The third, and potentially final, season of NBC’s Hannibal came to an end this past Saturday. Despite critical praise and a devoted fanbase, the ratings were never stellar and NBC announced that the third season would be its last. Though there has been talk of reviving the show on a streaming platform or possibly making a movie in the future, at the present moment, Saturday’s season finale was the last we’ll see of Bryan Fuller’s vision of Hannibal Lecter, Will Graham, and all the other characters who have become beloved to “Fannibals” over the past three seasons. In its own way, the finale was both satisfying and disappointing, and proved that Hannibal was one of the best shows on TV that no one was watching.
Hannibal’s finale was particularly strong because it gave a sense of an ending for each character, but also left their ultimate fates somewhat open ended. We saw Alana Bloom and her wife, Margot Verger, and their son fly off to parts unknown as Hannibal Lecter had vowed revenge upon her if he escaped. Jack Crawford was left once again to try and clean up the mess that Hannibal and Will Graham had created, and was probably left wondering, as he had before, if he was to blame for what happened to Will. The always resilient Frederick Chilton vowed revenge against Hannibal Lecter in his last appearance, while also calling out Alana and Will for their involvement in what led to him being burned alive. The Great Red Dragon, Francis Dolarhyde, was lured and killed by Hannibal and Will, after which Will Graham seemingly threw himself and Hannibal over a bluff to their deaths. And poor Bedelia Du Maurier was left waiting for Hannibal and Will to come finish her off. Every main character who was still alive in the third season had a moment to shine, which is all anyone can really ask for in a good series finale.
The Hannibal finale also did a nice job wrapping up the Red Dragon arc of the show. Richard Armitage absolutely stole the show with his intense portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde. He was terrifying and mesmerizing as the serial killer known as both the Tooth Fairy and the Red Dragon, and his mannerisms and voice were absolutely perfect for the role. Though others have portrayed Dolarhyde in movies and other media, Armitage’s performance was so wonderful and unsettling that it should go down as one of the definitive portrayals. Of course Dolarhyde was killed in the end, but the way he went out was so fitting for his character and perfectly orchestrated against the haunting background of Siouxsie Sioux’s original composition “Love Crime”, which she wrote specifically for the finale.
Though the finale had plenty of high notes, for those who weren’t exactly keen on Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham riding off into the sunset together, it was a bit of a letdown. The meaning of the last few scenes has been debated all over the Internet since the finale aired, but what seems fairly clear is that, regardless of whether Hannibal and Will survived their fall or not, they were destined to be together. While Hannibal Lecter had always felt a strong connection to Will Graham, it’s hard to see how the Will from season one would have not only followed Hannibal to his house to lure Francis Dolarhyde, but also throw himself over the bluff along with Hannibal in the end. Over three seasons, Will has albeit gone through a lot of changes, but it didn’t necessarily sit right that he would potentially give up everything in his life for Hannibal. Now it’s always possible Will thought he couldn’t come back from everything that had happened to him and have any sort of normal life so he decided to kill himself and the man he felt was responsible for it, but it would have felt more satisfying if he was able to let Hannibal go without sacrificing himself. The post-credits scene with Bedelia is also up for debate as to whether she cut off her own leg and cooked it in anticipation of the possibility that Hannibal and Will might come for her, or if they indeed survived and had taken her prisoner and had done it to her. Though the idea that Hannibal and Will survived was intriguing, I think the more sinister interpretation that Bedelia had started to go mad and had cut off her own leg makes much more sense in the context of the show.
No discussion of the Hannibal finale would be complete without talking about the character who we’ll miss the most. Though there was no shortage of interesting, memorable characters on the show, without a doubt, Frederick Chilton is the one who it was hardest to say goodbye to. Chilton has been through so much – he had his insides removed in season one, was shot in the face in season two, and was burned alive during season three. Through all that, he managed to survive and gain insight on not only Hannibal Lecter, but also those attempting to capture him. With his Buffalo Bill-esque conversation with Alana Bloom in the finale about wanting to have Hannibal’s skin, it’s a shame there may not be another season of Hannibal because we won’t get to see how Chilton would evolve in a potential Silence of the Lambs storyline. It’s also a shame that Raul Esparza has yet to be properly recognized for his brilliant portrayal of Frederick Chilton. Raul’s performance as Chilton was on a different level from everyone else because that’s how it was supposed to be. Chilton was naive and oblivious while everyone around him was very grounded and stoic. He went from being the character you loved to hate to being the character you rooted for amidst a sea of heroes and anti-heroes, all thanks to Raul’s performance. It’s quite unfortunate that Hannibal might be over for good because we won’t be able to see how much more Raul could do with the character of Frederick Chilton.
Though this is the official end of NBC’s commitment to Hannibal, Bryan Fuller and the actors involved have all remained optimistic that a streaming service might pick up the show, and the idea of a movie has even been tossed around. But as it stands, this is the end of Hannibal. There is still definitely room for the show to grow if it ever is picked up. The characters still have stories to tell, even Will and Hannibal, and many fans want to see the show’s take on Thomas Harris’s novel The Silence of the Lambs. Though Hannibal was such a great show for three seasons and the Red Dragon arc was some of the show’s best work, it still had so potential to be better than what it was and continue to evolve and grow. Hannibal was, and would have continued to be, one of the best shows on television, and it’s a shame it was cancelled before the show’s best episodes were able to air. If this was indeed the end, it ended just as it should have – with a mic drop and a dinner party.
What did you think of the Hannibal finale? Share your thoughts in the comments!