explores how vicious Gilead's beginnings were. A majority of the installment is dedicated to June's husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) and his escape from Gilead, but it also explores how he and June tried to escape before things got really bad.

One person who is instrumental in helping their (failed) escape is a character named Mr. Whitford (Tim Ransom). This man, a friend of June's mother, helps the family flee out of a feeling of obligation. After teaching Luke how to shoot a gun and arranging to grab Canadian passports for the trio, Mr. Whitford simply disappears. That's because he's been brutally hanged from a street lamp in town, showing us how quickly people became ghosts in the early days of Gilead.

To think of it, not much has changed since.