Season 3 has been an interesting ride. The first part of the season is really slow, but it picks up when Jack Crawford and Will Graham finally get into place for dealing with Hannibal. Before that it is pretty reflective and can really stretch, not in a bad way of course, as the writing and cinematography are still beautiful but the first part of the season doesn’t compare to the second part of the season which is hands down the best the show has ever been as “The Red Dragon” became adapted to television.
I’ll get into more detail further down but Bryan Fuller truly created a masterpiece that is at the very least on part with “The Silence of the Lambs” if not better. So without further ado, lets get into the review. The show was produced by Carol Dunn Trussell and Michael Wray.
There are two arcs this season. The first arc involves Will Graham, Jack Crawford and Alana Bloom trying to capture Hannibal Lecter while Dr. Chilton and Mason Verger seek revenge as Hannibal and Bedelia live as the Fells in Italy as Hannibal continues his hunt for victims and Bedelia feels trapped.
The second arc involves the rise of the Red Dragon and Will Graham being pulled back into the world he left behind. There is a time skip between Hannibal’s capture and the Red Dragon’s rise as Will and Jack hunt him as he works on his becoming and they turn once more to Hannibal for help.
The Pros: The Writing – The writing for Hannibal has always been amazing, in this season we get into what it means to be an observer or an active participant in evil (Hannibal’s killing of others when he is Dr. Fel) and later when Will is out trying to capture the Red Dragon and ends he is willing to go to in using others the way Jack Crawford does. The writing is truly amazing this story beyond this too as we see how the events of the past season have shaped Dr. Chilton, the Vergers, Alana Bloom, Jack Crawford, Will Graham, Bedelia and Hannibal…and the Red Dragon in the second part of the season.
The Cinematography – James Hawkinson and Karim Hussain do a wonderful job on the cinematography in this show. Hands down, this Hannibal has always been a beautiful show in how they film shots and these two have consistently kept that same quality through all 3 seasons and allowed us glimpse into our characters minds in how they shoot the shots and use the light and shadow to show us a story.
The Soundtrack – Brian Reitzell did a wonderful job this season on the soundtrack once again and is good at creating tension with his soundtrack. Like the rest of the series it is haunting.
In Will’s Mind – Season 2 ended with a lot of bloodshed and one of the people who died was Will’s adopted daughter Abigail Hobbs. When he first arrives in Italy she is the main person he is talking too. We also see in Will’s mind anytime we deal with the Red Dragon as the Red Dragon or Hannibal are presented as the Monsters they see themselves as, horns or wings and all and that is how Will’s ability to empathize is visually presented on screen as well as what he sees in his mind.
Catching Hannibal – This is a great arc when it finally happens. It starts with Bedelia showing herself around cameras so the FBI will know where her and Hannibal are and continues from there with Mason Verger buying out the Italian police force and Jack and Will hunting Hannibal down. Jack nearly beats Hannibal to death with Hannibal’s torture devices against him and later Hannibal catches them both and plans to cut open Will’s head to eat his brain before he is finally caught by Mason Verger and Alana, after Margot and Alana release him to rescue Will and later Jack and Will capture Hannibal when he turns himself in after Will rejects him.
Jack Crawford’s Revenge – Jack beats Hannibal nearly to death with Hannibal’s own torture devices…after he was nearly killed last season and tormented by Hannibal in Season 2 this is major justice.
In Hannibal’s Mind – In Hannibal’s mind he is always in control. When he is prison he sees himself as in a Cathedral, his home drinking wine or in a nice environment and even when the FBI threatens to take away his toilet and other things he still holds that delusion. It’s powerful and shows why he is always confidence. Hannibal has a powerful mind palace.
The Red Dragon Arc – The Red Dragon arc is amazing and the strongest part of this season. In this we see Will has adopted a family and is taking care of them and is stable until Jack pulls him back in to hunt for the “Tooth Fairy,” who has slaughtered families and replaced their eyes with glass. In this arc we get to know Francis Dolarhyde, a loner obsessed with Blake and becoming the Dragon in Blake’s painting. To this end he connects with Hannibal which the FBI exploits and leads to a final end game in which Will and Hannibal must together stop the Red Dragon who upset the FBI’s initial plans.
The Characters – The characters have always been solid in this show and their acting is solid as usual. I’m going to name some of the most memorable performances here as well as the characters who had the most concrete arcs.
Dr. Chilton – Chilton’s arc is a tragedy as we see his lies and explotation of others lead to the Red Dragon doing the same to him and him losing his tongue and skin in the process. In the end he is the one speaking truth to the darker sides of Alana, Hannibal, Will and Jack as he sees that he was a pawn all along and calls them on it. He also speaks truth to those who judge by appearances as he once did. Raul Esparaza has a masterful performance as this very flawed but compelling character who did not deserve what the Red Dragon did to him.
Alana Bloom – Alana Bloom moves on from her trauma and heals by hooking up with Margot Verger, together they kill Mason Verger getting him back for the sexual and physical abuse he gave Margot and later we see her escape from the country knowing Hannibal could be on the loose again as her and Margot leave with their child and the Verger fortune. She is a balanced character ans she helps real in Will’s tendencies to over empathize. Caroline Dharvernas is fantastic!
Bedelia Du Maurier – Gillian Anderson plays one of the most memorable characters of the series who is able to tell Hannibal “no,” and does so when he wants to escape with her as she knows she is nothing more than a future meal and plaything and takes control of her life. We also see her outsmart the FBI as she pretends to have been hypnotized by Hannibal to become Mrs. Fell.
Jack Crawford – This is one of the best roles that Laurence Fishburne has played and my respect for him as an actor grew so much after this season. He is the one who knows the price of his job. I’m glad he survived the series and he was good at showing us there aren’t good choices as we see that Will becomes much like him as he realizes the same thing. You have to use people to catch Monsters and you may become a Monster in the process but never as bad as the ones you hunt.
Hannibal Lecter – Hannibal’s arc is him finally connecting to another human being. He tries to kill Will once but after he saves Will and is rejected by him we see that he has come around. He wants to be with Will and it is the one human connection he values as we learn at the end he wanted to give Will the thrill of a good hunt and mortality. He most likely dies at the end with Will which is the only way they could go. Mads Mikkelson is of course amazing.
Francis Dolarhyde/The Red Dragon – Richard Armitage (Thorin from “The Hobbit” Trilogy) creates a memorable role as we see someone wrestling with the Dragon within and at the same time seeking to become more while dealing with his own insecurities. In the end he is able to fake his death to protect the woman he loves from him and to trick the FBI and in the end it takes both Will and Hannibal to take him down. In the end he does “become” the Red Dragon as we see his blood become wings and that his madness makes Will realize his own inner killer. So much better than the film “Red Dragon.”
Will Graham – Hugh Dancy owns this role and in this we see him heal from the trauma Hannibal gave him by killing his adopted daughter Abigail and mortally wounding him and later we even see him move on after Hannibal turns himself in. It is only when he is pulled back into the dark that he connects with Hannibal and realizes that in the process they are both too dangerous and are both Dragons, leading to him falling with Hannibal off the cliff, ending the series and their arcs.
All the Lonely People – Season 3 is about lonely people seeking connection. Alana, Bedilia, Will, Jack, Hannibal and the Red Dragon all seek out human connections to heal from their trauma and this leads to make stupid decision (Bedilia ending up with Hannibal) or smart decisions (Alana and Margot’s romance and love) or some that are inbetween (Will and Hannibal) as each of them grow as they seek to be understood and to understand another.
The Cons: Long Start – It takes a long time for the capture of Hannibal to really pick up. It was never bad persay but compared to the rest of the show it is and I understand why a lot of people stopped watching around this point because of how long it was taking to get to the action and relationship between Will, Jack and Hannibal.
This was an amazing season that showed just how great television could become. Every character changed, and even the minor characters like the Vergers or Reba, Rinaldo or others were compelling in the minor roles they had…they just weren’t as memorable as those I have listed under characters. At the core all our loners are seeking the connection to others and it is when they finally do so that they stop being monsters. For a moment there at the end, Hannibal was a human being as he faced off against the Red Dragon with Will Graham, and in those moments there was human connection and love…everything Hannibal had lost as a child. In this way the ending was perfect and doesn’t need anymore to it. The Red Dragon is defeated and Will and Hannibal meet there end, though they are no longer alone and ruled by the trauma from their past.
Final Score: 9.7 / 10. Nearly a perfect season.