“'Ordinary' is just what you're used to. This may not seem ordinary to you right now, but after a time it will. This will become ordinary.”
Lydia Clements, often referred to by her rank as Aunt Lydia, is a character in the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood's book The Handmaid's Tale. Along with the other Aunts, she is a teacher of the Rachel and Leah Center. Aunt Lydia is portrayed by actress Ann Dowd.
- 1 Appearance
- 2 Personality
- 3 Story
- 3.1 In the past
- 3.2 Present time, Season 1
- 3.3 Present time, Season 2
- 3.4 Present time, Season 3
- 3.5 Season 4
- 4 Relationships
- 5 Quotes
- 6 Photo Gallery
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Aunt Lydia is brunette with long hair, often pulled back, and blue eyes. She is an older woman, perhaps in her early 60s. She is short and has a bigger frame. She is often seen in a green/brown dress with a jacket, which signifies her role as leader of the handmaids.
She is a strict and brutal woman who oppresses and punishes Handmaids severely for their insubordination. She on some occasions appears nice, but on many, she is aggressively violent when threatened and provoked by defiant handmaids.
In the past
She quit her job in family law and became an elementary school teacher, known as Miss Clements to her fourth-grade class. Lydia was a rather religious woman, and often quoted the Bible to her school's principal, with whom she had a close relationship. She was concerned about the well-being of her students, especially Ryan, whose mother Noelle often just gave snacks and fast food for lunch, and often arrived very late to pick him up. One day, Lydia invited Noelle and Ryan over to her house, where they enjoyed Lydia's famous chilli for dinner instead of going to McDonald's. Lydia tried to sympathize with Noelle, though seem concerned about her use of profanity around Ryan.
Lydia established a close relationship with Ryan and Noelle, inviting them around for Christmas. She gave Ryan a book as a present, and received a make-up case from the family. Noelle helped her to apply make-up for a night out, and spoke to Lydia about her dating life - revealing she was pursuing a married man with two children.
At New Year's Eve, Lydia went out to a bar, where she met the principal. They shared some drinks and snacks, saying grace before they enjoyed their food, and then performed karaoke together. The two made out, and though Lydia tried to have sex with the principal, he refused, claiming it was too soon since his wife's death three years past. An ashamed and embarrassed Lydia smashed her mirror, crying to herself.
She decided to report Noelle to the authorities, citing Ryan's unhealthy diet and his unwashed clothes. She also voiced her disapproval over Noelle's dating life, and the fact that she was not religious. It was decided that Ryan was to be taken to foster care, and Lydia was confronted by an enraged Noelle who had to be escorted off school property by security. The principal watched on, disgusted at Lydia's actions.
After the Takeover
At the Red Center, Aunt Lydia teaches fertile women, including Emily, June, Moira, Alma, and Janine, about their new roles as handmaids. She then congratulates the women for their fertility, but when Janine scoffed at the idea of bearing children for the barren Wives of Commanders, Aunt Lydia shocks her with a cattle prod and later removes her right eye as punishment.
Janine is forced to 'confess' her sins and tell the story of her gang-rape. Aunt Lydia explains that Janine brought the rape upon herself and the other Handmaids are made to blame Janine, June leaves herself out of it until she is slapped by Aunt Margaret.
Present time, Season 1
Aunt Lydia knells to call the Handmaids together for a Salvaging, where she announces that they are here to execute a man who was convicted for raping a pregnant Handmaid, resulting in the baby’s death.
June/Offred is interrogated by an Eye and Aunt Lydia about Ofglen. She answers as honestly as possible whilst omitting the fact that Ofglen #1 is a member of a rebel network. They then suggest that Ofglen #1 may have tried to "touch" Offred, which she denies. When Offred admits that she knew Ofglen #1 was indeed a 'Gender Traitor', they ask why she didn't report the conversation. Offred replies that Ofglen #1 was her friend. Aunt Lydia tells her that she was a "beast" and "abomination against God", angering Offred. When Lydia tells her to "remember her Scripture", Offred defiantly quotes another Scripture passage: "And blessed are those who suffer for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Infuriated, Lydia hits Offred with her cattle prod and begins to tase her violently, but is stopped by Serena, who declares she's pregnant.
