The Handmaid's Tale is continuing to grow in popularity – it was announced last year that the season two premiere attracted double the number of viewers of the season one equivalent – so it should come as no surprise to fans that the show has now been officially renewed for a fourth season.
The news was announced via the show's social media channels soon after the season three finale aired in the US:
"You did this, Resistors. Praise be. Season 4 of The #HandmaidsTale is happening!"
Join your fellow Resistors here at Digital Spy as we reveal everything you need to know about The Handmaid's Tale season four.
The Handmaid's Tale season 4 release date: When will it air?
Even before season four was officially confirmed, Hulu chief executive Randy Freer seemed positive about The Handmaid's Tale and its future on screen.
"The creative process will determine, is it a fourth season, is it five seasons? And I think that's one of the benefits for creators in the streaming world," he told Variety.
"Shows can take a natural progression, they can live for as long as they should live or they can end... I hope, as success goes, there's 10 seasons of The Handmaid's Tale."
While there's no official release date for The Handmaid's Tale season four just yet, it's likely that Hulu will continue the pattern set by previous seasons — seasons one and two both aired in April (2017 and 2018 respectively), with three opting for a slightly later release (June 2019).
In theory, that means season four could arrive at some point in the summer of 2020, although Redditor u/OfHolland warns us that the wait between seasons might be a bit longer than usual.
As they point out, an editor called Wendy Hallam-Martin told the Mayday Podcast that production for season four won't start until next March:
"They’re already writing so it’s gonna take a while to act out the next season, and then we have Margaret Atwood’s new book coming along — The Testaments," says Hallam-Martin.
"That will dictate a lot of what happens in the next season and we’ll see where we go with The Testaments!"
Unless production for season four wraps up quicker than usual, this means that we might not see new episodes of The Handmaid's Tale until the end of 2020, which would be later than the typical mid-year premiere.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Bruce Miller looked even further ahead to the show's potential end: "I don't like TV shows that dribble off or overstay their welcome.
"When we get to the end of Handmaid's Tale, I want it to be a beautiful piece of fiction, like the book, that you put a little bow around and you can put it on your shelf next to the book, and that it feels like a story well told from beginning to end."
The Handmaid's Tale season 4 UK premiere: When and where can I watch it?
Expect to find The Handmaid's Tale season four on Channel 4 once again in the UK, (unless there is a drastic change), a few days after the US air date.
The Handmaid's Tale season 4 cast: Who's returning?
All of the series regulars are back for season three, which means the following could all return in the next chapter.
June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss), Emily/Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), Commander Fred (Joseph Fiennes), Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), Moira (Samira Wiley), Janine/Ofwarren/Ofdaniel (Madeline Brewer), Luke (O-T Fagbenle), Nick (Max Minghella), Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), Sylvia (Clea DuVall) and Rita (Amanda Brugel).
Christopher Meloni and Elizabeth Reaser also joined the season-three cast as Commander Winslow and Mrs Winslow, so they too could return.
But it goes without saying that peril lies around every corner, so there's a possibility that we could lose some people along the way, as well as meeting some new faces.
The Handmaid's Tale season 4 plot: What will happen?
In the third season, June continues to resist the regime of Gilead and encourage those around her to do the same, but will it still be standing at the end of the 13 episodes?
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Miller spoke about the direction the show could take.
"I see a world beyond [the current one]. I would watch an episode about the Nuremberg trials after Gilead falls. There are lots of worlds you think of... where everything has changed so much."
But he went on to say that he still wants the drama to remain faithful to the original source material.
"My arc is still very much the arc of the novel, which is the arc of this one woman's experience in Gilead at this time and her recollections that paint this picture of what it was like and what the experience of this world was like, which really is still the book," he said.
"People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really. The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. It's maybe handled in an outline, but it's still there in Margaret's novel. We're not going beyond the novel; we're just covering territory she covered quickly, a bit more slowly."
The first book isn't the only source material that the show's writers can draw upon now. In September 2019, original author Margaret Atwood finally released her long awaited follow up to The Handmaid's Tale, titled The Testaments.
Set roughly 15 years after the first book, this sequel revolves around the testimonies of three characters, including Aunt Lydia, and two teenage girls called Agatha and Daisy.
June doesn't appear much at all in the new story, but what this sequel does reveal is that she's finally escaped Gilead after surviving multiple assassination attempts, and she's now hiding out in Canada.
In this future, Gilead's regime hasn't fallen just yet, but the cracks are starting to show as the resistance grows stronger.
It's not yet clear how much of the show's fourth season will be directly influenced by The Testaments, but it's safe to say that the book's impact will be felt in the writers room moving forward.
The Handmaid's Tale season 4 trailer: When can I watch it?
Although season four has now been confirmed, a trailer showcasing new footage won't be released until the month leading up to the premiere – so we're probably looking at some time around mid-2020 at the very earliest.
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