'Transparent' Could Be Approaching Its Endgame Sooner Than You Think

Amazon Studios

It's hard not to want a show as steeped in queerness and spirituality as Amazon's Emmy-winning dramedy to continue for forever… and yet that's impossible even for the most successful series in this overcrowded age of Peak TV. So when will Transparent return for Season 5? Well, here's some happy news: report that fans can watch Season 4, which premieres Sept. 22, with an easy mind: Amazon already renewed Transparent for Season 5 back in August, according to Deadline, well ahead of the Season 4 premiere, for an expected premiere date sometime in 2018.

"Over the past few seasons the Pfeffermans have gone across the world, back in time and made many, many trips to the deli," Amazon's Head of Comedy Joe Lewis said, as reported in the same Deadline piece. "We're so excited to see what magic [creator] Jill [Soloway] and the incredible team bring to this always groundbreaking series in Season 5." For their part, Soloway said, "We look forward to another season of comedy and drama, love and weirdness, God and sex — in the service of community and in pursuit of peace, joy, freedom, and human rights for all."

A renewal for the next season before the impending one has even premiered is surely a vote of confidence, right? Amazon's execs are basically saying that they trust Season 4's ratings will be good enough to justify another batch of episodes, sight unseen. (Of course, fans will never know, since Amazon — like Netflix — doesn't release ratings information for its streaming series.) And surely such a vote of confidence bodes well for the show's longevity, right?

Well, before you get too excited about the idea of Transparent running in perpetuity (or at least until our planet has finally had enough of its rude houseguests like J. Law in mother!), consider two factors. First, Soloway said at a press event for Season 3 last year that they only envisions Transparent having a lifespan of about six seasons. "They're just really beginning the major part of their journey now and Seasons 1 and 2 were like the first acts," they told Bustle and the rest of the assembled press at the time. ""I feel like we could do [Seasons] 3, 4, and 5 as like the middle of the whole saga and then one more season to say goodbye."

Soloway went on to reserve the right to change their mind and run the show for 10 seasons or more if they wanted… although that decision isn't necessarily up to them. The other factor to consider is the fact that, since Soloway gave that press conference in 2016, Amazon has severely overhauled their approach to original programming. As reported by Variety in early September, CEO Jeff Bezos has implemented a "major strategy shift," essentially demanding that his programming department find him the next Game Of Thrones." This means that Amazon is essentially abandoning its strategy of fostering many small shows that attract critical acclaim and awards attention but smaller nice audiences in favor of a smaller number of larger shows with more broad appeal.

The effects of this shift are already being felt. Matt Bomer's lavish period drama The Last Tycoon was abruptly cancelled only a month after premiering, shortly after the studio unceremoniously pulled the plug on Christina Ricci's Zelda Fitzgerald bio-series Z: The Beginning Of Everything, reversing its former decision to renew the show for Season 2. This time of uncertainty and transition at Amazon puts Transparent in a tricky position — especially after underperforming at the 2017 Emmy Awards.

Although Transparent has long been considered Amazon's most awards-friendly series, it was shockingly left out of the Outstanding Comedy Series category for the first time in its run this year; star Jeffrey Tambor, the incumbent Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy winner, ceded his crown to Atlanta's Donald Glover; and neither of the show's Supporting Actress contenders, Kathryn Hahn and Judith Light, could prevent SNL's Kate McKinnon from winning her second straight trophy. At the same time, Amazon execs had to sit and watch as Hulu — not their own studio or even Netflix — claimed the honor of being the first streaming platform to win an Outstanding Series prize at the Emmys (for Drama series The Handmaid's Tale).

With a sea change underway at Amazon, this was undoubtedly the worst possible time for Transparent to come up empty-handed at the Emmys. Whether Soloway will be allowed to see their six-season vision through to its conclusion, or whether Amazon will announce next year's fifth season as the show's last, is very much up in the air. But at least viewers can rest easy knowing they definitely have one more season of Transparent coming their way after this one. There is plenty more Pfefferman family dysfunction on the horizon. L'chaim!