[SPOILERS AHEAD for Hannibal Season 3]
After two seasons of expansion and remarkable invention, NBC's Hannibal finally adapted the events of Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon in its own way, with creator Bryan Fuller's unique take on the Hannibal Lecter mythos having ended with a literal plunge into the unknown for both Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen).
The fate of these main characters reflects that of the show itself, which earned praise from critics and a devoted - if small - fanbase, but was never able to draw the kind of broad ratings NBC needed to see to justify the show's expense. Hopes that a streaming outlet like Netflix or Amazon could take up the show for a fourth season were effectively dashed, while the possibility of a feature film continuation remains alive.
Now that the show's run on NBC has come to an end, Fuller spoke at length with THR about what he intended with Season 3 and where he hopes to take the story next. Despite his desire to keep the Hannibal universe alive in some form, Fuller ended Season 3 on a much more definitive note than the cliffhanger finales of Seasons 1 and 2. When asked why he ended it this way, Fuller responded:
"The story we were telling with Will in this season was one where a fated conclusion was inevitable. Early on in the Italian chapter, Will Graham essentially said, 'I have to kill Hannibal Lecter or I’m going to become Hannibal Lecter.' He later finds deviation from that course with a family unit that gives him a grounding that he never had before. When he is pulled back into the FBI and Hannibal Lecter’s orbit, it’s essentially a drug addict returning to the needle and not being strong enough to beat it the second time. He realizes his original intention in the Italian arc is still valid and has to be respected. We knew at the end of this season it was going to be some sort of Sherlock and Moriarty off the Reichenbach falls."
Fuller stated that "I don’t think you can assume anything" regarding the question of whether or not viewers should consider Will and/or Hannibal are dead at this point, leaving the potential for their return ever vague.
Season 3 of Hannibal featured the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), and the story of Will and Hannibal working together to hunt him down as he transforms himself into the fearsome Red Dragon. This is the main plot of Thomas Harris' novel, and great chunks of Season 3 appeared to be lifted directly from the book. When asked about this, Fuller explained:
"There were a lot of things from the book that were prose, really, and not meant to be dialogue. We put it in actors’ mouths because it was so beautifully written and we wanted the DNA of Thomas Harris to be present in all of the episodes. There’s an interesting sequence in the last two where Jack Crawford and Hannibal Lecter say to Will the same line about playing games the darker the moon. It’s a reflection of their being both the devil and the angel on Will Graham’s shoulders and the fluidity of those roles. The text and the fetishization of the text was really all about the want to honor Thomas Harris in this adaptation."
As for Fuller's hopes for a movie continuation, he offered the following update - our most concrete on the subject in months:
"[Executive producer] Martha De Laurentiis is looking into financing for a film. I’m still hoping that we get to tell that story in some way. There is something in the novel Hannibal that has not been done in any of the adaptations and I would love to explore that with Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. I’m hoping that someday, whether it’s a year from now … two years from now … that we will continue to get to tell that story. I feel like if Will Graham did survive that plunge, his most interesting chapter is yet to be told."
Fuller was also asked about the intriguing notion of including the character Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs and by Julianne Moore in the big-screen Lambs sequel Hannibal. Fuller had this to say:
"There’s two ways. If you were to go that traditional route, Ellen Page would knock it out of the park. She’s a brilliant actress and has a lot of the qualities that we remember about Jodie Foster’s performance but yet unique in her skill set as an actress. That would be one way to go. But I do think it would be interesting to cast someone who is not white in that role and use race experientially as a defining attribute of the character."
Fuller also hinted that a movie wouldn't be the only way for Hannibal to live on, saying:
"There’s a few ways to go. The movie route is very appealing because we have movie actors. It would be great to see them on the big screen and we’ve always shot the show as though it were an independent movie with an independent film esthetic. Coming full circle in return to the big screen is very promising. But it would be interesting to discuss a miniseries or some sort of continuation of the story with another network once all the hubbub of this series has gone fallow. Who knows? Maybe there is an opportunity for us to address things with MGM and Clarice Starling now that the show has completed its run on NBC and there is an opportunity for a rebirth of sorts."
As far as a movie continuation goes, we've already had one acknowledged classic film version with Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs. The Ridley Scott-directed follow-up was less well-received, with its tonal deviation from the previous film and key differences from Harris' Hannibal novel upsetting some fans. Will Graham is a mess by the end of the Red Dragon novel, and is mentioned briefly in The Silence of the Lambs but having Hugh Dancy's Will share the same screen as a completely new version of Clarice Starling in a film or (perhaps more fitting) a mini-series could be fascinating.
Stay tuned for updates on Hannibal as they become available.