‘Hannibal’ Season 3: Preview and Speculation Masterpost


The Great Red Dragon and Italian Cooking

by Kirsty Worrow  

FANNIBALS! How excited are you? How many days is it until season three premieres? I bet you know. All we can do now is sit and anxiously wait for June 4th, as the #HEATUS draws excruciatingly to its close. We’ve watched and re-watched the trailers and the promos, we’ve drooled over the official promotional photos; we’ve squeed with excitement at the breadcrumbs dropped for us by Fuller, DDLC or NBC Hannibal on various social media platforms; we’ve speculated endlessly over clues from production photographs posted by online. Fuller and the Hannibal team have been teases, which means that actually at this moment, there is quite a lot we can point at as solid expectations for season three; but there is also so much more which is unknown. Let’s review the evidence and explore some of the implications of what the forensics illuminate. Hopefully, your appetite (ahem…) for season three will be whetted even more.



Very early on, in fact before production began, Fuller revealed that part of the season would be filmed in Europe. Florence became a key filming location. This move from North American soil is actually quite uncommon for a US network drama, particularly one with the type of ratings that Hannibal has garnered over the first two seasons. However, Hannibal has always proved more bang for NBC’s buck than others from their stable, and so perhaps after the show’s cult status had been cemented following season two, together with some more critical praise, NBC felt that more investment was less risky. Given the final moments of season two which gave us the reveal of Hannibal and Bedelia toasting on board an aircraft, it was only natural that season three would widen its geographical scope. Besides which, it’s just more exciting to move the story to new climes; it gives the narrative greater scale and so enhances the sense of drama.

Visually, the Italian settings will provide an authenticity and a richness which would have been hard to convincingly cheat in Toronto. Early on Fuller confirmed that he was going to draw on the narrative of Harris’s Hannibal novel, which features Italy quite prominently as a setting. These new backdrops are perfectly in tune with the character of Lecter; steeped in ancient history with strong associations of might and warfare. The classical approaches to aestheticism and refinement have certainly influenced this incarnation of Hannibal, and I’m sure the directors, the art department and cinematographer James Hawkinson will use these backdrops to reinforce and emphasise the grotesque and beautiful compositional juxtapositions that we’ve come to adore. Then there’s the food… Yes, Fuller, just like Harris, recognises that Italy is a territory that will not ‘other’ Hannibal the way that the US settings have.

However, NBC’s budget didn’t stretch as far as also allowing production to shoot in Paris. Downtown Toronto was used as a double for Paris, which suggests that Hannibal’s European adventure will not be confined to Italy. In fact, Fuller has also confirmed that Toronto will also double as Lithuania (more on this later). Paris is also an appropriate setting for the show, particularly as the French capital has a long standing reputation for being a center for culinary refinement and the gastronomic arts.

Of course, the city night shoot in Toronto was not just notable because of the idea of the Parisian setting, but more due to the glimpse of Mads Mikkelsen in leathers riding a motorcycle. Regardless of the hearts that were set all a flutter by such a sight, the importance of the costume and the mode of transport indicate that Hannibal in season three will not be quite the same character as the previous two seasons. Motorbikes traditionally connote rebellion and its inclusion as a mode of transport for Lecter, who has been previously shown driving a Bentley, may indicate a slightly more devil-may-care attitude and more dynamic and frenetic incarnation of the character.  This image has become such a crucial symbol that AXN Korea have anchored their promotion of the show around it; clearly signaling the shift in his character. Interestingly, though, in other, more recent, promotional shots, the suits Mikkelsen is costumed in are as gregarious as in the past, suggesting that the dandy side of Lecter is an authentic exhibition of his character and that he still has the need to present himself as a sophisticated bourgeois peacock.

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© NBC Hannibal

The exterior shoots in Florence gave us much to mull over. In one shot, Gillian Anderson (now upgraded to a season regular) is shown complete with a wedding band. Whilst many people saw this as a confirmation of a romantic relationship between Lecter and Du Maurier, it is perhaps wise to be skeptical about such an assumption; it is arguably more feasible to suggest that they are traveling with assumed identities which makes the conceit of them posing as a married couple less conspicuous.  What’s far more intriguing is why she is accompanying him, given the way that their relationship shifted in season two. Following the recent trailer and promotional materials framing Bedelia as #BrideofHannibal, this idea of the union between the two is certainly one that those promoting the show want us to be clear about before the season premiere, which makes me even more skeptical; appearances are often deceptive in the Hanniverse.

