Blessed be the fruit loops. We can’t help but repeat that little handmaids mantra after the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET, Crave) and everything that it rolled out. Between the fallout at Loaves and Fishes and the oh-so-anticipated Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) backstory, things are not looking good for June (Elisabeth Moss), her future in Gilead, or her overall sanity right now.
The episode, “Unfit” was basically what Mean Girls would look like if it were set in Gilead. June and the other handmaids completely ostracized Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) after she ratted out June’s plot to see her daughter, and it derailed her. Pregnancy does strange things to a person, but to be pregnant in Gilead, to have a large group of women hate on you (for doing what’s expected of you), to witness the birth of a stillborn, and then to sit in the centre of Aunt Lydia’s hate circle is… well, a lot. For anyone.
That overall storyline also speaks to the power June has accumulated in Gilead, and how she’s become an unofficial leader among the handmaids. If you ask us, she’s not using that power very well. We’d even go so far as to call her unhinged at this particular point in the series, a fact that she herself acknowledged when she spoke about understanding Emily (Alexis Bledel) and why she ran over a guard and pushed Aunt Lydia down the stairs. Think about it: what would June do if she actually got a hold of her daughter at this point? What was she hoping to gain by pushing Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) and his buttons? Why does she connect with his mentally unstable wife so well? There are small kindnesses that June could extend to so many people in her life right now, but she’s become something of a monster… and we think that’s kind of the point. Gilead does things to you, and June is no exception—even if she is supposed to be our hero.
Aunt Lydia flashbacks
More importantly though, this episode gave us the Aunt Lydia backstory we’ve been dying for since the first season. How do the aunts function? What did they do to get there? Why are they supportive of this regime and in particular, what makes Lydia—someone who is supposedly trying to do what’s best for her “girls”—snap the way she has on several occasions?
We got a glimpse of that in her flashbacks. As it turns out she was a fourth-grade teacher with a failed marriage, she had a crush on the school’s principal, Jim (John Ortiz), and she used to be a family lawyer before she realized she couldn’t really make a difference in that field. She also seemed to live a life of solitude until one particular boy and his single mother came into her orbit and befriended her, officially making her “Aunt” Lydia.
Hurt people hurt people
Part of us expected a tragedy to happen to the boy in the care of his mom, and for that to turn Lydia into the sour villain we know today. Instead, it turns out that Lydia’s villainy comes from a much more humane place—her own character flaws. Like many people, she basically responds to hurt and shame by hurting other people that she has power over, which is exactly what happened when Jim rejected her sexual advances on New Year’s Eve (he just wasn’t ready for sex given that his wife had died), and she lashed out at the mom by telling authorities she was unfit. She lost her kid as a result and… well we don’t know what happened next. But we really want to.
Here’s hoping we get more of that compelling story and a chance to dig into the Aunt Lydia of it all in the very near future. For now, it seems like we’re back in Gilead, June is without a walking partner, and she may be about to answer for all of her recent actions. Don’t think for one second that Aunt Lydia didn’t see that creepy AF smile on June’s face while Ofmatthew was flailing, and that there won’t be consequences for it all.
To be honest, we’re almost too scared to see what they are next week.