TV Review: Hannibal - Season 3

From the mastermind behind popular television series like Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls, the psychedelic crime-thriller Hannibal has not only put Bryan Fuller's name back on the map, but also has successfully made him one of television's most sacred gods. A king to us fans of the brilliant show, which details the early rise of Dr. Hannibal Lecter as both a psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, Fuller has undoubtedly brought to screen one of the most beautiful, artful, and delicious shows to primetime TV this century. Now, as the praised show of murderers and tantalizing suspense ends its run on television after three amazing seasons, here are some of my thoughts on just how memorable this show (especially this season) has been.

(Warning: May contain spoilers from the show. Read on with caution!)

Following two fantastic seasons of grisly murders, implied cannibalism, and sexual innuendos, all leading up to one Season 2 finale that successfully ripped our hearts out and left them in the rain, NBC's Hannibal returned this summer with a clean slate. Finding our central cannibal, Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), in Florence, Italy, alongside his fearful but compliant psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), the season begins just as the books portray, with the doctor on the loose and the Italian air fresh with the scent of murder. Dwelling among the high class of curators and librarians in Florence, educating himself on even more great literature and art -- as well as the fine tastes of his colleagues -- Dr. Lecter lives an elegant life away from his dark past. But, as we all know, the past never stays buried forever.

Hot on his trail, following a swift recovery from his last encounter with the doctor, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) soon dives deeper into his former psychiatrist's dark past, digging up not only knowledge of the cannibal's childhood, but also crossing paths with the mysterious Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto). With a burning desire to catch the elusive killer, Graham hatches a plot that will ultimately lead to more danger and death than he ever imagined, all to one conflicted end. Following a long game of cat-and-mouse across Italy, the doctor eventually allows himself to be caught, with the sole purpose of being as close to Will as he can. However, even with Lecter behind a glass wall and Will beginning a new life outside of the psychotic, madness cannot escape the duo and their acquaintances, as a new beast rises to bring the season to a bloody-good close.

As saddened and surprised as I was to hear that this brilliant piece of television was to be cancelled after its third season, I no doubt pushed on and enjoyed this season as best I could. And in that harmless enjoyment, what I discovered was one of the best seasons of primetime TV I had seen in a while. A long-time fan of the show, as well as its fantastic mythology that paved the way towards the show's ultimate creation back in 2013, I held absolutely no doubt that this season would be just as exciting and memorable as the past two. Evoking a fresh smell and taste right off the bat, diving into the elaborate streets of Italy to follow our leading cannibal, this season of Hannibal was everything I could've asked it to be. Beginning as a game of cat-and-mouse between not only Hannibal and Will, but also among the other characters of the show, the show played a clean hand for the first part of the season. Once we hit the half-way point, when a new threat rose and the tables were turned, that was when the wild card was truly thrown into the mix. And even if the show may have dragged on a bit, exploring some unneeded character arcs too extensively and others not extensive enough, once that wild card is thrown in, the show evolved into something of a higher power, something that shocked you until the end.

One of the many great things about this show would have to be its brilliant cast of characters. Diving into the past three seasons of the show, I could have easily started with the fantastic cinematography or the dynamic storylines, but I could go further without first mentioning the show's quite unique cast. A cast that has easily become one of my favorites on television, led by two captivating men and surrounded by numerous other memorable faces, the cast of Hannibal is truly what makes the show what it is. To start off, we have the leading men, Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, two fantastic actors who have ceaselessly become their characters throughout these three seasons. Dancy, who plays the conflicted and mentally-unstable FBI profiler Will Graham, dives into his character unlike anyone I've ever seen. An actor I was initially unfamiliar with before the show began, I now know that Mr. Dancy is easily one of the best actors in television right now. A man who has been corrupted by murder and mentality since his first day on the job, Dancy brings his A-game once more as Will Graham this season, as he delves into the darker reaches of both the mind of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and of the season's newest psychopath. Playing a perfectly deranged victim of mental tragedy, false incrimination, and misleading therapy, Dancy once more helps evolve his character to a new level of brilliance.

Speaking of the brilliant, as well as the deranged, we also have Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. The central character of the show, you could say there was plenty of pressure for Mikkelsen to perform just as well as ex-Hannibal actor Anthony Hopkins, who embodied the vibrant personality of the character in 1991's The Silence of the Lambs. And so it happened, Mikkelsen soon delivered an equally, if not better, performance than Hopkins, embodying the character in a whole new light that we had never seen before. As we've seen in the past two seasons, just as we've seen from Hugh Dancy, Mads has without a doubt become his character, slipping out methodical lines and psychological metaphors around every corner. Doing just the same this season, the first half of the season focusing mainly on Lecter's adventures in Italy, following his mass assault on Will Graham and the FBI in the Season 2 finale, Mikkelsen delivers a superb performance once more. Ultimately evolving the relationship between his cannibal character and Dancy's psychologically-broken Will, Mikkelsen (especially nearing the end of this season) has successful transformed into Hopkins' Lecter. Finally being captured by the second half, with Will Graham antagonizing the cannibal while also facing a new threat, Mikkelsen's Lecter becomes the conniving and devilish monster we all know, while also continuing his deadly game with Will.

