‘Hannibal’: Why the Series and Its Fandom Endures 10 Years Later

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Courtesy of NBC

Additional Author: Nora

Television shows come and go, but every so often, one will come along that sticks with you years later, whether it’s a 10+ season long sitcom or a three-season long drama about a cannibal. Today, April 4, just happens to be all about that three-season long drama: NBC’s Hannibal. Ten years ago today, Hannibal debuted its first season, quickly gaining a devout and passionate following. 

To celebrate the show’s premiere, Fannibals all around have been holding digital celebrations and in-person gatherings to celebrate — including dinners, rewatch parties, and screenings of the pilot episode. Meanwhile, we here at Nerds are taking a look back at the episode that started it all and how the show and its fandom continues to endure.

Apéritif for Your Thoughts

When you hear the name Hannibal Lecter, chances are you think of Sir Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the character in The Silence of the Lambs. In 2013, the iconic serial killer would become synonymous with Mads Mikkelsen, who was quickly embraced with the debut of NBC’s Hannibal. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it follows criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), who’s recruited by the FBI to get inside the mind of serial killers to capture them. Throughout, the series also explores the early relationship of Will and Hannibal, the latter of which has his own agenda.

Right from the opening minutes of the premiere, “Apéritif,” Hannibal lets us know what we’re in for, jumping right into a bloody crime scene. It gives us the chance to either jump ship now or stick around for the ride. Will’s introduction remains a memorable one, as the episode showcases his method of breaking down a crime scene, complete with the now infamous line, “This is my design.” Similarly, we quickly gain a sense of who this new iteration of Hannibal Lecter is — still the character Hopkins cemented years ago, but this time with a deeper, more rounded look at his life. And, of course, the episode (and show) wouldn’t work the way it does without the rest of its stellar cast: Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, Caroline Dhavernas as Dr. Alana Bloom, Hetienne Park as Beverly Katz, Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams as duo Jimmy Price and Brian Zeller, and Kacey Rohl as Abigail Hobbs.


One Adaptation to Rule Them All

Alongside the show, Harris’ work has received five movie adaptations and an additional TV sequel series. While the movies are solid adaptations, NBC’s iteration is arguably the best out there — largely because it IS a television series. It provided Fuller and the rest of the team in front of and behind the camera to explore Harris’ world in a unique and intensely unforgettable way — from the very first episode through the brutal, stunning Season 3 finale.

The show gave this story a vehicle to not only expand established canon but to make said canon its own. Part of what makes Hannibal so incredible is that Fuller and the rest of the writing team hold a strong understanding of the source material they pull from, giving them a sturdy foundation to build from. Sure, they take creative liberties as any adaptation is wont to do. But throughout the show’s three seasons, they poured everything into honoring every part of Harris’ work, bringing his world to life in a way that hadn’t been done before. They weren’t afraid to push the boundaries of the network (and, whew, did they push) because they knew they had unlocked something special.

The Fannibals: A Fandom That Doesn’t Give Up

One thing that really stands out about the Hannibal fandom is the genuine appreciation people seem to have for each other and the overall kindness and openness. New fans are welcomed with open arms by some of the OG fans, including some who show newbies the ropes and help plan gatherings. Fan meetups and unofficial Fannibal chapters have spawned across the country and abroad, creating genuine friendships.

Moreover, new fans discovered the show en masse while it ran on Netflix from 2020 to 2021 and others through various memes, articles, and fan art. Toronto fans have organized tours of the show’s locations in the city where it was mainly shot. Twitter account @/FannibalMovement has organized weekly rewatches; @/FannibalFest has organized cupcake design contests honoring the show’s food art and iconic lines, with show creator Bryan Fuller and Janice Poon, the series’ official food stylist, participating as judges. 

As with any fandom, various crowdfunding campaigns and fanworks have been created, but it’s still astonishing that these are going strong so many years after the show ended. For example, a Kickstarter campaign succeeded as recently as 2021 for a 205-page Hannibal art book, which included fan art, limited copies signed by Fuller, and a foreword by the show’s late executive producer, the beloved Martha De Laurentiis (also a core supporter of the show).

Bryan Fuller, a Showrunner Who Loves the Fandom Right Back

Few showrunners have such an acute understanding of fandom, and such a deep relationship with fans, as Bryan Fuller. The Hannibal creator has been a consistent anchor for fans and the number one supporter of the show. But he does not just enthusiastically share his love for Hannibal. Over the years, he developed, mainly via social media, a deep bond with fans whose art he has shared on Twitter and whose wild fantasies he has entertained, with tips for fanfiction writing and posts acknowledging the show’s main ship, “Hannigram” (Hannibal and Will). This has struck a chord, especially with queer fans who may have been burned before and have had contentious relationships with other writers and showrunners. It is interesting now to see A League of Their Own and Our Flag Means Death cast and crew revel in a similar relationship and embrace the queerness of their show in a way that many executives could surely take note of. 

This unique relationship between fans and creator extends to the cast and crew as well. Fannibals are always recognizable and can count on an actor stopping by for a picture, thanks to their trademark flower crowns (Dancy himself mentioned their significance in a 2022 interview). Seven years after the show ended, flower crowns seem to act as a bat signal, a common language that the fandom and the cast and crew have been sharing over the years.

Brooke Palmer/NBC

The Push for Season 4

Even though the show has (for now) ended after three seasons, love for it hasn’t slowed down. While many shows have had fan rescue campaigns, the #SaveHannibal campaign is special in that it’s been seven years, and fans are showing no sign of slowing down, with some fan accounts tweeting about a Season 4 daily since the show ended. The Nerdist cast reunion that took place in the middle of the pandemic gave fans around the world a lot of hope for a revival, which had been talked about for years. As recently as June 2022, another fan petition made the rounds demanding Hannibal season 4. It was also signed and shared by cast member Hetienne Park (Beverly Katz) and Fuller himself.  

The show itself did a lot (read: everything) right, but if there’s one thing it truly thrived at, it was the art of the season finale. With each season, Hannibal stepped up its game, not just in the story threads left behind but in its emotional intensity, other character arc payoffs, and brutality. All of this built to the Season 3 finale and one the best episodes of the show, “The Wrath of the Lamb.” It left viewers on a literal cliffhanger that, nearly eight years later, maintains a fast grip on the fandom. And while one could argue that it’s a fitting series finale in some regards, the series deserves the chance to go even further.

Though Harris only wrote four books within the Hannibal universe, everything the show accomplished only reiterates its ability to play with that world in fresh and exciting ways. Additionally, Fuller himself has shared his hopes to explore The Silence of the Lambs and beyond. Not to mention, with the number of shows getting reboots, revivals, and spin-offs, why not take a chance on a show still highly in demand?

All episodes of Hannibal are currently available on Hulu.

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By Julia
Julia is a writer/editor/content assistant for Nerds who joined the team in 2019.
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