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Hannibal Returns With a Fresh Start — But It's Delicious as Ever

Why can't Hannibal let Will go?

Adam Bryant

Given that Hannibal's Season 2 finale ended with nearly all of the main cast bleeding to death at the hands of Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), the show could have gone virtually anywhere it wanted in Season 3. And while the show didn't actually bring in a whole new cast, the early chapters of Season 3 do feel like quite a fresh start.

"It felt like it was the version of the show that we should've always been telling," executive producer Bryan Fuller tells TVGuide.com "Now that the second season ended in the manner that it did, we are really allowed to take the gloves off and to be much more honest and direct with the character interactions. Everybody knows who Hannibal is. Everybody knows what he's capable of, and now each of those characters who have some form of intimacy with him now have to deal with him directly."

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Yes, Hannibal Lecter is now among the world's most wanted criminals, but that doesn't decrease the good doctor's appetites. "Hannibal is running, but he's not hiding," Mikkelsen told TVGuide during our recent visit to the show's Toronto set. "His vanity will always bring him into the public light somehow." Indeed, although Season 3 begins several months after the would-be massacre in Hannibal's kitchen with a mini-movie all about Hannibal's new life in Florence with his "wife" Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), this fake marriage is devoid of wedded bliss. "I think Hannibal realizes that he has been compromised," Fuller says. "When he realized how Will had betrayed him, it had a bigger impact than he would've ever assumed because he allowed himself to be fooled. So, really, he needs a psychiatrist at this stage to help him navigate where he's going, but actually, what Bedelia realizes is that she's only a Band-Aid for increasingly destructive behavior."

That destructive behavior becomes a way a way for Hannibal to attract the attention of his former best friend Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). "If Will, somewhere out there, is thinking of Hannibal, I think that would please him a lot," Mikkelsen says. "If he's not, Hannibal will definitely make sure that his name pops up once and a while on his desk." Adds Fuller: "He's very much trying to start over He is trying to define himself outside of his relationship to Will Graham, but he keeps being drawn back to that dynamic because it's unlike anything he's experienced in his life."

Of course, Hannibal doesn't only catch Will's eye, but also the eyes of Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), who, given their own involvement in the finale's bloodbath, have their own very personal reasons for seeing Hannibal brought to justice. "Each of them are going about dealing with the trauma and their own damaged feelings in their own way," Fuller says. "We see Alana go through a change and become a new person because of that experience. And Will is also looking for his own set of answers to understand how he's going to get through this. There's something very difficult about seeing your ex and knowing that the power they have over you is hard to quantify. Putting yourself in a position where you are vulnerable to it is brave and foolish at the same time, and Will is aware of his simultaneous bravery and foolishness."

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But just as it was unclear at the end of Season 2 whether Will wanted to stop Hannibal or help him escape, the motivation behind Will's pursuit of Hannibal in Season 3 will also be murky. "I think people will be wondering what Will's agenda is," Dancy says. "The problem for Will is he's so ambivalent that he's his own worst enemy. A simpler guy would just say, 'Oh, I'll just kill him! Or, I'll just walk away.' But Will is always residing somewhere in the middle of all that. So, the question is whether he'll arrive at a moment of pure resolve, but I think that we will see that happen."

Will's journey will be aided by his discovery of Chiyo (Tao Okamoto), the maid of Hannibal's aunt in Lithuania. Although Will seeks out Chiyo's help in locating Hannibal, she will actually teach him much more about the person Hannibal is. "It's like finally meeting people who are speaking the language he's talking," Dancy says. "Chiyo intimately understands the games that Hannibal plays and the dark nature of his appeal. It's like having a really terrible breakup and meeting someone who also dated your ex. You're like, 'Yeah, you're right, they were really messed up, weren't they?' It's gratifying for Will to have that recognition."

Adds Fuller: "Will sees patterns and evidence of Hannibal's behavior, and he realizes this guy has constantly been searching for kind of playmate and not having found that person perhaps until Will Graham. It gives us a history for Will to contextualize, "Oh, this isn't just about me. This is about the way this guy approaches the world and the way he approaches relationships in general. So, A) I can't take it personally and B) I need to be wary.'"

Yes, wary, because even though Hannibal's obsession with Will continues, he may not actually be welcoming Will back into his life with noble intentions. "As much as Will Graham can forgive Hannibal his trespasses, Hannibal may not be as easy to forgive Will," Fuller says. "And [Hannibal's] resulting therapy with Dr. Du Maurier, and the recommendations of how to deal with those feelings, is pretty brutal."

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So, why can't Will just leave well enough alone? "It's unfinished business," Dancy says. "He's not going to have clarity or peace of mind unless he goes on that quest. The option of staying at home and just washing his hands of it all is not a realistic one. Exactly what form that takes -- whether it's revenge, whether it's reconciliation -- I don't even think Will knows the answer to that question. But there's a certain acceptance involved in taking that path and seeing where it leads him. He wants to see that through to the bitter end. The question is what that bitter end will be."

Fortunately for Will, the show's source material suggests that it will be Hannibal who meets the bitter end this time around. After all, this season's second half tells theRed Dragon story, which features Will chasing Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) with the help of an imprisoned Dr. Lecter. "[Hannibal's] vanity is convincing him that nobody can really threaten him," Mikkelsen says."
That does not necessarily turn out to be the truth. But he has some kind of a god complex. So if he is getting caught, it will be his vanity that's doing it to him."But rest assured that Hannibal's potential capture is far from an ending. "We should not forget the fact that Hannibal has an ability to go into his mind palace, whenever he wants to," Mikkelsen says. "So being incarcerated isn't necessarily the end of the story for him."

Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC. Click play below for more on the hunt for Hannibal in Season 3!