After three seasons on NBC, Hannibal is coming to an end — a bloody, bloody, end. “All the players are conspiring against Hannibal,” showrunner Bryan Fuller tells EW. In other words? Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is in trouble. Big trouble.
And those who have read Red Dragon — the novel on which this season, and the bulk of the series, is based — will still be surprised by what happens. “Anybody who is familiar with the novel will see the shadow of story in what we are telling,” Fuller says. “But it really has become a wholly new tale in the finale.”
Read on for more about the finale, what Fuller wants Hannibal to be remembered for, and whether he would pull a Hannibal and nosh on some human.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are you most excited for fans to see in the finale?
BRYAN FULLER: There’s quite a few threads that have been woven through the season in terms of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter and the intricacies of their relationship, so I’m kind of excited for how all of that pays off in an interesting way.
How close to the book will the finale be?
Oh, gosh. As with anything on this show we tend to mash up experiences with not only our narrative but the narratives from the different books and this one, there’s a lot of things that start the story relatively loyal to certain set pieces of the book and then it goes a completely different direction. So anybody who is familiar with the novel will see the shadow of story in what we are telling, but it really has become a wholly new tale in the finale.
What have been the challenges of adapting Red Dragon as a story that’s been done by other directors before?
I think, for me, part of the reason to do this show was to really explore a lot of what’s in the literature that hasn’t made it to the screen before. And so those things are coming out in our telling, but they are buttressed with events that are in all of the adaptations, but skewed in our particular version because we are telling the tale with considerably more backstory than the previous two versions have had. So the relationships of Will and Hannibal and Bedelia and Jack Crawford are all so crazily entwined and Alana Bloom’s role in the book was insignificant, and she plays a major factor in how things go down in this finale. And there’s something so fated and unavoidable about where we end this season that it seemed like that’s the perfect way to end this season and the series on NBC. But it is a bit of a departure.
You’ve said before that this will be a satisfying finale. But do you personally feel like if this does have to be a series finale, that it will work as one?
Yes. Absolutely. It’s totally designed that way.
Can you tell me anything about what would be the fourth season?
It’s hard to … when everybody’s like, “oh my God, what about the fourth season, what about the fourth season?” You’re like, “Just watch the finale first.” Because the finale ends in a way that the show could lie fallow for a couple of years.
If worst comes to worst, if this ends up being the last we see of your version of Hannibal, how do you want this show to be remembered?
Honestly, what I would love most about this show is for people to remember Mads Mikkelsen as the definitive Hannibal Lecter. I would love that. As much as I love Anthony Hopkins and think he is brilliant and so amazing in his portrayal as Hannibal Lecter, I am much closer to Mads Mikkelsen’s performance [Laughs]. So it would be a great honor if the audience walked away from this series with him as Hannibal Lecter in their minds.
Has there ever been one scene that was too gross or too difficult for even you to sit through?
There was a scene in the first season where Will Graham is reimagining Eddie Izzard’s murder of a nurse and it’s so brutal. I watched it before bedtime and it gave me terrible nightmares. And that one was hard because it was just a man brutally murdering a woman, and it was terrible to see something that I don’t relish but felt that it was important to see that and then see Will Graham horrified by what he’s imagined. What validated that moment in my mind in terms of the narrative of this series is Hugh Dancy’s performance, shaking and shuddering after being in that mindset, and then the audience can truly understand how horrible this is for him.
Yeah, I remember that. It was disturbing.
Yeah, I didn’t like that at all. [Laughs] But I was sitting in the editing room, going, “This is necessary to tell Will Graham’s part of the story.” We kind of have to see him gouge her eyes out with his thumbs to know this is the mindset that will forever haunt this man and this is why, because it’s terrible.
If Hannibal were to turn you into a meal, what meal would you want it to be?
I would love to be a dessert. I would love to top off a meal with a sweet sensation that gives the diner a click in his or her heel as they walk away from the table.
Has working on this show changed food for you at all?
Absolutely. I stopped eating land animals as a result. There will be a couple of times a year where I’ll have an experiential taste of something where somebody says, okay, this is something, this comes from this place, this is how it was raised, this is how it was treated, this is how it was prepared, and there is an artistry behind it. And so I will indulge in a bite from time to time, but mostly I am a pescatarian as a result of not only writing about cannibalism for the last three years, but also doing considerable research on the psychology of animals and how sophisticated cows and pigs and the animals that we eat actually are, and emotionally alive in a way that we’ve kind of been taught to dehumanize them so that we can eat them.
And what I’ve found in writing Hannibal is that I’m humanizing animals in the same way that I look at actual human beings and seeing more similarities than I see differences. And so that has made it much more difficult to eat meat.
And when did you become a pescatarian?
Right in the first season. [Laughs] It had a direct impact on how I view meat and how I view the things that I put in my body, and also, in those rare occasions when I do have a piece of meat, in my mind, it is cannibalism. And I’m eating another sentient being and it’s no different than eating another human being, in my mind. And I’m comfortable with that in those moments. [Laughs] The trauma of Hannibal cuts both ways.
That’s a positive change for you and the animals, I would imagine.
Yes! And also, if I can bring myself to eat pork or beef, I can bring myself to eat a human being.
[Laughs] If it were as ethically acquired and brought to the table… if it were a thing of legalities, I would be curious what a human being would taste like. But I’d be more likely to eat beef or pork, but I do see those meats as belonging to the same group of living beings.
That makes sense.
Basically, I’ve adopted a certain cannibalist nature when it comes to certain land animals, where I’m like, you’re pretty emotionally sophisticated and dimensionalized as a creature so it’s hard for me to say, “I am that much better than you.” So it has rearranged my perspective in terms of eating.
When you interact with those animals, you realize, “Oh, you are real.”
Oh, yeah. I bond with animals very quickly. I totally get sucked into their eyes and, of course, it’s a matter of projection because so much of those animal relationships with human beings are mostly projections from the human side of the equation because we can’t measure animal intelligence in the same way that we measure human intelligence. So we fill in those blanks. But it’s hard not to look at a creature and feel bonded with them.
Hannibal‘s series finale airs Saturday on NBC at 10 p.m. ET.
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