Warning: Contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, including the finale.
The Handmaid’s Tale season two has proved such a success for Hulu that the streaming service has already confirmed it for a third season.
While Hulu (like Netflix and other streaming services) doesn’t release specific viewing figures, it was revealed that the show doubled its audience for the season two premiere compared to the first season, following it becoming the first show from a streaming service to win best drama at the Emmys, among other awards.
So what can we expect for our third outing to Gilead?
The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 release date: When can we expect it?
Both seasons so far have landed in the last week of April in the US on Hulu, so we can expect a similar date for season three, barring any delays, but the early renewal should mean those won’t happen.
In the UK, Channel 4 started airing season two on Sunday, May 20, so a similar May slot should be expected for the next season in 2019.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 cast: Who’s coming back?
Season two passed without any major deaths in the core cast, so the likes of Elisabeth Moss (June), Alexis Bledel (Emily), Joseph Fiennes (Commander Fred Waterford), Yvonne Strahovski (Serena Joy Waterford), OT Fagbenle (June’s husband Luke) and Samira Wiley (Moira) will all be back.
However, in the season two finale, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) was attacked with a knife by Emily and her fate is left unclear, but showrunner Bruce Miller has confirmed she will be back (via IndieWire).
“Aunt Lydia doesn’t die, [but] she’s transformed by this event. The fact that one of her girls… has literally stabbed her in the back. I think that that alters your workplace feelings on a day-to-day basis… In her case, it makes her double down that she feels like she just wasn’t strong enough in her discipline. So she, I think, has decided it’s time to get tough,” he explained.
What’s more, Bradley Whitford will also be back as Commander Lawrence after he helped Emily to escape. “I think we’re gonna learn a ton about him. I think the fact that he’s, you know, our Oppenheimer character, the man who designed an atomic bomb and then saw what it could do,” Miller teased.
“I mean, he is a designer of Gilead and now he is seeing what it can do. So he is a mass of contradictions and dangers. So you know you never know what he’s willing to do, what he’s not willing to do.”
We can likely expect to see more from Cherry Jones as June’s mother Holly Maddox as well, after she was introduced in season two, but Sydney Sweeney and Marisa Tomei won’t be back as Eden and Mrs O’Conner, respectively.
Eden was shockingly killed off in the penultimate episode, while Mrs O’Conner had a brief one-episode stay in the Colonies where she was fatally poisoned by Emily.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 spoilers: What does the future of Gilead hold?
Season two might have seen the show go past its source material, but showrunner Bruce Miller has insisted that it will always be influenced by Margaret Atwood’s novel, especially its epilogue that takes place after the fall of Gilead.
“I roughed it out to about 10 seasons when I was first working on it. 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,” he explained.
“But 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. 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.”
Atwood herself has confirmed that she has no control over the TV adaptation and she’s totally fine with that.
“I think I would have to be awfully stupid to resent it because things could have been so much worse,” she outlined. “They have done a tippety-top job, the acting is great, they’ve stuck to the central set of premises.”
Miller has been keen to point out though that the show will always be “riding on Margaret’s coattails”.
We don’t yet know where season three will go, but the season two finale saw Emily escape Gilead with June’s newborn baby daughter, thanks to help from Commander Lawrence, while June decided to stay behind because her other daughter Hannah is still in Gilead.
Miller has defended June’s decision after it was meant with anger from fans. “I like the fact that people are frustrated. You want her to make a different decision,” he explained. “I love the fact that June does things that we disagree with, that she’s driven by her emotions and her brain and her strategy and all of those things, but in different measure than we are.”
So perhaps season three will see June team up with Commander Lawrence, potentially with Serena also on board after her acts of defiance throughout season two, while we could also see Emily meet up with June’s husband Luke and Moira in Canada.
One thing’s for sure, we can guarantee that the show won’t suddenly become any less dark or harrowing anytime soon.
At least both Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski will both be on hand if they ever feel like the show is going too far, even if Strahovski has admitted she “loathes” her character.
And Fiennes feels his character is now definitely a villain after his actions in season two. “I hope that in Season 3 we [won’t be] worrying about making him a villain because he will always be a very nasty piece of work,” he told Deadline.
“Now we understand that as an audience, I hope that we can trust and enjoy maybe seeing a different facet of the man that belies the truth of what we know.”
The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 trailer: When will it land?
We got our first look at season two in January 2018 during the show’s TCA panel, so it’s a safe bet to expect the same for season three’s first trailer.
For now (and if you haven’t seen season two yet), get up to speed on everything that happened in season one.
The Handmaid’s Tale airs on Hulu in the US and Channel 4 in the UK.
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