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Hannibal Postmortem: How Will and Hannibal's Latest Breakup Resets Season 3

Plus: Why hope for Season 4 isn't completely dead

Adam Bryant

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Saturday's episode ofHannibal. Read at your own risk.]

The Chesapeake Ripper has finally been caught.

On Saturday's Hannibal, Will (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) managed to escape death at the twisted hands of Mason Verger (Joe Anderson) thanks to an assist by Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) and Mason's sister Margot (Katharine Isabelle). After the ladies freed Hannibal, who, in turn spoiled Mason's plans of stealing Will's face, Alana and Margot drowned Mason in his own eel tank.

But just when it seemed Hannibal had secured a happy ending for himself and Will, the cannibal once again had his heart broken. Will, realizing that there would never be a decisive victor in their game of cat and mouse, let Hannibal go and insisted that he no longer cared to wonder or worry what Hannibal is doing in the world. But as usual, Hannibal got the last laugh. Instead of once again fleeing, Hannibal surrendered himself to Jack (Laurence Fishburne), noting to his captor and, more importantly, Will: "I want you to know exactly where I am, and where you can always find me."

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So, is the bromance truly over? And what can we expect from the three-year time jump that sets up the season's closing Red Dragon arc? We took our burning questions to executive producer Bryan Fuller. Plus: Find out why hope for Season 4 isn't completely dead just yet.

This episode felt like a finale, and particularly brought back many of the emotions I had watching the Season 2 finale.
Bryan Fuller:
This was the breakup that we had been driving toward. One of the benefits of having two distinct chapters in the season is you get two distinct climaxes. This one had to serve as a stopping place for the story before it can be launched again next week three years later. So, this is the breakup, and when we pick up in the second half of the season, it's that awkward moment when you have to see your ex again.

Will's motivation has always been hard to read. Should we believe him when he says he wants Hannibal out of his life?
We come back to that moment in the final episode of the season and break it down between those two characters, and they address it themselves. Will is telling Hannibal, "I don't need you anymore, I don't want you anymore, I release you." And Hannibal is saying, "No you don't. You're telling yourself that. You don't want to know or think about where I am? I am going to give you the knowledge of exactly where I am and let that eat away at you for as long as it takes you to come back into my orbit, and I am patient enough to wait."

Does Hannibal surrender to Jack out of spite towards Will or is he once again heartbroken? Does he no longer feel like playing this game without Will as a willing participant?
Will realizes that he can't win and Hannibal can't win. So, the only option for him at that moment is to stop playing. That, for Hannibal, is a huge rejection. It's an even stranger rejection than the betrayal of Season 2 because Will has gone into Hannibal's past and understands him better than ever. Will has realized that this is not an evil man, this is just a monster doing what he has always been designed to do essentially. So, he can't give him any more energy. For Will, a magic door presented itself that he could step through and leave Hannibal and all of this behind him. But what Hannibal knows is going to come around again on the cannibal carousel is that that Will can't live without him.

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Going back to Mason's grand scheme at Muskrat Farm, where did you get the idea that Mason would want to wear Will's face while eating Hannibal?
For Mason, Will was always complacent in what happened to him. In some ways, the moment that Mason cut into his own face, he was contemplating how he would get a new one. It seemed like, of course he would take Will's face so he could be looking at Hannibal when he delivers the last moments of his life. Since we used pigs eating man so much in Season 2, Mason's goal had to evolve from that standpoint. If he was duped by the cannibal, being the apex predator that he is, he would want to eat the man who eats.

