Why The Handmaid’s Tale and Black Mirror each released three episodes

New seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale and Black Mirror premiered this week, but the episode rollout might have been confusing to some viewers.

Television junkies probably already know that Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s Black Mirror each had new seasons premiere this week. Some, however, might be understandably a little confused when looking at the newly available episodes.

Black Mirror

Some viewers might be surprised to find that season five of Black Mirror has only three episodes compared to six in the prior two seasons. The explanation involves the Black Mirror interactive film Bandersnatch that was released in December. The film required a tremendous amount of work, which seems to be the main reason for the decline in episodes.

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Due to its interactive nature, the film is in a sense multiple episodes of stories within one film. Even if one views Bandersnatch as one episode, the four total episodes for season five are still more than the three episodes the show had in seasons one and two.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Viewers might also be surprised to discover three episodes available for The Handmaid’s Tale. Just like season two, season three will include 13 total episodes (10 in season one). Unlike season two, however, the first three episodes were released on the same day (only first two released for season two). And just like season two, the remainder of the episodes will be released weekly. Longtime viewers of the show will be used to this approach, but newer viewers might be initially confused as to why the full season wasn’t released.

Hulu’s approach is something Netflix should perhaps consider. By dropping multiple episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale at once, it will generate hype, but by not releasing all at once, it should maintain some of this hype over a longer period of time.

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Overall, it’s in a sense fitting that both Handmaid’s and Black Mirror premiered their seasons on the same day, as both have futuristic themes. This similarity makes it even more fitting that both released the same number of episodes (three), albeit for different reasons. Although some viewers may experience initial confusion, I imagine everyone will just be happy to have these shows back in their lives.