Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button

Series


Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal never drew the numbers it needed for NBC to keep wasting ad revenue on it. It’s a bummer that it was canceled before Fuller had completed his ‘five season plan,’ but, as a fan, I’m thankful NBC gave it the chance they did and that he and his staff didn’t dial back on the strange and disturbing content for the third season, despite the very real threat that it would be the show’s swan song if their numbers didn’t improve. If anything, season three doubled-down on everything that made the series so unmarketable – it’s more violent, more impressionistic, and more challenging on a narrative level. This leads to real problems, of course. The first issue is that season three simply can’t stand up to the lofty achievements of season two. Fuller and Company (a massive cadre that includes directors Vincenzo Natali, Marc Jobst, Guillermo Navarro, Adam Kane, Neil Marshall, John Dahl, and Michael Rymer, and writers Steve Lightfoot, Nick Antosca, Angela Lamanna, Don Mancini, Tom de Ville, Angelina Burnett, and Jeff Vlaming) set the bar so high that there was no way to surmount it. And, though the head-first dive into mainstream unfriendly elements is the key to the ultimate success of the entire series, the illusive, grotesque images and purposefully opaque narrative structure is sometimes discouraging, as is the almost complete break from the procedural framework of the first two seasons.

 Hannibal Season 3
The first half of the season – the part that turned so many people off – runs on emotionally-charged dream logic. Storytelling is ancillary to the haunting impression of the characters’ thoughts and feelings. Even the increasingly poetic dialogue serves the sensory feast of abstract concepts, like love, betrayal, revenge, and power. And there is undeniable, primal truth in these portrayals. Opaque storytelling and severe artistry aside, this first portion is a borderline brilliant re-telling of the two worst books in Thomas Harris’ original Hannibal series – Hannibal and the prequel novel, Hannibal Rising. Though I adore the exploitation-level absurdity of Ridley Scott’s movie version of Hannibal (2001), it still harbors some of the book’s dopiest instincts and the less said about either the book or movie version of Hannibal Rising, the better. Fuller and his staff take the best bits and pieces from those stories and integrate them into their isolated universe. Despite the fine efforts, it’s little mistake that the most incidental and unneeded subplot – Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) travelling to Hannibal's (Mads Mikkelsen) childhood home in Lithuania and discovering Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) – is attached to the mostly horrible prequel book. Even these showmakers can only put so much polish on that turd.

Fuller and Company answer all of the questions posed by the jaw-dropping finale of season two in a nightmarish way that really forces the audience to understand the mental damage Hannibal inflicted on everyone who survived his attacks. The existential scars are every bit as palpable as the graphic physical damage. Even narrative tricks that bugged me the first time, such as the fake-out non-survival of Abigail (Kacey Rohl), make sense now within the greater patchwork of the seven episode arc. Re-watching the season reveals quite a bit of subtle subdermal storytelling that I completely missed on my first viewing, specifically before they get into the meat of Red Dragon. I didn’t miss any important plot (in part because the plotting is pretty incidental), but there are character cues that make more sense the second time around. For instance, knowing that Hannibal will turn himself in at the end of episode seven, Digestivo, I can now recognize that he started mulling over that decision as early as his discussions with Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) during the first episode flashbacks. It’s also a lot easier to accept Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier’s (Gillian Anderson) place in the story once Hannibal’s power over her is fully explained. I suppose it also helps that I no longer find myself trying to stay ahead of the plot. When the episodes aired, I kept finding myself making guesses based on my knowledge of the books and movies.

 Hannibal Season 3
This brings me to the season’s biggest weakness – the familiarity of the Red Dragon half of the season. I like a lot about this retelling. I like Richard Armitage as the most frightening screen version of Francis Dolarhyde (though he does lack Tom Noonan’s pristine sadness) and I like that it draws from both Harris’ book and Michael Mann’s original film adaptation, Manhunter (1986). But, after the rollercoaster of changes made to the other books, not to mention two seasons of almost entirely original material, the relatively straight-forward adaptation of Red Dragon feels off. The first half of the season plays with our book-based expectations to create suspense. When Hannibal hangs Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino) ‘bowels out’ from the museum window, fans assume the scene is over, but then Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) shows up and, having witnessed the murder (and mourned the passing of his wife), beats the hell out of Hannibal. Later, Hannibal regains the upper hand and starts to cut into Will’s brain. Those of us aware of plot points Harris’ Hannibal or seen Scott’s movie instantly draw comparisons to Paul Krendler’s ultimate fate (spoiler: he was forced to eat his own brain). We assume the worst, based on an external experience, rather than assuming Will will survive because he is the show’s lead. Fuller and Company make a lot of cosmetic changes to Red Dragon – many to ensure Hannibal has a greater part to play in the story – but the broad strokes are basically the same until the final episode, The Wrath of the Lamb.

