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This review contains spoilers for the first two seasons of “Hannibal”.

“Hannibal” will soon return to our screens, meaning that after months of anticipation we will finally find out who survived the massacre at the titular cannibal’s home. “Mizumono” ended season two with one of the most shocking sequences that you are ever likely to see; beautifully shot, magnificently acted, and fantastically set up, it elevated this show to new heights and cemented its position as one of the best things on television. As the show nears its return you can expect numerous sites to commence with their clichéd play-on-word articles, in which they salute the series for its ‘tastiness’ and conclude with such lines as ‘bon appetite’. I won’t be wasting my time with such platitudes, instead, I want to get to the heart of what makes this show so great and say what I expect from the new season.

What separates “Hannibal” from other shows on television is that it focuses heavily on mental gymnastics and psychological warfare between two unstable geniuses. On the one hand we have Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a man capable of empathising with even the most twisted of killers, and on the other we have Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a psychologist, cannibal, and master manipulator who just so happens to work as an advisor for the FBI. The two fascinate one another, and their dynamic is what makes the series so brilliant, particularly in the second season when everything is more transparent.

Their relationship is a complex cycle of distrust and deceit, but it is also underpinned by a genuine affection, at least on the side of Hannibal; Will is the only person who can see through his façade, the only man capable of connecting with him without immediate repulsion, and on some level that makes him Hannibal’s most beloved friend. Of course, this only deepens the cut as Will tries to have Hannibal captured, as the line goes “I let you know me, see me. I gave you a rare gift, but you didn’t want it”. However, despite that betrayal I still believe that the two will care for each other to some warped extent this time around.

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via collider.com

I have to admit that the first season of “Hannibal” was a slight disappointment for me; it certainly wasn’t bad but it failed to capture my interest with its main story arc, as it was quiet, slow, and at times too enamoured with its own exposition and imagery. The series hadn’t yet pulled me in, so its unorthodox and extremely stylised storytelling was a bit jarring and at times distracting. Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching it for the subplots, in which Will and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) would use their skill sets to find and capture a certain killer. These were particularly exciting, as Will would be required to step into the minds of demented killers and relive their horrific acts, walking everyone else through the crime scenes step by step. What set these scenes apart and made them worth tuning in for was their viciousness and their creativity, something rarely showcased in other shows of the same ilk.

Despite its imperfections, I stuck with the series due to the well-executed and intriguing finale of season one, in which Hannibal framed Will for the crimes he had committed, after perfectly manipulating the FBI into believing that his patient was capable of murder through a carefully crafted plan which he had been executing throughout the season. This finale added weight to those episodes which had been a little strange and poorly paced, and made everything seem intentional and thought out, because everything that Hannibal did to Will in their sessions together was aimed towards a clear goal. After watching it play out there was no doubt in my mind that I should stick with the show, because it was an intelligently woven season of television, even if it wasn’t always entertaining.

Furthermore, I wanted to discover how Will would get out of his tricky situation, or if he would at all, and I was also interested to see how Hannibal would operate apart from his most famous victim. Would the series show his crimes in greater detail? Would he find someone like Will to fill the void left in his life? How would his role at the FBI change now that Will was locked behind bars?

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via geeknation.com

After returning to the series for the answers to these questions, I was astonished by the stunning cinematography, acting, and writing that season two had to offer. From the first moment, in which Hannibal and Jack had a knife fight in Hannibal’s kitchen, I was captivated and mesmerised at how wonderfully brutal and graphic the show was, and at how focused the narrative had become despite the fact that it had a number of characters to follow.

The season screamed quality throughout, especially in its camera work and symbolic imagery, something which had detracted rather than added to the show in season one, and it didn’t allow time for the story to fester in order to satisfy clunky writing; it was precise whilst still being interesting, exciting whilst still intelligent. The showrunners had perfected their approach by the time season two began, and it was clear that they understood their shortcomings in the previous season. It wasn’t just worth tuning in for because of some inventive set-pieces, it was a show that I would spend a week anticipating, counting down the days until the next episode.

Character motivations were unclear, fates were constantly in the balance, and the fact that the season had opened at the end meant that everything felt as though it was hurtling towards disaster – we were watching the wheels slowly unhinging, beginning to fall off, and there was going to be a seriously messy wreckage in the road once they did. It was compelling, beautiful and utterly fantastic.

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via geeknation.com

So, what do I expect from season three?

For starters (no pun intended, honest), I want to find out who survived the finale as soon as possible. Will Graham will definitely stick around for this season, I don’t think there’s even a question about that, because the show is as much about him as it is about Hannibal.

Secondly, I expect to see Jack return, not only because Laurence Fishburne is a great actor that everyone will want to have on set, but also because it felt as though Hannibal left him alive of his own volition in last season’s finale – he could’ve finished him off but he chose to spare him. That leaves Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) who I feel is the most likely casualty. There’s a chance that she could survive as well, but I’d like there to be at least one death after such a ferocious event – I suspect that Abigail (Kacey Rohl) is gone, but she hasn’t been around for a while anyway so that isn’t really major for me. Alana was something of a love interest for Will, but she never really evolved as a character in the series, so it would make sense to kill her off now rather than waste time trying to develop her, especially given the effect that this would have on Will.

As for Hannibal, we are going to see him living a new life following his escape last season, but I expect he’ll be indulging in old habits. The titles of the episodes this season are Italian dishes, so I would presume that he’s living in Italy when we start season three, as he jetted off to an undisclosed location in last year’s finale. However, that’s not a definite, because last season’s episodes were named after Japanese dishes yet we never actually visited Japan.

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via variety.com

Finally, there are a couple of notable additions to the cast. Richard Armitage and Zachary Quinto will both be a part of “Hannibal” this season in some shape or form, which to me is exciting because they are both very adept at playing villains. The former’s descent into villainy in “Spooks” was utterly brilliant, and the latter’s expert turn as the big bad in hit US television series “Heroes” was what made that show as great as it was for longer than it had any right to be.

I hope that Armitage is focused on more, because we’ve seen in the past that he’s capable of really sinking his teeth into a character and he offers a lot to his roles (except for in “The Hobbit”, but I don’t think Thorin’s character was ruined by Armitage so much as by the writers). As I’ve said, Quinto is awesome at playing the villain, and he’s very good at being quiet and unassuming just before he strikes, which could really suit “Hannibal”. Still, I haven’t particularly enjoyed his recent work in “American Horror Story”, which is why I hope he’ll have a more minor role (which from what I’ve heard is likely to be the case).

The signs are good for “Hannibal” this season, and if everyone involved can just continue the upward trend from the first season to the second we could be in for something truly special. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen are so accustomed to their roles now that I can’t see them failing to deliver, and with the newly announced cast members seemingly fitting the show perfectly, everything is falling into place nicely. I have high hopes for season three, very high indeed; bring on the violence, trickery, and a twist or two along the way, and we’ll all be cheering on our favourite cannibal.

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