NBC’s Hannibal concluded this past August with a bang — or, more accurately, a splash: The season 3 (and series) finale ended with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) falling off a cliff and presumbly into the sea far, far below after killing Francis Dolarhyde, also known as the Red Dragon.
Dancy, Mikkelsen, and showrunner Bryan Fuller called up EW to talk about the strange relationship between Will and Hannibal, what that last scene really meant, and what they want for Hannibal’s future.
On the series’ final moments
HUGH DANCY: In that final sequence, Hannibal realizes his long-held dream. By the very end, he and Will have killed someone in a kind of ritualistic, cold-blooded fashion. I remember very clearly dripping in blood, and that’s what Hannibal wanted to put it into effect between them at the end of season 2. That’s what he imagined. They go off to Europe like slaughtering people or something. And Will is acknowledging to Hannibal that it was as extraordinary an experience for him as it was for Hannibal. That’s what he’s saying. And I talked to Bryan a lot about that, that the motivation for going off the cliff at the end had to be Will’s realization, not only that this thing had happened, but that he loved it, as opposed to just, “Oh my god, what have I done? I finally arrived at this place I never wanted to be in. Oh, it’s so terrible!” It’s not that. It’s, “This is beautiful.”
MADS MIKKELSEN: [Hannibal’s] been, for three seasons, he’s been trying to make Will Graham see the light, which is [that] there is a wonderful power in killing and doing it for your own purpose. Not to protect yourself, but because you want to. And this is literally what Will is doing at this moment, and they are doing it together. They are doing it as a Bonnie and Clyde couple, which is absolutely perfect in the script that Hannibal wrote.
DANCY: It’s not a real relationship. [Laughs] It’s more, I think, exploration of things which probably we’ve all gone through one way or another, which is slightly obsessive, slightly compulsive. In a sense, it’s just like a really compelling but totally destructive relationship with anybody that you keep coming back to.
BRYAN FULLER: The last moment is [them] nuzzling each other. It actually went further than… Mads was like, “We really went for it!” and I was like, “You actually went a little too for it” because it was like, longing glances, [Laughs] curling lips, and those types of things. I sort of brought it back to the characters and their role without taking it into fan fiction territory. [Laughs]
MIKKELSEN: There is some kind of physicality all of the sudden that becomes almost erotic between them in the very end. It was as if it was impossible not to go there. We basically touched all the other bases with a relationship, and that was kind of like, this has been leading up to this all the time. Whether it’s a physical kiss or it’s just a mental kiss that is being sculpted by our physicality, that is obviously up to the viewers’ eyes, but it just felt unavoidable, that there was no way around it. I think we did a couple versions like that. [Laughs]
It’s definitely a bromance. To Hannibal, Will represents something that he has never really had before, something that is on his level in some senses. And he genuinely loves Will. He could definitely see, not necessarily in a sexual way, a family consisting of him, Will, and Abigail Hobbs. That would be an ideal way of spending the next 10 years of his life. It does not go that way, because Will unfortunately, in Hannibal’s eyes, betrayed him. It is a weird, weird relationship. As Will Graham says in one of the very first scenes they have together, he tells Hannibal that he doesn’t find him that interesting and Hannibal says, “You will.” And that’s what it’s all about. They’ve been getting closer and closer together throughout these seasons.
On the characters’ and the show’s futures
DANCY: I think there’s no question that that’s a big cliff. [Laughs] The only way Will’s ever going to destroy Hannibal is probably to destroy himself. And in that moment, the part of him that’s always fighting against the darkness inside him also thinks, not only is that the only way I’m going to kill Hannibal, it’s better that I should go too. I actually have to end both of us. So that’s what he does.
It’s a final victory. I think what happens is, right up until that last moment, essentially, Hannibal is victorious. He has engineered exactly what he wanted. He’s out of prison, he has Will with him, they’ve gone to this brutal, dark place. And Will manages to pull back a victory. I mean, it’s optimistic in a very, very narrow sense, because they just both killed someone and then jumped off a cliff. But even so. [Laughs]
It’s a very conscious reference to Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. We all know that Sherlock Holmes came back from that. Whether I’m Sherlock or Moriarty in that equation, I don’t even know.
MIKKELSEN: They’d really have to be some super soft rocks down there if Hannibal can make it, right? On the other hand, you see Hannibal getting out of situations that nobody else could get out of it. So if there was a fourth season, we’d have to figure out how he did that. But I don’t think there’s anything supernatural about him. I think he’s mortal like the rest of us, absolutely. But for some reason, God seems to like him. [Laughs] He has a protecting hand carrying Hannibal around all the time. And that is the irony of the show. Why would God simply protect a man like this? It seems like he’s always coming up with a lucky hand.
FULLER: 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 so it would be a great honor if the audience walked away from this series with him as Hannibal Lecter in their minds.
MIKKELSEN: As a human being, I obviously want Hannibal dead a long time ago because it’s absolutely horrendous what he’s doing, but he’s also an extremely interesting character. I would not personally want him wandering around the streets, but if he has to, I think that maybe, that [he and Will] both survived somehow and they have some kind of future friendship where they could put a lid on their urges. And that might be the best solution for the development of those two characters.
DANCY: It’s hard to believe that Hannibal would really die. Because he’s not exactly mortal. And I personally think that if Hannibal’s going to survive, he would save Will. So I don’t know. Let’s just say they’re on a beach somewhere. Drinking something out of a coconut. Or a skull.
The third season of Hannibal is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.