On 4 April 2013, when creator-writer Bryan Fuller first brought his vision of Thomas Harris’ serial killer Hannibal Lecter — from the novels Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising — to prime-time network television, Fuller brought 4.36M viewers a stunning and unique interpretation of a well known literary and film character.
Mads Mikkelsen’s subtle and nuanced performance as Hannibal, combined with skilled performances of his co-stars, and the imaginative “filling in the blanks” of Hannibal’s story before the books took place, were all exciting and intriguing while staying true to the Hannibal in Harris’ books.
That’s unusual in book-to-screen adaptations.
This year, however, the ratings are falling faster than autumn leaves in a wind-storm.
What on earth happened to Hannibal?
Hannibal & Bedelia
At the end of season 2, after Hannibal (Mads, above) escaped from his furious assault on virtually everyone else in the show, and flew away with his former psychiatrist Dr. Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson, below) — which appeared after the season 2 Finale’s end credits — viewers and critics were almost deliriously excited about where the show would go in season 3.
The ratings for the premiere of season 3, while not as strong as those for the initial episode of season 1 of the series — 2.57M — were still higher than the ratings for the finales of seasons 1 and 2 (1.98M and 2.35M, respectively).
The premiere of season 3 was a visual and dramatic departure from the first two seasons, taking Hannibal and Bedelia from Maryland to Florence, and involving them in a “romantic” and sexual relationship, despite the fact that Bedelia knew exactly what Hannibal was, as well as what he’d done.
I was one of those who raved about the first three episodes of the third season. The chemistry between Gillian and Mads was as riveting as the chemistry between Bedelia and Hannibal.
“Erotic” was a mild term for their interactions, whether Hannibal was washing Bedelia’s hair,
or just standing there behind her, bare-chested, before he kissed her, making it very clear that their relationship was much more than platonic.
Even when they were killing someone and serving him to their dinner guests (Bedelia ate oysters instead of the main course), the chemistry between the two was striking.
Yet, true to the books and the show’s characters, at the start of Hannibal Season 3, the threat of violence always bubbled just under the surface. Some characters — like Tony the poet (Tom Wisdom, below, R) — noticed Hannibal’s and Bedelia’s name change from Paris to Florence, and lost his life for his loose tongue,
while other characters, like Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco, below) resented “Dr. Fells” (Hannibal’s victim and new persona) appointment, and was killed for his constant complaints,
as FBI officials like Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, below) searched for traces of Hannibal’s whereabouts.
Often, the dialogue was snappy and funny in a horrifying way, like when Hannibal stabbed Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco) in the temple with an ice-pick and Bedelia, tiring of the victim’s giggling-rambling monologue, yanked it out, “technically killing” him herself (as Hannibal pointed out to her when she chastized him for killing two victims from the same place).
This season, we’ve learned lots of secrets, like what Hannibal’s hold over Bedelia was: she’d killed her patient, and Hannibal had helped her clean up the mess and “protect” her after making her ask for his help.
We’ve learned what happened to Abigail (Kacey Rohl), daughter of serial killer Garret Jacob Hobbs, and subsequently the “surrogate daughter” of both Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. Abigail was supposed dead — “murdered” by Will Graham, who’d “eaten” then vomited up her ear. We were treated to a scene where Hannibal staged her death, and showed her complicity — which looked a lot like excitement — in it.
Pazzi & Il Monstro
We’ve been introduced to Inspector Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino), who’s been hunting Hannibal for years, knowing him as “Il Monstro,”
and who attempted to sell Hannibal to Hannibal’s victim Mason Verger, only to be killed by Hannibal himself.
We’ve been introduced to Chiyo (Tao Okamato),
who was keeping one of the men who killed and ate Hannibal’s little sister Mischa prisoner in the basement of Castle Lecter.
After killing the prisoner, following Will to Florence and shooting him, Chiyo seemed to disappear.
Mason, Margot, & Alana
We’ve been through the story of Mason Verger (Joe Anderson, replacing Michael Pitt, who played the character in s2), post-cutting off his face and feeding it to Will’s dogs, per Dr. Lecter’s instructions,
and his sister Margot (Katherine Isabelle), who endured a forced hysterectomy because her brother didn’t want a Mason heir who would take away his fortune.
