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Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller on another shocking ending

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Every week of its second season, series showrunner and developer Bryan Fuller will be talking with The A.V. Club about that week’s episode of Hannibal, in a more spread-out version of our Walkthrough feature. This week, we’re talking with him about the second season’s sixth episode, “Futamono.”

The A.V. Club: Miriam Lass is back!

Bryan Fuller: Were you surprised that she was alive?

AVC:  I was not expecting that at all.

BF: Oh good! We were originally going to play that card in season one, and then stories just started to not accommodate it, in a certain way. We talked about having her in the finale of season one, sort of ending on all of these cliffhangers. You have this cliffhanger for Will being imprisoned, and then before we would go to that shot, we were going to a shot with Jack Crawford in bed and do a scary sequence where somebody’s in his room, and then he turns on the light, and it’s her at the foot of his bed without an arm. But [Laughs.] I think this version’s better.


AVC: When did you decide to move that story to this season instead of from the cliffhanger of season one?

BF: Really, it was when we were breaking the story of season one and part of it was Anna [Chlumsky’s] availability. She was busy on Veep. Her first day on the job, when she came to do the guest role in the first season, I loved her audition so much. She had this real accessibility and it really felt like she was our version of Clarice [Starling]. Yet, she had an original take on that type of character. So on her first day, I went to her trailer, and I was like, “I hope you have a lot of fun here, because you need to be Hannibal Lecter’s get-out-of-jail-free card, and we need to bring you back.”


So I knew before she’d even been on a gigabyte of film that she had to come back. I just think it’s so much better for her to come back in this way, as opposed to putting her as part of the cliffhanger of the first season, because it would have actually taken a bit of the power away from that last moment between Will and Hannibal, which I think needs to have its air.

It helped us in terms of the narrative where the audience got so far away from the character that she really is a surprise coming back, because you do anticipate, “Okay, if that person’s still alive, and we haven’t seen the rest of the body beyond the arm, maybe she’s out there in some capacity.” And then… you just give up hope. [Laughs.] Because she doesn’t show up. I think we went past the moment of giving up hope on the character’s return, and that felt like the opportune moment to bring her back.

AVC: So you knew from the start that she was going to come back at some point.

BF: Yes. It just seemed like it was going to be perfect, because if Hannibal takes her and does all of the stuff that he does to Clarice at the end of the book Hannibal, sort of brain-washing her, seducing her, and manipulating her, it felt like that was a great opportunity for us to do our spin on that story.


AVC: This episode also features Hannibal and Alana coupling. This show has been almost sexless, not quite, but almost

BF: Yes!

AVC: What made this the time to bring in that romantic, sexual aspect?

BF: It was really about, at the beginning of the season we talked about, “God, how do we get more sex on this show?” because we felt the same way, that it was a little sexless, and we’ve got sexy actors, let’s take advantage of them. So it felt like we had to wait on it, because we were going to be so invested in the Will and Alana romance, and if only Will would get clarity in his mind and Alana could see him as a whole person as opposed to a patient, and then they could cross that barrier and have a wonderful romance. So as we were having that hope, we kind of get a little bit of a sexy kiss in the first episode with her turning to hot, black fluid and splashing all over him, which I felt like, “Okay, that’s the version of a Hannibal sex scene.” Our version of a money shot from a porn film was her turning to hot, black liquid and splashing on his face.


I felt like we were teeing up a sense of sensuality in that episode, and then the third episode she’s still lamenting how she wants to save him and that she feels that she’s failed in that regard, and we get that there’s a connection there, but then when Will Graham chooses to take Hannibal Lecter’s life, he’s crossed a line in her mind and that door shuts for her. Because she’s like, “Oh my God, he’s a killer, and that’s not compatible with my view of a romantic partner.” [Laughs.] And, ironically, it clears a path for Hannibal to take advantage of Alana and also to bring a veil in front of her eyes as to his intentions and really cloud her perspective in an effective way.

AVC: Sexual stuff aside, what made Alana the right character to end up as Hannibal’s ally and Jack the right character to end up on Will’s side?


