How ‘Hannibal’ Became An Immortal Show

Plenty of shows have been canceled throughout the years, but Bryan Fuller's cannibalistic treat has the most passionate and ravenous fans.

Welcome to Petition Worthy, a biweekly column that revisits canceled TV shows that we wish had a longer lifespan. In some cases, we’ll also make a plea for them to be given another chance.

If Petition Worthy had a mascot, his name would be Bryan Fuller. The creator is behind some of the best shows that were canceled too soon, and you can expect to see all of them appear in this column at some point. For this edition, however, I’m going to mourn the loss of Hannibal, one of the tastiest horror TV shows in recent memory.

Based on author Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter character — a cannibalistic therapist who appeared in four novels and five films prior to the NBC series — Fuller’s show reimagines the lore while retaining some elements for good measure. For the most part, though, Hannibal, which ran three seasons from 2013 to 2015, is a Fuller creation. Unique, weird, beautiful, and grim.

The show follows FBI investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), who specializes in serial killers. Helping Graham understand the killers is none other than Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), who harbors homicidal tendencies of his own. And a taste for human flesh, of course. Graham and Lecter operate on opposite sides of the law, but over time, their relationship evolves in some unexpected ways.

Hannibal combines several genres and concepts to great effect. On one hand, it’s a police procedural that regularly revolves around a murderer-of-the-week format. On the other, it’s a darkly comedic horror-thriller that some viewers have also interpreted as a twisted love story. Season 3 is like an Italian giallo movie. It’s all over the place in the best way possible.

Fuller’s work is usually difficult to classify, but Hannibal is all of these descriptions and more. He once described Hannibal as a “pretentious art show,” and while I love his self-deprecating sense of humor and the viewpoint that pretentiousness is a positive, Hannibal is visionary storytelling at its finest.

Understandably, Hannibal is a show that’s filled with grotesque images that are designed to gross people out. At the same time, it’s also quite beautiful. The artistic presentation of depravity is a sight to behold, and the show’s expressive visual style only enhances its attractive qualities. It’s a treasure chest of perfect shots, and the show’s ability to find beauty in the macabre is extraordinary.

Hannibal contains some of the prettiest and most creative murders you’re ever likely to see in a television show. It also features some very creative serial killers. For example, one of them has a propensity for turning human carcasses into musical instruments, while another savage stitches bodies together to create human murals. As such, some of the most depraved scenes in Hannibal are an awe-inspiring spectacle.

While the slaughter is certainly one of the show’s most appealing factors, the characters are just as compelling. One of the ways in which Hannibal takes creative liberties with Harris’ source material is through its commitment to diversity.

For example, the male characters Freddy Lounds and Alan Bloom from the novels are women called Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) in the series. African-American actor Laurence Fishburne plays Jack Crawford, who is white in other iterations of Harris’ tales. But the changes work, mainly because the characters are given more opportunities to develop and make a bigger impact.

Still, Graham and Lecter are the stars of the show, and their relationship is the most fascinating element of the entire series. At its heart, Hannibal is a love story between the two men. While they do date women throughout the course of the saga, they’re in love with each other. Their relationship is also rooted in conflict, which adds an interesting layer to the proceedings.

Graham and Lecter reside on different ends of the moral spectrum in many ways, but they’re like two sides of the same coin, bonded through isolation and a desire to fill the void in their souls. They get each other, and while their relationship never blossoms in a conventionally romantic sense, it culminates in a finale that’s tragic, ambiguous, and beautiful.

In fact, the Season 3 finale is so perfect that maybe it’s better if Hannibal never returns to the screen. Of course, I want to see more episodes, but there’s no denying that the series ends on a high note that most other shows would kill for.

That said, Fuller originally envisioned Hannibal as a show that would last for seven seasons, and he deserves to end the story on his terms. Unfortunately, the show drew low ratings during its initial run, and it’s a miracle that it even got to have a satisfactory conclusion. But there could still be hope for this show.

Since Hannibal’s cancelation, the series’ cult audience has only grown. The Fannibals are as passionate as pop culture fandoms get, and they’ve kept the fire burning through petitions, fanfiction, and social media efforts. Furthermore, Fuller seems to be on board with the idea of returning to this world if the opportunity presents itself again, so never say never.

Back in 2015, Netflix, Amazon, and other entities passed on the chance to resurrect the series on their own platforms. However, now that the first three seasons are coming to Netflix, perhaps the streamer will rethink its decision if the numbers are good. The service has revived shows in the past, and Hannibal has enough fan support to warrant another season at least.

Then again, the arrival of Clarice could be the final nail in Hannibal‘s coffin. There’s no reason why both shows can’t co-exist alongside each other. It’s strange that they’re returning to the Lecter universe with a brand new creation as opposed to bringing back the show with the built-in fan support. Let’s just hope that Clarice is as bold and ambitious as Fuller’s pretentious art show.

Kieran Fisher: Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.