- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Handmaid’s Tale” season three, episode four, “God Bless the Child.”
- June (played by Elisabeth Moss), Janine (Madeline Brewer), and other handmaids are invited back to the Putnams for a party, a family which Janine was a handmaid for and had a child.
- When Jeanine oversteps boundaries with the Putnams, Aunt Lydia severely beats her in front of the Putnams and other guests until June intervenes.
- It’s a bit of a puzzling moment since Aunt Lydia and Janine just shared a sweet moment not too long before.
- Ann Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia, tells INSIDER the moment speaks to her lack of control after her accident on season two where she was stabbed by another handmaid and went over a banister.
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Wednesday’s episode of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” had a tough-to-watch scene with Aunt Lydia mercilessly beating handmaid Janine (played by Madeline Brewer) in front of guests and fellow handmaids at a party to welcome new children into the nation of Gilead.
It’s a difficult moment as handmaids and high-ranking families of Gilead watch until June (Elisabeth Moss) intervenes, telling Lydia to stop. As one of the handmaids points out earlier on the episode, Janine is really the only handmaid – and maybe person – who seems to like Aunt Lydia.
“I think what it speaks to is her lack of control, and her lack of ability to make decisions that are not reactive,” Ann Dowd told INSIDER of why Aunt Lydia would do such a thing to a handmaid she cares for.
“[Aunt Lydia] has prided herself on her ability to always stay centered, to make choices that are best for the circumstance we’re in,” said Dowd. “Had this been before her accident, before the assault, she would’ve walked straight over to Janine, taken her by the waist, [and said] ‘Come along, excuse us please.'”
On season two, one of the handmaids, Emily (Alexis Bledel), rebelled against Aunt Lydia by stabbing her in the back. Lydia then fell over a banister midway down a flight of stairs. Instead of help her up, Emily continued to brutally kick Lydia until she was at the bottom of the stairs. Lydia is now walking with a cane.
Dowd said she never would’ve felt judged by the commanders, wives, and handmaids in the past, but now she feels scared.
“She’s lost her position of power. She’s lost her confidence, which is her anchor, her rudder. She doesn’t have it,” said Dowd. “So, to see people staring at her, to see a handmaid out of control, that triggers her. Never had that problem before. And now she loses control of herself and ferociously beats a handmaid she deeply loves.”
As a result, we see Lydia stare blankly around for a moment or two unsure of what to say and whether or not to apologize. She excuses herself to a room where she weeps aloud, seeming horrified of what she’s done. But it’s not exactly clear what Lydia is grieving for. Is it for herself, is it for Janine, or is it a bit of both? Dowd says it’s Lydia’s reaction to the horrible action she just made against Janine.
“The weeping is about, ‘Where did I go? What happened to me? I don’t know what to do. I’ve lost my way,” said Dowd.
What the accident didn’t do, Dowd said, is open up her mind to wondering whether or not she’s doing the right thing in Gilead right now. It does the opposite.
“She mans up even more,” said Dowd of Lydia’s loyalty to Gilead. “She adheres to the path even more. But it’s a very, very painful, vulnerable moment for her. She’s, I would say, pretty much lost.”
It’s the second time this season Lydia has lost control. Earlier this season, when June asked if Aunt Lydia needed help on on stairs she overreacted and tased June without much of a reason.
If you’re wondering why Lydia is the way she is, Dowd teased we’ll get some insight into Aunt Lydia’s past later on the season. Dowd told INSIDER it’s something she’s very much looking forward to viewers seeing.
“I want them to understand her, and why she might have taken the turn that she took,” said Dowd. “And I think the story, as written, it was beautifully written, will show us what could have happened, if only. And to show what the power of shame can do to a human being.”
New episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” premiere Wednesdays on Hulu.