Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) is on the run in Europe — accompanied by his psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) — sporting a new identity, but servicing the same insatiable appetite. As the lives of Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) converge toward Hannibal again, each with their own motivations to catch him once and for all, their deadly dance turns in startling and unexpected ways.
Ever since the boundary-pushing 'Hannibal' series started its run on broadcast television (NBC), those who followed it week-to-week constantly wondered for how long showrunner Bryan Fuller ('Pushing Daisies,' 'Dead Like Me') would get away with it. Not only did it push the envelope with its gore (and eventually sexuality), but it was flat-out far too slow, methodical and artsy for primetime mainstream television. Despite season one being purely brilliant, it was questionable whether it would be issued a second season order. To the surprise of every "fannibal," it did – and season two ended up being even better than the first. With a massive cliffhanger ending, considering that it had some of the worst viewership ratings on the network, it was extra surprising when the series received a third season order; however, when the air-date was pushed back to summer, it was the first sign that NBC was about to let it go. When the cancellation order came though, it didn't really catch anyone off-guard – but NBC played it much cooler than they had to. Instead of dropping the season part-way through (like they recently did with the canceled-too-soon adaptation 'About a Boy'), they let 'Hannibal' run its course, airing all 13 wonderful episodes of season three. I don't know of any fannibals that are upset with the cancellation. The vast majority of us are perfectly happy that we got as much of it as we did. Although this is it for now, it was great getting as much as we did - especially considering the awesome nature of the third season.
Warning: What follows is filled with massive spoilers for the previous seasons, but contains no spoilers for the third season.
Season one concluded with the unpredictable role reversal of Will Graham being locked up in the Baltimore State Hospital and donning the iconic Hannibal Lecter face mask. What a brilliant way to flip the series on its head! Season two upped the ante to the umpteenth degree by leaving the fate of all four non-killer characters on the line. Will's belly was sliced from side to side and bleeding everywhere. Jack Crawford had locked himself in a pantry with a shard of glass hanging from his profusely bleeding jugular. Alana Bloom was pushed through a second-story window to the concrete sidewalk below. And Abigail Hobbs' throat was completely slit and bleeding out. The last shot of the season showed Dr. Lecter and Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier flying off into the sunset with two tickets for Italy, alluding to the 'Hannibal' storyline coming next.
All along, Bryan Fuller and his sharp writing staff have taken Thomas Harris' source material and, basically, created their own mash-up fan-fiction. No, that's not meant to be taken as an insult. Season three can be viewed as having two parts: the first is fresh take on the 'Hannibal' storyline that finally offers closure to season two's gruesome finale and even introduces elements from 'Hannibal Rising'; the second half is a terrifying adaptation of the 'Red Dragon' storyline. Each is perfectly fitting and entirely tailored for the television series. Almost functioning like two back-to-back mini-seasons, the first half is slow in pace, organically setting up the characters for the strong 'Red Dragon' arc that follows. The procedural investigative structure of the previous seasons is completely discarded in season three.
It's bittersweet to see 'Hannibal' come to an end, but it had a great run and that was powerfully concluded with this season. The surviving returning cast was as great as ever and the new additions, including Richard Armitage as the Red Dragon / Francis Dolarhyde, Rutina Wesley as Reba McClane and Nina Arianda as a character that I'll leave unnamed (as to not spoil the fate of a certain character), were very well matched along their sides.
It's rumored that another network or a streaming service may yet breathe new life into 'Hannibal,' but even if that doesn't come to pass, we had a perfectly meaty three-course meal that was great while it lasted.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate has given season three the same style of Blu-ray treatment as the previous seasons of 'Hannibal.' The 13 episodes (seven of which appear in the "producer's cut" form) and several hours of special features have been placed on three Region A BD-50 discs. The standard blue Elite keepcase features a hinge arm for the extra disc. A cardboard slipcover is included with early editions, as is a redeemable code for the Digital HD version of season three. The first disc is the only one that features pre-menu content. Along with a commentary disclaimer, ads for 'Mad Men,' 'Nurse Jackie,' a montage of other Lionsgate series and Epix play before the main menu.
With absolute consistency, season three of 'Hannibal' carries identical video qualities as the previous two seasons. The near-perfect four-and-a-half star 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 treatment is back. As usual, the only returning flaw is a handful of instances of minor banding – and that's it.
'Hannibal' carries a great amount of detail that can be seen just as much when the picture is dark as when it's bright. With Hannibal and Bedelia assuming upper-class identities in Italy, their already-intricate wardrobes take a step up in class and style. The details and fine textures to be seen in their clothing is a treat. On the few occasions that Mrs. Hickman caught a glimpse of Bedelia's dresses, coats and hats, her jaw sat wide open at how beautiful the fancy attire could appear on-screen. Also along those lines, pores, hairs and facial textures (including dried and scabby blood) are always visually apparent. Italy offers up a wonderful variety in the color palette, but also opens up deep, rich black levels. Those in the extremely dark 'Red Dragon' section of the season consistently match those of Italy.
For the most part, colors are once again desaturated. Italy offers up some ambers and earthy tones. Reds are still the accent color, most of which originate from blood; however, the 'Red Dragon' section fittingly takes the punch out of some blood reds and turns them into oily blacks.
Just like the video, the audio quality is purely consistent with that of the previous seasons. Only one audio option is presented, a dynamic and satisfying 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.
When it comes to vocals, there's a crisp clarity to every spoken word. It's as if extra love was put into this aspect of the audio in order to keep Mads Mikkelsen's can-be thick accent from leaving his dialog inaudible. On top of that, Richard Armitage's deep voice is given extra attention to make it understandable through the mangled heirloom dentures that Francis Dolarhyde dons.
The effects of 'Hannibal' are very effective. They have the ability to take a gross visual scene and make it extra cringe-worthy. Dripping blood, slicing meat, ripping flesh. All of the graphic content carries equally graphic sound effects that are creatively used in the mix. Smoothly moving imaging effects are used throughout.
There's a blurred line between effects and music. Often times, the music is composed of sound effect elements and ominous tone. The use of these non-traditional sounds for scoring and rumbly LFE heighten the madness of the series. A new element to the music in this season is the use of exotic instruments that give season three a distinct new score type.
If this is truly the end of Bryan Fuller's 'Hannibal,' then it's a proper send-off for the short-lived television series. Finally revealing the fate of season two's bloody climax, season three not only evolves the series structure, but it brings its tension and creativity to whole new levels. The Blu-ray features the same amazing video and audio qualities that we've seen in the past, but it also comes with a slew of additional special features – even more than what we've gotten with the previous season releases. Seven episodes are shown in "producer's cut" formats and ten episodes feature cast and crew commentaries. Not only are there several solid featurettes, but a two-hour making-of is included that solely focuses on the 'Red Dragon' second half of the season and the killer finale. This is a more than worthy and highly recommended Blu-ray set for what just might be the send-off of this fantastic reinvention and iteration of Thomas Harris' work.