Speaking of Jack beating the hell out of Hannibal, season three replaces morbid and baroque memento moris with more brutal, painful, and quite often non-fatal bodily mutilation. Will survives a gutting, only to be shot in the shoulder, have the top of his skull nearly sheared off, and his face nearly removed – all within the first seven episodes. It takes him years to recover, but this is nothing compared to the endless torture unloaded upon Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza). During the first season, he lived subsisted even after Abel Gideon had removed several feet of his internal organs. He took a bullet to the face in season two and was assumed dead, until the surprise reveal that he had survived. In season three, he takes the place of reporter Freddy Lounds (known as ‘Freddie’ on the show and played by Lara Jean Chorostecki) as the recipient of Dolarhyde’s wrath. The Red Dragon superglues Chilton to a chair, bites off his lips, and sets him on fire, but, unlike Lounds in the books and movies, Chilton survives the ordeal and presumably spends the rest of his life in pain and barely able to speak. It all seemed so horrifying the first time I saw the season, but I couldn’t help but appreciate the cruel comedy of it all upon my rewatch.

 Hannibal Season 3

Video


Hannibal is still shot using Arri Alexa digital HD cameras and is still a very dark show. Very, very dark. So dark that I honestly had no idea what I was supposed to be seeing when I first watched this season on live TV and Hulu. I wasn’t sure if the Blu-ray’s more consistent 1080p, 1.78:1 (during the first episode, Antipasto, flashbacks are framed in 2.35:1 and the ones involving Dr. Gideon ar presented in black & white) video could improve over an unreliable 1080p Hulu stream in this regard, but, thankfully, there is a notable difference in clarity. I’d be willing to argue that the directors and James Hawkinson, who acted as cinematographer for 35 of the show’s 39 total episodes, went overboard in season three, especially after looking back on season two, which had significantly more daylight and well-lit lab sequences. This darkness is augmented by lots of shallow focus, soft highlights, and lots of subtle CG additions that compound the clarity issues, but these are all important hallmarks of a very precisely constructed series. The intent is to push these stylistic ideas to their limit, but it is very hard for a home theater to recreate this. On an HD stream, the darkness problem is exposed as flattened details and step/banding artefacts. On the superior Blu-ray transfer, the sharpness reveals more fine digital noise alongside tighter elemental delineations. The clearer image helps to boost some of the colours as well, especially the aqua and teal base palettes of many episodes, which appeared more green/grey on TV/Hulu. The warmer highlight hues are tighter and the deepest blacks offer plenty of support, despite the lack of hard contrast.

 Hannibal Season 3

Audio


The differences between the Blu-ray and Hulu stream’s imagery is important, but not a necessity. One can still enjoy the the basic impact of the visuals, even without the benefit of consistent 1080p video. The difference between TV/Hulu’s compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 and this Blu-ray’s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, on the other hand, is astronomical. Hannibal’s sound design is the best and most unique on television. Or it was, I guess. Composer Brian Reitzell, who provided original music for every episode of the series (and music supervisor for almost every episode), is up to his usual tricks, blending instrumental melodies with dissonant noises until it is almost impossible to tell the what is his work and what is the work of the more standard issue sound designers. Season three is probably his most eclectic collection of music in terms of styles and genres, including a number of new themes. The music and corresponding abstract noise overpower any sense of naturalistic noise or typical sound effects. In fact, incidental noise is downplayed to the point of near silence on many occasions and replaced by something more aggressive and strange. These strange sounds sometimes overwhelm the viewer with sheer volume and swirling directional intricacies. Grand examples of this aural overload include Will’s THX test-like plunge into near-death during episode two, Primavera; the psychedelic insanity of the kaleidoscopic lesbian sex scene in episode six, Dolce; and the super-expressionistic introduction to Dolarhyde in episode eight, The Great Red Dragon.

