Even though NBC has already elected not to renew Hannibal for a fourth season, the third season of the serial killer drama is still airing in the dreaded timeslot of Saturdays at 10pm. It’s still unclear whether the show will find a new home elsewhere for a fourth season, but creator Bryan Fuller has said Netflix and Amazon have both passed on the show. A feature film continuation of the series seems more likely at this point, according to Fuller.
But those are issues for the future. The first arc of the third season wrapped up last Saturday night, with the conclusion of Hannibal’s sojourn to Florence and the departure of Mason Verger and his band of pigs. Fuller has been teasing a three-year time jump between this season’s seventh and eighth episode, and that time jump arrives tonight, marking the beginning of the Red Dragon arc. This story features the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, nicknamed The Tooth Fairy (or The Great Red Dragon), who becomes the target of a new Will Graham investigation after murdering several entire families. He’s previously been portrayed onscreen by Tom Noonan in 1986’s Manhunter and Ralph Fiennes in 2002’s Red Dragon. Now Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit movies) is stepping into the role.
A new trailer from NBC (via TheWrap) offers an extended glimpse at Fuller’s treatment of the classic serial killer villain. In the clip, Francis Dolarhyde looks at a Time magazine cover with an image of William Blake’s Great Red Dragon paintings, and proceeds to mold himself into an approximation of that image with intense workouts and painful branding. The clip is likely the first four minutes of tonight’s episode, which is fittingly titled “The Great Red Dragon.”
The first half of this third season has been trippy, abstract and convoluted. The sequence of events has been scrambled across the seven episodes, new characters have been introduced with scant backstory, and the central characters’ motivations became clear only at the end of the arc, if at all. Fans have been divided on Fuller’s choices this season, with some praising the foray into even more hallucinatory imagery than before, and others lamenting the loss of the show’s thematic coherence.
Regardless of where you fall in that debate, it’s undeniable that Fuller and company are taking orders from no one as they unravel what might be their last piece of work in the Hannibal universe. The Red Dragon arc offers them another opportunity to immerse themselves in a classic story and then put their own spin on it, and it will give viewers an opportunity to see a different side of Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter than they’ve seen before.
If the second half of the season is even more confusing and disjointed than the first, some fans of the show might be thankful that the show might not live to see a season four. But for people who admire the show’s unique visual style and ambitious approach to dark and disturbing material, the Red Dragon arc should satisfy.
Hannibal continues tonight with ‘The Great Red Dragon’ @10pm on NBC.