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© Reddit & NBC Hannibal

Speaking of the papped/fan production stills, there was also some exterior images showing Will and Hannibal; with Will bloodied and Hannibal physically supporting him. This image seems to suggest another alliance is formed through conflict, but who can say? Shots of Mikkelsen mussed up with a lot of blood covering his costume and face also surfaced. A reunion between the two is teased by the first season three trailer, in which Will, whilst pursuing Hannibal through catacombs apparently declares his forgiveness. Trailer editing though is notoriously deceitful; things are unlikely to be so clear cut. Fuller has been his open about their reunion, though: “There’s a scene that is so touching, when they’re finally reunited and able to have a conversation.[…]It’s like ‘It’s really good to see you, but this is a terrible situation that we’re in, and you’re actually a terrible person, but I’ve found a way to forgive you in the way you forgive a shark for being a shark’. Whatever the truth turns out to be, we can expect reunion swiftly followed by bloody conflict. In her season three review, Allison Keene suggests that Hannibal’s feelings of betrayal by Will become a more central motivator from episode three onwards. This could perhaps explain the initially confusing images of  Will being knocked to the floor with by an apparently invisible force in some of those exterior images. The resolution of this enigma appear to lie in one of the AXN promos which show  Will in the sight of a sniper rifle apparently wielded by Chiyo. This appears to suggest that Chiyo will be an agent of Hannibal’s revenge for Will’s betrayal.  

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© twitter.com/Hannibal


As indicated before, Fuller has continued his mash-up approach to Harris’ canon chronology and we know that season three will feature characters drawn from Harris’s third Lecter novel, Hannibal and from the Lecter origins story, Hannibal Rising. However, these characters, specifically Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi, Mason Verger (now sadly no longer played by Michael Pitt) and Lady Murasaki’s attendant Chiyo will feature in the first half of the season. Verger and Pazzi will likely take a narrative function similar to the canon, in that they will be thorns in Hannibal’s side whilst he is at liberty. I think it’s a fair bet to say that we will see Margot Verger again this season, although what impact she’ll have on the dominant narrative is unclear.   

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Fuller confirmed that the second half of the season will be the Red Dragon arc, kicking off in episode 8. This will take place chronologically after Will’s pursuit of Hannibal, and we assume eventual capture. Hannibal in Italy, hindered by Pazzi and Verger is from the third novel, but here is being presented as preceding events from the first. However, Fuller has always remained quite open about his intention to reinterpret the source material quite drastically. Nevertheless, this dovetailing of elements from significant of the quarters of the Harris canon does raise the question of what Fuller plans to do with the most iconic of the Lecter narratives and particularly what it means for a possible Clarice Starling incarnation, or at least a surrogate character, if DDLC can’t sort out the issue with the rights to the character with MGM. Both Fuller and Martha De Laurentiis have confirmed they have plans for Clarice in season 4. I know this is a contentious issue in the fandom, particularly with some hardcore Hannigram shippers, but I, for one, would love to see how placing a female character with agency and intelligence in this narrative, and allowing her to take up as much space as Will or Hannibal would affect the show. Given the selling of Bedelia as Hannibal’s wife, I’m not sure if she’s going to fit this bill in the next 13 episodes.

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Having elevated Gillian Anderson to season regular for this outing, we can expect Bedelia to play a much larger part in this season’s arc. Many have identified that the light touch moment in the trailer as a reference to a moment from Ridley Scott’s Hannibal and that this mirroring suggests that Bedelia’s union with Hannibal will be broken and that she will likely become a target of his wrath. I’m not so sure; trailers are often intentionally deceptive and this seems like a very obvious moment for that. However, her safety is clearly not guaranteed in this season, particularly given the status of Anderson and her other career commitments, most notably the new order for The X-Files and series three of The Fall. IMDb lists her as a credit in all 13 episodes. However, as she’s a season regular this is par for the course. Some of those credits might just be that; credits. Bedelia’s fate might be considerably less clear cut than we are being encouraged to believe.

Initially, Fuller made some excited and very emphatic noises about the introduction and inclusion of Lady Murasaki, Hannibal’s adopted aunt (a character from Hannibal Rising), in season three.  Fuller’s initial fervor for Murasaki in his Hanniverse was perhaps shared with the world in ill-advised haste. We now know that we will not see Muraski in season three, but instead meet Chiyo, one of Murasaki’s attendants. This has disappointed a great many fans of the canon, but regardless Fuller’s Chiyo will undoubtedly illuminate the doctor’s past as Will comes to understand more about his adversary. The promos suggest that she is introduced into this version of the narrative via Will’s quest to find Hannibal. She is clearly signalled as a person of great importance to Hannibal, and the relationship she develops with Will is being set up as a duplicitous one; one promo gives us a kiss between the two and another apparently has Chiyo shoot Will. 

