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What is New Bethlehem in The Handmaid’s Tale?

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We finally got some backstory on Commander Lawrence in The Handmaid’s Tale. It all links to his creation, New Bethlehem. What is this place?

Caution: This post contains spoilers from The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Episode 8.

Commander Lawrence has always been a head-scratcher. He is a powerful commander in Gilead, but he doesn’t go through with the ceremonies. We know from his wife that he created the Colonies, but he doesn’t seem to want anything to do with the ways of the other commanders. However, he does have his own vision for Gilead.

It turns out that he isn’t one of the religious nuts in power. While he wants a version of Gilead, it was never what it became. He simply recognized that capitalism was a major reason for the dropping birthrates, and religious fanatics are the ones who will get things done. He turned to those who could push through his agenda.

The problem is he didn’t get his agenda. While he got the Colonies, at no point did he want the Handmaids, the hangings, the ceremonies, and more. Will Warren Putnam gone, he now gets a chance to push through what he does want, and he’s using the runaways as a reason to get it.

Commander Lawrence wants New Bethlehem in The Handmaid’s Tale

Lawrence brought some of the commanders to a place with plenty of housing. It seems to be away from the main area Joseph and the others live. We’re at a beach somewhere, and Lawrence shares that this is New Bethlehem. He says to think of it as Hong Kong for Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale*.

The idea is that it has some of its own rules. While it is part of Gilead, there are no Handmaids and ceremonies. This is a place for the runaways to return to without fear of persecution.

Of course, Lawrence knows that the runaways aren’t going to believe him. He needs someone with a voice to get them to come back, and he turns to June. He offers June the chance to be with her family, but he can’t guarantee Hannah.

June seems to consider it until she and Luke receive a tape with Hannah on it. The Americans now have the tape, and they’ve found Hannah. There’s a chance to extract the tween and get her back. If they do that, there’s no way that June will ever consider returning to Gilead. She and her family can move to Hawaii, Alaska, or anywhere else still owned by the Americans and live a peaceful(ish) life.

MORE: Who was the dragon in House of the Dragon?

What do you think will happen to Hannah? Should the runaways trust Commander Lawrence? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Handmaid’s Tale* airs Wednesdays on Hulu in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada.