Hugh Dancy (King Arthur)
Mads Mikkelsen (Clash of The Titans)
Caroline Dhavernas (Wonderfalls)
Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix)
Hettienne Park (Puppy Love)
Gillian Anderson (The X-Files)
Scott Thompson (The Simpsons)
Aaron Abrams (Take The Waltz)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Raúl Esparza (Pushing Daisies)
Kacey Rohl (Caprica)
Lara Jean Chorostecki (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire)
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Eddie Izzard (Powers)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Cynthia Nixon (Igby Goes Down)
Fortunato Cerlino (Gomorrah)
Tao Okamoto (Batman V Superman)
Glenn Fleshler (All Good Things)
Nina Arianda (Tower Heist)
Rutina Wesley (True Blood)
Vladimir Jon Cubrt (Hollywoodland)
Richard Chevolleau (Earth: Final Conflict)
Chelan Simmons (Wonderfalls)
Cynthia Preston (Carrie 2013)
Molly Shannon (Scary Movie 4)
Ellen Greene (Heroes)
Dan Fogler (Fanboys)
Lance Henriksen (Aliens)
Ellen Muth (Dead Like Me)
Martin Donovan (Ant-Man)
Shawn Doyle (Big Love)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction)
Jeremy Davies (Constantine)
Daniel Kash (Bitten)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)
Julian Richings (Cube)
Joe Anderson (The Crazies)
Mia Maestro (Alias)
There was a lot of wariness of Hannibal initially. While the original source material were Thomas Harris’ books, the movies loomed so huge in the public’s mind. And going the prequel route? Not only has that not turned out so well in Hollywood in general, it’s already given us a disappointing prequel in this very franchise with Hannibal Rising.
But lo and behold, not only was Hannibal good, it was great. There was always a major reason for optimism, amongst all the naysayers, and that was Bryan Fuller. An amazingly imaginative and distinct voice in TV, Fuller’s previous shows like Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies had proven he was someone whose work was always worth a look. And it became clear that he had a true passion for the story he was telling with Hannibal.
It’s now a very daunting task for any actor to play Hannibal Lecter, thanks to how beloved and memorable Anthony Hopkins was in the role. But Mads Mikkelsen proved to be an excellent Lecter, giving the character an ever-cool, ever observational demeanor that conveyed both his intelligence and his danger while not behaving in such an arch manner that he would come off as too obvious a villain to those he interacted with.
As the true protagonist of the series, Hugh Dancy is also perfect as Will Graham, who goes far beyond the usual “eccentric but skilled” archetype of crime series heroes to portray someone with some genuinely traumatic issues – which only escalated through the season. Dancy managed the difficult task of portraying Will’s amazing skill set and his innate “goodness” while also showing that this guy has severe problems that would make him genuinely seem like he could be someone to keep an eye out for. If Hannibal was going to convince the world at large and possibly even Will himself that he was a killer, we had to see how that could sell, and Dancy’s performance did that perfectly.
When Hannibal was first announced, it sounded like the show would be about Hannibal and Will consulting together on killer-of-the-week cases, with Hannibal managing to keep the truth about who he was from Will for several seasons. All of which is to say, it sounded like it could be tedious. But Fuller quickly proved he wasn’t playing into our assumptions at all. Yes, Will’s job had him working several different cases this season, but it was hardly a bunch of one-off, unimportant stories. In fact, several of these cases would have repercussions in later episodes, or even the killers themselves (such as Gideon and Georgia) returning. The events in Hannibal were never self-contained. Will killing Hobbs in the premiere was a huge event that would haunt and shape Will through the entire season. The totem pole on the beach may have had no connection to the main story, but it would continue to resonate with Will as he began to hallucinate. The entire season felt like a well-constructed story where the majority of the cases Will worked contributed to the tapestry being completed.
While Will and Hannibal’s relationship is the one at the core of this series, Jack Crawford – an integral character in Harris’ books – was hardly shortchanged. Laurence Fishburne, looking far more engaged than during his short time on CSI, was great as Crawford who had his own interplay with Hannibal occurring all season, while dealing with some huge issues at home. The story of Jack’s ill-fated attempt to use FBI trainee Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) to help find the Chesapeake Ripper also was used to truly shape who Jack was and what was motivating him, rather than a bit of backstory thrown in and then barely touched upon.
Overall though, the supporting characters were strong. Caroline Dhavernas had a tricky role she pulled off well as a protégé to Hannibal and a colleague of Will’s whose close ties to both men made it all the more difficult to suspect either was up to no good. Tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) was equal parts vexing and amusing as she weaved in and out of the story – eventually seeing some truly depraved events occur while in the company of Dr. Gideon (Eddie Izzard). Despite only appearing a couple of times, Gina Torres brought a lot of power to Bella Crawford’s plight and rift with her husband. And it was a delight to see Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s own psychiatrist, as we tried to figure out exactly what she and Hannibal knew about one another.
Best of all was Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), the daughter of serial killer Garett Jacob Hobbs. On a lesser procedural crime series Abigail would have been a one and done character; the damsel in distress Will saved. But here, the psychological damage her father had put her through long before his death, not to mention the horrific day he died (and killed her mother) cast a big shadow on the entire season. Abigail’s own secrets and her growing bond with both Hannibal and Will made for a compelling through line, as so many possibilities lay before her with two surrogate fathers who could help shape her into someone who stops murders or causes them.
Regardless though, Hannibal has plenty to fuel its stories going forward. As I noted above, Fuller didn’t play into audience expectations at all – who would have guessed that Will would have figured out the truth about Hannibal by the end of the first season? But by having it occur in the manner it did, with Will disgraced, imprisoned and looking guilty of multiple murders, while Hannibal walks free, the entire dynamic has been upended in a very exciting way.
We went into this year with a huge change-up, as Will Graham was locked up, accused of the crimes he now realized Hannibal Lecter had committed. Bryan Fuller took this subversion of the usual Thomas Harris dynamic and used it to its fullest extent, as the early episodes involved Will as the genius, (perceived) killer who was still a valuable resource to the FBI.
At the same time, Fuller realized this was a storyline that shouldn’t go too far, and wisely constructed Season 2 in two distinct segments, wrapping up the “Will as prisoner” section in the first six episodes. These episodes found Will at odds with Jack and Alana while forging a closer, ill-fated bond with Beverly. There was also some excellent material for Dr. Chilton, whose own narcissism and instinct for self-preservation mixed with his intelligence and growing awareness of just what a threat Hannibal was.
It all culminated in the absolutely fantastic “Yakimono”, which was basically the first of two amazing finales Hannibal would deliver within one season. The excitement of Miriam (Anna Chlumsky) turning up alive turned out to simply be the next step in Hannibal’s twisted traps, as Miriam was a ticking time bomb of sorts – set to go off at just the right time, aimed at a perfectly-placed target in Chilton.
Yes, Hannibal’s rise to supervillain status was cemented in Season 2, and it was glorious and terrifying to behold. Hannibal had always operated on a level that was a bit bigger than life and that got pushed even further this year, as we learned just how intricate, complex and masterful Lecter’s plans were and saw how amazing his abilities were, as he manipulated people in ways both subtle and extreme. In the wrong hands, it could have all fallen apart, but the wonderful writing and directing, combined with Mads Mikkelsen’s confidant performance – always exuding intelligence – made it work.
Meanwhile, we got to see Will Graham in a much better place, at least as far as his own comprehension of what was occurring and willingness to make huge moves of his own. After seeing Will mentally spiraling throughout Season 1, it was very gratifying to see him now so much more in control and, even as Will was put through one terrible situation after another. Hugh Dancy again brought the right mixture of vulnerability and inner strength to Will, and he and Mikkelsen played beautifully off one another.
Opening the season with the flash forward to Jack and Hannibal’s brutal, nasty fight, with a potentially fatal turn of events for Jack, was an audacious and spectacular move. It put a ticking time clock on the entire season and let us knows, even in the quietest moments, that something very bad was going to occur soon.In the meantime, we met siblings Margot and Mason Verger, who had their own mini-arc over several episodes. At first, I wasn’t sure if Michael Pitt’s rather big, mannered performance fit in on a show that mixes grisly and shocking imagery with quiet, subtle acting. But I was soon won over, as we got to know Mason more and saw just what a monster he was – and how his “Look at me!”, repellant behavior purposely stood in contrast to Hannibal’s mask of kindness and gentleness towards those around him. Hannibal’s instant dislike of Mason was one of several times Fuller was able to inject humor into the macabre situations this season.
One of the only problematic aspects of the season as it progressed was Alana and her seemingly unwavering belief in Hannibal’s innocence and Will’s guilt. In the early episodes, it was actually very interesting to see her sympathetic portrayal as someone who was horrified to think her friend was a killer, but wanted to help him, sure he’d been pushed into his actions by Jack not heeding the consequences in Season 1. But the more the likes of Beverly and Jack began to believe Will and start suspecting Hannibal, the more frustrating it became that Alana just didn’t see it. Thankfully, Alana began to come around on her own, not due to a shocking moment in the season finale, and was firmly on Will’s side again by the time all hell broke loose at Casa Lecter in the finale…
…And what a finale it was. As exciting as the Jack/Hannibal flash-forward was, there was some concern that it might deflate the actual finale a bit. After all, we’d clearly seen the biggest thing that would happen in the final moments of the season, right? What else could be bigger than that? The answer was dark as hell but also incredibly exciting, as it turned out Jack would only be the first character to have a possibly fatal encounter with Hannibal inside his home. Within just a few minutes, Jack, Alana and Will all lay bleeding and dying, while Hannibal Lecter walked free. Oh, and Abigail was revealed to be alive… and then had her throat sliced by Hannibal! And Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) was revealed as being Hannibal’s companion (and accomplice) at the very end!
Season 3 of Hannibal began on the heels of an incredibly audacious, jaw-dropping Season 2 finale, that left nearly every major character except Hannibal himself possibly dead, as the bad doctor fled the country accompanied by Bedelia. You couldn’t have a bigger “What’s going to happen next?!” scenario, which no doubt led to frustrations when the season began and answers were not exactly being quickly delivered. More so, while Hannibal has always been an unusual, often esoteric, dream-like series, all of those aspects were dialed up to the Nth degree in the first three episodes of the season.
It was still highly evocative, compelling stuff, delving into the frame of mind of characters like Hannibal, Bedelia and Will Graham and their new lives in Italy, more order includes – while slowly revealing who’d survived that night in the house. I have to say, the answer to that question being “Everyone except Abigail” did diminish what had happened to a certain extent, but still, these episodes were showing there was plenty of consequence and fallout from that oh-so bloody night in Hannibal’s house, beyond the injuries sustained.
The pace picked up considerably around episode four and then went into overdrive, as Jack had an amazing rematch with Hannibal and Mason Verger’s plan to get revenge kicked into gear. A high bar was set by Michael Pitt as Mason in Season 2, but Joe Anderson adeptly stepped into his shoes (and mutilated face) in Season 3, bringing his own take on Mason’s witty, macabre insanity.The standout “Digestivo”, which wrapped up the Mason Verger story once and for all in a thrilling, intense hour of television. A lot happened here, to the point that this felt like a season finale – which was not coincidental, given the show was about to leap ahead three years and into an entirely different story.
Given this ended up being the final season of Hannibal I am incredibly grateful Bryan Fuller decided to move up his plan to make Red Dragon the Season 4 storyline and put it into the second half of Season 3 instead. Not only did it mean we did get the show’s version of the original Hannibal novel depicted, but it also essentially meant we got two seasons in one this year. And wow, was this version of Red Dragon awesome. Yes, it streamlined some aspects – we didn’t get any of the Dolarhyde flashbacks (one tiny glimpse aside) and Will’s role was altered, to some extent. But this was creepy, intense storytelling through and through, with Richard Armitage bringing just the right mix of scary and semi-sympathetic as Francis Dolarhyde, a murderous, delusional monster who was at war with the potentially loving man somewhere deep inside him – a war amplified as Dolarhyde fell for the blind Reba (a strong Rutina Wesley), even as “the Dragon” was coming to life within him, compelling him to kill.
This storyline also allowed Fuller to bring characters like Jimmy, Brian, Freddie and Chilton back into the story, all of whom got nice moments – well “nice” may not be the right word for Chilton, but he sure got some riveting moments, as he came face to face (and mouth to mouth) with the Dragon in a horrific manner.
Of course, the center of this show has always truly been the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham and has given them a far more intricate, layered and complicated dynamic than they typically had in the Red Dragon novel (or other films), where Will met Hannibal a couple times, figured out he was the killer and was nearly killed while catching him. That meant this version of Red Dragon couldn’t help but feel different than others – even early on, when the story beats were pretty much sticking to the source material, what was driving Will forward felt notably altered thanks to all he’d gone through in this series beforehand. So yes, Will’s actual deductive skills are not used as much here as in the novel when it comes to tracking down Dolarhyde, and his relationship with Molly is essentially a hollow one he can’t really go back to – not because of anything wrong with her, but because of what he’s gone through. Yet the story still resonated so much because we were seeing how Will was affected by once more interacting with Hannibal and the simultaneous urge to join forces with him and determination to put an end to Lecter, once and for all.
In the midst of this, the rather obvious fact that Hannibal’s obsession with Will was a form of falling in love with Will was finally articulated – as was the idea that a part of Will returned those feelings, even while he knew Hannibal was a monster himself. This back and forth had long been fascinating and it felt appropriate to finally be upfront about it here. What was also great was that this Hannibal was a fully dimensionalized, multi-faceted character in a way no other version had been before – we saw so many sides of him, including the caring side that manifested with Will or even Abigail… even as he murdered Abigail and tried to kill Will!
We understood Hannibal better than ever, yet Fuller commendably never tried to redeem him. He was never going to change who he was. And that’s a big reason the ending was so satisfying, as Will pulled them off that cliff together. It was, on one hand, a culmination of the strange love story between the two – as the “murder husbands” were united, having killed Dolarhyde together. But Will also knew this was it. If he let Hannibal go, or live at all, he would kill again – he’d promised as much while threatening Alana. And Will might eventually cross even more lines in terms of the crimes he was willing to commit himself. So it had to end… which it did, in an emotionally stirring, “yes, this feels exactly right” manner that was, as always, perfectly played by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen.