[Warning: If you couldn’t tell from the headline, this post contains spoilers for season 3, episodes 1 and 2 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Seriously, beware.]
Welp, The Handmaid’s Tale has returned and Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) is alive and back on her bullshit. Just when you think there’s finally some hope in Gilead, it turns out that one of its greatest villains did not, in fact, die by Emily’s (Alexis Bledel) hand in the season 2 finale.
It’s been a big question on everyone’s minds since Emily—or Ofglen/Ofjoseph if you suck—stabbed the Aunt and pushed her down the stairs: Is Aunt Lydia really dead? Early in episodes 1 and 2 of the new season, June proves that whether or not the terrifying figurehead is still breathing, she will always have an intense impact on the series and the characters through old “lessons.” Episode 2 opens with this monologue:
Despite some of Aunt Lydia’s more horrific actions, she has had moments of compassion for June, making her a very complicated woman, mother figure, and crucial part of The Handmaid’s Tale. So at first, it’s somewhat of a reluctant relief to see her back in season 3, at least because her strength is not.
A quick recap of episode 1: The show is, temporarily, no longer a barren wasteland of hopelessness. Emily has escaped to Canada with baby Nicole and tracked down Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley). Although June did not make the journey as well—she doubled back and was caught attempting to rescue her daughter, Hannah, from the McKenzies—the Waterford home she returned to was no longer the stronghold prison it once was. Commander Fred (Joseph Fiennes) completely lost control, June not even acknowledging his presence when she returned without the baby (yet another example of June at her most badass).
A terrified and devastated Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who helped facilitate June and Nicole’s escape with the Marthas, is furious with June for passing off the baby to a “murderer.” (At this point, at least, Aunt Lydia’s health must have still been up in the air.) When she confronts the Handmaid, June says, “You chased us through the woods and hunted us with dogs and ripped her from my arms! MY baby screamed for HER mother and I hope this feels like that!” But in a moment of unspeakable empathy, she hugs Serena. *Forgiveness, can you imagine?* Maybe not, but it was something close.
Although a furious Nick (Max Minghella) tells June she will die in this house, Serena Joy stuns everyone by burning down the Waterford manor. I second June: “Burn, motherfucker. Burn.” This marks the “end” of Offred and sparks the chillest breakup in all the land with a simple “take care” from Nick. June is placed with our new problematic, confusing friend Commander Joseph Lawrence (played by my Internet Husband Bradley Whitford). Mischievous smirks all around.
Which brings us back to episode 2. June (now Ofjoseph) enters the living room to greet a (surprise!) very alive Aunt Lydia—“God is merciful indeed”—who is there to check up on the household. Something is seriously up with the Commander’s wife, which Aunt Lydia picks up on immediately. Once he assures Lydia that they’ve had no trouble with June and consummated their new roles (lies), he leaves to escort his Mrs. Lawrence to her room. Aunt Lydia immediate grasps June’s arm and conspires. “If there’s something unseemly going on in this household with Commander Lawrence, you can always tell me,” she says. “Emily was here two days, and God only knows what he did to her.”
That’s interesting. It seems Aunt Lydia is not holding a grudge against the refugee for her attempted murder.
Aunt Lydia is still weak and can’t even make it up the stairs to take a peek at June’s room and check that it’s “shipshape.” But if you thought this would make her soft, fucking forget it. When June attempts to help her, the woman literally electrocutes her with a taser and screams that she should have been on the Wall for her failed kidnapping of Hannah. So yeah…same old Aunt Lydia. But June’s not afraid, and she’s prepared to do whatever it takes for the resistance with the Marthas. Welcome back, folks.
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