Hannibal is about to be a decade old, and even years later, there is so much about the series that is still under covers. The drama has a chilling, over-the-top violent inclination and yet managed to become one of the best queer shows of its time.
While the show really was not a romantic take on the story of Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal, the cannibalistic serial killer of the show, and Hugh Dancy's Will Graham, the genius FBI profiler. While Hannibal is in no way a romantic show, the series does have its very own "It" moments.
"It started out as kind of a fascination with how straight guys interact with each other in a romantic way that is not sexual," said Bryan Fuller when explaining the relationship with Hannibal and Will Graham. The director did not have it in his mind to showcase a queer couple in his series, but as the characters developed on, a new relationship emerged between the two.
"Initially, I didn't want to misrepresent Thomas Harris' characters because they clearly have heterosexual leanings in the source material, but as with the kids these days, that sexuality became much more fluid over the course of the series."
Though the two do not get to act on the chemistry between them, it is highly obvious that they like each other, and the two actors playing the characters did a fascinating job at bringing out their attraction.
"They really helped kind of leach that romance out of the page into something that was actionable that became writing dialogue that was, 'Is Hannibal in love with me?' and 'do you ache for him?'" explained Fuller. The acting helped build a nice base for a conversation in season 3 that Will later has with Gillian Anderson's character, Bedelia Du Maurier, who also happens to be Hannibal's therapist. "I was just following the lead of the actors, as opposed to having a gay agenda. The gay agenda came later."
The romance between the two characters is particularly noticeable during the violent finale of season 2, in the episode "Mizumono." The episode shows an incredibly noticeable sexual tension between Hannibal and Will. The two decide that they want to elope together as they evade FBI forces that are too close to finding them. However, Will is still faithful to the FBI, and he betrays Will in the end.
Yet, Will is not able to execute his plan, and his allies suffer horrendous injuries. The two eventually have a face-off in Hannibal's kitchen, where it is too evident that the killer is heartbroken over Will's betrayal. Hannibal then breaks up with Will as he stabs him.
The scene shows Hannibal calling out Will for what he did, saying, "I let you know me — see me," and Will bleeds on the kitchen floor. "I gave you a rare gift, but you didn't want it."
"One of the things that I think was the key in terms of turning it into a romance was this idea of Will and Hannibal being the only person in each other's life that truly understood them and could truly see who they are and accept them on those terms," explained Fuller.
The above-mentioned dialogue by Hannibal was actually inspired by James Cameron's 2010 sci-fi film Avatar. The film shows the human race reaching out onto another planet as they try to colonize the blue alien species of that planet. The Na'vi species of the planet speak a tongue called the Na'vi language, and in the specific language, the phrase "I see you" means that the person is completely aware of the other person and wishes to relay that they accept the second person as they are and everything that they adhere to. The concept is pretty important in the Na'vi culture, and Fuller very consciously used the idea in Hannibal's lines.
"I thought, 'Oh, that's such an elegant piece of humanity that James Cameron has woven into this alien culture. I actually thought about Avatar quite a bit when Hannibal and Will would say to each other that they see each other and they have shown each other things about themselves that no one else can see," shared Fuller. Hence, the line "I let you know me — see me" is "the greatest declaration of love that Hannibal could make," as it was the most intimate that he could ever get with another person.
Fuller also shared that the concept of the pair's romance, being not typical, was something that very much appealed to writer Don Mancini.
"When I wrote in one of the scripts, 'is Hannibal in love with me?' and sent it to the writing staff, Don immediately called and was squealing with glee that it had finally happened. It was finally in text, and it was no longer in the realm of metaphor or suggestion. It was literal, and it was spoken. That was probably the time that everybody really sort of went like, 'Oh, that's what we're doing,'" said Fuller.
"It really wasn't agenda oriented, in a glorious way, because I love when a story and when characters tell you who they are and what they want to be. That was absolutely the case with Hannibal and Will is that those characters and their story told us that they were in love."
Their romance is brought together to a grand finale during the end of the series when Hannibal and Will kill Dolarhyde, another serial killer, together. The entire scene is short of a sensual display of love only for the violence that ensues with the killing. In the end, the injured couple falls off a cliff together as they come together in a final embrace.