The dearly departed Hannibal completed its third and final season last week, and what a strange, bizarre, somewhat self-indulgent season it was. Hannibal has always been an odd, surreal, occasionally maddening show for a very niche audience (if not something made only for critics who appreciate the boldness), but even this year it appeared that Bryan Fuller and co. may have crossed the line when NBC canceled it midway through the airing of its third season. But still, it managed to go out on a high note after faltering through an incredibly opaque first half, and I will always be amazed that this was a series that actually made it to air on a major network for three years.
The beginning of this last run picked up with Hannibal on the run in Europe with Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson, made a regular this season) posing as his wife/hostage. The massacre of the second season finale turned out to be not so much a massacre after all, as just about everyone Hannibal supposedly slaughtered turned out to not just survive their bloody attacks, but pretty much make it out unscathed after the requisite hospital recovery time. That's right- Will, Jack, and Alana are all okay after what happened back at Hannibal's apartment, leaving Abigail Hobbs the only fatality by Lecter's hand. But I guess we have to attribute that as intentional, since Hannibal is completely omnipotent and never does anything without knowing the consequences. He's a fortune teller and all knowing seer of everything anyone will ever do or say or think- if you can't tell, yes, I became extremely annoyed with the anointing of Hannibal as a god of all worlds. I love Mads Mikkelson but now that everyone knew his secret they all began to talk about him as if he were the beginning and end of life in all its complexes, and I found myself rolling my eyes at all that quite a bit.
The dialogue this season was even more ridiculous than usual. Will spend a good chunk of his time supposedly on the hunt for Hannibal in Europe but in a complete daze as he wandered from place to place, ending up in a confusing semi-relationship with someone from Hannibal's past named Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto), who qualifies as the very worst character and actor who's ever appeared on this show (not everyone can pull off the dialogue anyway, but boy did this lady struggle). Jack showed up at times to join in the search but not nearly enough, since Laurence Fishburne can't help but bring with him a sense of reality and commonplace authority, something the first seven episodes of this show really wanted nothing to do with. Instead we spent most of our time listening to circular discussions between Hannibal and Bedelia, Will and Chiyoh, and sometimes Alana Bloom and the Vergers, which was a little more entertaining because Mason Verger (last season's Michael Pitt replaced by Joe Anderson) cut such a disgusting figure that he couldn't help but draw you in in a more traditionally campy, horror style performance.
I sound pretty rough on this run of episodes and to be honest, I didn't enjoy much of it, but I can't help but admire, as always, the gorgeous and surreal quality of the art direction, cinematography and montage of bizarre, Lynchian images that always infiltrated the Hannibal universe and still made the show worth watching, even in its worst moments (the kalaidescopic lesbian sex scene between Alana and Margot Verger has got to be seen to be believed). Finally, at the end of the arc, Hannibal surrenders himself for the six episode run of the Red Dragon storyline, which kind of vaulted the show back into more conventional storytelling, just in time for anyone whose patience was wearing thin. We skip over some years and now Will is brought back into the fray to do justice to Thomas Harris's famous novel, in which only a few things were altered at all, with much of the dialogue coming directly out of Harris's pages. This was a very welcome turn of events frankly, and Fuller's rendition of Red Dragon was mostly satisfying while also staying as true as possible to the Hannibal universe that he'd created (although Hannibal himself behind bars does suddenly become much more amusing and taunting than Mikkelson had ever played him on the show before). Richard Armitage's guest turn as Francis Dolarhyde was quite powerful in its way, as he turned in a physically and emotionally wrenching performance, which ends up culminating in a slow motion, threeway fight scene between the Dragon, Lecter and Will that should be everything any of fan of this show could ever want to see.
It ends as a fitting cap on the odd love/hate relationship between Hannibal and Will, and it actually works as a series finale even if it wasn't intended to be, since Will Graham's presence is no longer needed in the Thomas Harris novels that came afterwards. Even though I got a little fed up with Hannibal this season, I did enjoy the Red Dragon arc and it's a real shame that we'll never get to see Fuller's take on Silence of the Lambs. This was a bold, striking, frustrating, beautiful and always impassioned series unlike anything else on TV- and for that I'll always hold it in the highest regard. Long live Dr. Lecter, in all his glory.