The Handmaid's Tale Showrunner Sees Spin-Off Potential In A Controversial Character

"The Handmaid's Tale" might have a few heroes whose resilience and strength aid them in their fight against the authoritarian regime of Gilead, but for the most part, it is a story teeming with villains. From master manipulator Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) to his somewhat morally gray wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and the cruel, impossible-to-understand Aunt Lydia (played by Ann Dowd), Gilead has its fair share of bad guys.

With most characters, it's easy to define what side of the battle they're on, but with Aunt Lydia, the head of the handmaid system in charge of discipline who is always working toward making the women perfect vessels for birthing, her intentions have been harder to place. The ruthless torture she puts the women through is beyond anyone's understanding (because how could a woman treat her own sex that way?), but glimpses of her vulnerability and attachment toward the same women threaten to come to the surface, despite the violence she engages in. It begs the question: What is happening in Aunt Lydia's head, and how long until we learn about it?

Most fans of the show will agree that Aunt Lydia is a fascinating character we honestly know nothing about, and learning a little about how her involvement with Gilead came to be could help us understand her. "The Handmaid's Tale" showrunner Bruce Miller feels the same way and sees potential in Aunt Lydia's character for a possible spin-off story.

A cryptic future ahead

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bruce Miller, who adapted the series from Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel, discussed the lethal season 4 finale, and the future of the series. Hulu's adaptation of the novel depicts a totalitarian and theocratic state where women's roles are constrained, their rights are dismissed, and violence keeps the hierarchy in place. Atwood published a sequel to her novel in 2019 called "The Testaments," which is interestingly narrated by the character of Aunt Lydia herself. Hulu is set to adapt the book following the end of "The Handmaid's Tale."

Aunt Lydia, as expected, will be a significant part of season 5 as June (Elisabeth Moss) strengthens the resistance against Gilead. Miller described how he was fascinated by Aunt Lydia and admitted to having written multiple flashback sequences between the characters of Aunt Lydia, Nick, and Janine. The showrunner is excited about potentially exploring Aunt Lydia's origin story in a new show.

"I would do shows about Aunt Lydia. I can't tell you the number of Lydia, Nick and Janine flashbacks that we've written over the years. We love our characters and find them all super fascinating. It's only a question of real estate."

Season 5 is not the end for Aunt Lydia

There's been much conversation about which familiar faces from "The Handmaid's Tale" will return in Hulu's adaptation of "The Testaments." While production on the spin-off series will not commence until the story of "The Handmaid's Tale" is concluded, there have been conversations about actress Ann Dowd reprising her role in the series. In another interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ann Dowd revealed she is "looking forward" to the new show.

"Yes, that's the plan [to be a part of 'The Testaments' adaptation]. It's a fantastic novel, it's brilliant. I've listened to the audiobook, which I loved, and I'm very much looking forward to it. It takes place 15 years later, after the end of 'Handmaids.' For anyone who hasn't yet read it, I'll remain cryptic."

While three different female characters narrate the events of "The Testaments," Aunt Lydia is the spine of the story and drives the plot forward, recording the story of her rise to power and documenting how her involvement with Gilead was to survive the regime. Creating an entire spin-off show to unravel why Aunt Lydia is the way she is seems a bit much — the character might blame survival for her violent tendencies, but her actions in "The Handmaid's Tale" continue to be unjustified. Since Hulu is already adapting "The Testaments," a story in which Lydia's character is essentially the crux, there should be a way for writer Bruce Miller to focus on her character without giving her more screen time than she deserves. Because from what I've seen, "The Handmaid's Tale" is always more impactful when telling stories about its heroes, not its villains.

"The Handmaid's Tale" season 5 premieres on Hulu on September 15, 2022.