Season 3 Review
Crashing to a violent conclusion, Bryan Fuller’s lavish reinvention of Hannibal continues to defy expectations, although perhaps without quite the same assuredness as before.
After the horrific climax of Season 2, it was difficult to know quite where Hannibal would go next; as an individual, his path would take him to Europe, but in his wake he left behind no less than four main characters at death’s door – and not all of them survive to make it through to this, the unplanned final season. Cancelled after it had already been completed and started airing, the knowledge that we will never quite make it to Silence of the Lambs – or indeed to whatever else Fuller had in store for us next – can’t help but leave a bitter taste in your mouth, particularly as you make your way through an unnecessarily slow season start that struggles to find direction until at least three or four dense episodes in, devoted almost entirely to the Macbeth-like interactions of Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal and his devilish bride, played by a consistently aloof Gillian Anderson. As key players make their reappearance into the show, however, the ball does – eventually – start to get rolling, with Fuller reworking the plot to Harris’s original final book, Hannibal, to form an unexpected conclusion to the first half of the season that sees villain Mason Verger return to seek his revenge on those who previously wronged him (unnecessarily crow-barring the inconsistent Alana Bloom character into the proceedings to suit her joint top billing).
The second half is devoted – again perhaps unexpectedly – to a fairly familiar reworking of the Red Dragon story, following the ‘becoming’ of the demonic Tooth Fairy (Richard Armitage, trying his best to convince as a tortured, disfigured beast), and the rather convoluted (given everything that has come before) interactions of dogged profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, again on top form) and his ultimate prize, Hannibal, as they try and wrestle with this and other demons. The show continues to be at its best when it reinvents familiar Harris tales, and incorporates familiar Harris dialogue, in new scenarios that put a twist on the old stories; and it conversely struggles when it follows too closely in the footsteps of its predecessors, doing a solid job with the Hannibal book itself (detouring briefly for a fantastic second confrontation between Lawrence Fishburne’s FBI Agent Crawford and Hannibal) but failing wholeheartedly to do anything but walk in the shadow of the vastly superior Michael Mann adaptation of Red Dragon, Manhunter, which continues – despite the laudable efforts of Fuller – to be the pinnacle of the overreaching Hannibal franchise. There’s still much to revel in here, and much to mourn with the passing of this great show, and taken as a whole, the Hannibal TV series is amidst the best ever to grace the small screen.
Hannibal’s always looked stunningly cinematic for a TV show, although season 3 ultimately struggles with the sheer darkness on offer.
The UK release’s 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the show’s originally aired aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, still promotes the grand, exquisitely fashioned sets and setpieces in all their evident glory, celebrating the Euro setting of the first half of the season with even more striking architecture than the first two seasons. Detail is outstanding in the main, picking up on the increasingly scarred visages, the clothing textures and background features, and championing the rich tapestry colour scheme primed with heavy mahogany browns, decadent gold and silver trappings, and minimal vibrant primaries or fresh vibrant green foliage or bright blue skies. Unfortunately almost every episode is twinged with struggling black levels – at once superbly rich, deep and seemingly boundless in their inky, abyssal glory, but in the next instant inconsistent, with variable noise, affected shadow detail and murky intrusion upon the main images. It leaves one of the grandest-looking TV shows faltering over the finish line with a video presentation that is largely impressive but still boasts disappointing flaws around the edges.
On the other hand, the accompanying audio track is unquestionably superb; an absorbing mix that engulfs you in the maelstrom.
Intense and powerful, the third season’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (although it’s worth noting that the discs default to the lesser 2-channel counterpart) is a masterwork of sound design, knowing just how to get under your skin and keep you on the edge. The creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere is maintained throughout with shrieks of discordance and palpable menace lacing the LFE undercurrent. As important as Hannibal’s visuals ever were, its aural nuances promote a wildly engaging atmospheric affair that is often as disturbing as the bloody killings and nightmarish dream sequences.
Dropping everything from its US counterpart, the UK release disappoints in the (non-existent) extras department.
Hannibal Season 3 Blu-ray Review
It's a shame that we'll never get any more of this great TV show, which goes out on an expectedly bloody high.
With strong technical elements - solid video and outstanding audio - there's still much lacking in this release of Hannibal, even forgiving the flaws in the third season's direction. Lacking all of the US counterpart disc's plentiful extra features (including extended episodes and multiple commentaries), there's little reason not to look elsewhere to complete your Hannibal TV series collection which, for many fans, will already - for similar reasons - include US versions of the previous seasons too.
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