Warning: Some spoilers ahead
Come this Thursday, the teacups will be brought back together again — finally! This Hannibal hiatus has been particularly hard since the Fannibals had to wait not only the normal 9 months between seasons but an additional 5 months since NBC decided to make the series part of its summer line-up. That’s a full 1 year and 2 months for the network to torture us about the fate of the show’s beloved characters after that bloodbath of a season finale last May. Those sadistic bastards!
Fortunately, the wait is almost over with the series returning for season 3 on a new night this Thursday. What’s more, I was able to participate in a press conference call last week with Executive Producer and Creator, Bryan Fuller, to get all the deets on the show’s new season, that shocking Bedelia/Dr. Lecter hook-up, and what gruesome and gory nightmares he has cooking up (no pun intended!) for all the fans this summer.
I think one of the biggest questions on fans’ minds is WTF Bedelia??!! Before the finale, the last time we saw this woman was in an interrogation room with Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). She makes clear that Dr. Lecter is very dangerous, and if you think you’re in control, that’s only because Hannibal wants you to think that. This certainly doesn’t sound like someone enthralled with Lecter and ready to board a plane for France to marry the guy. So, what in the hell gives! Is there a real connection between Bedelia and Hannibal, or is something much bigger going on? Fuller explains,“There is a genuine connection between Bedelia and Hannibal. It’s different than the connection between Will and Hannibal as Bedelia states at one point in the season that Will’s relationship with Hannibal is a much more passionate one than her relationship with Hannibal. Yet, they have an intimacy that goes beyond the psychiatrist-patient relationship, and I would say at its core, Bedelia will always be Hannibal’s therapist first. And I wanted to make sure with her portrayal in the role that she did not all of a sudden become one of those women who writes to serial killers in prison thinking that they can change the man and make him a better person because of their love. She is absolutely not on that course and she knows exactly who she’s dealing with. And I love the turns in this season where we see Bedelia, particularly in Episode 6, on what she’s done and also illustrates that she’s had a plan all along and she’s no dummy.”
Given the fact that Bedelia is a psychiatrist and has such a close relationship with Hannibal, a natural extension to this question is whether Bedelia is, in fact, Clarice Starling whom we all are familiar with from the movies as well as the Thomas Harris novels. Well, Fuller didn’t hesitate and gave a very emphatic “No.” As he explained, “No, no. That’s an interesting question because, you know, in that novel, we see Clarice being brainwashed but the big question is how much is she in control of her own actions and she surrenders to the troll of Hannibal Lecter in the novel. And for our purposes, I always wanted Bedelia to be driving her own story. So it would have been very easy for us to say Bedelia has been brainwashed and this is why she has gone off into this adventure with Hannibal Lecter. But the more interesting route for me as a storyteller is for that character who is a strong female character being in charge of her own story with her own drive, with her own curiosities about the human condition and a lot of what she’s doing is for her own edification. And that was a very important point for us to make with that storyline because I feel like we would be doing the actress and the character a disservice if we just made her a drug-induced pawn of Hannibal Lecter’s plot. So we very much did not want to tell that story even though we were looking at telling that story in a different way in this series eventually. But [Bedelia’s] absolutely in control.”
For those that are wondering, yes, I have seen the premiere, and in fact, I have screened the 1st three episodes of the season. And, yes, the rumors are true — we do not get an inkling in the 1st episode of what happened to all of the main characters whose lives hung in the balance at the end of the season 2 finale. No Jack Crawford. No Alana Bloom. No Abigail Hobbs. Heck, we don’t even get to see Will Graham until episode 2. Initially, this was very surprising for me, and why? Because there’s not a single fan out there who hasn’t been dying for over a year to find out what happened to their favorite character! However, according to Fuller, this was planned all along (again, those sadastic bastards!). He says, “No, that was always the intention all along [given the finale ended with Hannibal and Bedelia]. I thought it was very important to continue telling that story in the first episode of this season and almost giving the audience permission to move on from the first two seasons in a way that would both provide a yearning for needing to know what happened to those characters and also just plunge right into the story that’s right in front of us. So in a way, holding it off is I guess narrative-edging, if that makes sense, not to be too crude. But hopefully with the anticipation, they’ll be more excited to see Will in the second episode after being denied him in the first.”