The handmaids are then taken to a party to honor Gilead and show the foreign delegates their success, including presenting the children of Gilead. Serena Joy instructs Aunt Lydia to "remove the damaged ones" of the handmaids from the banquet due to their visible mutilations done by the regime, among them Janine, Oflyle, Ofthomas, Oftim, and Ofjohn. Alma later remarks to Offred that the delegates are interested in fertile women as a commodity to be traded between the two nations. ("A Woman's Place")
All of the Handmaids are called to come together to stone someone who endangered a child. To their surprise, that someone is Janine. The Handmaids hesitate and Ofglen #2 is brutally beaten by a guard when she breaks rank and voices her angry refusal. The other women, beginning with Offred, drop their stones, each saying "I'm sorry, Aunt Lydia" (a phrase they were taught early in their indoctrination). The guards are ready to kill them all, but Aunt Lydia frantically tells them that the handmaids are her responsibility. Aunt Lydia promises that they will all be punished and sends them home.
Present time, Season 2
Offred, along with other handmaids, is taken to an abandoned baseball field, quickly revealed to be a deserted, run-down, but very much still recognizable Fenway Park. There are scaffolds erected with nooses. Each handmaid is given a noose and the lever is pulled. Instead of dropping down completely and breaking their necks, the platform only drops a few inches. It was all just a scare tactic set up by Aunt Lydia in order to give them a lesson that they'd remember.
The handmaids are all forced to sit in the rain with their hands extended while holding a rock. Aunt Lydia walks around electrocuting them but stops when she is informed of Offred's pregnancy. Offred is removed from the exercise and taken inside to get dry. Aunt Lydia, excited about the prospect of a new child, goes and rings the bell.
Aunt Lydia offers Offred a bowl of soup but Offred says she isn't hungry. Aunt Lydia replies that they are going to take care of her while she's pregnant just as long as she's a good girl. Janine is mentioned and Aunt Lydia tells Offred that she was sent to the colonies. To show her what will happen if she continues to be defiant, Aunt Lydia takes her to see another pregnant handmaid, Ofwyatt. This one is chained to a small living space. Offred decides that she is hungry and is taken back to the cafeteria. There the other handmaids are brought in soaking wet and forced to form two straight lines. Aunt Lydia takes them one by one and chains them to the stove. She burns their wrists as punishment for their defiance.
June is taken back to the Red Center after another escape attempt, where she is retagged and chained to a small living space. As Aunt Lydia explains, the Waterfords are willing to take June back for a "trial run". June’s other option is to stay in that room, counting flowers on the bedspread (there are 71), and to be eventually executed after giving birth.
In her chamber at the Waterfords, Aunt Lydia watches June bathe and makes sure she scrubs the "nasty bacteria down there". Aunt Lydia is later seen forcing June to drink a specially prepared vitamin shake, which she spits up.
At the baby shower, Serena retreats to the yard with a cigarette. Lydia tells Serena that everything that happens now must be for the good of the child, and thus she should stop smoking cigarettes.
Aunt Lydia takes June to the river, where men are hanging on The Wall. Lydia identifies one as Omar, the van driver who harbored June. Lydia informs June that his wife became a handmaid and the son was given away. Lydia emphasizes that June is responsible for Omar’s death, not Offred.
Aunt Lydia is still regularly monitoring June’s pregnancy at the Waterfords. She weighs Offred, measures the size of the baby, considers her mental state. She even gets to take notes with a pencil, in a case of "special dispensation" for aunts, as she explains to an astonished Serena, who encourages Aunt Lydia to leave and takes clear offense when Lydia says one of her jobs is to observe the "mood" of the home in which Offred is carrying the baby.
Commander Waterford inspects the almost finished construction site of the new Red Center, along with Aunt Lydia and the Commanders Pryce, Putnam, and Cushing. Aunt Lydia is pleased about the increasing number of "girls" they "can process here". Waterford assures a suspicious Commander Pryce that the "finishing touches" on the site will be done within two days.
Aunt Lydia takes Janine to the hospital, where Serena asks Naomi if Janine could see the baby. The doctors give Angela's “parents” bad news. Janine is able to hold the baby in order to say goodbye. Aunt Lydia later wakes up in the ICU and finds Janine in her underclothes holding a very much alive baby.
Offred is using a breast pump in the Red Center when Aunt Lydia arrives. She commends Offred on her surviving and giving birth on her own. Aunt Elizabeth mentions that Offred's milk is less than yesterday. Aunt Lydia says she knows this already. Apparently, Mrs. Waterford wants the milk. Aunt Lydia tells Offred that other families have made offers for her to be in their households, and she holds out a basket of muffins that one of the households has sent as a gift. Offred believes she deserves a whole cake, to which Aunt Lydia says that "prideful girls don't get anything". Offred takes one of the muffins, seeing that it's a bran one .
