Just when I was feeling somewhat lost with The Leftovers finishing and currently in a bit of a lull until my TV shows come back on air, the commanding Ann Dowd’s presence was back on my screens with her terrifying role as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale.
I am not going to talk about the brilliance of the show and all the moral, political, ethical thoughts I have about it (for there are many!) – I just wanted to acknowledge that some performances go to the core of you and shake you about. I watch a tremendous amount of TV, and nothing appeals to me more than a lingering effect a compelling character can have on you. Ann Dowd has crawled under my skin in both these shows.
After a brilliant character portrayal as Patti in The Leftovers, I was curious to see what she would bring to this role. She brings it alright! She owns the scenes she is in. If I was ever going to truly understand the phrase ‘boss lady’ – she would embody it. No nonsense here. I liken her to that of a strict, religious teacher – the types my parents would utter about with such disdain. Every word that barks from her mouth is executed with intonation, elegance and a sense of unwavering control. It lures me into a false sense of trust and what a great way to enhance the book version of the character – she brings a new dimension to her. She is completely committed to this world, her role, and her compliance to this new dystopian environment is certain.
Perhaps many viewers will find her the most fascinating as she is a woman in this outrageous world and yet never lets a slither of an emotional response or an opinion on what is happening to the women be known. I found myself struggling to process this. I was hoping she would question, rebel. I kept hoping she would falter. Like all good villains she in inherently evil to the core. She is so desensitised and accepts her environment fully. Adapt or die. Comply or die. Void of all compassion and empathy. The heinous acts that Aunt Lydia carries out or orders is nothing short of traumatic. A character of duty who, in her twisted ways, I would like to believe wants the girls to be compliant so that there is no further disruption or pain that they need to necessarily endure.
What a powerhouse performance.
Aunty Lydia is sadistic ultimately in my opinion – I leave you with a comment that revealed much about the psychological make up of this character
‘Remember, said Aunt Lydia, for our purposes your feet and your hands are not essential.’