Ann Dowd Digs Into Aunt Lydia’s Disaster of Religion on The Handmaid’s Story

There’s no scarcity of tyrannical—but nuanced—villains in The Handmaid’s Story, from Bradley Whitford’s Commander Joseph Lawrence to Yvonne Strahovski’s Serena Pleasure. However Ann Dowd’s Aunt Lydia, whose ironclad grip on energy in Gilead appears to be weakening this season, is probably essentially the most unsettling character to observe. She’s able to horrific and unspeakable ranges of cruelty, has devoted herself wholeheartedly to implementing the systematic rape of tons of of ladies, and has no qualms about mutilating and torturing those that cross her. However she’s additionally able to real affection, and appears to actually love at the least a couple of of her Handmaids—none extra so than Janine (Madeline Brewer).

In final week’s episode, Lydia appears to be unraveling. She’s nearly fired by Lawrence after viciously beating a Handmaid with out provocation, which crosses a line even in Gilead. But when Lawrence casually notes that she clearly enjoys inflicting ache, Lydia appears wounded. When Lydia is later reunited with Janine, whose destiny has been up within the air ever for the reason that Chicago bombing, they share a painful and emotionally loaded dialog through which Janine primarily begs Lydia to have her executed quite than ship her to turn out to be a Handmaid once more.

Under, Dowd speaks to ELLE.com concerning the methods Lydia is beginning to query her devotion to Gilead, her advanced and deep love for each June and Janine, and her fantasy of a scene through which Lydia provides Lawrence a verbal smackdown.

Lydia actually appears to be spiraling. She’s so determined to get again to the place of energy she had on the Purple Middle, but additionally sabotages herself with this outburst. What’s occurring?

On this season general, she’s having to in some way each reply to herself, and reply to those pain-in-the-ass commanders who’ve such a nerve! Survival has at all times been the secret for her. When Gilead took over, it wasn’t for the weak. It was for many who mentioned I’m all in, and I’m not solely all in, I’m not going to be quantity two. And I’m going to point out you that I’ll by no means should be quantity two. I do know what I am doing and I am in cost. That mindset is how she’s survived. So to have this factor occur on the finish of final season… I imply, should you may provide you with a fairytale nightmare for Lydia, what occurred with these youngsters escaping is by far the worst factor that might have occurred.

Proper, it’s her worst-case situation.

And she or he holds herself accountable. So do the commanders. She knew one thing was occurring. She knew it. She knew it. And she or he didn’t comply with it to its core. And June, whom she has a tremendously difficult relationship with, pulled it off. So there’s that private issue the place she’s being robust on herself as a result of she is aware of all of that, and in addition determined to show that, “No, no, no, I’m not irrelevant.” However the bother for Lydia is to not do with these apparent obstacles. It has to do with the sensation of affection, which I feel one can’t at all times hint in oneself, besides one thing is increasing and it’s making life extra difficult.

For June?

Yeah, her love of June is profound in its entirety, and naturally it’s difficult as a result of she needs to take June and simply say, “Will you, for God’s sake, ever hearken to me?” However on the similar time, she has profound admiration for her power. The percentages of that plan being profitable had been so low, and the dangers, I imply, are you kidding? And even should you pull it off, “Honey, you’re doomed.” However that’s not what occurred. June did it.

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Is there any a part of Lydia that has doubts about Gilead, or about her function in it?

Effectively, I do suppose there’s part of her that’s having to return to phrases with the explanation why she jumped in so deeply. Yeah, possibly she purchased into the spiritual issues, et cetera, the world goes to hell, which I feel is supported in the best way the Handmaid’s collection has unfolded. However should you look to Margaret Atwood, it’s actually about survival. It got here all the way down to very a lot, in a break up second: Get it collectively now. Should you don’t, you are lifeless.

And now, I do suppose Lydia is questioning, although she’s a great distance from admitting it, What do I consider? Do I actually consider this? And what’s surfacing together with that, with regard to Janine, is “I really like this individual, my little lady, she’s valuable to me and I made a mistake along with her.” She acted too harshly, she took Janine’s eye out, and I feel she feels huge remorse about that. I can’t think about what Lydia did to herself afterwards, saying, You probably did what we now have been educated to not do. You acted emotionally. You had been pissed that she mentioned the phrase fuck too many occasions and you might not deal with it and also you took her eye out. And so now, I’ll watch over this creature from now till the tip of time.