BF: It was really because of that romance, and the romance between Will and Alana as an unfulfilled thing. It felt right, because that path is blocked by Will’s action and she had that history with Hannibal and we played with that flirtation in the first season where Hannibal even asks her, “Why didn’t we have an affair?” and she’s like, “Because you were already having an affair.” So we knew that there was some interest there, and then in the sixth episode, because of their mutual loss, and they’ve been in this throuple with Will Graham in some respect, and that element of the throuple dies in Alana’s mind, and then she’s just left with Hannibal. They share so much in common in terms of how it’s presented. She feels that both her and Hannibal care so much about Will, and her feelings for Will are very easily and quickly transferred onto Hannibal as well as being genuinely earned by him, because, from her point of view, he’s a sexy European guy in a three-piece plaid suit, he’s very smart and knows how to cook so… [Beat.] I would. Wouldn’t you? [Laughs.] You know?

AVC: When one of the protagonists is a villain how do you allow the other characters their intelligence without them discovery that person’s secret. Here, Jack is coming very close to figuring Hannibal out. How do you keep Hannibal one step ahead of these other, intelligent characters?


BF: The whole purpose of this episode was to earn everybody’s intelligence and have people do the smart thing. Jack Crawford is listening to Will. He’s listening to Chilton. He’s listening to Alana. He’s listening to everybody, and he’s still pursuing his investigation, and he’s going to get that food, and he’s going to test it and he’s going to find out what it is. So he’s slow and steady wins the race in terms of his style of investigation. I feel like in this episode, because Jack did all of the right things in terms of listening to people and following through and investigating their claims, Hannibal just had to be that one step ahead of him in order to really sell that he is the smartest guy on the show. That is why the FBI didn’t catch him, because every time a claim is made, it is refuted in some way. Will is saying, “He’s eating them,” and, “If he’s serving a dinner party, it’s people,” and Jack does the smart thing where he gets the food, he tests it, it’s not people, and what’s the next line of investigation to be made, and just as he’s approaching maximum capacity of suspicion for Hannibal, up comes Miriam Lass to burst that balloon.

AVC: This episode, you have Hannibal saying the famous  “A census taker rang my doorbell.” The last episode, you had Will on the cart with mask over his face. Silence Of The Lambs is probably the most famous depiction of Hannibal Lecter. How do you approach that and make it your own?


BF: I think because we’re in the world of Thomas Harris, it’s that tricky balance between what is homage and what is parody, and because the movie is so iconic and so instantly associable with all of the storylines that we’re telling on this show, it seems we’re both acknowledging to the audience, “Yes, we’re retelling the Silence Of The Lambs story in a different manner,” but also, the Silence Of The Lambs book and film were brilliant and had great, iconic elements to them and we want those, very much, to be part of our vocabulary too. For instance, on Bates Motel, I was so thrilled that the Psycho house looks like the Psycho house. I’m glad they didn’t say, “Okay, it’s a new era. It’s a new Norman Bates. Let’s make it a new Psycho house.” I would have been much less interested in that series if I didn’t get past that barrier. That was going to be a big barrier to entry for me if it wasn’t as iconic to Psycho as it needed to be, and I feel like we are honoring the iconography of Silence Of The Lambs in much the same way.

AVC: There are a lot of shows about serial killers and famous fictional killers on right now. Do you keep up with most of them, just to see what everybody else is up to?


BF: Because I love Psycho and love Hitchcock, I saw the first season of Bates Motel, and I loved it, and I haven’t got to see any of the second season because I’ve just been so swamped with Hannibal, but I will binge watch that and True Detective as soon as we’re done here.

AVC: We’ve had Abel Gideon back for a couple of episodes. He’s almost been playing his own version of Hannibal’s game. What do you think he’s up to in this episode, and why does he meet the horrible fate he does?


BF: I think part of the reason he meets the horrible fate that he does was the symmetry. Here he is, a guy who claimed to be the Chesapeake Ripper and was the grand pretender to the throne. For him to both become the Chesapeake Ripper and the Chesapeake Ripper’s victim felt like there was a certain poetry that Hannibal would appreciate. We see in episode five, Abel Gideon really goes out of his way to save Hannibal Lecter from Will Graham, but more importantly, save Will Graham from Will Graham by preventing Will from taking a life out of malice. We see that there is a humanity to him and an understanding and even a sympathy for Will Graham and his plight. So as Beverly Katz has carved the path for all of those who believe Will Graham in any capacity, he had to go down the same chute.

Come back next week for discussion of episode seven, the season’s midpoint.