‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Aunt Lydia’s Most Chilling Moments

The Handmaid’s Tale boasts an impressive array of complicated characters. One of those characters is Aunt Lydia, who is one of the primary villains in Hulu’s TV series.

Ann Dowd portrays Aunt Lydia in the show, and she won an Emmy Award for her portrayal. While Aunt Lydia has incredibly brief moments of compassion in The Handmaid’s Tale, she also has moments of tremendous cruelty. These are Aunt Lydia’s most chilling moments.

Handmaid's Tale Aunt Lydia
Ann Dowd plays Aunt Lydia in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Phillip Faraone/WireImage

5. Aunt Lydia reports a child’s mother to child protective services

In season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale, fans are treated to Aunt Lydia’s backstory during the eighth episode. According to the show, Aunt Lydia was a school teacher before the start of Gilead.

As a teacher, she befriends a troubled young woman who is the mother of one of her students. The three of them become a family of sorts, and the mother gives Aunt Lydia dating advice. After Aunt Lydia is rejected by the school’s principal, she reports the young mother to child protective services.

Aunt Lydia cites that the mother does not attend church, showing how the ideologies of Gilead were noticeable long before the creation of the totalitarian society. She also tells child protective services that the mother dated multiple men and was overall neglectful, resulting in the woman’s son being placed in foster care.

4. Aunt Lydia greets Emily after her surgery

Aunt Lydia’s most terrifying moments always come when she is extremely calm about the cruelty of Gilead. In the third episode of the entire series, Emily undergoes female genital mutilation surgery for being a “gender traitor.” When she wakes up, Aunt Lydia tells her what happened. Because of Ann Dowd’s delivery, it’s a chilling scene.

“The stitches will come out in a few days. I know this is a shock for you, Emily. You can still have children of course, but things will be so much easier for you now. You won’t want what you cannot have,” she tells a shocked Emily.

3. She reminds Emily how sadistic she can be

At the end of season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, Emily is placed as a Handmaid in Commander Lawrence’s house. While Aunt Lydia shows moments of compassion to June and Janine, she wholeheartedly detests Emily.

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Who were we before Gilead?

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Aunt Lydia tries to keep up the pleasant act when visiting Emily at Commander Lawrence’s house in the season 2 finale. When Emily does not respond, Aunt Lydia resorts to her vile ways.

“I hope you appreciate the opportunity you’ve been given in this house,” she says. “He offers redemption even to the most perverse and degenerate among his flock.”

When Emily still does not respond, Aunt Lydia quips, “It’s like I cut out your tongue.”

2. Season 2 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ opens with Aunt Lydia torturing the Handmaids

While Aunt Lydia’s words are coldhearted, she is also capable of great physical cruelty. In the season 2 premiere, Aunt Lydia tortures all of the Handmaids.

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A piece of cloth can't silence us.

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She tricks them into thinking they will be hanged, and then forces them to hold rocks outside in the rain without moving while being electrocuted. To send a message to June specifically, she burns each Handmaid’s wrist on the stove while skipping June because she is pregnant.

1. Aunt Lydia psychologically manipulates June in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

In the fourth episode of the second season, “Other Woman,” Aunt Lydia tries to force June to re-acclimate to being a Handmaid after her escape attempt. After her other tactics fail, Aunt Lydia resorts to psychological manipulation.

Aunt Lydia takes June to the Wall and shows her Omar, a man who attempted to help June escape, hanging. She then tells June that his wife became a Handmaid and his son was placed with another family. June feels responsible for what happened.

“Such a selfish girl,” Aunt Lydia says.

As June cries and feels guilty over Omar’s death, Aunt Lydia comforts her. She tells June that June is the one responsible, but Offred is not. This scene shows why Aunt Lydia is such a terrifying villain. She knows how to break people down, but at her heart she believes she is helping people.