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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: How Many Seasons Are Planned? The Pandemic Changed Everything

'The Handmaid's Tale' is renewed through season 5, but how many seasons will the show have total? Hulu once said it hopes the show runs for 10 seasons, but showrunner Bruce Miller revealed in a recent interview how the coronavirus pandemic made him rethink how he's telling June Osborne's story and how long it will take to complete it.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 release date was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The result was a two-year gap between seasons 3 and 4. The drama returned with three new episodes on April 28, but how many seasons will the show have total? The Handmaid’s Tale showrunner and executive producer Bruce Miller detailed how the coronavirus pandemic changed his plans for the better.

[Spoilers of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episodes 1, 2, and 3 ahead.]

'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4 star Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne allowing actor Max Minghella as Nick to rest his head on her shoulder
June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) and Nick (Max Minghella) in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | George Kraychyk/Hulu

Will season 4 be the last season of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?

The newest season of the Emmy-winning drama is a game-changer. At long last, the efforts of revolutionaries in Gilead are coming to fruition. The season begins with Serena Joy and Fred Waterford still imprisoned in Canada. June and the other Handmaids have successfully gotten 86 children out of Gilead, but are now on the run. And June has a gunshot wound giving her sepsis to boot. Aunt Lydia is facing consequences for June’s act of rebellion. And Nick is now a commander with more power than ever.

June, Janine, Alma, Brianna, and the other Handmaids eventually make it to a safe house, which was set up by new character Mrs. Esther Keyes (played by Mckenna Grace). The Gilead wife is only 14 years old, showcasing another horrific truth about the country’s treatment of women and girls. They remain in hiding as Marthas while they wait for contact from Mayday or figure out their own plan, whichever comes first. And then, everything changes after episode 3.

Not to worry, loyal fans. The show was renewed through season five in December 2020. That doesn’t mean season 5 will be its last, however.

Bruce Miller will keep the show going ‘as long as’ Elisabeth Moss wants

Former Hulu CEO Randy Freer told Variety in 2018 he envisioned The Handmaid’s Tale running for 10 seasons. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Miller said the pandemic forced him to rethink how the story would pan out and how long he should draw it out. He said:

“I certainly don’t [have a number of seasons in mind]. I always thought I did and that, I think, is a pandemic change. I thought I had a beginning, a middle and an end — and I still feel like I very much have an end — it’s just that I’m finding more interesting paths along the way and more interesting things to do as we move towards more fascinating parts of the story.”

Given how much the show changes in season 4, it seems the pandemic could have sped up the plot as opposed to stretching it out over 10 seasons. One thing that’s clear is Miller’s commitment to the show riding on Moss’ desire to continue.

“When I said that I’ll do the show as long as Lizzy [Moss] wants to do it, that is born of the pandemic and born of the work she’s done this year,” he said, gushing over the star’s performance. Moss also made her directorial debut this season, taking charge of three episodes in season 4.

“She deserves to have me there writing for her as long as she wants. She earned that this year,” Miller said. “I will write beautiful words for her to say for as long as she wants to say them.”

Elisabeth Moss in new season 4 episode 3 of 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Elisabeth Moss as June in season 4 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4: Serena Joy’s Pregnancy Could Be ‘Worst Case Scenario,’ Executive Producer Says

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ sequel ‘The Testaments’ is in the works at Hulu

Miller said there are plenty of interesting stories the show can expand on in future seasons. And not just in The Handmaid’s Tale—Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments (a sequel to the original novel) is being developed at Hulu. But the current focus is still The Handmaid’s Tale. And the show’s long-game was not on everyone’s minds while filming season 4.

“It was a hard year for everybody just getting through making this TV show well,” Miller admitted. “And I think, rightly so, we all focused on that.”

“Certainly, as you do research into what a life turns into after all kind of trauma, all of that is really interesting to explore,” he continued. “I really do feel like now I’m starting to think about a wider world and what other people would be doing; what other interesting stories might be happening to Marthas, to wives, to girls and boys.”

For now, the show is just looking to season 5. Freer previously said streaming originals have the benefit of being able to end when and how they want. Given the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, it seems the show will be able to conclude its story whenever it sees fit.