Hannibal Season 3: The Series Finale Comes to a Blood-soaked & Beautifully Poetic Conclusion [Review]

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I know that fans all around were distraught when we learned that Hannibal had been cancelled halfway through season three – but that finale ending though? Bryan Fuller’s serial killer series doesn’t need to march onward because it concluded so beautifully that there’s truly no need. The genius of it, is that every season finale could have really worked as a ‘series’ wrap-up, but season three really took that idea to task.

Hannibal Season 3 follows serial killer Hannibal Lecter overseas as he narrowly escaped capture after being exposed last season while detective Will Graham deals with a new threat and string of murders. This season will loosely adapt the Thomas Harris novels Hannibal Rising and The Red Dragon. 

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After Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) decimated Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) alongside all of his friends and former colleagues in the second season finale, we pick up season three in Italy where he’s getting a fresh start with his psychiatrist/hostage/wife/accomplice Bedelia (Gillian Anderson). The first half of this season was an abbreviated adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel (and sequel to Silence of The Lambs) – ‘Hannibal’. The first three or four episodes didn’t work for me and I actually found myself wondering if I should even bother to continue the series. They annoyed me that much…. Gillian Anderson’s deadpan performance was enough to set me off every time she tried to steal a scene with her zombie-like monologues that required a dictionary to understand half the time and the agonizing time it took to reveal who actually survived the bloodshed in last season’s finale was unnecessary.

By the time they wrap up the Italy storyline halfway through season three – Hannibal had returned to glorious form. The conclusion to the ‘Hannibal’ novel arc was violent, exciting and bold storytelling for a network show. When we see that scene with Mason Verger’s pig it’s not hard to understand why Hannibal was never meant for a major network like NBC. It was simply too dangerous and disturbing for that platform to handle. Speaking of Verger, Joe Anderson took over the role after Michael Pitt’s departure (and the character’s face). Anderson did a fine job playing the over-the-top incestuous psychopath and remained extremely faithful to the original Gary Oldman performance from the film – accent and all. As an added bonus – if Hannibal wasn’t serial killy enough – Mason’s assistant Cordell is played by True Detective season one’s Zeljko Ivanek.

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The second act this season is an adaptation of Red Dragon – the THIRD adaptation mind you. I’m not so sure we really needed yet another take on the first Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham novel from Harris, but because of Richard Armitage’s performance as the titular character – it makes the redundancy wash away. Armitage barely speaks a word in his debut episode but he’s a tour-de-force. Just listening to how he warps his own voice and makes those animalistic grunts is wonderful and disturbing. Following up Ralph Fiennes’ performance in the last film adaptation was no easy task, but like all portrayals in this series, Armitage manages to overshadow his predecessor.

Known for its shocking gore and disturbing imagery, Hannibal didn’t hold anything back for its final season. The crime scenes were just as gross (see the human heart thing in the premiere) and the fight scenes were brutal as hell. (Laurence Fishburne) Jack Crawford’s battle with Lecter in Italy was AWESOME. Holy shit – one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen on television. It was a great foil to the intense knife battle in the season two finale. The three-way showdown in the finale was even better mind you and one of the most stunning sequences of the year thus far on television.

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Some more food for thought: The extended denouement of Bedelia was kinda dumb and they probably should have cut that moment entirely because it detracts from the legitimate ending. Also – the dreaded overuse of slo-motion closeups of blood dropping to the floor or the hallucination/dream sequences were far too plentiful this season. I’m happy they were for the most part phased out during the Red Dragon arc, but the damage had already been done.

Major Spoilers Below

Even though they adapted the Red Dragon novel in a very faithful manner, they made a significant adjustment to the conclusion so that Graham, the dragon Francis Dolarhyde and Lecter all clashed in a final war to wrap up the season (and series I guess). It turned the novel on its head and in the stunning end – the entire mythology. The way these three start stabbing one another on that Cliffside home, set to that glorious music, with all of that blood…. I’ve never seen such a violent scene transcend into something so beautiful.

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Hannibal and Will loved each other. Now whether their love is a romantic one remains to be seen, but like it or not, they loved one another and they shared a spiritual connection and bond through their dark murderous urges. In the end and during their final embrace after tag-stabbing the dragon to death, Hannibal says to Will that this is all he’d ever wanted for him. Then Will pulls them both to their seemingly death over the edge of a cliff. It was sudden, jarring and as a fan you ask yourself “what about Silence of The Lambs?!?!?!”, but it was the best possible way to conclude the series. Could they continue the show if it makes a return? Sure they could. Do they need to? Hell no — it was a pitch perfect send-off.

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