In The Handmaid’s Tale, Ann Dowd’s Aunt Lydia is one of the most nuanced characters onscreen. Sometimes you love her, and other times you really hate her. Dowd’s captivating portrayal earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2017.
The Handmaid’s Tale is based on a 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, and in 2019, Atwood published a sequel called The Testaments. Throughout the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, there have been a number of clues about The Testaments involving Aunt Lydia.
[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for season 4 episode 8 of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments.]
Aunt Lydia references ‘The Testaments’ in season 4 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
In season 4 episode 5 of The Handmaid’s Tale, titled “Chicago,” Aunt Lydia pays a visit to Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). Having recently been demoted, Aunt Lydia attempts to blackmail Joseph into restoring her position.
“I believe I can be of service to you,” Aunt Lydia tells him. “I have sources, witnesses, to your involvement in Commander Winslow’s disappearance… In addition, I have testaments to your many abuses of power. Black market activity, not to mention your collaboration with your Handmaid, Ofjoseph.”
Despite Aunt Lydia’s blackmail, Lawrence does not feel threatened by her. Instead, he asks for all of her information on other Commanders. He uses this to blackmail them, and in exchange, he gives Aunt Lydia her job back and makes a deal to work with her to make Gilead a better place.
While Aunt Lydia’s threat is not a direct quote from the novel The Testaments, simply having Aunt Lydia say the word “testaments” appears like definite foreshadowing that The Handmaid’s Tale will go in the direction of Atwood’s sequel.
One quote by Aunt Lydia hints her character will be redeemed
In The Testaments, Aunt Lydia plays a large role in the eventual downfall of Gilead. For fans of the show, Aunt Lydia being an undercover member of the resistance might seem far-fetched. In the show, Aunt Lydia is particularly violent toward Handmaids despite her claims to love them, and her backstory in the show differs from her backstory in The Testaments.
However, when Aunt Lydia has her position restored in “Chicago,” it is clear that she has had a change of heart. Instead of being cruel to the new Handmaids, she encourages them to stick together and come to her for emotional support, something she never did with Handmaids in earlier seasons.
“You are the sacred vessels of the Lord. His chosen ones. Your charge will be hard. You will be tested by wicked men, and they will try to lead you astray. And when they do, I will be here to listen,” Aunt Lydia says as she trains the new Handmaids. “Your bond with each other will be strong. From this day forward, none of you will ever walk alone again.”
Before, Aunt Lydia used fear to try and keep Handmaids from bonding with one another, and she often blamed Handmaids instead of the men of Gilead. By changing her tune, The Handmaid’s Tale teases that Aunt Lydia might find herself favoring the resistance soon like her book counterpart.
Aunt Lydia admits she does not agree with Gilead in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
Season 4 episode 8 of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Testimony,” premiered on Hulu on June 2. In the episode, Joseph accuses Aunt Lydia of enjoying violence. Aunt Lydia disagrees with him, and she reveals that she does not support Gilead’s methods of violence.
“I know you enjoy inflicting pain,” Joseph says.
“That isn’t true,” Aunt Lydia refutes.
“I’m not judging. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess,” Joseph deadpans.
“That’s not true. I object to this,” Aunt Lydia says with tears in her eyes.
When she admits this, Joseph encourages her to stop punishing the Handmaids and her colleagues. Aunt Lydia agrees to Joseph’s terms, and the show once again hints that Aunt Lydia will end up evolving into the character fans know from The Testaments.
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