But Margot became sexually involved with Hannibal’s former lover Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), who had a child with Margot, a Verger heir, after Hannibal helped the two women “milk” Mason’s sperm in return for helping Hannibal escape from Mason and his pigs.
The Tooth Fairy
& the Red Dragon
Facially deformed Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), dubbed “The Tooth Fairy” by tabloids, who is “becoming” the “Red Dragon” has been in several episodes,
and last night, after Francis took his blind co-worker Reba (Rutina Wesley) to see a tiger, Francis and Reba had sexual relations. More than once.
Will now has his own family, complete with wife Molly (Nina Arianda) and son,
yet he’s been drawn back to Hannibal in order to stop Francis Dolarhyde’s next “full moon” killing of another family.
Was that a photo of Will Graham talking to Hannibal Lecter in jail?
Yes, yes it was.
Because in the middle of the season, Hannibal surrendered.
Hannibal, Not Rising
If Hannibal surrendered, which seems completely out of character, then all forward momentum of the show disappears.
With Hannibal in jail, he’s not much of a threat.
And, frankly, he’s not very interesting.
Despite putative rumors about a “show-down” between Francis Dolarhyde and Hannibal Lecter in this season’s finale, the show has deteriorated to the point where it has lost millions of viewers.
Ratings are down more than 50% since the beginning of the third season: 2.57M for the premiere to 1.05M viewers last week.
Compare those numbers with the season 1 premiere: 4.36M viewers down to 1.05M.
It’s not the fault of the actors, who seem to be doing the best they can given the fact that, after Hannibal surrendered, he doesn’t have too much to do, so everyone sits or stands around talking about him, or to him, as the situation requires.
What a dreadful waste of talent.
Worse, it’s downright dull.
It’s so dull, it’s soporific.
And I think it was intentional on Bryan Fuller’s part.
There have been moments of true artistry this season: the scenes in Florence, the interactions between Hannibal and Bedelia, the sexual relations between Alana and Margot.
There have been instances of serious threat and foreboding: the scenes at Castle Lecter, Chiyo’s stalking of Will and Hannibal, Hannibal’s planned feast of Will’s brain for Will and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), Mason’s capture of Hannibal and Will.
But there’s nothing really staggeringly new and exciting about Hannibal any longer.
How could there be?
Halfway through the season, Hannibal was in jail.
There’s no more threat.
There’s no more Urgency.
There’s no more… spark.
Even Bryan Fuller said, of season 3 of Hannibal, “it’s actually a 6-episode Red Dragon mini-series.”
I find that story-line one of the weakest in the series of novels, though I know it has its fans.
Apparently, those Dolarhyde-fans are not watching the show.
It seems to me that Bryan Fuller simply lost interest in his own version of Hannibal’s story and character.
I know there are fans who are still hoping for another season of Hannibal, but I don’t believe Fuller ever planned more than three. He only had a 3-year contract with NBC. His cramming so many story-lines into this final season, along with the fact that he’s already signed to do another show (though he claims that he’d stay “involved” in Hannibal were it picked up by another network) would seem to indicate that he never intended to be with Hannibal beyond this third season.
Instead of giving loyal viewers — and brilliant actors — a riveting, engrossing, award-winning “final” season, we’ve been given a show that has declined so miserably in its writing and story-lines that ratings are falling faster than Hannibal’s victims were in the first two seasons.
How very disappointing for the fans.
How sad that we must say “farewell” to Hannibal against our will.
Hannibal, Season 3
When the Betrayed Becomes the Betrayer:
NBC’s Hannibal s3e3: Secondo
NBC’s Hannibal s3e2: Primavera
Bello, Bellisima: NBC’s Hannibal,
Season 3 Premiere: “Antipasto”
Hannibal, Season 1
The Nightmare Under the Pillow:
NBC’s Hannibal, the Series, Season 1
Hannibal, Season 2
The Nightmare that Followed Him Out of his Dreams:
NBC’s Hannibal, Season 2