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A novel written by Margaret Atwood in the 1980s got a new life in 2017. That was the year that an adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale made its television debut and instantly became one of those shows that grabbed both a lot of eyeballs and a lot of attention. If you haven’t watched it, you’ve likely at least heard about it: It captured the zeitgeist in a way that few other shows managed around 2017 and 2018, and it still has plenty of fans today. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s a gripping experience all the same.
Yet you can’t watch The Handmaid’s Tale on a premium cable network like HBO or Showtime. And it’s not on broadcast stations like NBC or CBS either. You’ll need to watch The Handmaid’s Tale online, but how do you do that? If you don’t already know, read on to find out.
In a typical “How to Watch” article, we’d use this section to acclimate you to all the different ways to watch The Handmaid’s Tale online. This section, though, is going to be significantly shorter. That’s because the only way to watch The Handmaid’s Tale is through a Hulu subscription. It’s a Hulu original series, and it isn’t offered anywhere else.
Stream The Handmaid's Tale for free with Hulu
Hulu is the only streaming service where you can watch The Handmaid’s Tale online. The show became one of Hulu’s signature programs almost as soon as it started streaming. The Handmaid’s Tale has also won a whopping 15 Emmys through its run so far, including one for lead actress Elisabeth Moss. She won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama — and “drama” is most certainly what The Handmaid’s Tale is, so don’t go into it expecting a comedy! Moss nabbed the award for her performance in the show’s first season. That same year, The Handmaid’s Tale won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.
So, you’ve decided to dive into The Handmaid’s Tale. You’ve got snacks like popcorn and chips, and maybe even a little booze to help you deal with the most intense moments. But have you figured out how you’re going to watch it?
Your TV is the obvious choice, of course, but that will only work out if you have a way to get Hulu’s streaming content up onto the screen. Luckily for us, Hulu has support for every major streaming platform. That includes mobile devices and web browsers, so you have options for watching The Handmaid’s Tale on the go, too.
As mentioned above, the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale was released in 2017. The second season came out on Hulu in 2018, followed by the third season in 2019. If not for a little thing called a global pandemic, the fourth season likely would have been released in 2020. But COVID-19 forced the show to stop production in March 2020, and it’s now expected to air in 2021.
As of this writing, Hulu hasn’t said when, exactly, it will air in 2021. For now, all we know for sure is that the fourth season release date for The Handmaid’s Tale will arrive at some point in 2021.
There’s one more thing you should know: Hulu won’t release all of the episodes of the next season of The Handmaid’s Tale at once. While Netflix tends to do this with its TV show releases, Hulu behaves more like Disney+ does with The Mandalorian, releasing episodes steadily on a regular schedule until the entire season is up. (And that’s okay with me — as great as The Handmaid’s Tale is, it’s not exactly the type of show most people want to binge!). When the next season of The Handmaid’s Tale arrives, the first three episodes will debut together on the initial release date. The rest will arrive one by one in the weeks and months that follow. Hulu will release one episode per week (not counting that initial burst of three episodes on day one), and season four of The Handmaid’s Tale will have 10 episodes total.
A lot of people read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school or college and then block it out (yes, I’m raising my hand guiltily). So if you’re not sure what it’s about, we’re here to give you a quick rundown.
Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred. If you’re thinking that’s an odd name for a character, you are correct. It means “of Fred,” which means she is owned by a guy named Fred. This Fred guy is not a nice fellow. As you may have guessed, Offred has no bodily autonomy. In fact, she’s in the pretty horrifying position of having to bear Fred’s children.
See, Offred exists in a place called Gilead. It used to be the United States (unlike the New England-centric version in the book, the Gilead of the show appears to have control of all of the lower 48 states), but now it’s ruled by a totalitarian government run by religious fundamentalists. Most women are infertile, which means the few women who can bear children are held as slaves for rich people. These slaves are known as “handmaids,” which is where the titles of the novel and show comes from. Offred had a name and a life before the Republic of Gilead seized power, but to learn more, you’ll have to watch the show.
Still craving more Handmaid’s Tale info? I’ll leave you with one last exciting tidbit: In 2019, Margaret Atwood released The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Before it was even published, Hulu and MGM announced they were developing it as a series.
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