I have said on more than one occassion that Aunt Lydia may be the most interesting character on The Handmaid’s Tale. She alternates between cruel and kind. We see she is a true believer in Gilead, but also that she may care for the women in her charge. She speaks ironically without realizing it. There’s a human being in there, but she isn’t afraid to whip out the cattle prod. She has authority, but not too much. Just what is her actual deal?
We don’t learn too much this episode, but we learn more than we knew before.
How Lydia got to where she is is still a mystery. But this episode does offer some flashbacks to her life before Gilead. What do we learn? Well, she was a sweet-tempered woman named Lydia Clements. Given how Gilead treats women’s names, it is somewhat surprising to see Lydia has a last name. At any rate, she taught at a Christian school, grew close to one boy with a troubled mother, and was divorced.
If anything, Lydia Clements seems a long way off from the Aunt Lydia we see in the series’ present. Heck, this woman wears make-up and goes clubbing at one point. That troubled mother I mentioned encourages her to go out and meet a man. And heck, Lydia does! It’s her school’s principal. They seem to be really hitting it off at a New Year’s Eve party. It just ends badly when he pulls back during a steamy make-out session.
Yeah, I didn’t necessarily want to think about Aunt Lydia getting lucky either. And I mean the character, not the actress who plays her. There’s a difference. Ann Dowd seems cool in real life.
And then we see the harsh and judgmental Lydia we all know when, heartbroken, she reports that troubled mother’s young boy to child protective services. Is there evidence enough to take the kid away? Yeah, but that was clearly Lydia disapproving of the young woman more than anything else.
That is so Lydia.
As for the rest of the episode, there was a cool moment where we saw the Aunts at work, setting up different handmaids with different families based on compatibility. They have files, use real names for the Handmaids from the sounds of it, and rotate everything around on a lazy susan.
Lydia thinks June may be corrupt now because of the influence of Commander Lawrence. How quaint.
Nah, we check in with Lawrence briefly to see June tries some of her psychology tricks on him, and he just shrugs it off.
But lest we feel too bad about all things June or Lydia, let’s consider the rest of the episode. After the whole “death of the Martha who kinda helped June after Ofmathew reported June to Lydia,” the other Handmaids were making life rough for Ofmathew. Lydia did what Lydia does with a shame circle for June. At this point, June shrugs that crap off like it ain’t nothin’. And then she can make a comment about Ofmathew to put that much more fragile woman in the shame circle.
That only ends when Ofmathew snaps in the supermarket and gets a guard’s gun. Every woman in the store ducks for cover save June–she is so over being scared–and all June does is give Ofmathew the tiniest of nods. That’s enough for Ofmathew to turn the gun towards the only character with greater plot armor than June.
That would be Lydia.
Of course, other armed men showed up then and shot Ofmathew, and she’s pregnant.
So, did I learn anything about Lydia and why she is where she is? Not really, but I do know she hasn’t changed that much since Gilead came along in the grand scheme of things.