In the season 2 finale of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Emily (Alexis Bledel) finally takes her anger out on her oppressor, shoving a knife into the back of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), pushing her down the stairs, and kicking her until she can barely stir.
According to executive producer Warren Littlefield, that won’t be the last we see of Aunt Lydia, even if she appears doomed.
“The first thing we said [to Ann] is, ‘You’re not dead, but it’s going to be a pretty brutal scene,’” he recalls in the interview below with SiriusXM host Jessica Shaw on EW Radio, SXM 105. “She was completely up for it.”
When Shaw presses him for more details, Littlefield realizes he’s just confirmed a crucial detail about season 3 — the fact that Aunt Lydia is still alive. “Maybe that’s an enormous spoiler I just gave you,” he says.
Still, he points out that viewers could have gathered on their own that Aunt Lydia survived Emily’s attack. The final shot of Aunt Lydia was carefully framed to convey how she could have survived the beating. “There were different choices of how we shot that, that could have indicated that there was absolutely nothing, no signs of life,” he says. “But you do see it at the foot of the stairs, that there are signs of life. Is there great risk? Absolutely. But yeah, again, I think I may have done a big spoiler here.” He laughs. “Aunt Lydia is such a powerful and important part of this world and this show. But we fear for her life, and it is absolutely life-threatening. And that’s where we leave her, in a life-threatening situation.”
Of course, Aunt Lydia isn’t the only one in trouble by the end of the second season: Emily and Holly may have escaped, but June (Elisabeth Moss) has chosen to stay in Gilead, motivated now to change things from within, while Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) has had her first taste of the violence of the society she helped create.
“We’ve seen plenty of sophomore failures, we’ve seen sophomore slumps coming off of strong freshman years, and our goal was really not to disappoint the audience,” Littlefield tells Shaw in the same interview. “We thought we had taken them to a pretty powerful place.” Season 3 looks to do the same.