Aunt Lydia's teaching come into play with a sharp focus on The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 5, and the methods behind her madness started to make a little more sense.
I've often wondered if what she does isn't done with a lot more forethought than you'd immediately want to give her credit, and it's still hard to tell. If we met another Aunt, maybe we could figure it out.
Because Ann Dowd is such a gem, I'd like to think her Aunt Lydia is a step above the rest.
Doing another house check on Offred left Aunt Lydia with some serious concerns. She didn't say as much, but her temperament changed during the visit, and the guarded yet stern way she spoke to Mrs. Waterford on her way out didn't require much enhancement.
Aunt Lydia: I'm pleased that everything is going so well with the baby.
Serena Joy: As our doctor would happily tell you.
Aunt Lydia: Have I let myself become a bother? There's so much more to a successful preganancy than can be measured in a doctor's office. The ventilation in a handmaid's room. The firmness of the bed. The mood in the household. Her attitude seems much improved.
Serena Joy: It's everything a wife could ask for. She's quite unlike herself.
Aunt Lydia: Mrs. Waterford, no small effort has been made to bring Offred to heel. Your baby needs to know it's a godly, harmonious environment.
Serena Joy: Of course. Praise be his miracle.
Aunt Lydia knew that although the Waterfords had promised a welcoming environment for Offred, they were also angry at her and undoubtedly making her life more difficult than it needed to be.
Aunt Lydia worked very hard to shoved June deep inside herself and to release Offred for the good of all involved.
It might have worked, too, if Offred didn't feel so unwelcome and if the Waterfords didn't put the final nails into her coffin by arranging for Nick to marry.
It was hard enough for Offred to see Nick, but she was doing a stellar job of keeping herself out of the picture. She ignored him, she ignored all of her desires to be human, as being human meant being June, and being June was not only unacceptable, but it hurt.
June hurt others with her desire to get out of Gilead and June hurt herself by wanting do desperately to get out of her situation when she had to start over from scratch to do it. So she was Offred.
But then, just as she was losing Nick, she was losing his baby, too. The timing would be poetic if it wasn't so tragic.
As things got worse for Offred, Serena Joy realized she missed the woman who had also, against everything she knew was right in Gilead, become her friend. Sitting at the breakfast table across from her dud of a husband, there was no conversation. Now there was no conversation with June, either.
What a miserable house.
That's why it's hard to understand why they felt twisting the screws on Offred was necessary.
The name of the ceremony didn't give away a thing, but Serena Joy made it seem as if it was an absolutely delightful thing they were doing together and Aunt Lydia would be so proud of their outing.
Even Aunt Lydia wouldn't be that sadistic because she would want what's best for the baby. Psychological stress isn't good for the baby at that stage, something she tried to get across to Serena Joy.
It was bad enough Serena Joy turned her head to note to Offred how handsome Nick looked, the father of their baby who was marrying the equivalent of a child.
But his wife was on the way to their home to live with them, certainly crushing whatever chance there was to light up the passion in what was between June and Nick in the past.
Watching Nick marry was the first indication Offred wasn't strong enough to hold back June from her rightful place. If the Waterfords thought they would drive the knife into June's back and twist it and the result would be in their favor, they were wrong.
Offred was tentatively tethered to the body June sacrificed. She was watching the baby June loved exit June's body and with every blood-filled tub of water and every blood-soaked pair of underwear she tended, June was finding her strength.
Did Offred jump out the window? Did June fall as she was so listless from the loss of blood? She was not trying to die or kill the baby. I think Offred fell, and June picked up where Offred left off. June won.
You're tough, aren't you. Now you listen to me, OK? I will not let you grow up in this place. I won't do it, you hear me? They ... they do not own you. And they do not own what you will become. Do you hear me? I'm gonna get you out of here. I'm gonna get us out of here. I promise you. I promise.June
The Waterfords can't turn off what Nick and June felt for each other any more than Aunt Lydia can permanently shut off June.
Serena Joy showed her softer side by caring for Nick's young wife, which was a sweet reminder that even the woman who created the hell of Gilead got herself swept up in something she cannot control. After all, she's only a woman. She didn't think that through, did she?
When necessary, Aunt Lydia's teaching come in handy. Once you reach the colonies and all is lost, it's better to believe as Janine is choosing to do than as Emily has been saddled.
As sad as it is to hear Janine say, "Aunt Lydia says," at least she can find peace in those words when the world is crumbling down around her. Aunt Lydia knows there will come a time for the handmaids she teaches that they are no longer needed in their world. She probably knows the same is true for herself.
Emily still wants to fight, but from her position, what can she gain from it? Will she make a difference? Is killing another woman who finds her fate in the Colonies a worthwhile endeavor, or is that the time to come together and prove they will not be made into the trash those above them had become.
I don't have an answer, and if I were in June's shoes I'd fight tooth and nail for my freedom. But if I found myself in the colonies, I might try to make those around me happier as they shuffle off this mortal coil.
How about you? Share your thoughts below.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.