It’s been five years since Hannibal departed our screens, but the recent arrival of the show’s entire three-season run on Netflix saw a resurgence in its popularity, with a new audience discovering the acclaimed series for the first time and joining the ranks of the many “Fannibals” who have been keeping the flame alive since 2015.
Based on the novels by Thomas Harris featuring his icon of horror Hannibal Lecter, the show originally aired to a small but hugely passionate audience on NBC in the US. Ever since its cancellation, rumours have circulated of a possible revival, with showrunner Bryan Fuller and the Hannibal cast all repeatedly making clear their desire to be involved in any such project.
So will there be a Hannibal season four? If so, when? And what will it look like? Here’s everything you need to know.
Though it earned a cult following for its boundary-pushing storytelling, award-winning performances and gorgeous visuals, that ultimately wasn’t enough to save Hannibal from the axe – in June 2015, midway through broadcast of its third season, NBC confirmed that the show would not be returning for a fourth.
“We have been tremendously proud of Hannibal over its three seasons,” the network said in a statement. “Bryan and his team of writers and producers, as well as our incredible actors, have brought a visual palette of storytelling that has been second to none in all of television — broadcast or cable. We thank [producers] Gaumont and everyone involved in the show for their tireless efforts that have made Hannibal an incredible experience for audiences around the world.”
In a statement of his own, Fuller said: “NBC has allowed us to craft a television series that no other broadcast network would have dared, and kept us on the air for three seasons despite Cancellation Bear Chow ratings and images that would have shredded the eyeballs of lesser Standards & Practices enforcers.
“[NBC president] Jen Salke and her team have been fantastic partners and creatively supportive beyond measure.”
Hannibal season 4 on Netflix
From the moment of the show’s cancellation, though, Fuller clearly had one eye on the possibility of a revival, saying in the same 2015 statement, “Hannibal is finishing his last course at NBC’s table this summer. but a hungry cannibal can always dine again.”
Shortly after the cancellation news broke, Fuller told Variety that there had been “discussions” with both Amazon and Netflix about possibly picking up the series. By July, Fuller was tweeting that while both streaming services had passed on a Hannibal revival, he and the team behind the series were “still investigating possibilities”.
In June 2016, Fuller reiterated that he and the cast were still “game” for to revisit the series and by August the following year, he stated – again on Twitter – that “conversations” were again underway with unknown parties about a possible fourth season, though cautioned fans to be patient, adding, “This takes time.”
The arrival of Hannibal on Netflix in June 2020 saw a renewed interest in both the series and the prospect of a possible fourth season, with Fannibals campaigning for Netflix to produce new episodes. So far, the streamer is yet to comment on the prospect…
Hannibal season 4 petition
In the immediate wake of Hannibal’s cancellation, fans started up a petition urging NBC to reconsider and order a fourth season. “The fans want more Hannibal. Period.” read its strapline.
Though the petition was ultimately unsuccessful – at least, so far – it attracted almost 100,000 signatures, with new convertees to the series continuing to sign the Change.org Renew Hannibal petition in 2020.
Hannibal season 4 release date
In a June 2016 interview with Collider, Bryan Fuller suggested that the Hannibal creative team was required to wait for “two years after the last airing of the show” before they could “investigate our options.”
“August 2017 is when we can actually start talking about [a revival],” he said.
Though there’s no firm word yet on a revival or when/where it might emerge, Fuller told Nerdist as recently as June 2020 that he is still “very hopeful” about the prospect, implying that the series would pick up in real time “five, six, six years” after the events of the original finale.
“The great thing about the idea that if we are going to be meeting them [Hannibal and Will] and it takes five, six, seven years or what have you, that’s just how long they’ve been on the lam,” he said. “Then the story picks up from that point. And we’ll adapt.”
Concluding episode ‘The Wrath of the Lamb’ originally aired in August 2015, with a gap of seven years putting a date for a Hannibal revival at late 2022, which feels like the absolute earliest we might feasibly see such a thing.
The third and (so far) final season of Hannibal was made up of an adaptation of two of Thomas Harris’s Lecter novels, flipping the chronology of the original stories to first tell the story of the 1999 book Hannibal and then adapt 1981’s Red Dragon for the screen.
The series closed with a bloody face-off between Hannibal Lecter, Will Graham and the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) – Graham and Lecter work together to overpower and kill Dolarhyde in a clifftop confrontation, with Hannibal satisfied that Will has now become his murderous partner-in-crime. Faced with the reality of his transformation, Will embraces Hannibal and pulls them both over the edge of the cliff.
However, in a post-credits scene, we revisit Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) who is sat at a dinner table. She is now missing a leg, which has been cooked and is served on the table – which is set for three. The implication is that Will and Hannibal survived their tumble from the cliff and are paying Bedelia a visit…
Hannibal season 4 episodes
It’s unclear how many episodes would be included in any potential Hannibal revival – going purely by early chatter around the project, though, it seems unlikely that we’d get a new 13-episode run akin to the first three seasons.
In December 2016, Bryan Fuller has spoken of his desire to produce a miniseries based on The Silence of the Lambs. “I think the film adaptation is a perfect film, but there are a lot of interesting nooks and crannies in that book to explore in a television series,” he told the Blumhouse Productions podcast.
Fuller went into more detail in an interview with Crave Online: “I am imagining a parallel structure of Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) in the institution, with a severely scarred Chilton (Raul Esparza), now having returned to his post,” he revealed.
“Juxtaposing that, back in the heyday of Hannibal as a psychiatrist – perhaps even earlier than we met him the first time – when he had Benjamin Raspail as a patient, and [we’d] weave that story in and around the modern-day Silence of the Lambs tale as we know it.”
However, any adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs would require a deal to be struck with MGM, as Fuller explained to Digital Spy in 2014. “DeLaurentis and Gaumont [the studio behind Hannibal] owns any character that originated in the book Red Dragon, [but] MGM owns any character that originated in the book Silence of the Lambs,” he explained.
Hannibal season 4 cast
Though any cast line-up is purely speculative at this early stage, Hannibal series regulars Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal Lecter), Hugh Dancy (Will Graham), Gillian Anderson (Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier), Raúl Esparza (Dr. Frederick Chilton), Scott Thompson (Jimmy Price), Aaron Abrams (Brian Zeller) and Caroline Dhavernas (Dr. Alana Bloom) all took part in a reunion panel in July 2020, suggesting they’d be open to returning for any revival.
It’s probable that there’d also be a desire to have Laurence Fishburne reprise his role as Will Graham’s boss Jack Crawford, with that character playing a large role in original book version of The Silence of the Lambs.
Fuller has also revealed that he has an actor in mind play the book’s antagonist Buffalo Bill – The Hobbit actor Lee Pace, with whom he’d previously collaborated on the series Pushing Daisies. Ellen Page meanwhile was his pick to play FBI agent Clarice Starling, famously portrayed by Jodie Foster in the 1991 film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs.
“I also love the idea of casting somebody who’s not white in that role, and having race play a factor in Clarice’s background,” he said.