This does indicate Fuller’s desire to uncover some of Lecter’s hitherto only occasionally hinted at backstory. What was clear to anyone familiar with the canon was that the original events that forged the fine, young cannibal were not going to work in this particular incarnation. The context of WWII heavily influenced this original arc, and that was no longer a workable backstory for this reimagined Doctor. Fuller has clearly signaled that Hannibal’s backstory will be necessarily be different from Harris’ novels. This is where the confirmed Lithuanian setting probably fits in; Harris’ Lecter is Lithuanian, and though I don’t think there have been any specific references to this Lecter’s country of origin (I will happily stand to be corrected, though), the inclusion of setting suggests that Fuller is sticking with that, and that we will learn more about Hannibal through a visit to his homeland. Groundwork has already been laid for the most essential element of the backstory; Mischa. Although not named, Hannibal confesses to Verger that he had a sister in season two; the past tense illuminating that Fuller is deferring to the canonical status of Mischa as deceased in the dominant timeline.

Speaking of the dead, an appraisal of the likely vital signs of the other key cast members is useful in thinking about who else we can expect to encounter in season three:

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© Digital Spy

Lawrence Fishburne confirmed Jack Crawford’s return to the show before production started. He also appears in the trailer and in the group promotion pic, but the extent of his involvement is not clear yet, IMDb don’t have him listed as featuring in any episode as yet. However, some of those exterior Italian production stills indicate Crawford will partner with Pazzi in the early episodes. The AXN ‘Savour the Hunt’ promo suggests that Jack will be after revenge, although the final shot indicates that this mission might bring him into conflict with Will.

Alana Bloom looks to have survived her fall as Caroline Dhavernas is listed as appearing in season three and appears in the promotional photographs. However, this might not be as straightforward as it seems, because Kacey Rohl’s principal appearances as Abigail Hobbs in season two were as visions in Will’s mind. Perhaps Alana didn’t survive. More recent promos have appeared to have confirmed her status as a survivor as she is depicted with a walking stick, suggesting she’s recovering, or perhaps permanently affected by her fall at the end of season tow. More interestingly, these same promos seem to suggest a romantic relationship between Alana and Margot going forward.


Interestingly, Fuller also suggested that Rohl will appear  in season three. In the first trailer, Abigail Hobbs was the most likely contender to be the covered female body on the table in the first trailer. However, the recent “Critically Acclaimed” promo, gives us one new shot of Abigail seemingly in conversation with Will. I still believe she is most likely dead, but I’m now not as sure as I was.

Gina Torres has confirmed a return as Bella Crawford, but this may only be for a final appearance; any more may seem like overkill (pardon the pun). We’ve seen Bella dealing with her own mortality and her own death for two seasons now; it’ll be more narratively interesting to see how Jack deals with her death rather than allow both characters to stagnate in the same situation. The other option is that she features in flashbacks, which gives more scope to explore Jack’s character, particularly as we know that Italy features prominently in their backstory.  

Last year’s SDCC Hannibal panel revealed that Dr. Frederick Chilton will return, despite his seemingly inescapable bullet to the head last season. Trailers and IMDb also confirm Raul Esparaza’s return as the slimy self-important psychiatrist. “Chilton’s like a weeble wobble. You shoot him in the face, and he just comes right back,” Esparza says about his returning for season three.

Finally, and somewhat unexpectedly, Eddie Izzard’s Dr. Abel Gideon also returns for season three. He makes an appearance in the AXN Korea promo, but given his fate last season, this will be in a flashback.  He will appear in the first episode.   

Most recently, DDLC gave confirmation that Franklyn will make an appearance in season 3. Sort of. The mind boggles.

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Other casting announcements reinforce the importance of the Red Dragon arc, as well as suggesting some illumination of previously hinted at conflict. One of the later casting announcements was that Zachary Quinto had been enlisted to play one of Bedelia’s clients. The timing of the announcement (March 2015), suggests that he will appear in the latter half of the season, as traditionally television shoots in episode blocks. However, given that this season has had to schedule its production more according to location rather than per episode, there was always a strong possibility that he could appear in the first episode. This has since been confirmed.  This season has already been set up as being significantly more non-linear than either of the two previous ones. Given Qunito’s star status, it’s likely that he will be a significant character. If he is Bedelia’s mysterious client who has often been referenced in the show, then this will be in flashback and it will be used as a mechanism to allow us to understand the nature of the power Hannibal has over Bedelia. This could be crucial exposition in the first episode, or the first half of the season at least.