“Episode 4 is actually the episode that kind of picks up after the events of the finale. And so that, that was one where there were conversations being had like maybe Episode 4 should be Episode 1. And it’s like ‘No, we really need to do it this way because it’s emotional storytelling as opposed to plot storytelling’. And I think a lot of the dream-like images on the show and the way stories unfold surreally is really about embracing a post-traumatic shock. So that second episode for me, which is probably the artiest, fartiest thing that we’ve done on the show, [is about] pretension. I love cinematic pretension. I think it’s a lot of fun. But it was really about a poem to grief and what it is for Will Graham to have survived the first two seasons and really getting his head to the point where you don’t know if you’re awake or if you’re still dreaming.”
One interesting thing that they did do in the premiere is even though the majority of the episode is focused on Hannibal, Bedelia, and their new life in Europe, they did insert some fantastic flashbacks of Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard). As we all may recall, we really didn’t see what went on between the time that Hannibal kidnapped Gideon and the time when Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) found his half-eaten, posed body in his guest room in “Yakimono.” Well, we finally get a glimpse into that, and all I can say is don’t eat a thing before you watch the season premiere. I have a very strong stomach for the most part, but I swear I had to go outside and get some air after watching these scenes. “I love the chemistry between Mads and Eddie and for Dr. Gideon at the table in the black and white flashbacks. One of the themes of that episode is the nature, in exploring the nature of Hannibal’s relationships outside of the Will Graham relationship. So contrasting how he deals with Bedelia, with how he deals with Gideon who’s a bit of a brat in his home. You know, [Gideon] making those noises [at the dinner table] with snail forks and that sort of thing. So, yes, he was there, conscious and being forced to eat himself as part of his punishment for pretending, for being a pretender to the throne in the first season,” Fuller says.
For those who have not heard, one of the big differences in season 3 is the departure from the crime procedural i.e. the murder-of-the-week that has been the primary formula for the show since the beginning. Instead, this season is going to focus more on the characters, which Fuller seems pretty excited about. “There’s two chapters in Season 3. There’s kind of the ‘Hannibal,’ the novel, mashed up with ‘Hannibal Rising,’ the novel, first chapter, that is set primarily in Italy. And then the second chapter that begins with Episode 8 starts the ‘Red Dragon’ story. That is using six episodes to tell a broader, more in-depth version of the story than we’ve been allowed to see previously in the film adaptation just simply because of the real estate that we have in six hours that they didn’t have in two hours.”
“So the fun for us is really making that last – it’s almost like a Red Dragon miniseries in the last half of the season and we tell that story to completion and find ways to weave in our existing characters and change up some of the dynamics that you may have been familiar with in the novels or the films, shifting them around so they feel fresh. Once again, the approach with this show has always been to provide some familiarity and then shake it up, so the audience that may be familiar with the previous adaptations is getting a new experience that is somewhat familiar mashed up with the new incarnations of characters that we’ve developed on the show. So basically you’ll get a nice, fat six-hour Red Dragon miniseries at the end of Season 3.”
For me, one of the most depressing, tragic parts of the Thomas Harris novels, as well as the Hannibal movies, is the story of Francis Dolarhyde. On one hand, you want to beat the guy to a bloody pulp because he kills entire families without an ounce of remorse. But, on the other hand, the character’s back story is just so heart-breaking. Enduring unspeakable abuse at the hands of his grandmother, you can’t help but sympathize with Dolarhyde, or at the very least, understand him. As was announced a few months ago, Richard Armitage will be portraying Francis Dolarhyde, and while there are general similarities to the storyline that most are familiar with, there will also be some fundamental differences in the television adaptation as Fuller explains. “There have been a couple of great performances as Francis Dolarhyde. Tom Noonan in ‘Manhunter’ is a strange man who breaks your heart because you really get a feel for how desperately he actually needed this human connection and how it may have actually saved him from himself and the great Red Dragon. The shocking – I guess it’s not shocking or surprising but a wonderful confirmation of Richard Armitage’s ability as an actor, is that he approached the character with such gravitas and earnestness that the tragedy of the story is really one that we wanted to bring to the forefront because the arc in the Red Dragon chapter of the season is very much a trouble between Hannibal and Will and Francis Dolarhyde because Dolarhyde represents something unique in the triangulation of Hannibal and Will. He provides Will Graham a version of Hannibal that he may be able to save and provides Hannibal a version of Will Graham that he may be able to corrupt. So each of them is getting something dynamic out of that relationship and we get to see how the triangulation through Dolarhyde changes the relationship between Will and Hannibal in a drastic way.”
“So I can’t talk enough about Richard’s presence on this production and how masterful he was, how he surprised the crew, how he elevated the material, how he brought that sense of tragedy to Francis Dolarhyde in a way that was both accessible and sheer madness. You know, in editing the different episodes, I’ve been in the post suite with an editor and watching scenes between Richard and Rutina Wesley, who plays Reba McClane, the object of his affection, and we were both wiping tears out of the corners of our eyes because he is just so heartbreaking. And one of the things that I wanted to challenge the audience with is, yes, this is a horrible killer of families, yet he is so tortured by his madness that I wanted to confuse people with their sympathy for him and the revulsion by him and really deliver a different kind of serial killer story that you don’t see on television that often.”
Even with all of the exciting, fantastic things that Fuller talked about and all we have to look forward to in the new season, the one thing that I’m anticipating more than anything else hadn’t been mentioned yet — and that’s the return of Dr. Chilton. Next to the season 2 finale, “Yakimono” was my favorite of the series thus far, and is definitely one of the most memorable for the majority of fans. And, for those whose memory is a little foggy, this below clip I’m sure will jolt it all back.
Poor Dr. Chilton! Yes, the guy can be an arrogant prick at times, but man, how could you not feel sorry for him after a half-eaten Abel Gideon is left in his house, and he is later shot in the face by Miriam Lass? This is one character that is in need of some revenge, and so, when it was announced at San Diego Comic-Con last summer that Dr. Chilton survived his attack, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. What’s more, Fuller said that Chilton will have a major presence in season 3, which made me even more excited. “Dr. Chilton is reintroduced in Episode 4, and he has a very big role in that episode. One of the things that was interesting in talking about how Chilton would be changed is we saw him in the first season being gutted by Eddie Izzard’s character. And in the second season, he was shot in the face by Anna Chlumsky’s character. So he’s a bit of arcane for this series that we do something absolutely horrible to Dr. Chilton in every season. And what happens to him in this season is probably the most horrible.” (I personally gasped at that last sentence. What could they possibly do to this man that is worse than being gutted or shot in the face?!)
“But the fun of it in doing it with that character is that Raúl Esparza brings such a different energy to the show, a vital energy to the show where he understands his role as the comic relief in this world and provides a perspective of the madness that is grounded at the same time as witty. And so we do some very fun things with Dr. Chilton this season. And Will is always cracking the stage up with his antics. The blooper reel for this season is, he definitely is the highlight of that. And so, yes, he comes back in and plays a pivotal role in both chapters, the first chapter and the second chapter. And we understand, we will see very clearly how he managed to survive those things, so we don’t just sort of magically have him show up and everything is fine. We see exactly what happened from a bullet’s point of view and how he survived.”
The title of the season 3 premiere of Hannibal is “Antipasto” and airs this Thursday at 10/9c on NBC. In the meantime, check out the below photo and video preview (yes, folks, that’s Alana Bloom in the video sneak peek, but if you blink, you might miss it!).
Also be sure to check back early this week for my full Advance Preview of the premiere, which will include some tasty teasers on what to expect as well as video cast interviews.
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com