Somehow, that's not the craziest thing Mason does in this episode! How did you come up with the idea of Mason using a pig to carry Margot's baby?
That was something we were planning on doing in Season 2, but it became so overloaded with plot that we thought, "That'd be a nice surprise to pull out in Season 3." We talked about several different versions of it, including a much more ghoulish surrogate, which would have been a limbless, headless woman who is essentially an incubator for the baby. But that felt too misogynistic and icky in its own way, and Steve Lightfoot said, "Let's just put it in a pig!" For Mason, who has been experimenting with pig breeding for so much of his adult life, It seemed like a much more organic way to attack his sister using the tools that they grew up. It was a perversion of science and a perversion of humanity, and it felt like that's what he would do. One of my favorite images of the episode is the little piggy mobile above the baby crib. [Laughs]

As Will predicted/suggested, Alana played an active role in Mason's demise. What kind of impact will that have on her moving forward?
Once Alana made the devil's bargain with Mason, it felt fated that she would play a role in bringing Mason down. In her mind, she always knew that she was going to stab him in the back one way or another. She put up with his ugliness inside and out for the purposes of capturing Hannibal, but she always intended to bring in the cavalry at the last moment. ... We continue Alana's shift into a less naïve, more hardened spirit in the Red Dragon arc. We see who she's become three years later as a result of this pact and her relationship with Margot and this cabal against Mason. There's a lot of bargains that were struck between various characters that, even though we're picking up three years later, we still feel them resonating in the next arc of episodes.

And, of course, Hannibal reminded Alana that he always keeps his promises....
Yes, and that's something we carry through into the Red Dragon arc. Alana is fully aware that if Hannibal gets away in any way, shape or form, he is absolutely intending to kill her.

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Is this the last we'll see of Chiyoh this season?
Yes. She told Hannibal that she was going to be his keeper. She was always going to be that angel in the bushes with the rifle making sure that no one further was killed by him. That's the penance she's willing to pay for 20 years of keeping a prisoner out of the interest of not taking a life. In essence, she's saying to Hannibal, "I'm not going to cage you, but I'm going to serve as your jailer." But as she's watching the takedown of Hannibal, she realizes her job is done and she's free, for the first time in her life, to go off and pursue her own life.

You mentioned that the next episode jumps ahead in time three years. How big of a reset should we expect?
It feels huge. We've leapt forward in all these people's lives. Everyone is stained in their own way from the experiences of the first two and a half seasons, and yet everyone has a sobriety and they go into this new chapter with eyes open. But even so, they're in for some horrible, horrible surprises.

Will it feel different tonally than the first half of the season?
It's a slightly more grounded narrative than what we experienced in the first part of the season. So much of the first arc was all about the grieving process and also the trauma of what these people had experienced. I didn't want to skip over what these characters were feeling, and that's why so much of the first part of the season was contemplative and brooding and surreal. Everyone was in shock.

Red Dragonhas already been adapted into two different movies. How do you think your version will be different?
The version of Red Dragon that we are telling is very faithful to the literature with the exception of the relationship we've been building over the last two and a half seasons. Will and Hannibal's relationship in the previous adaptations was nowhere near as wet and dark and sticky as what we've come to learn of the dynamic between the men in this version of the telling. So, to have Will and Hannibal truly possess a history together that informs their approach to the Red Dragon didn't necessarily feel like an opportunity to change the story, but to provide many more layers of the tiramisu for the audience to enjoy.

Finally, it seems like options for a fourth season keep becoming fewer and fewer. Is there still hope left for the show to live on beyond Season 3?
It doesn't seem like there is any imminent rescue. But I'm kind of waiting for the show to air its final episodes so that the audience can understand what a fourth season would be like and how this story between these two men would continue. None of the networks the studio has talked to about picking up a fourth season knew how this season was going to end; they were just going off the assumption that it was just going to be another season. And so much changes in the finale of the third season that pays off all of these dynamics between Will and Hannibal that we're talking about - the regret and the betrayal and the wanting to move on and the fear that you might not be capable of moving on. All of those things play out through the Red Dragon arc. After the finale, I'd love to perhaps re-open the conversation with potential networks or streaming options once they clearly understand what the story is that we've told.

Hannibal airs Saturdays at 10/9c on NBC.

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