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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Hannibal: Season Three (Blu-ray)
Hannibal: Season Three (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // December 8, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted December 1, 2015 | E-mail the Author

Perhaps one of network television's biggest surprises of the decade, NBC's Hannibal (2013-15) quickly became a critical favorite after its debut...which typically means "swift cancellation after the first season, if not earlier". Yet the series was renewed for a second and third year, maintaining (if not exceeding) the level of quality set during that first run of episodes. Sadly, it was cancelled during the first few months of this third season, which led to the faint promise of a future web-based or big-screen revival; nothing has surfaced yet, but at least this last batch of 13 episodes was given the chance to go out with a sense of purpose. So for now, let's enjoy what we've been served.

Based on the works of Thomas Harris, creator Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls) designed the series to loosely follow characters and events from Red Dragon onward, including The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and beyond. It was a risky move (especially after the last three films) but, from a creative standpoint, has paid dividends during its brief but memorable run. There still aren't any other shows that look or sound like this (on network TV or elsewhere), and the franchise's formidable pop culture imprint also works to its advantage. Featuring magnetic performances, impeccable set and costume design, a hypnotic atmosphere, and a near-infinite number of twists and turns, Hannibal almost---almost---has no business being this good. It also wouldn't be complete without unspeakably graphic levels of violence and gore...but parents needn't worry, because no one swears or takes their clothes off.

Similar to the series' first two seasons, this final course of Hannibal feels organically divided in half with strong undercurrents of a series-spanning progression as the characters grow, change, and regress. After the second season's bloody cliffhanger, we're given a chance to fill in the missing pieces as we follow Lecter (Mads Mikkelson) and Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) in Florence as they pose as a recently deceased doctor and his wife. Meanwhile, a number of presumed-dead-but-surprisingly-alive notables return, including Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raul Esparza), and Mason Verger (Joe Anderson), sporting various degrees of grotesque scars this time around (Verger, who looks and sounds like a close cousin of Gary Oldman's portrayal in 2001's Hannibal and Preacher's "Arseface", wins by a landslide).

So while the first half of Hannibal's final run plays catch-up with its main and supporting characters, the final stretch returns for a welcome retelling of events previously adapted in Michael Mann's Manhunter and Brett Ratner's only half-decent movie. We're reintroduced to Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley), and several other elements found in Harris' first book in a series that eventually turned all its attention towards the most popular character. As a "last call" for such a unique series, the events wrap up the majority of loose ends...and as a whole, it runs at an equal clip to the first two seasons. My only gripes this time around are (1) a lack of substance for Will Graham during the first half, who delivers too many naval-gazing monologues, and (2) a somewhat unbelievable alliance between two central characters near the end. Take both with a grain of salt, however, as Hannibal prides itself on ignoring the line between deep-thinking drama and over-the-top theatrics at almost every turn.

Lionsgate serves up Hannibal: Season Three in a similar fashion to the first two: 13 episodes on three discs, paired with a near-perfect A/V presentation and an assortment of quality supplements that elevates the already-strong series to even more considerable heights. What's more is that more than half of these episodes are listed as "Producer's Cuts"; much like the first two seasons, they haven't been edited for content like their broadcast counterparts.

Hannibal's extremely dark but precise appearance corresponds nicely with a 1.78:1, 1080p transfer that showcases its beautifully disturbing cinematography. The colors are often muted and lean towards murky tones, while many of the show's more gruesome moments are more richly stylized. Image detail can be very distinctive, especially during close-ups. Textures are essential to the series as well and these are rendered superbly, especially in regards to outdoor details. Digital imperfections are largely absent during the viewing experience, though trace amounts of banding are present during a handful of unusually lit scenes. These minor items, however, are far from distracting and may stem from unavoidable source material issues. Regardless, Hannibal earns high marks and Lionsgate's set does a tremendous job of supporting its strengths. It's simply a great-looking series that was tailor made for Blu-ray.

CHEF'S NOTE: The promotional photos featured in this review are decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.

Hannibal is definitely one of the strongest sounding shows in recent memory, especially considering it's not exactly packed with wall-to-wall action. The enveloping DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix sounds just as good as previous entries in the series, largely due to composer Brian Reitzell's unconventional and percussive score. It's absolutely loaded with unsettling touches and hypnotic effects that loop and bounce around different channels at will and the dialogue is never buried in the front. I'll be honest: there are times when Hannibal's audio almost distracts from the drama...but I mean that in the best possible way, as it's a careful design element that heightens the mood and atmosphere rather than inducing a headache. Optional English, SDH, and Spanish subtitles have also been included.

Lionsgate's menu interface has always felt cumbersome and counter-intuitive (even the pop-up menu lags), but what's here is organized well. Unfortunately, a few pre-menu advertisements and trailers must be skipped beforehand (mostly on Disc 1), although a helpful "Resume" feature speeds things up on subsequent viewings. The three-disc release is housed in a hinged keepcase with a matching slipcover and a two-sided insert with episode descriptions.

Plenty to dig through here, just like in previous seasons. The highlight for most will be no less than ten Audio Commentaries during "Antipasto" (with Bryan Fuller and Gillian Anderson), "Primavera" (Bryan Fuller and Hugh Dancy), "Aperitivo" (Bryan Fuller, Raul Esparza and Steve Lightfoot), "Dolce" (Bryan Fuller, Steve Lightfoot and Don Mancini), "Digestivo" (Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot), "The Great Red Dragon" (Bryan Fuller and Richard Armitage), "...And the Woman Clothed With the Sun" (Bryan Fuller and Rutina Wesley), "...And the Woman Clothed in Sun" (Bryan Fuller and Richard Armitage), "The Number of the Beast is 666" (Steve Lightfoot and Lara Jean Chorostecki), and "The Wrath of the Lamb" (Bryan Fuller and Hugh Dancy). Obviously, the lack of participation from Mads Mikkelson is disappointing, but these tracks are engaging and offer a solid amount of chemistry, production info, and trivial tidbits.

A handful of season-specific Featurettes and Documentaries is up next. "Beyond the Mind Palace" (18:53) features light participation from cast and crew members and serves as a general overview of this final season's new and familiar paths. "Hannibal on the Run" (20:28) is another welcome look at several real-world locations visited by the good doctor this season. "Hannibal Season 3: Killer Intentions" (16:57) continues the string of promotional but lightly informative featurettes with more glimpses at the series' inner workings. Finally, the exhaustive "Getting the Old Scent Again: Re-Imagining Red Dragon" (123:43) details this season's terrific second-half arc exploring the territory first adapted in Manhunter and Red Dragon, and also touches on the original source material along the way.

A few odds and ends close out the package, including several Deleted Scenes (10:07), an amusing Gag Reel (8:50), a fluffy but entertaining glimpse at "Avid Fannibals" (18:36), and another batch of "Post Mortem with Scott Thompson" segments (59:35). Like previous installments of this web series, it's a fantastic blend of candid conversation and humor that fans will enjoy. As always, everything looks and sounds great but no subtitles are included.

Hannibal was perhaps too good for network television, and it's disappointing that this third season is likely the last we'll see of it for a while. Among other highlights, the ambitious visuals and stunning sound design (specifically, composer Brian Reitzall's percussive and experimental music) are what give Hannibal such an immediate identity; the pitch-black humor, horrifying violence, and committed performances aren't far behind. This final batch of 13 episodes is nearly as strong as the second season, serving up loads of international intrigue during its first half and a memorable take on Thomas Harris' Red Dragon in the final stretch. Lionsgate's Blu-ray efforts continue to impress, offering a top-tier A/V presentation and a host of entertaining and informative extras. Highly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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