'The Handmaid's Tale' Scores Early Season 5 Renewal at Hulu

The Handmaids Tale Episodic 309 - Publicity - H 2019
Sophie Giraud/Hulu

The Handmaid's Tale is staying under Hulu's eye.

Hulu has ordered a fifth season of the MGM TV-produced drama, starring Elisabeth Moss and created by Bruce Miller, based on Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name. The Handmaid's Tale renewal comes in advance of season four, which recently resumed production after shutting down amid the global pandemic. Season four will consist of 10 episodes, matching its first season order but down from its second and third cycles. It will return in 2021. An episode order and timeframe for season five are unclear.

"We’re very grateful to Hulu and MGM that the show will be returning for a fifth season, and especially to our loyal fans for their support,” said Miller, who serves as showrunner. “We are thrilled to be able to continue to tell these stories, with our incredible cast and crew, and can’t wait to be back on the air with season four next year.”

Season four sees June (Moss) strike back against Gilead as a fierce rebel leader, but the risks she takes bring unexpected and dangerous new challenges. Her quest for justice and revenge threatens to consume her and destroy her most cherished relationships.

The early renewal for The Handmaid's Tale marks a sign of Hulu's continued confidence in its most prestigious drama. The Emmy anchor of Hulu's originals slate, The Handmaid's Tale netted the streamer an outstanding drama series victory in 2017, as well as wins for stars Moss, Ann Dowd and Alexis Bledel. The renewal news also comes as Hulu, firmly part of Disney, has been thinning its originals slate: well-reviewed High Fidelity was canceled after one season, with Harlots and Reprisal both axed as well. Hulu's current slate of originals includes The Great, The Dropout, Ramy, Shrill and Pen15, among others. Hulu does not release traditional viewership metrics for its originals.

Beyond the fifth-season renewal, Hulu very much remains invested in the Handmaid's universe, with announced plans to adapt Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's sequel novel, The Testaments, as a series with Miller. Miller remains under an overall deal with MGM.

From a story standpoint, The Handmaid's Tale exited its third season and enters its fourth season with a major shake-up in its status quo: Moss' Offred is a known fugitive, having recently liberated several children from the totalitarian nation of Gilead (formerly America) but being gravely wounded in the process. Additionally, central antagonists Commander Waterford and Serena Joy (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski) are both under arrest in Canada, where many of the other major characters are currently located; a shift in focus from Gilead to Canada feels likely for season four, or at least, an expansion of the series' Gilead cast will be required.

"The world is changing so much, there are always new things to address, things that are coming to the fore," Bruce Miller told The Hollywood Reporter recently about the series' present storyline. "I think you want to continue June's growth. That's the basis of the show — June growing as a character — so you want to make sure you're focused on that no matter what's happening plotwise, that you're really moving June ahead as a human being — not just as a character or a story, but a human being."