 Hannibal Season 3

Extras


  • Commentary tracks:
    • Episode One, Antipasto (extended Producer’s Cut), with creator/showrunner Bryan Fuller and actress Gillian Anderson
    • Episode two, Primavera (extended Producer’s Cut), with Fuller and actor Hugh Dancy
    • Episode four, Aperitivo, with Fuller, co-producer/co-writer Steve Lightfoot, and actor Raúl Esparza
    • Episode six, Dolce (extended Producer’s Cut), with Fuller, Lightfoot, and co-producer/co-writer/creator of Child’s Play Don Mancini
    • Episode seven, Digestivo (extended Producer’s Cut), with Fuller and Lightfoot
    • Episode eight, The Great Red Dragon (extended Producer’s Cut), with Fuller and actor Richard Armitage
    • Episode nine, And the Woman Clothed with the Sun… (extended Producer’s Cut), with Fuller and actress Rutina Wesley
    • Episode ten, And the Woman Clothed in Sun, with Fuller and Armitage
    • Episode twelve, The Number of the Beast Is 666… (extended Producer’s Cut), with Lightfoot and actress Lara Jean Chorostecki
    • Episode thirteen, The Wrath of the Lamb, with Fuller and Dancy
  • Beyond the Mind Palace (18:50, HD, disc one) – A look back at the season with the cast & crew, including themes, changes in storytelling style (i.e. moving from ‘Killer of the Week’ to a strictly serialized format), character growth, costumes, special effects, and production/set design.
  • Gag reel (8:50, HD, disc one)
  • Avid Fannibals (18:40, HD, disc two) – The cast & crew discuss their “hearty and obsessive” fanbase (Gillian Anderson’s words) and the ongoing discussion between fans and showmakers on Twitter. It includes interviews with ‘Fannibals,’ fan art, and cosplay images.
  • Hannibal on the Run (20:30, HD, disc two) – An exploration of the season’s location shooting. Toronto tends to stand-in for most of the international spaces (both for stages and locations), but the storylines this season also required some shooting in Florence, Italy.
  • Hannibal Season 3: Killer Intentions (17:00, HD, disc two) – A breakdown of the story choices this season; from character evolutions to who survived the second season slaughter (Laurence Fishburne wasn’t immediately available for a third season, due to commitments to Blackish) and which parts of Red Dragon and Hannibal (the book) to adapt. Red Dragon would’ve premiered during the prospective fourth season, but Fuller assumed they’d be cancelled and pushed it up to the third.
  • Ten Post Mortem webisodes with actor Scott Thompson (disc two):
    • Fuller and actress Gillian Anderson (4:20, HD)
    • Actor Hugh Dancy and actress Kacey Rohl (4:50, HD)
    • Actor Mads Mikkelsen (4:50, HD)
    • Actor Laurence Fishburne (4:50, HD)
    • Producer Martha de Laurentiis (5:00, HD)
    • Director Vincenzo Natali (4:30, HD)
    • Actresses Karoline Dhavernas and Katharine Isabelle (5:00, HD)
    • Director Guillermo Navarro and actor Richard Armitage (1:50, HD)
    • Navarro, Armitage, and actress Rutina Wesley (18:10, HD)
    • Fuller and Lightfoot (6:10, HD)
  • Nine deleted scenes (10:10, HD, disc two)
  • Getting the Old Scent Again: Reimagining Red Dragon (2:03:30, HD, disc three) – A seven-part, extremely in-depth look at the production of the second half of the season. Here, Fuller and Company dissect the choices made in an effort to be true to Harris’ source novel, pay homage to Manhunter (the cast & crew actually watched it together at a TIFF screening), and acknowledge Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon (Hugh Dancy decided to watch this one, for some reason), while still doing something unique with the material. Further chapters cover both Armitage and Wesley’s casting and methods, the Red Dragon tattoo design, dealing with standards & practices for scenes of implied sex and graphic violence, wrapping-up Dr. Du Maurier’s story arc, cramming Will’s newfound family life into a very small narrative space, substituting Dr. Chilton for Freddie Lounds (besides teasing Lounds’ death in season one, Fuller rightfully didn’t want to portray that degree of torture against a woman), updating the outdated technical details of Harris’ book (i.e. Dolarhyde finding victims via social media, instead of stealing 8mm home movies), the final episode’s musical score (including Siouxsie Sioux’s song “Love Crime”), and the major changes made to the end of the story in order to facilitate the central Will + Hannibal narrative (Lightfoot admits that they were inspired by Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty’s famous final battle). There is oodles of footage from the writers room and from the set to illustrate the discussion.


 Hannibal Season 3

Overall


Damn it, I am going to miss this strangely operatic show. Season three had some issues, but it was also perhaps the purest distillation of what Bryan Fuller and his cast & crew set out to create. And a second viewing made me appreciate its achievements even more. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray is an audio/visual improvement on streaming media/live televsion (the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is gobsmacking) and the extras are the most in-depth and entertaining I’ve seen from a television series release this year. I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry…

 Hannibal Season 3

 Hannibal Season 3

 Hannibal Season 3

 Hannibal Season 3

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer..


Links: