‘Hannibal’ (Season 3): Making Peace with Cancellation

And so it is that Hannibal Lecter has finally been taken out. Not by his pursuers in the FBI, not yet anyway; by the specter of cancellation that’s hung over the show for years. Such is the fate of all Bryan Fuller shows, I suppose; it happened with all of his previous shows, and it has now sadly happened to Hannibal as well. However, even as the show’s chances of renewal at another network dwindle away, it’s looking more and more like this will be Fuller’s most complete work to date.

Because, as it stands, we’re getting every bit of payoff a longtime fan could hope for. While Fuller did exactly zero to try and draw in new viewers – in fact, the next-level bizarre material and slow pace we’ve seen this season have left the show with its lowest numbers ever – season three of Hannibal has done a wonderful job of bringing the long-standing rivalries and tensions to a conclusion for longtime fans. Really, even though I’m excited to see the back-half of season three, which will adapt Red Dragon, I think this season would’ve been fine at a shortened, seven-episode order.

The reason I say this is that, from day one, this show has been about something the movies and original books never spent much time on: Hannibal’s days as a free man. And though the possibility always remains that this week’s midseason finale could throw us another major curveball, it seems that we’re finally going to see the end of that era of his life. It looks like Will and Hannibal will have their final showdown at scenic Muskrat Farm, with Will finally coming out of the darkness he’s been trapped in to capture our cultured killer.

Even better, Fuller’s managed to hit all of the high marks of the original source material in new, remixed ways. This half of the season has brought in multiple elements from the novels Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, while the end will be all about Red Dragon. And while that leaves Silence of the Lambs out in the cold, the truth is that it’s structurally similar enough to Red Dragon that we aren’t missing much. Save for Clarice, I guess. Poor Clarice…

In the end, though, three seasons is far from a bad run, especially when it’s clear that all of the narrative arcs are coming to a head so splendidly. We’ll revisit these points in a few weeks, once we’re deep into the Red Dragon arc; for now, I’m glad the show has gone as long as it has, and I can’t wait to see how the series draws to a close. And hey, if a miracle renewal pops up in the meantime, I’ll be happy with that, too.