So, we know that Fuller’s going to be drawing heavily on Red Dragon for the second half of the season. Richard Armitage was cast as The Tooth Fairy, Francis Dolarhyde to much fangirl squeeing. Fuller has stated that Armitage will get a significant amount of screen time from episode 8 onwards, as Dolarhyde will become like a third lead. Rutina Wesley will play Dolarhyde’s romantic interest, Reba McClane and Nina Arianda will play Molly Graham, Will’s wife. Particularly the inclusion of the latter suggests that there will be a significant temporal ellipsis between the events of episode 7 and those of episode 8.  


Fuller confirmed that the main timeline at the beginning of season three will be one year after the events of Mizumono. As noted before the structure of the season will be broadly drawn into two halves; episodes 1 to 7 will be Will’s pursuit of Hannibal and then episodes 8 to 13 will be the Red Dragon arc. However, this might be oversimplifying it somewhat. Fuller confirmed that the first episode, Antipasto, would take place across four time periods. He also indicated that there would be no Will, Jack or Alana at all in the first episode, going on to explain that the first episode is “a new pilot for a series starring Gillian Anderson and Mads Mikkelsen… These characters are out in the world, living under aliases – it’s The Talented Mr Lecter!”

Given that all of the canonical Red Dragon castings indicate a closer, potentially more faithful adaptation than the other elements of the Fuller Hanniverse, what elements could be played with? Harris’ original Freddy Lounds plays an important role in the book and is eventually killed by Dolarhyde (in a way which has already been referenced by Fuller in the creation of the faked death of Lounds in season two), but the character has much less understanding of Lecter than Fuller’s Freddie has, so that may be a factor that will be altered. However, that hasn’t stopped speculation that our Ms. Lounds will meet her end at the hands of the Tooth Fairy.  Lara Jean Chorostecki’s Freddie is not in the promo shots, nor is she listed on IMDb as featuring in this season. Yet.

Fuller has recently made it very clear how his version of the Red Dragon narrative will be different from the original. In a context where the representations of rape and sexual assault of women on television seem to be becoming more frequent leading to very loud accusations of misogyny, using it as a lazy device to heighten dramatic impact or to continue the dominant representations as women as victims (yes, Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you), Fuller clearly had his work cut out in bringing the crimes of Francis Dollarhyde to the screen. Recent comments about his attempts to make The Tooth Fairy slight more sympathetic would have surely been fodder for certain voices to accuse him of trying to excuse the crimes (but particularly the sexual crimes perpetrated against the mothers of the families). As a result, Fuller has again restated his own personal problems regarding the ubiquitous nature of the representation of women as sexual victims, and at the very least suggests that his Red Dragon crimes will refocus so that the mothers will not appear to have been singled out as victims of additional sexual violation. 

Are we assuming that Lecter will be captured mid-season? Yes. Of course, the dominant state for Lecter in Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs is incarcerated. This is an obvious expectation given Fuller’s acknowledgement of the Red Dragon story, but what it if Lecter was still at large? Some have taken Mads Mikkelsen having a haircut as evidence that he will be imprisoned. However, we haven’t seen anything which concretely demonstrates this yet. Fuller has refused to confirm, but he has teased that we will get to see Mads in the mask. However, the AXN ‘Savour the Hunt’ promo includes Bedelia telling Hannibal that his capture is inevitable, but this could be part of the strategy to prime our expectations for such an event.

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© DEG – Strong Heart/Demme Production/Orion Pictures

I think it’s just worth reminding ourselves that one of the original unique selling points of the show is that Fuller was giving us Lecter, undiscovered and at liberty; a representation which was unique among the other incarnations of the character and the narrative. For all of Red Dragon and most of The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter is a prisoner. Should Hannibal go down this well-trodden path, there will be a need to make it feel fresh, lest the familiar Lecter audience check out.

To be honest, I think he is likely to be captured, but Fuller is a tricksy one and when so much about the second half of the season seems more certain, there is a lot more to be suspicious of. Things will have to become unexpected. I’m personally dreading how this will all play out differently in Fuller’s hands. Harris ends Red Dragon with Dolarhyde dead, Will, Molly and her son safe and Lecter still imprisoned. Which one of those will Fuller undo? What could he do that Red Dragon doesn’t? Remember, canonically, Harris doesn’t use Will again. Could Will become a casualty this season? My industry head says no, but with this show which shares DNA with both network and premium cable fiction, who can be sure? The only thing I feel is a certainty is that the same reassuring ending as Red Dragon is not an option. If we don’t get some major character deaths (and actually have them stay dead), then the show could lose its teeth.


