Hannibal’s third season had a shaky start. Throughout the show’s airtime it was on the precipice of cancellation but to the relief of all “Fannibals” out there a third season was green lit; considering the manner in which season 2 came to an end we can all be hugely thankful. Its third season however started very slowly, the first three episodes concentrated on setting up a very different show to what we had seen before but it ultimately proved to be the final straw for NBC announcing early on that the show would be cancelled. A great shame considering how well the final season has played out.

Essentially split in to two mini series, season 3 covered the Mason Verger story and the eagerly anticipated Red Dragon and for this reason Hannibal’s final season needs to be examined in two parts. Don’t worry, you won’t find any spoilers here.

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This season took a short while to find its feet, with a serious change in dynamic. Long gone are the days of Hannibal and Will’s twisted bromance, we now find Hannibal on the run and his victims all seeking revenge. As you can imagine this Hannibal take on ‘cat and mouse’ is filled with all kinds of twists and turns because nothing is ever as it seems.

The opening three episodes were slow, especially having waited a year to find out the repercussions of the second season’s closing. However, it was nice in some ways to not be handed all the answers right away, as is the case with most opening season episodes these days. The slow burn was painful but the reward for those who battled through was great. By treating Hannibal as a criminal on the run rather than the mastermind in the shadows, the relationships became something we hadn’t seen before.

Our main characters are separated by the events of season 2, not just geographically but mentally. The opening episodes concentrate on the slow bringing together of Will, Jack and Hannibal and once their stories come together, all hell breaks loose. With the addition of Mason Verger out to kill the titular character, the first half of the season ends with as many shocks as you’d come to expect from a show that makes the infamous Red Wedding look like an episode of New Girl. Hannibal hasn’t applied the brakes after the shocking events of season 2, it had very much gone full throttle and the Red Dragon hadn’t even reared its head yet.

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Due to events in the first seven episodes the show takes a very different turn once again. The Red Dragon story line once again requires a few episodes to set up what is to come. This time around, we are introduced to Francis Dolarhyde, an intelligent psychopath who feels as dangerous to the viewer, if not more dangerous, than Hannibal. It would be difficult to go in to depth without spoiling much of the story but I will say that his introduction pushes the show in directions it has never been before. The tone is darker than ever and in places truly shocking, it should be commended how violent the show can be without ever feeling over the top and become gore for the sake of gore. Every shocking image is presented to further the story and the second half will truly shock you.

The end of the Red Dragon storyline brings about the end of the entire show and it may be one that will split opinions. I however thought it was the greatest finale to a show that I have seen. Those who are concerned that it may have been left on a cliffhanger due to its sudden cancellation need not worry, there are no cliffhangers in sight.

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Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen’s on screen chemistry is as hauntingly anti-romantic as ever. They have really mastered their roles and they lead the cast masterfully. Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is, in my opinion, the best representation of Hannibal on screen (sorry Hopkins) and Dancy’s brooding character has now allowed his inner dark side to really shine through in his acting. Richard Armitage has real physical presence on screen and really captures the essence of the Red Dragon. However it was a shame that Mason Verger was recast, although Joe Anderson was convincing, he didn’t capture the manic violence that we saw from Michael Pitt’s version of the character in season 2. Another small problem I had was not with Caroline Dhavernas as Alana Bloom but rather what they did with her character; I won’t spoil anything but there is a part of her storyline that feels slightly forced and out of character, more to serve as a plot device rather than something they built towards. The cast is fantastic, despite my small gripe with Alana’s character change the characters old and new work very well together.

Will and Hannibal’s relationship remains at the forefront of the story and it is their connection that pushes the show forward, their constant attempts to outwit each other effects everyone. Whether Hannibal is on the run or not he is still pulling the strings and Will remains the only person smart enough to tug back. In terms of story, the final season of Hannibal is as intelligent as one would expect. Every line of dialogue is important, every scene and image is shown for a reason. As we’ve come to expect from the show, it was filled with artistically presented gore and constant symbolism through imagery and language.

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It is a real shame that one of the best shows that I have ever seen on TV has come to an end. Hannibal has, from its pilot episode to its final episode been one of the most entertaining, shocking and intelligent shows around. Season 3 didn’t just continue to give us great episode after great episode but surpassed what we have seen before. It is a shame that we may never see more of Hannibal and Will, however the manner in which Hannibal took his final bow was absolute perfection.

9/10

Lorenzo Calder-Smith

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