However on the similar time, she nonetheless can’t hear what Janine’s saying to her. When Janine says, “I’d quite be lifeless than be a Handmaid once more,” Lydia nearly appears to be in denial.

Yeah, it’s, “Cease that nonsense proper this minute.” Her angle to Janine is, you had a wretched life earlier than, you had been sleeping with one other man, you probably did this, you probably did that, you had an abortion, all of these items. And now, your life has been renewed right here! And the attention-grabbing factor with Lydia is, we all know the place she got here from, and what her job was prior—household court docket. This isn’t a lady who’s far, far, far to the appropriate, however she’s needed to adapt to that mind-set or she’s executed.

I need to dig into Lydia’s lashing out on the new Handmaids on this very violent method which nearly will get her fired. It nearly made me marvel if she’s sabotaging herself. Is there some a part of her that wishes out?

I don’t suppose consciously, however what guidelines the day? The unconscious. I feel what she’s fighting is the worry of being changed, and what that might ever imply. Are you able to think about something worse than being in an outdated age dwelling for outdated Aunts? No. No and no. However I don’t suppose it’s a want to be [fired], it’s simply, there’s too many issues coming at her. There’s too many conflicting impulses: “I really like these folks.” “No, no. I do not.” Sure, you do, honey. Come on. She’s so busy batting actual feelings away, actual true emotions, and simply making an attempt to remain afloat and keep on prime.

Proper, she’s simply form of scrabbling desperately to get some management again.

Yeah. And likewise, Bruce Miller mentioned one thing extraordinarily useful in season 1, which is: She was a instructor earlier than. And boy, she was born to show. Some individuals are. They will get command of a room, they’ve a ardour to convey the folks in that room ahead of their studying with their presents. That’s highly effective.

She’s not in cost cost. The boys are in cost. Let’s always remember that.

Lydia and Lawrence develop a reasonably attention-grabbing uneasy rivalry this season. What frequent floor do you see between these characters, and what divides them?

Such nice characters. Love Bradley. Love working with him. And there’s one thing within the two of them, which they’d not brazenly determine as a result of maybe at this level it’s unconscious for each of them, but creeping in the direction of consciousness. Which is: They’ve hearts that also operate. However with that being mentioned, Lawrence handled her so disrespectfully all alongside, and I used to actually want for Lydia to simply flip round and say, “You realize what, Lawrence? Shut your mouth. Go searching this place filled with your ghastly artwork.” And if she actually dropped all the way down to the gutter, she’d say “You’ll be able to’t get it up, and that is why you are not doing the job right here. So let’s get actual. You’ll be able to provide you with any broken piece you need. You’re a person who cannot operate.”

Lydia getting down within the gutter can be immensely satisfying.

He simply thinks he’s so intelligent! I needed her to say, “No you’re not. You’re not that nice. And your spouse went insane, so that you’re not that nice a husband, clearly!” However due to the facility hierarchy, she will’t do this. She’s not in cost cost. The boys are in cost. Let’s always remember that.

The thought of justice, and what it means to completely different characters, actually looms giant on this season. What would justice appear like for Lydia?

Effectively, I don’t go to what she deserves, as a result of that’s not my territory. However I can go to conditions in actual life, the place atrocities have been dedicated, and I imply, each single individual concerned ought to head straight to jail earlier than their execution. You’ve harmed too many individuals in a profound method, and they’re going to by no means get better their lives. As we see when June is in Canada, trauma has long-lasting results and you don’t come again to who you had been meant to be in your adolescence earlier than Gilead. That doesn’t occur. These pathways have been destroyed. And boy are there penalties emotionally and in any other case. So, what does she deserve? I imply, if Lydia is trustworthy with herself, what does she resolve must occur? Effectively, I don’t know should you’ve learn The Testaments, however you probably have, you might have your reply. And she or he is aware of: gradual, meticulous, keep alert, preserve your mouth shut, listen, play the sport.


Emma Dibdin is a contract author primarily based in Los Angeles who writes about tradition, psychological well being, and true crime.

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