As expected, the third season of NBC’s Hannibal has gotten out of the gates with a bang. After a Season 2 finale that ended with a huge bloodbath that left viewers questioning whether or not several of the show’s main characters survived, the first two episodes of Season 3 have seen a handful of characters travel to Italy and raised a whole new set of questions. Is Will going to find Hannibal in Italy? Will they be reunited? How does the Red Dragon arc factor into everything later on this season?
Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller took part in a panel at the ATX Television Festival this past weekend in Austin, TX. The panel featured a Q&A session with Fuller that took place after the audience viewed the first two episodes of Season 3. In it, he discussed the show’s current Italian arc and why Will and Hannibal are separated, looked forward to the Red Dragon story and provided insight on much more to come in the show’s third season. We’ve condensed Fuller’s thoughts below and highlight the main takeaways from his panel at ATX.
As always, if you don’t want to be spoiled about what’s the come then we suggest you stop reading right now. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
1. A new status quo
The Season 3 premiere found Will Graham, Jack Crawford, Dr. Alana Bloom and others noticeably absent. Fuller said that he intentionally opened the season with Hannibal and Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) alone. “We left Season 2 with Hannibal and Bedelia, so it felt like an organic way of starting Season 3 with those same characters. They don’t know who survived so perhaps the audience shouldn’t,” he said.
2. Things are getting more disturbing
We started to wonder if it was just us, but things seem to be getting more and more disturbing on Hannibal these days after his human heart unfolded into the human/stag hybrid during the second episode of Season 3. Fuller explained that “the show has to be as elegant and eloquent as the title character.” Because of that, awful things such as the “heart” unfolding can actually become beautiful. “It’s looking at the horrible through Hannibal’s eyes and he sees beauty in everything. So we have to present horror in the manner that our title character sees it,” Fuller said.
3. Hannibal is a bit reckless this season
For a character that is always in control of everything and everyone around him, Season 3 may see a change in Hannibal’s behaviour. According to Fuller, he’s going to be a bit reckless this season, but it’s all because of a very good reason. “He’s got a broken heart, demonstratively a broken heart. There’s an element of him in this season that is a little bit reckless because he wants to be seen,” he said. Well then we guess it’s a good thing he’s traveling with Bedelia, his therapist, right? Maybe not quite, said Fuller because “whether he listens to her or not remains to be seen.” Regardless, Hannibal’s secret is out and that’s what excites Fuller.
“What I like about this season is that now all the cards are on the table,” he added. “All the characters know who Hannibal Lecter is, the audience has known for years, but the characters now know.”
4. Hannibal gets funny?
Let’s be clear, no one will ever describe Hannibal as a comedy, but the show certainly does dark humour well. That will continue this season now that the truth behind who Hannibal really is is out in the open. “They can have a conversation about what he does and that’s where I think a lot of the black humour comes from in the show, and it gets increasingly more black and humorous as this Italian chapter goes on,” said Fuller. He also made sure to add that “Gillian is laugh out loud funny in Episode 6. She’s hilarious.”
5. Abigail Hobbs will be back
After Thursday’s episode it sure seems like this is the end of the line for Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), but Fuller said that’s not necessarily the case. Seeing her back Thursday night served two purposes in his mind actually. “The thing I really liked about having her back in the second episode is the moment when she looks at the priest and that gave her some validity. So in my mind this is functioning as both ‘Abigail is a manifestation of Will’s subconscious’ and ‘Abigail a ghost.’ And both are true,” explained Fuller. It’s an arc that could’ve went on longer, but Fuller says they decided to stick to only one episode because “I just felt that would be dishonest. Since this episode was about the grieving process and how tragic it was for Will to be reunited with her, and only see her murdered moments later. He needed closure as a character with Abigail Hobbs and so it felt organic to ‘Fight Club’ her in a way for Will,” said the showrunner before adding that, “he is sincerely mourning her loss.”
But this isn’t the end for Abigail, or Rohl on the show. “We bring her back in Episode 9, we do flashbacks of what her life was like with Hannibal when she was supposed to be dead,” he previewed. This is partially due to the fact that Fuller is a big fan of Rohl. “I love Kacey Rohl and I want to keep writing for her. I have more plans for her as Abigail as a ghost in the future,” he enthused.
6. Everyone’s got a new dance partner
Fuller explained that “the first season was the bromance and the second season was a nasty breakup. The third season is really how do you find closure in a relationship that has fallen apart when both parties are so damaged by what’s happened?” Of course that was before he compared the separation of Will and Hannibal to Star Wars. “Separating C3PO and R2D2 in The Empire Strikes Back was kind of like, ‘Let’s just give everybody a new dance partner,’” he joked before clarifying that “Hannibal is C3PO because he’s prissier, but R2D2 is scrappy and brave so the analogy is incomplete.”
But Star Wars analogies aside, Fuller said that “Hannibal has Bedelia and Will has Abigail in this episode. He has Chiyo (Tao Okamoto) in the third episode. We see Jack with Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino), we see Alana with the Vergers. Everybody has a new partner in the storytelling.”
7. Will and Hannibal will have a powerful reunion
Having those new dance partners also brings more to the table later on in the season when the core group gets back together, especially Will and Hannibal. Fuller said that “it freshened it up in a way, and then when we get to later in the season when Will and Hannibal do reunite it feels earned.” He described the reunion for the crowd saying that “they are sitting next to each other, and there’s two friends, and they’ve both gone through so much to that point in the season. It felt like it was right to keep them apart because that moment of return for them and their relationship was powerful.”
8. The Red Dragon Arc begins in Episode 8
“We start the Red Dragon arc in episode 8. Richard Armitage is so wonderful in the role. I knew he was going to be good but I had no idea how good he was going to be,” said Fuller. He described Red Dragon, aka Francis Dolarhyde, as “a man who’s clearly struggling with his sanity, and losing that battle, and trying to do the right thing and falling in love, and seeing humanity and light for the first time, and wondering if he’s on the right path or not. What we did with our version of it, we make him look as though he’s going insane. A lot of Episode 8 is non dialogue with Richard Armitage alone struggling with his insanity. You feel bad for this guy because he’s bonkers and there’s no saving him.”
What was really of interest to Fuller with this arc though was the love story between Dolarhyde and Rutina Wesley’s (True Blood) Reba McClane, a blind woman who takes an interest in Dolarhyde. “It’s one of the most romantic relationships I’ve read where you have this guy who is taking a blind woman to the zoo experiencing animals and he’s arranged for her to pet the tiger. The man who thought of that gesture is a horrible murderer of families. It goes back to Socrates saying good and terrible can exist in the same human being,” said Fuller.
9. Five Seasons would be ideal
Fuller explained that he “started with seven [seasons] and now I think five. Three and four collapsed into three because we couldn’t really sustain the Italian chapter for an entire season. So we condensed it into seven episodes so we weren’t going to be treading water and it clips along at a very nice pace. Then we have Red Dragon which was also going to be a full season but then I realized that previously they had done this in two hours and six should be enough for us to tell our story. According to Fuller, if they are lucky enough to get another season, that’s when we will see the show’s biggest departure. “It’s an even a bigger reinvention of the show than this season,” he said.
What have you thought about Hannibal so far this season? Are you excited to see the Red Dragon? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below.
Hannibal airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.