The dystopian, women-subjugating society of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is full of people who willingly sign on with its evil. Whether they’re the leaders who created the place or just collaborators willing to go along, the show is full of people willing to watch others suffer every day — and even inflict that suffering. Here are 17 such folks, ranked by how much they sign on with Gilead’s evil agenda.
Nick (Max Minghella)
Nick’s not a bad guy, and he’s trapped in Gilead like a lot of people, but he’s still a cog in the machine. At most, he uses his position to help June (Elisabeth Moss) where he can. He’s mostly still standing by and letting everything happen to her, though, and as far as their relationship is concerned, she’s the one taking all the risks.
That One Aunt (Margaret Atwood)
The author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” only gets a quick cameo, but as an aunt at the Red Center, her character is undoubtedly embracing the awfulness of Gilead. And she gets to smack June while she’s there.
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The Boat Driver (Marvin Kaye)
When people were fleeing Gilead, this guy was willing to take them across the border in his boat. He was also willing to profit by the situation as much as possible, gouging Luke for whatever he could pay for his passage. He might not be a part of the government, but he’s bad enough to take advantage of its rise.
Jezebels’ Martha (Elena Khan)
Informing for the government is a good way to take care of yourself at the expense of everyone else. Nick’s Martha friend is willing to sell out the people around her — and people like her are essential to keeping the oppressive system working.
Ambassador Castillo (Zabryna Guevara)
The Mexican ambassador who meets with the Commander isn’t responsible for the way Gilead treats women, but she’s obviously willing to look the other way when it comes to its policies. Even when June tells her how bad things are, she’s unwilling to do much — and if Mexico is entering into trade with Gilead for handmaidens, she’s not only looking the other way on slavery, she’s about to facilitate it.
Burke (Jim Cummings)
The interrogator who questions June about Ofglen likes to start his discussions a certain way: with a cattle prod. A government lackey, a brutal interrogator and someone who persecutes women, Burke is an “investigator” whose clearly relishes his job and the power it gives him.
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Emma Monroe (Christy Bruce)
Mere hours after separating her from her child, Commander Monroe and his wife Emma have the handmaid Janine (Madeline Brewer) ready for another “ceremony.” It’s a reinforcement that even among the “nice” commanders and their wives, handmaids are seen as little more than animals.
Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine)
Mrs. Putnam is the “wife” whose handmaid, Janine, actually has a baby, a somewhat rare occurrence. Like with June, Putnam is nice to her handmaid right up until the baby is born. After that, Naomi can’t wait to get rid of the other women and go back to treating her and the other handmaids like property.
The Doctor (Kristian Brunn)
The gynecologist June visits early in Season 1 propositions June, making it clear he’s regularly taking advantage of handmaids for sex. That makes him a guy who manages to take the extremely awful world he lives in and make it even more gross.
The Judge (Thomas Hauff)
When June’s friend Ofglen is discovered for being a lesbian with another woman, this guy sentences Ofglen’s lover to death and Ofglen to mutilation. Not only is he perfectly comfortable with those sentences and without even giving the women a chance to defend themselves, but it’s a look into the way Gilead systematizes women as lesser people.
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Commander Monroe (Matthew Olver)
Monroe might be considered a “nice” commander, but he’s still a leader of the regime and must have played a part in both its coming to power and in its continuing terrible ways. Plus, like his wife, he’s instantly ready to treat Janine like someone who’s less than human.
Commander Pryce (Robert Curtis Brown)
Pryce seems like the paranoid commander, and other than Commander Waterford, he comes off as the most devout. But he’s still in the car with the others, coming up with the best way to brand the idea of all the commanders taking on concubines and making it sound biblical. Ultimately, the commanders don’t even believe their own lies, and Pryce is obviously just trying to consolidate his own power.
Commander Guthrie (Christian Lloyd)
Of the leaders of the movement, Guthrie seems to be the most truthful. He’s a jerk who doesn’t really care about the religion side, but it’s his idea to create the handmaids expressly for the purpose of breeding. Where the other leaders are hypocrites, they at least hide it well. Guthrie’s just in this for the gross, exploitative power.
Commander Putnam (Stephen Kunken)
Putnam has an extra layer of horrific to add to the usual awfulness of the commanders. He convinced his handmaid, Janine, that he was going to run away with her. His lie got him what he wanted from her, but it helped ruin Janine even more.
Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd)
The scary thing about Aunt Lydia is she comes off like a true believer. She’s fully committed to forcing handmaids into a life of rape and servitude, and she seems to enjoy wrecking the women who don’t immediately respect her with her cattle prod. She and people like her are essential to making subjugation work because she buys in, and has no problem hurting anyone who doesn’t.
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Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski)
Talk about your all-time backfires. Serena Joy got everything she ever thought she wanted. Her book touted the great world she would help create, and yet she seemingly didn’t realize that advocating to make women second-class citizens would include her too. That means she’s marginalized by the people she helped elevate, and she’s angry enough about it to use her own power to ruin the lives of the people below her. She just can’t stop being fully awful.
The Commander (Joseph Fiennes)
The worst thing about the Commander is that he plays nice. He invites June to his room for games of Scrabble and, in private, treats her like a real person. But even his acts of kindness are actually clear methods of enforcing his power over people — he knows June can’t really challenge him, and he likes to wield his ability to be nice to her as something he can easily take away. It’s almost worse that he sometimes treats her well, because every act of kindness comes with the tacit feeling of being in his debt, as well as under his whim.
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