Aunt Lydia arrives to visit Emily and tells her that Commander Lawrence told her the ceremony went splendidly. Emily doesn't say anything so Aunt Lydia leaves but as she does Emily stabs her in the back and pushes her over the banister. Emily goes after her and begins to kick her down the rest of the way. Cora comes and grabs Emily before calling Commander Lawrence to come and see what she did. Meanwhile, she takes Emily back to her room and tells her to stay there. Emily proceeds to have a meltdown.
Present time, Season 3
When she returns home, June finds a partly recovered Aunt Lydia sitting in the parlor with the Lawrences. The Commander describes to her the recent Ceremony as "aces" before escorting Eleanor out. Aunt Lydia, suspicious of Commander Lawrence, reminds June to report anything “unseemly”. When she stumbles as they start to go upstairs to June's room, June offers to help her only to be tased by her cattle prod. A suddenly infuriated Aunt Lydia points out that unlike Aunt Elizabeth, she would have sent June to "the Wall" rather than to a new "posting", adding "Ofjoseph" was seen unacceptedly "gossiping" at Loaves and Fishes. She leaves the house in her wheelchair.
Bells toll as everyone gathers in a Prayvaganza to celebrate all the babies recently born in the district. As the Handmaids approach the church, Aunt Lydia rides by on a scooter, reminding her girls to be on their best behavior.
Afterwards, the Putnams invite Aunt Lydia and the handmaids to their house for a reception. Naomi Putnam thanks June for what she did on the bridge and addresses a "bless you" to Janine who is now Ofhoward. She then sends Aunt Lydia and the Handmaids in a separate back room.
Naomi brings baby Angela down to the parlor. Janine breaks protocol when she approaches the Putnams and asks to hold her daughter but Naomi allows it. Janine voluntarily hands the baby back only to start insistently suggesting that she could move back into the house and give Angela a brother or sister, concluding she "just wants to be with her daughter". An incensed Aunt Lydia strikes Janine down and continues to beat her. June calls for someone to stop her, but as none of the Commanders or their Wives react, she throws herself between Janine and Aunt Lydia, yelling at Aunt Lydia who eventually comes to her senses and stops. Janine is carried off by guardians. Lydia looks around, muttering an apology to the guests, with the exception of Janine, before leaving the parlor.
At the supermarket, some Eyes show up and load June into the back of a van without telling her where they’re going. Aunt Lydia is there when she arrives at her destination and gets June dressed in a new red gown, then deposits her on a soundstage. Fred and Serena are there, too; the set is dressed to look like they’re in their living room. Aunt Lydia reminds June not to try any funny business before some TV cameras turn on and start rolling.
June travels on a train to Washington, DC. On the way, she notices from the window that the Washington Monument has been converted from an obelisk to a massive cross. At the new train station, she and Aunt Lydia take an escalator. Aunt Lydia tells June that the old Union Station was designed by a heretic, and was "destroyed for the glory of Gilead". She tells June that nobody likes a "sourpuss". Before leaving, Aunt Lydia tells June to go to her spot and warns her to be a "good girl."
The following day, June and the other handmaids form a semicircle around a statute of angel wings. Aunt Lydia notices Ofgeorge's sewn lips. Fred asks June and Serena to stand at front of the statue. When June asks how many videos he is going to do, Serena replies "as many as it takes".
Aunt Lydia inspects June in her room. June tells her she is tired. Aunt Lydia hands her a mask but June is reluctant to put it on. June asks Aunt Lydia if she wants them all to be silent. Lydia reassures her that she does not want that.
Lydia admits that the trip is tiring but that she still tries to think of the good that she can do in God’s world. She says that if she can just help one soul that is enough for her. Lydia tells June that she cares about her, before hugging and comforting her. A tearful June allows Lydia to put the mask on her face.
The episode opens with June and the other Handmaids participating in a particicution under the supervision of Aunt Lydia. They are tasked with executing a man and two Econowives. At her signal, the Handmaids pull several red ropes which cause the condemned to fall down a long drop, executing them.
The following morning, June and the other Handmaids gather for a particicution. Alma tells June that the MacKenzies are gone and that not even her Commander knows. Aunt Lydia asks the Handmaids why they have long faces and implores them to take a moment to abide in the sunlight of God’s “grace.” Two figures are standing in the gallows. Aunt Lydia announces that they are individuals including a Martha for endangering the child she was supposed to protect. June recognizes the Martha as Frances, who is gagged and makes tearful noises.
The Handmaids assume their places under Aunt Lydia’s orders. June is reluctant but complies. The Handmaids pull the ropes. Frances weeps as a noose is placed around her neck. June bids Frances farewell before taking part in the particicution. Aunt Lydia tells them let that be a lesson to them before ordering the Handmaids to disperse. June is the last to drop her rope and eyes Lydia menacingly before dispersing.
