‘THE HANDMAID’S TALE’ GAVE US THE AUNT LYDIA BACKSTORY WE DESERVE
Blessed be the fruit loops. We can’t help but repeat that little handmaids mantra after the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET, Crave) and everything that it rolled out. Between the fallout at Loaves and Fishes and the oh-so-anticipated Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) backstory, things are not looking good for June (Elisabeth Moss), her future in Gilead, or her overall sanity right now.
The episode, “Unfit” was basically what Mean Girls would look like if it were set in Gilead. June and the other handmaids completely ostracized Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) after she ratted out June’s plot to see her daughter, and it derailed her. Pregnancy does strange things to a person, but to be pregnant in Gilead, to have a large group of women hate on you (for doing what’s expected of you), to witness the birth of a stillborn, and then to sit in the centre of Aunt Lydia’s hate circle is… well, a lot. For anyone.
That overall storyline also speaks to the power June has accumulated in Gilead, and how she’s become an unofficial leader among the handmaids. If you ask us, she’s not using that power very well. We’d even go so far as to call her unhinged at this particular point in the series, a fact that she herself acknowledged when she spoke about understanding Emily (Alexis Bledel) and why she ran over a guard and pushed Aunt Lydia down the stairs. Think about it: what would June do if she actually got a hold of her daughter at this point? READ MORE
THE HANDMAID’S TALE PULLS BACK THE CURTAIN ON AUNT LYDIA’S PAST
After three seasons, fans of The Handmaid’s Tale are finally getting what they’ve waited for: a flashback-heavy dive into Aunt Lydia’s life, revealing how a former family-court lawyer turned school teacher became a Gilead-abiding taskmaster. But ahead of this week’s episode, “Unfit,” no one was more excited and anxious to learn the backstory of the show’s evil stepmother than Ann Dowd, who won an Emmy playing Aunt Lydia in the first season and has waited 31 episodes to get the character out of her sadistic auntie uniform.
In “Unfit,” viewers see a seemingly softer Lydia wearing makeup and blown-out hair, getting close with a student and his young single mother, flirting with her boss, and even showing off some of her karaoke moves. It’s a stark contrast to the Aunt Lydia behind several of the show’s most disturbing moments, including a mass hanging in the second season. Until it isn’t. READ MORE
THE HANDMAID’S TALE: INSIDE AUNT LYDIA’S ILLUMINATING FLASHBACK EPISODE
Did The Handmaid’s Tale really need to fill out Aunt Lydia’s backstory? That’s debatable. Capsule episodes like Wednesday’s—which looked back on a time when Gilead’s dictatorial den mother worked as an elementary school teacher—can add depth to a character, providing context for the way they behave in the future. On the other hand, this series has a history of treating its villains with kid gloves—and when someone has done as much damage as Aunt Lydia, it’s hard to drum up much empathy for them, even after learning how they got to be the way they are.
But even now, Ann Dowd feels for her character. “I love her deeply,” she said in an interview about this week’s Handmaid’s Tale. “I hope for the best for her, and I think there’s reasons why she is the way she is.” This episode, Dowd believes, is key to understanding the character—as well as how she’s come to align herself with a monstrous regime like Gilead. READ MORE
‘THE HANDMAID’S TALE’: ANN DOWD ON AUNT LYDIA’S PRE-GILEAD PAST AND VULNERABLE PRESENT
In season two, The Handmaid’s Tale came to a shocking close when Emily unexpectedly stabbed Lydia in the back before pushing her down the stairs of Commander Lawrence’s (Bradley Whitford) house. It appeared that she had been killed off, much to the shock of audiences, who’d grown to love and hate the unflinching den mother. Only two seasons in, Lydia had quickly become a fan favorite thanks to Dowd’s layered performance, showing her character’s torment over only wanting the best for her handmaids while maintaining an unflinching dedication to the rules “under his eye.”
Luckily for fans and Dowd alike, the producers quickly made it clear that Lydia wasn’t going anywhere. “I’m not a dummy. I know what happens when someone opens a script and sees they get stabbed in the back by Rory Gilmore,” jokes creator Bruce Miller, who wrote Dowd an email before she read the script to let her know that her character doesn’t die and would be returning for season three. “Which was very kind,” Dowd says. READ MORE