The third-season finale of Hannibal left the fates of several characters hanging in the balance, including that of Laurence Fishburne’s Jack Crawford. That fate looked sealed after ABC picked up Black-ish, the new Anthony Anderson-led sitcom that casts Fishburne as Anderson’s no-nonsense, fedora-sporting father. But as Fishburne related during today’s Black-ish panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, playing a cranky mentor figure on one show won’t preclude Fishburne from playing a tortured mentor figure on another. Though he didn’t (and likely couldn’t) go into specifics, Fishburne noted that he’ll only be a recurring presence on both Hannibal and Black-ish this year, an arrangement he made to continue his involvement with both series. Similarly, executive producer Larry Wilmore will split his time between two shows this season, shepherding Black-ish for its first 12 episodes before departing for his new post-Daily Show program, The Minority Report.
And so begins the long, surely GIF-powered process of speculating about what will keep Crawford out of the action on Hannibal—short of anything that Bryan Fuller has already put on the screen. Perhaps Jack will take a lengthy sabbatical, in which he plays possum in Hannibal’s house for several episodes. Or maybe, taking a cue from season two’s in media res opening, the framing device for the season’s early episodes will hinge on Jack’s vital signs: An artful blink here, a jarring insert of rushing platelets there. Most likely, though, Jack will take leave of the FBI for weeks at a time, assuming the alias of “Pops” Johnson, a Los Angeles-based grandfather who never has to worry about being a made a meal in the literal sense.