June Osborne aka Ofjoseph's (Elisabeth Moss) relationship with Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) has gone through some tumultuous times and after the emotional trauma that Serena faces at the hands of her own mother in episode 3 of 'The Handmaid's Tale' season 3, she finds an understanding mother in June. Serena worries if she really did the right thing by letting go of her daughter Nichole and it is June who tells her "only a mother would do what you did" to reassure Serena.
Despite all the doubts, one thing that she is certain about is the fact that she needs more leeway in her household without being worried about getting whipped by belt or getting her fingers cut off. Will her husband Fred Waterford really negotiate with his wife, who he believes should know her place? Surprisingly, he does just that. He shows that he is open to negotiation to June, of all people, and hopes that she would act as the peacemaker between him and his wife. The resulting conversation is the one that most of the teasers and trailers and have shared. The one where Serena and June sit down over smoke for a friendly conversation.
When Serena's mother had suggested that she go back to Waterford, Serena was hesitant. So when June suggests the same, she creates a picture where Serena can see herself pull the strings among the influential high commanders. Initially, she is unsure of course. Which is why June convinces her. She says, "As Mrs. Waterford, you have access, power." To this Serena replies, "Up to a point" and that's when June utters the now popular dialogue, "So move the point like we did before. He (Fred) is lost without you, Serena. Wear the dress, pull the strings." As June says this in a soft whisper, I was strangely reminded of the German tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, where the pied piper is hired to lure the rats away from the town, but when he is not paid, he begins to lure the children away. Even as June told Serena that she wouldn't regret staying back in Gilead for Hannah's sake, it struck me that had June had Hannah and Nichole with her, there would be no rebellion in the first place.
Even the gesture of Serena handing over the cigarette case and the lighter after being convinced by June is one of camaraderie. However, that is only on the surface and the connection is tenuous and can easily be broken with the slightest of friction. To Serena, what June is suggesting is an option, which will serve her purpose. That of being free to make the choice, whether it is saving a daughter or freedom to read the word of God. For June, Serena is just a pawn in the big game of bringing Gilead down. She whispers of a better outcome, she influences and convinces Serena that the best thing for her at this point is to start a facade, one that will help her gain power and footing in Gilead's top rung of influential commander without Waterford even realizing Serena's capability.
The manipulation doesn't really affect us because the change in Serena cannot be seen as a means of redemption for her, at least not yet, because her crimes are far too big and gruesome to warrant pardon with such a small act. It is also definitely clear that Serena still believes in the system. The system that she helped build in the first place. And so, the first of allies in June's corner was swayed on what is a fleeting connection. Of course, this connection may strengthen now that Serena has seen her baby safe and far away from Gilead in the arms of Luke Bankhole (O-T Fagbenle).