The Handmaids attend Ofandy's birth at the Allston household. When Ofandy’s labor stalls, though, Aunt Lydia takes them to the Red Center, where she puts June in the center of a shame-circle, blaming her for her "responsibility" in Frances' execution. When Aunt Lydia puts Ofmatthew on the stand for her doubts in her pregnancy, she cracks, crying while the other Handmaids point at her for being a "cry baby".
Ofmatthew greets June for a routine trip to Loaves and Fishes. When they arrive, Aunt Lydia informs June that she is to be reassigned to another household. In the background, we see Ofmatthew begin to tense, holding a can of tomatoes. She then begins to bludgeon Janine with the can, drawing the attention of Aunt Lydia and the nearby Guardians. When one approaches, Ofmatthew strikes him with a glass jar, slicing his neck with a shard. She draws his gun, pointing it around the market before landing on June and then Aunt Lydia. June gives her a glance, signaling Ofmatthew to fire. Just then Ofmatthew is struck through the shoulder, the bullet protruding out her chest. Two Guardians then drag her body out the market while June stares motionless.
Ofmatthew's excessive blood loss means that she is brain dead and kept on life support throughout her pregnancy. An increasingly deranged June is kept in her hospital room; a means of punishment by Aunt Lydia for June orchestrating the humiliation of Natalie.
Throughout Natalie's pregnancy, June is visited by Aunt Lydia and the other Handmaids in her district, who pray for a safe delivery for Natalie's unborn child. During one of the prayer sessions, Brianna tries to hold June's hand but is struck by Aunt Lydia.
As time passes, June asks Aunt Lydia if she can return to the Lawrences but Lydia reminds her that she has to serve her punishment for causing Natalie's condition.
Outside the hospital, June asks Aunt Lydia's permission to stay by Natalie's side before she dies and returns back to Natalie's room. Aunt Lydia also shows a softer side when she gifts Janine an eye patch to help conceal her disfigurement.
June returns to the Lawrence home from the hospital still hobbling, and Aunt Lydia advises her to take a nap, adding they’re home just in time for this month’s Ceremony.
At Loaves and Fishes, some chimes sound for "another" inspection, as Alma confirms. Aunt Lydia gathers all the handmaids to welcome “our very special visitors”, High Commander Winslow accompanied by the Waterfords.
Beth beckons a surprised June to the sitting room where Winslow, Aunt Lydia, and the Waterfords have gathered. June recalls they used to send "bearing witnesses" in the first months of Gilead when some households resisted the Ceremony. After some Bible verses, Joseph, Eleanor and June go upstairs to the bedroom.
Joseph suggests to wait for a while and then simply go back downstairs, but June reminds him that a doctor would check her afterwards, which puts Eleanor in rage. June points out they "do have" to do something. Eleanor is sent in an adjacent room. June coaches her commander to "treat it like a job and see it from the outside, as a transaction." Afterwards, Joseph goes down to his study without a word to their guests. The doctor checks June out, and Aunt Lydia announces that it’s been “a successful ceremony.”
Lydia attends the funeral of Eleanor Lawrence. June convinces her that she should be able to spend time with Joseph in his grief.
Lydia notices unusual behavior from her Handmaids, and questions June about Janine's odd behavior, reminding her not to take too much advantage of her popularity, as she will soon be moved following the death of the mistress of the household. June promises to stop being subversive, and is allowed to leave. June's plan ends in the escape of 86 children from Gilead aboard Angels' Flight.
Lydia is captured by The Eyes and interrogated for nineteen days, and it is determined that she is innocent in the escape in the children. The Council does not wish to punish her further, on account of her "frailties" as a woman. Commander Calhoun informs her that it is not an exoneration, however. Lydia states that the Handmaids have been led astray by June, and that there will only be justice when she is hanging on the wall.
Commander Blaine captures June, and brings her to a maximum security facility. Lydia arrives at the prison, and says that she is June's advocate.
Lydia asks June to cooperate about the Handmaids' location. June takes her punishment in stride, taunting Lydia and telling her that she failed her girls by having them be raped and beaten despite her claims of safety, and addresses her without her rank. She gloats that Janine turned on Lydia in a second. The Lieutenant arrives, and is ready to pull off June's fingernails, but she gets him to stop by giving false information that the other Handmaids are hiding in Burlington in the libraries of the University of Vermont.
When June's information is found to be false, Lydia confronts her again. The Lieutenant makes June witness Beth and Sienna being thrown off the roof, while June eventually confesses when Hannah is brought to her, with Lawrence telling June that they will harm her daughter if necessary.
