Welcome back to hell for a special episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, where we finally discover what makes Aunt Lydia tick. Spoiler: it’s karaoke. Tara Ward recaps season 3, episode 8.
On the basis of this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, I reckon karaoke is to blame for everything in Gilead. This week we were treated to flashbacks that revealed how Aunt Lydia ended up the way she is, aka a sympathetic sadist with an fondness for a fully-charged cattleprod. Spoiler, the birth of Aunt Lydia involved a bloke named Jim, a crappy New Year’s Eve and a traumatic karaoke reindition of ‘Islands in the Stream’. Listen, we’ve all been there, that stuff changes people.
I hate karaoke, but instead of getting mad and losing my shit in the supermarket like Ofmatthew, I’m taking the handmaids’ advice. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Exhale, exhale, exhale. Eat through the pain, all carbs are good carbs. Okay, that last bit is my own interpretation of this cultish nightmare where the government sends your entire neighbourhood of galpals round to yell at you and stare at your hooha while you push out a baby that you’re forced to immediately hand over to the ruling elite, but it’s fine. I mean, look how fine it is, everything’s fine, I love karaoke.
Islands in the stream, that is what June and Lydia are. June’s embracing her inner mean girl, and is fully on board with the handmaids bullying Ofmatthew for her role in the death of Hannah’s Martha. Aunt Lydia, however, is not having it. Ofmatthew is a precious jewel who follows the word of God, and June is a bad apple who won’t fit in the barrel because it’s too radioactive, or something.
Nobody’s allowed to bully anyone in Gilead unless Aunt Lydia gets to go first. She gathers all the handmaids into a circle so they can point and shout “crybaby” at Ofmatthew until the problem resolves itself. Being a handmaid sucks, even if they do cruise round in something called “The Babymobile”. Once I had a baby and I tried to buy a mobile for her cot and the shop assistant suggested I try Vodafone. True story.
Why would Aunt Lydia think public humiliation is the way to fix things? It turns out she used to be a 4th grade teacher, one so kind she invited a pupil and his mother over for Christmas. Lydia laughed! Her hair sparkled like the sun! She was kindness personified, and then she spent New Year’s Eve with Principal Jim. She was Dolly Parton to his Kenny Rogers, and of all the things I never thought I’d see on The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s a sequinned Aunt Lydia smashing an ‘80s love song out of the park.
In the words of Queen Dolly, she was soft inside, there was something going on, mmm-hmm. Alas, things took a turn when Jim rejected Lydia during a heavy pash session. Lydia burned with shame and rage, and the next thing she was wearing a khaki cardie and her hair was in a bun and she was dobbing her favourite pupil’s mother in to the authorities.
That’s how Aunt Lydia was born. Again, I blame the karaoke.
June, meanwhile, is speaking the truth to everyone, because that’s all she’s got left. She tells Aunt Lydia that Ofmatthew doesn’t want her child, and cheerily informs Commander Lawrence that he’s killing his wife. “This world you built is destroying her,” June tells him. “One call and you could have her out of here, but you’re keeping her hostage.” Sail away with me, Mrs Lawrence, to another world, where we rely on each other, uh-huh.
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After being humiliated by the other handmaids, Ofmatthew begins to unravel. While Aunt Lydia bangs on about removing June from the “dangerously unorthodox” Lawrence household, a can of lobster in the supermarket tips Ofmatthew over the edge. She attacks Janine with it (in the name of sweet Dolly Parton, will Janine ever catch a break?), wallops the crap out of a guard, and points a gun at Aunt Lydia.
June watches and smiles. She nods at Ofmatthew, silently encouraging her to kill the Karaoke Queen. Before she can pull the trigger, Ofmatthew is shot and dragged from the supermarket, leaving behind a bloody mess and a dented can of lobster that’s headed straight for the discount bin.
Is this what June wanted all along? From one lover to another, uh-huh.
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