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Is The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Setting Up Aunt Lydia’s Story In The Sequel, The Testaments?

Ann Dowd in The Handmaid's Tale Season 5
(Image credit: Hulu)

Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of The Handmaid’s Tale “Border”, as well as the sequel book The Testaments.

The streaming wars have been raging for years, and one of Hulu’s biggest hits is the dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale. Season 5 recently began for those with a Hulu subscription, and the first three episodes have already been a wild ride (especially the departure of Alexis Bledel's Emily). And after watching Episode 3 “Border”, my biggest question was: is the show already setting up Aunt Lydia’s story from the sequel, The Testaments?

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Testaments was released in 2019, and is a direct sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (opens in new tab). Hulu already has plans to adapt that book after the flagship series ends with Season 6. And in the most recent episode from The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, there seemed to be a major hint toward the plot line of Ann Dowd’s Aunt Lydia. Namely that she prayed and admitted her wrongdoings while praying for Janine’s life in the new episode.

At the end of Episode 2, Esther poisoned herself and Janine at the Red Center, after being posted to serve as a Handmaid to Commander Putnam. Both of those characters were hospitalized in “Border”, with Aunt Lydia praying for God to save Janine. In the gorgeously acted monologue, the controversial character pleaded:

I know you’re unhappy with my behavior. Sometimes I’ve lost my temper. I made choices. I was trying to keep my girls safe. Surely you understand that. Please do not punish her. Please do not punish her to teach me a lesson. I will turn things around. I will do things differently, I promise you. Please.

After being visited by Mrs. Putnam and her daughter, Janine ended up waking up by the time the new Handmaid’s Tale episode concluded. Could Aunt Lydia’s path to redemption be started by this episode (which also brought back Nick’s mysterious wife)? With the upcoming Testaments show in development, it certainly seems like a smart narrative move by the writers. We’ll just have to wait and see how Lydia’s story unfolds as we get deeper into Season 5.

While the contents of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 are largely shrouded in mystery, Aunt Lydia’s future on the Emmy winning series was teased in the description of Episode 4, which is titled “Dear Offred.” That synopsis reads:

June fights her need for violent revenge as Serena settles into her new role in Toronto. Rattled by Janine, Aunt Lydia makes a surprising suggestion to Lawrence.

Well, I’m definitely intrigued. Aunt Lydia is one of the most complicated characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, but she’s largely been a villainous presence in Gilead thus far. It should be interesting to see if she starts to make actual positive change, and how the show will set up her likely appearance in The Testaments.

In the Testaments book, Lydia is one of the three characters narrating the story, alongside both of June’s daughters. Through the novel we get a better understanding of Lydia’s psyche, and how she eventually became a feared Aunt. She also gets a redemption arc that would be fascinating to see play out in the Hulu series, especially if Ann Dowd is playing her signature role.

The Handmaid’s Tale airs new episodes Wednesdays on Hulu. In the meantime, check out the fall premiere list to plan your next binge watch.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.