The Handmaid’s Tale: What is Aunt Lydia’s backstory?

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The Handmaid’s Tale season three, episode eight was released on Hulu today and featured some new information about the story of Aunt Lydia (played by Ann Dowd). Through a number of flashback scenes, viewers were treated to the what happened in her past before Gilead was formed. Here’s a recap of everything we learned about Aunt Lydia’s backstory.

What is Aunt Lydia’s backstory?

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season 3, episode 8

Aunt Lydia (played by Ann Dowd) is one of the most brutal cast members on the Hulu show The Handmaid’s Tale.

Having been in the series since the beginning, she is the teacher of the Handmaids at Red Centre.

But while she has appeared in almost every episode, fans have never been treated to much of her backstory before Gilead.

This all changed in episode eight of the third series when a flashback showed her in her previous life as a religiously devout teacher.

During the episode, viewers saw her invite a young boy named Ryan (Ian Ho) and his mother Noelle (Emily Althaus) to have dinner at her house.

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The group went on to spend Christmas together and in a particularly prophetic moment, the young boy called her Aunt Lydia.

The episode also flashed back to her on a date with her school’s headteacher (John Ortiz).

The pair had a perfect evening before heading back to where she lived and she tries to get physical with him, which he rebuffed.

While the headteacher character revealed that his reluctance was because his wife died, Lydia shut down at this moment.

Refusing to go on another date with him, we saw the first glimpses of her as the person she is to become.

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She became more devout and distanced herself from Ryan and Noelle, even reporting the mother for moral weakness.

After young Ryan was sent away to foster care Noelle comes to the school and confronted Lydia but she simply stared on at her coldly.

In a behind-the-scenes video on the episode, executive producer Bruce Miller said that delving into her past had been planned for a long time.

He said: “We’ve been wanting to do it for so long in show, it was great to be able to explore just a little bit of what Lydia was like in the past.”

However while viewers have been left in the dark about Aunt Lydia’s past, this doesn’t mean that Ann Dowd never considered it.

Back in 2017, Dowd spoke to Build about her character’s past: “I said to Bruce Miller, who is our showrunner, what do you think she did before Gilead? And he said, ‘She was probably a teacher.’

“[That] made so much sense. Her whole life are the goals, she goes home to her dorm room.”

Ann Dowd also added in a the Unfit episode featurette: “I had other thoughts about the backstory and then I read what the writer wrote and I thought that’s so much more interesting.

“She is the woman she is and once she shuts that door, she stays in the past but I think the memory of what could have been is always there for her – and it’s a painful one.”

Viewers will have to wait to the next episode to find out what is the future holds for Aunt Lydia.

The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 drops weekly on Hulu on Wednesdays and airs on Channel 4 in the UK every Sunday at 9pm.

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