The choice of directors not usually a source of great discussion for television fans, but for Hannibal from the outset the aesthetic approach to the show has been so distinctive that the directors in the chair are more than just directors for hire. We have almost all of the seasons’ directors confirmed and some analysis yields some interesting conclusions. Firstly, the direction of the first half of the season is mainly down to Vinceno Natali, directing five of the first seven. Having worked on previous episodes, and coming from a horror/sci-fi background, the choice of Natali for director for the majority of the first half suggests that this part of the narrative will have unified aesthetic. David Slade is also back and helping Marc Jobst with the direction of episode 4; having two directors, one of whom is an architect of the Hannibal aesthetic tells us that episode 4 will likely be complex and visually memorable. Tried and tested network TV director Adam Kane will helm episode 7; the last in the European leg of the season.

As mentioned above, Fuller has already announced that the Red Dragon arc starts with episode 8. Neil Marshall is directing this one. With a background in horror (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) and more recently as the director responsible for two of the most battle heavy Game of Thrones episodes (Blackwater & The Watchers on the Wall), we can expect The Great Red Dragon to be scary, dynamic and frenetic. Marshall is the guy you get in to do the ‘big’ episodes. He also knows how to cook people in inventive ways (see Sean Pertwee’s death in Doomsday). I think his ability to construct genuine scares, his penchant for gore and his strong, very dark sense of humour will make episode 8 a season highlight.

Earlier in the spring, there was news originating from DDLC that renowned horror director Guillermo del Toro would direct one of the final three episodes, but hopes were quickly dashed. Given the source of the information, it would appear that DDLC were at least in negotiations with del Toro for this gig. Despite the collective sighs of disappointment that this would not be happening, I think it’s heartening that those behind our beloved show are thinking big about its future and want to bring in names which will further cement its reputation of aesthetic and cinematic quality.

In the wake of that announcement, Guillermo Navarro (del Toro’s frequent cinematographer) was confirmed as the director for 11 and 12, which is some small comfort. This is not his first Hannibal outing, though, as he was responsible for Coquilles, Trou Normand and Roti in season one. Michael Rymer is in the seat again for the season finale, following directing duties on seven episodes across the two previous seasons.


Some, not all, of the episode titles have been announced, and so far we have Antipasto (301), Primavera, (302) Secondo (303) and Digestivo (307). The Italian names reinforce the dominant Italian setting and continue the culinary theme for episode naming. Digestivo tells us clearly that this will be the final episode in this arc. Hannibal’s episode titles have always been inspired by fine dining; French cuisine in the first season, Japanese in the second and in the first half of season three, Italian dishes. This approach is abandoned from episode 8 onwards; the beginning of the Red Dragon arc. IMDb currently lists the titles as The Great Red Dragon (308) And the Woman Clothed in Sun (309), And the Woman Clothed with the Sun (310), And the Beast from the Sea (311). The episode titles reference a series of paintings by William Blake which are inspired by passages in the book of Revelation.

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© The Blake Archive

This shifting in approach to naming is interesting in itself, as the episode titles are more than just functional labels, and if anything they might provide more subtle evidence of Hannibal’s capture and incarceration. If, for the first two and a half seasons, Hannibal is the dominant serial killer at liberty, then the episode titles link to his character and his M.O. The change of the manner of naming episodes from 308 onwards to phrases that not only have a canonical resonance with Francis Dolarhyde, but that are also important to him personally in the story, suggests that he is now the dominant serial killer at liberty, and the one that engages Will’s attention more often.

There had been speculation that the final two episode would be named after the last in the Blake series – And the Number of the Beast is 666, however IMDb currently lists no title for 312 and The Wrath of the Lamb as the episode title for the season finale.  This title is not a reference to Blake’s work, but it is another reference to Revelation:

[…]Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,

Revelation 6:16

The symbolic ‘Lamb’ here is Christ, but we have to acknowledge that this is, in all likelihood, a little bit of fan-teasing. The final word, Lamb, clearly has relevance to the The Silence of the Lambs and a particular association with the backstory of the young FBI agent, Clarice Starling. Fuller has previously stated his keenness to explore this iconic chapter in the Lecter canon, and the title is a clear tease to those of us anticipating where the narrative will go in season four.

Whether we get to see where Fuller wants to take his crazy, sickening, intoxicating re-imagining is frustratingly in the lap of the Gods. Please, Television Gods, Please

Anitpasto, the first episode of season three of Hannibal, will premiere on NBC on 4th June and on Sky Living in the UK on 8th June.



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I'm a UK fannibal and multi-fandom aca-fan (Whedon, Supernatural, Sherlock, Community, MCU, etc). I teach Film Studies and Media Studies and love it! 

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