For three seasons, Hannibal has offered up spectacular weekly helpings of psychologically disturbing violence, sumptuous meals prepared from human remains, and unique performances of familiar characters like Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). At the center of this abstract, often narratively muddled show is Bryan Fuller, a veteran showrunner who also worked on quickly canceled series like Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls.
Fuller and his team got a blow this week when NBC announced that it will not be airing Hannibal past its current season. But this isn’t the end of the road for one of TV’s most disturbing shows ever. Unlike most network shows, Hannibal is co-financed by an international production company that handle the production and business side of the show, while NBC primarily handles distribution. In other words, as with many recently canceled shows like The Mindy Project and Community, Hannibal is not canceled so much as homeless until further notice.
In an apparent attempt to drum up support and interest in Hannibal season four, Fuller has been making the rounds offering his thoughts on the possibility of renewal and his plans for future seasons. He offered Vulture more insight on that matter, claiming that season four would be a departure from what fans are used to on the series (which is constantly evolving anyway):
Season four would be a reexamination and reinterpretation of the Will Graham–Hannibal Lecter relationship in a fashion that is unlike anything else we’ve done in the show. So it is, in many ways, a whole reinvention of the show, in an exciting way. And if it weren’t for the appeal of that, I would be very fine with saying, “Season three, really strange season, something to be very proud of,” and just letting it go at that.
But that the idea that I have for season four is so terrifying creatively, and also inspiring, that I feel like, “Well, let’s explore the possibility of an off-NBC season four,” because I would get a chance to work with Hugh and Mads again, and all these other great actors in these roles, and also challenge myself and the writers to do something that is once again completely different from what we’ve done in the previous three seasons.
Fuller also said his role as co-showrunner on Starz' upcoming Neil Gaiman series adaptation American Gods does not preclude him from returning to Hannibal. It might, however, mean that a fourth season of Hannibal will be delayed by a few months (so that Fuller’s American Gods responsibilities don’t distract him from his Hannibal duties).
One place that Hannibal won’t end up, though, is Netflix. Amazon currently owns exclusive streaming rights to the first two seasons, which would put Netflix in a difficult position if it made a play for a new season of the show. Fuller has informed HitFix that he thinks there's a 50 percent chance Hannibal will find a new home for season four, citing Amazon as an obvious possibility. He also clarified that rights issues surrounding the Clarice Starling character - who Fuller wants to incorporate into his adaptation of Thomas Harris’ universe - played no role in NBC’s decision to drop Hannibal.
Hannibal is one of the best and most unusual shows on television. It would be a shame to lose it, and it would be nice from a fan and viewer perspective if the show returns in a new home. On the other hand, the show has already skirted every possible boundary of content restriction (and gotten away with things that other network shows never have). It’s already a minor miracle that the series has lasted this long. As long as Hannibal continues on its outre paths, Fuller will have much to be proud of (regardless of a renewal or lack thereof).
Hannibal season three airs Thursdays at 10pm on NBC.