When June is brought back to her cell, she tells Lydia that she is now ready to die. Instead, Lydia reveals that June will be sent to a Magdalene Colony where she will labor in the fields while also having to be bred by a Commander.
Lydia rides in the back of the van with June, Janine, Alma, Brianna, Sarah, and Ellie on their way to the Colonies. The driver goes to urinate, and June uses the opportunity to knock down Lydia and escape the van, with June almost going to attack Aunt Lydia but choosing not to. The driver returns, shooting at the Handmaids and killing Sarah and Ellie with bullets. Alma and Brianna are killed by the oncoming train, but June and Janine manage to evade capture again, to the dismay of Lydia.
Lydia is in the Aunts' rooms at the Rachel and Leah Center, and is walking on the treadmill. Aunt Cordelia asks her to play a puzzle with her, but she refuses, looking down at the Handmaids below. Aunt Lydia greets Aunt Ruth, noting on all the new Handmaids, and the other Aunt excitedly says that they will replace the lost children in no time. Ruth tells Lydia to take time to rest, but Lydia says that there is too much to do, and that she wants to work again. More firmly, Ruth tells her again that the girls are no longer her concern, but Lydia responds that they have always been her concern, and that she has served Gilead with everything she has had, and asks Ruth to vouch for her before the Commanders to restore her position. Ruth tells Lydia that she admires her devotion, but that it is presently her time to rest.
Lydia meets with Lawrence inside his home, and he asks if she has changed her hair. Lawrence pours Lydia some whiskey, and they meet for their discussion. Lydia tells Lawrence that she can be of service to him, as she has sources and witnesses on his involvement in Commander Winslow's disappearance, as well as his abuses of power. She says she will expose him unless he arranges for her immediate reinstatement. Lawrence then asks her about what information she has on the other Commanders, seeing as she already has accounts of his misdeeds. Lawrence presses her after she refuses to divulge information, seeing as his knowledge of the secrets will help him win more influence and power at the Commanders' table. She agrees to the proposal, on the condition that Ofjoseph will be returned to her if she is captured by Gilead again.
Lydia is dressing in her bedroom, with her cattle prod and long coat now included after her restoration to her position. She adjusts her pin and her belt, and then goes outside to instruct the new Handmaids at the center, although her composure begins to break slightly while she is conducting her speech.
Although most of her past is unknown, it is known that she has/had a sister. During an exchange with June, it is revealed that she was the godmother of her sister's now deceased child.
Aunt Lydia has always seemed to hold all Handmaids close to her heart. Aunt Lydia can be seen tearing up in multiple situations; most notably the first Salvaging and anytime a Handmaid is hurt/killed. It can be inferred that Aunt Lydia is a firm believer of His word and that she truly believes that she is doing the best that can be done for the Handmaids.
Aunt Lydia gifting Janine an eye patch to help
conceal her disfigurement ("Heroic")
Aunt Lydia seemed closest with Janine, especially in the first season with Janine's pregnancy and the birth of Angela/Charlotte. Despite having Janine sent to the Colonies, a strong connection can be sensed between the two in the earlier season.
Offred/June has always had a complicated relationship with Aunt Lydia. It is very clearly known that June despises Aunt Lydia for the horrid things she has done to not only her but also other Handmaids as well. In the second season, they share a few bonding moments during June's pregnancy where we learn more about Aunt Lydia's life.
Emily and Aunt Lydia are seen together in only harsh times. This leads to Emily's attempted murder on Aunt Lydia with a knife she stole.
'Ordinary' is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.
- Aunt Lydia in the Hulu adaptation bears a striking but equivalent resemblance to Miss Trunchbull from Roald Dahl's story Matilda, even if Lydia punishes herself for her violent actions. Unlike the Trunchbull, Aunt Lydia believes in her students (i.e. The Handmaid), yet she remains committed to her duties.
- When she says she used to smoke too in the past, that's probably a reference to her former role in the series The Leftovers, where she was a member of a religious group that always smoke.
- Episode 1, "Offred"
- The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), section 6
- Episode 4, "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum" Cite error: Invalid
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- Episode 3.8, Unfit
- Episode 2.9, Smart Power
- Episode 2.3, Baggage
- Episode 1.3, "Late"
- Episode 1.10, "Night"
- Episode 2.1, "June"
- Episode 2.4, "Other Women"
- Episode 2.5, Seeds
- Episode 2.6, "First Blood"
- Episode 2.8, "Women's Work"
- Episode 2.12, Postpartum
- Episode 2.13, The Word
- The Crossing