Release Date(s)2015 (December 8, 2015)
Studio(s)NBC (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Hannibal as a series is a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Those of us who watched the show during its initial run can attest to the many different reactions it seemed to evoke in people. By all accounts, the third season is the most divisive of the three seasons. Rather than following up with a straightforward adaptation of the main story thread in the “Red Dragon” novel, producer and show overseer Bryan Fuller chose instead to go in a new direction, and give the show a makeover with an art film aesthetic – the kind that even Lecter himself would be keen on sinking his teeth into.
The story picks up sometime after the events of the second season, in which Lecter has been exposed and is confronted by Will Graham and Jack Crawford, nearly killing them in the process and escaping the country on a plane to Rome with Bedelia by his side. Meanwhile, Dr. Chilton, Mason Verger, Margot Verger, and Dr. Bloom all have their own agendas and scores to settle with Dr. Lecter, as a fledgling killer that the press has nicknamed the Tooth Fairy finds a kinship in him.
The most important thing to remember about Hannibal before getting into it is that even though it’s an adaptation of not just one book but several, it still has plenty of new story and well-crafted twists and turns to keep you engaged, even if you know where it will eventually wind up. The third season is certainly no slouch in this department, mixing up the timeline of events in the books as well as deviating from them substantially – perhaps more so than the previous two seasons. Those seasons took events from the book piecemeal in order to build the world and the story, stretching out the relationships between all of the characters that hadn’t been previously explored. Now that we’ve arrived at events which do take place within the novels, one can’t help but feel that it must have been a very burdensome job of trying to create something new without repeating what’s already come before.
However, this time around the aesthetic of the show itself has dominion over the storyline, and the pace suffers for it. Whereas the previous seasons centered around made-for-TV police procedurals, the third season of Hannibal leaves that behind a bit and focuses more on the characters and what’s going on with them internally, but in a very expressionistic manner. An event in the story that might take a single episode to resolve is now often spread out over two to three episodes at a time, replacing it with very slow-moving but artful imagery instead. In other words, it feels more drawn out than it really should. It’s beautiful to look at, but I did feel a sense of wanting to wrap up storylines quicker, especially knowing that we might not be getting anymore of them since the series had been cancelled.
Unfortunately, this new aesthetic also wasn’t a strong enough reason for people to tune in. Ratings, which were surprisingly not high during the show’s entire run, essentially killed the show, despite the network giving it a chance by keeping it going for three seasons. The announcement took place after the show’s first two episodes had aired and many fans felt betrayed, lobbying for the show to be picked up by another company. The most popular option amongst fans seems to be jumping off of the network TV bandwagon altogether and finding a home at Netflix, or perhaps Amazon Prime. It makes sense as a lot of people are seeing the show this way anyway.
As of this writing, nothing along those lines seems to be coming to fruition, and most of the folks behind the scenes have moved on to other projects. However, they keep insisting “never say never,” so who knows? If nothing happens, then it will stand as yet another reason why network television is essentially dead. Modern society can watch TV shows whenever they want, not being slaves to one time airings any longer. It’s probably for the best because the show just didn’t fit in with primetime TV anyways. And when you read about shows like Jessica Jones that were almost ABC shows, it makes you wonder how different Hannibal could have been, and where it could have gone without constraints. Its storyline and pace often leave something to be desired, at least for me, but you have to admire a show that’s as methodical and darkly beautiful as this one.
As before with Season One and Season Two of Hannibal on Blu-ray, the quality of the presentation is very strong. It’s a show that was digitally shot and color-graded within an inch of its life. Detail is immense, except for backgrounds which often get lost in the shadows due to the aforementioned grading. The color palette, which has a sickly yellow appearance at times, or even blue when presented with snowy environments, comes across very strong. Again, the overall brightness leaves something to be desired, but it’s by design, so I can’t fault them too much for that. Otherwise, it’s a very crisp presentation. The audio is presented on an English 5.1 DTS-HD track, and it is equally impressive, if not more so. Every aspect is mixed to near perfection. The atmosphere created with the surrounding ambience, which includes multiple sound effects in every channel, as well as effective score and crystal-clear dialogue, gives you a very romantic listening experience. Low frequency effects are used to great advantage, as well. It’s a very strong presentation, as it has always been. There are also subtitles in English SDH and Spanish for those who might need them.
One of the finest aspects of this release is the extras, produced by Hannibal Blu-ray veteran Cliff Stephenson. Of all of the releases of the show, this is the most extensive and informative package, hands down. Things begin on the first disc with Producer’s Cuts of the episodes Antipasto and Primavera. Additionally, there’s an audio commentary on episode Aperitivo with Bryan Fuller, Raúl Esparza, and Steve Lightfoot; the Beyond the Mind Palace featurette; a gag reel; and a set of trailers for other TV shows, which also open the disc. On the second disc, there are Producer’s Cuts of episodes Dolce, Digestivo, The Great Red Dragon, and And the Woman Clothed With the Sun.... There are also four audio commentaries, one on Dolce with Bryan Fuller, Steve Lightfoot, and Don Mancini; another on Digestivo with Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot; another on The Great Red Dragon with Bryan Fuller and Richard Armitage; and another on And the Woman Clothed With the Sun... with Bryan Fuller and Rutina Wesley. Additionally, there are three featurettes (Avid Fannibals, Hannibal on the Run, and Killer Intentions: Season 3), a set of webisodes entitled Post Mortem with Scott Tompson (Gillian Anderson and Bryan Fuller; Hugh Dancy and Kacey Rohl; Mads Mikkelsen; Laurence Fishburne; Martha de Laurentiis; Vincenzo Natali; Caroline Dhavernas and Katherine Isabelle; Guillermo Navaro and Richard Armitage; Guillermo Navaro, Richard Armitage, and Rutina Wesley; and Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot), and a set of deleted scenes. On the third and final disc, there’s a Producer’s Cut of the episode The Number of The Beast is 666..., three audio commentaries (one on And the Woman Clothed in Sun with Bryan Fuller and Richard Armitage; another on The Number of the Beast is 666... with Steve Lightfoot and Lara Jean Chorostecki; and another on The Wrath of the Lamb with Bryan Fuller and Hugh Dancy), and the extensive documentary Getting the Old Scent Again: Reimagining Red Dragon – presented in seven chapters (Prologue, The Great Red Dragon, And the Woman Clothed..., And the Beast From the Sea, And the Number of the Beast is 666..., The Wrath of the Lamb, and Epilogue). There’s also a bookmarks option on all of the discs, plus 2 paper inserts, one with a Digital HD code, and the other with episode titles. This is a massive and rewarding amount of bonus material, to be sure, and all of it is well worth your time.
The phrase “enjoy it while it lasts” probably sounds a little bitter to folks who follow Hannibal loyally, especially to the few who tuned in week after week to see it. It was one of the most beautiful shows on network TV, and while the third season may be the final season, at least as far as NBC is concerned, it’s still a show worth investing in. For bad or good, it will evoke emotions in you, which is more than I can say for many of today’s other network TV shows. And Lionsgate’s Blu-ray releases of the show, especially this season, are most assuredly must-own.
- Tim Salmons