The drama series Hannibal came to close this weekend on NBC, and while from a ratings-standpoint the series finale was quiet as a lamb, creatively Hannibal went out in a blaze of glory. Creator Bryan Fuller and Co. not only crafted a conclusion to the Will Graham/Hannibal Lecter arc that was satisfying, but one that felt inevitable. Of course, was my first thought as the closing credits began to roll.
Chris wrote far more extensively about the end of this beautiful and brilliant drama series in his full recap, but as you probably know, ending the show after three seasons was not exactly Fuller’s plan all along. Hannibal struggled in the ratings throughout its run, but after three seasons of middling results NBC finally brought down the axe this year. Fuller, seeing the writing on the wall during the early stages of Season 3, crafted the season finale to also act as a series finale if need-be.
Back when Hannibal was renewed for a second season, Fuller laid out his big plans for the series by saying the Red Dragon story arc would be Season 4, followed by The Silence of the Lambs if he was able to land those rights from MGM. But during the story development for Season 3, Fuller and Co. realized the “Hannibal at Large” arc wouldn’t last an entire season, so they opted to split the third season into two chapters: Hannibal in Italy, and then Red Dragon.
Since Fuller has had this whole series roughly plotted out for a while now, many have been curious about the creator’s plans for Season 4 that won’t be coming to fruition on NBC. In an interview with Alan Sepinwall at HitFix, Fuller didn’t want to divulge too much because he still hopes he can eventually use that story in some way:
“Martha De Laurentiis is looking into financing for a feature film. The season 4 that we were going to tell is such a restart and reimagining that I still hope in some way that we get to tell a version of that, if not Silence of the Lambs itself, as a miniseries. I would love to return this cast to the big screen from whence they came, and Hannibal Lecter to the big screen, from whence he came. It seems perfectly symmetrical.”
Fuller went on to tease the continuation of the Will/Hannibal relationship in Season 4 as a rebranding of their dynamic:
“The story of the fourth season, which is a rebranding of the Will Graham/Hannibal Lecter relationship, that was very exciting. I looked at it and said, ‘This was actually the most interesting aspect of this story.’ So I regret we weren’t able to tell that. But who knows what the future may bring?”
The inventive showrunner also had big plans for telling the Silence of the Lambs story despite the fact that they still didn’t have the rights from MGM. In an interview with Crave Online, he described what he had envisioned for that particular adaptation:
“I am imagining a parallel structure of Hannibal in the institution, with a severely scarred Chilton, now having returned to his post, and juxtaposing that, back in the heyday of Hannibal as a psychiatrist, perhaps even earlier than we met him the first time, when he had Benjamin Raspail as a patient, and weave that story in and around the modern day Silence of the Lambs tale as we know it.”
Fuller added that he intended to bring back Anna Chlumsky’s Miriam Lass and had hoped to cast Lee Pace as Buffalo Bill, going on to reveal an interesting twist he had in mind for Clarice Starling:
“Well, there’s a couple of ways to go. There’s the Ellen Page way, which I think would be fantastic and more kind of in line with the Clarice that we all know. But I know I would also like to explore who Clarice would be from a different racial background. There’s something about being poor and white in the South but there’s something else about being poor and black in the South, and I think it could be the necessary gateway into the character, to make Clarice as much our own signature character as we tried to make Will Graham.”
But when asked if Will would figure into the Silence of the Lambs season or if Hannibal would turn his focus to Clarice, Fuller responded:
“Well, I think that all depends on how Season 4 would have ended. [Laughs.]”
So it sounds like Fuller had some big plans for rebranding the Will/Hannibal relationship in Season 4—possibly as companions?—followed by Silence of the Lambs in Season 5, assuming they were able to secure the rights.
Fuller is now turning his attention full-time to American Gods at Starz, but he’s been very clear in all these postmortem interviews that he would love to continue the Hannibal story either in a feature film or a miniseries, going so far as to poist a scenario to Grantland in which it ends up on Starz:
“There’s a portion of the novel Hannibal that has not been included in any of the adaptations of the story. That was the thrust of the potential Season 4 for us — taking this plot point from that book and reconceiving it for Will and Hannibal. I was talking with Hugh about this as we were landing the plane on Season 3. And Hugh was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s cool. I want to do that.’ So I know Hugh wants to do it, I know Mads wants to do it, and I want to do it with them, we just have got to find the right time and the right platform to tell that story. And who knows? American Gods may be a big hit for Starz, and they may owe me a favor, and maybe they’ll green-light a Hannibal miniseries. Who knows what will happen?”
I do feel like Hannibal ended its run on NBC pretty perfectly, but it’s clear there’s so much more story to be mined from these rich, complex characters that Fuller put together. So here’s hoping, somewhere down the road, Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal returns in some form.