Less than a week after premiering the first episode of its second season, Hulu has renewed The Handmaid’s Tale for a third. It’s not surprising news — the adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s seminal novel has been the streaming network’s biggest hit to date, garnering not only critical acclaim but capturing the cultural zeitgeist. It’s become Hulu’s banner series, so renewing it (even so early into Season 2) is not much of a risk — especially since the new season premiere brought in double the viewers of Season 1’s opener.
Still, there is a consideration to be made about how much of Handmaid’s level of brutality people can continue to take. In a review of Season 2, it was noted that “Hulu’s arresting series returns with an even more exacting focus on the draconian practices of Gilead, through the eyes of our heroine Offred / June (Elisabeth Moss), freshly punished for her role in a defiant act of mercy that ended the first season. But with this examination — that now moves away from Atwood’s novel — also comes a relentless parade of brutality that makes The Handmaid’s Tale occasionally feel closer to a Saw movie than a story of fundamentalism gone mad.”
Yeah, it’s a lot. But I also binged the first five episodes they sent out to critics, which I wouldn’t recommend anyone do. It’s a series that is so dark (and offers just enough hope to completely devastate us when it snatches it away) that you need time to recover between episodes. As the series wears on, the question of what an “ending” for it may look like becomes less clear. Is it freedom for Offred? The fall of Gilead? All of these things feel so finite that they can’t happen soon, and yet, truly how much more of the torture and horror can we take?