Other highlights of the cast would have to be the return of the rat-faced Mason Verger (this time played by newcomer Joe Anderson), the short-lived Italian detective Rinaldo Pazzi, and the unforgettable final act of Francis Dolarhyde. Beginning with Mason Verger, the villainous sociopath from Season 2 returns with a new face and fresh persona of crude and rude that successful heightened his performance from last season. After the character was replaced by Joe Anderson, following a brilliantly surprising first act by actor Michael Pitt, my thoughts on where the deranged monster of a man would go next were more or less up in the air. But after seeing a definitive Mason Verger this season in Anderson's, one that ultimately paralleled the film's version of the character, I wasn't disappointed at all by the newcomer's take on him. If possible, I would have wished to see Verger live on till the end, but all swine must meet their maker.

Along with the short-lived yet genuinely memorable performance from Fortunato Cerlino's ill-fated Italian detective Rinaldo Pazzi, who entered the show with a force and left it with a snap, one of the most memorable new characters by far this season had to be Mr. Francis Dolarhyde. Played by the spooky yet seducing Richard Armitage, Dolarhyde started out as a mysterious and odd nobody, but eventually evolved into something unique and defining to end the season. Mentally unstable and conflicted by his lust and hatred for the coveted painting "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun", Dolarhyde becomes one of the show's most interesting characters -- outside the two leading men -- as the second half of the season focuses mostly on his boiling torment. A favorite of the novels, the character's grotesque actions and psychotic devotion made him a great role for Mr. Armitage to take on. Mostly unknown outside of his role in the Hobbit films, Armitage did not disappoint as he translated to the small screen with ease and horrific beauty. Ultimately playing a major role in the season's finale, provoking a bloody battle between him, Dr. Lecter, and Will Graham, Dolarhyde's evolution from tormented soul to blinded beast fueled the show towards another amazing conclusion.

While there may have been other highlights in the cast, such as two great character developments for the calculated Alana Bloom and the clumsy and corrupt Frederick Chilton, I would say that the new cast members -- as well as the two leading men -- were definitely the most memorable of this season. Aside from the characters, another always-memorable aspect of the show would have to be its visual presence. And by that I mean literally every thing this show puts on-screen. From the eye-popping landscapes and set designs to the frequent scenes of psychedelic chaos and mental breakdown (all of which hold some symbolic meaning or another), this show has by far the most impressive array of visual imagery on television now. With the past two seasons introducing both the disturbing and the shocking through its excellent visuals, showing us a dark world where the scariest of monsters hide under the masks of the most normal people, this season was no exception as it explored themes of inner chaos and wicked retribution through fantastic cinematography. Two of the most memorable highlights as far as visual effects and camerawork go would have to be the great shots of Florence, Italy at the beginning of the season, as well as the final scene of the season finale. Both dynamically beautiful and profoundly horrifying, everything from the architecture of the dark city to the choreography of that final battle was just breath-taking. That's definitely one thing I will miss from this show if it doesn't return, its brilliant visual stimuli that is so very difficult to not watch over and over again.      

While I could go on and on and on about this show's brilliant array of talent and greatness, I will leave you with a final sentiment. All in all, this show has been one of the best rides I've ever taken with a show before, transporting me into a world I knew and did not know at the same time, delivering surprised around every turn. While, I admit, this season may have felt rushed and somewhat incomplete to some, the show as a whole was something not to be forgotten by anyone. If you've been here since that first scene where we met the fragile Will Graham, or even before that when we read about a cannibal in a glass box before the show even began, you have made this show was it was always meant to be: A memory palace in which all fans can escape when the world gets messy. Yes, that may sound sappy, but I'm writing this because this could possibly be the last time I write anything about Hannibal Lecter or this fantastic show ever again. So, if you're still here, I raise my glass to the fans, as you guys are the ones that made this show so unforgettable. So always remember, whenever feasible, to eat the rude.

Just going off this season, I gave this season an 8.5 out of 10 for its excellent storytelling, from the horrors on the streets of Italy to the depths of the Red Dragon, its fantastic visual effects and cinematography, and its always-stellar cast of characters. This season may have not been completely up-to-par with the previous two, but I definitely think it was a worthy closer for the show...And I use the word "closer" softly. In the end, there was no doubt this season would be any less exciting or visually satisfying as the past seasons, as the people behind this show are experts in their craft and never fail to please their audience.

So what were your thoughts on the third season of NBC's Hannibal? I'm so very happy that I finally got this review out there, now I'd love to hear your feedback and opinions. Head on down to the comment section below, and tell me your favorite moments or characters from this season, or the whole show even. 

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