When it was first announced that Bryan Fuller and NBC would be telling the tale of Hannibal Lecter for the fourth or sixth or maybe fourteenth time, fans wondered—to put it in terms of Thomas Harris’ series—what sort of delicious face meat would be left on the skull, as it were, after being ravaged by so many different film and book versions. As it turns out, Fuller is also well aware of the potential for redundancy, so his drama will do something that, actually, none of the stories featuring the cannibalistic serial killer have really done so far: focus on the time period when Lecter was a practicing psychiatrist in the U.S. but before he was discovered to be a murderer—a part of his origin story that takes up all of five pages in Harris’ Red Dragon, but here will take up two full seasons.
“It’s before he was incarcerated, so he’s more of a peacock,” Fuller says to Entertainment Weekly. “There is a cheery disposition to our Hannibal. He’s not being telegraphed as a villain. If the audience didn’t know who he was, they wouldn’t see him coming.” Indeed, Fuller plans to string along any hypothetical newcomers and keep his Hannibal firmly on the side of law and order—with another side of killing and eating people on the sly—for a couple of years while he teases out the “love story, for lack of a better description” between the still-yet-to-be-cast Lecter and Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham. As Fuller says, this will find Lecter working a slew of standard crime procedural cases alongside the man who’s destined to find out he’s been eating people, and that is why he’s so sluggish sometimes and always making smirking double entendres, most likely.
Fortunately for those who might think dragging out the inevitable like this will only be frustrating, the show is adopting the cable model of 13 episodes per season, which Fuller says will help them not to “dally in our storytelling.” That Fuller already has a seven-season arc mapped out may also be reassuring to fans, leaving them now to quibble only with whomever he chooses to fill Anthony Hopkins’ shoes as the small-screen Lecter and, quite possibly, his self-proclaimed “Starbucking” by swapping the genders of a couple of other supporting characters. Though of course, all of this depends mightily on whether viewers stick around long enough for Hannibal to even get to the point where Fuller can shake things up dramatically, which would certainly be a first for a Bryan Fuller series.