One of the most fascinating characters in The Handmaid's Tale is Aunt Lydia. In the novels, she is seen only in flashbacks in Offred's mind, a memory of the brainwashing and abuse handmaids went through as part of their "training." In the TV show, she's become a fully fleshed out character, a true believer in the Gilead system. She genuinely thinks fallen women like June are being given a second chance to walk with God by becoming broodmares of the state. But Season 2's cliffhanger has fans in shock: Is Aunt Lydia really dead? Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid's Tale's Season 2 finale follow.
When Emily attacks Aunt Lydia and stabs her in the back, things look grave for the older woman. She not only has a knife plunged into the center of her back, close to her heart, but then Emily punches her in the head, sending her flailing over the second-floor railing and down the spiral stairs. When Lydia gets stuck partway down, Emily then runs after her, kicking the woman over and over until she finally crashes onto the marble floor below.
But is Aunt Lydia really dead? Viewers don't see her die. They see the one-eyed Martha rush in, take in what has happened, and then drag Emily away while Lawrence is directed to call an ambulance. Our last shot of Lydia is her bruised and bloodied, lying on the floor groaning and gasping.
But fans should fear not! According to showrunner Bruce Miller: "Aunt Lydia doesn't die."
I don't think Aunt Lydia can die. I don't think there are forces in the world strong enough to kill Aunt Lydia. And by extension, the incredibly strong, fabulous Ann Dowd, I think is with us for a long, long time as well.
This will come as something of a relief to fans who have been hoping to learn more about Aunt Lydia and her backstory. There were rumors this season of an "Aunt Lydia" episode, but it never came. Instead, we learned Lydia lost her sister's baby only three days after it was born, and though she knows it wasn't her fault, she clearly blames herself.
Lydia is the type who blames herself in martyring fashion when it comes to "her girls," so it's not surprising when Miller says this will be a transforming event, where Lydia blames herself for Emily's actions.
Aunt Lydia doesn't die, she's transformed by this event. The fact that one of her girls who she has into thinking that there's a love between her and her girls has literally stabbed her in the back. I think that that alters your workplace feelings on a day to day basis. You don't wanna turn your back.
In Lydia's worldview, all her girls are evil women, fallen women, who could not resist temptation. Emily, as a gender traitor, is especially heinous in her crimes, she continued to commit them even after becoming a handmaid. So Emily cannot be blamed, It was Lydia who wasn't tough enough.
I think that in some ways it there's a lot of possible effects. But I think in her case, it makes her double down that she feels like she just wasn't strong enough in her discipline. So she, I think, has decided it's time to get tough.
If Lydia doesn't die though, what does it mean for Emily in Season 3? Assuming she makes it to Canada, could she then be deported to Gilead for attempted murder? Will the Canadian government shield Emily, with their psychiatrists putting this under "temporary insanity" due to emotional trauma? And how will Lydia view Offred going forward? Will she be as willing to turn a blind eye to her continuing rebellious streak?