Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) finally got what he wanted in Hannibal’s series finale when he and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) killed someone — that someone being Francis Dolarhyde, a.k.a. the Red Dragon — together. “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will,” Hannibal says afterwards. “For both of us.” Will’s reply? “It’s beautiful.”
“I talked to [showrunner Bryan Fuller] a lot about that, that the motivation for going off the cliff at the end had to be Will’s realization not only that this thing had happened, but that he loved it, as opposed to just, ‘Oh my God, what have I done? … Oh, it’s so terrible!’” Dancy tells EW. “It’s not that. It’s, ‘This is beautiful.’”
Read on for what else Dancy had to say about Will and Hannibal’s bloodstained last moments, how he views the their complicated relationship, and what he hopes for his character’s future. (Hint: it involves beverages on the beach out of some unconventional drinking vessels.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you found out this season was going to end the way it did?
HUGH DANCY: Well, I guess I found out a month or so before we got there, that that’s what Bryan was thinking about. And my real question was like, “Okay, I guess I could understand that ending.” We had an ongoing conversation about how to get to that point, like how to make it an emotional pay-off as well as a fun, crazy ending, but actually see why these two characters have got to a place where that might happen.
Where in filming were you guys when you found out the show was canceled?
We had finished. We’d wrapped and left. So the finale was written, discussed, and performed, and put together before the show was canceled, so there was also a very clear idea for — believe it or not [Laughs] — what another season might look like.
Would you come back if there was a new version of his Hannibal?
Yeah. I would definitely be up for it, for sure. Partially because I think everybody enjoyed working on the show, but also specifically because what [Fuller] described sounded like so much fun. Whether it will happen is a different question.
Back to the finale: What is Will referring to when he tells Hannibal, “It’s beautiful”?
I think he’s referring to the fact that in a way, in that final sequence, Hannibal realizes his longheld dream. By the very end, he and Will have killed someone in a kind of ritualistic, cold-blooded fashion. And they’re both there, literally — I remember very clearly — dripping in blood, and that’s kind of what Hannibal wanted to put into effect between them at the end of season 2. That’s kind of what he imagined — they go off to Europe like slaughtering people or something. And Will is acknowledging to Hannibal that it was as extraordinary an experience as it was for Hannibal. And I talked to Bryan a lot about that, that the motivation for going off the cliff at the end had to be Will’s realization not only that this thing had happened, but that he loved it, as opposed to just, “Oh my God, what have I done? I finally arrived at this place I never wanted to be in. Oh, it’s so terrible!” It’s not that. It’s, “This is beautiful.”
When he does tackle Hannibal, what is his motivation? Is it a romantic thing? Is he trying to kill himself and kill Hannibal?
I think there’s no question that that’s a big cliff. [Laughs] There were in fact plans for a fourth season — for that to happen, we would have to survive in some way. It would be another one of Hannibal’s miraculous — he has these skills, who knows what exactly they would have been, but yes … I think Will realizes that the only way he’s ever going to destroy Hannibal is probably to destroy himself. And in that moment, the part of him that’s always fighting against the darkness inside him also thinks, “Not only is that the only way I’m going to kill Hannibal, it’s better that I should go too. I actually have to end both of us.” So that’s what he does.
Do you think it’s an optimistic ending for Will?
[Laughs] I think it is, in part. I think it’s a final victory. I think what happens is, right up until that last moment, essentially, Hannibal is victorious. He has engineered exactly what he wanted. He’s out of prison, he has Will with him, they’ve gone to this brutal, dark place. And Will manages to claw back a victory. So yeah. I mean, optimistic in a very, very narrow sense, because they just both killed someone and then jumped off a cliff. But even so. [Laughs]
Let’s talk about that fight scene. What was the prep like for that?
Very minimal. The truth is, it was a huge episode, because as well as the fight scene, there’s also the car crash when Dolarhyde hijacks the van, and both of those were enormous sequences. We only had eight days to film this episode, as with any other. And as with all of our scripts, particularly our later scripts in each season, the scripts were coming in really as we were shooting it. So, frankly, it’s kind of a miracle that they made it to screen at all.
What was the last scene you filmed with Mads?
[Laughs] I don’t remember. Funny enough, I think it might have been the scene where I go to him, culminating in them putting the mask on his face. So it’s me telling him, “This is our plan, we’re taking you out of prison, you’re going to be bait for Dolarhyde” — which, I’m not being strictly honest about my plan either. But I think that’s fitting. The last thing that happened between Mads and I was that I gestured to the orderly and she put the infamous mask on his face.
Do you have a favorite scene that you’ve filmed throughout the entire series?
Although it was very difficult — physically kind of difficult, and actually really difficult also to get to the right emotional pitch — but the final scene in the kitchen at the end of the second season between me and Mads and Kacey [Rohl, who plays Abigail Hobbs].
I think what that had — not dissimilarily to the very final scene of this season — was a quality where after all of the extraordinary, operatic, slightly hyper-real scenes — where the violence is all very orchestrated — that [kitchen scene] was just brutal. What made it brutal was that he was being so psychologically sadistic, basically. So it was kind of fun. Like the end of this season, it really felt like, even though it was just violence, it felt like a very fitting conclusion to that inner story we’re also trying to tell between Will and Hannibal.
I knew it was coming and I didn’t exactly resist it. He was stabbing me because I had managed to get to his underbelly, his vulnerable side, somehow. And I got turned into that cut, and I remember always saying to Bryan — because we knew that was coming — I was like, to me, it felt like a kind of consummation. It was like, yeah, I know this has to happen. And it’s the only way this can end. And it’s how some parts of me want it to happen.
How do you view Will and Hannibal’s relationship?
It’s not a real relationship. [Laughs] It’s more, I think, exploration of things which probably we’ve all gone through one way or another, which is slightly obsessive, slightly compulsive. In a sense, it’s just like a really compelling but totally destructive relationship with anybody that you keep coming back to.
If this is the end, if we never see anything from this version of Hannibal again, what do you hope happens to Will?
[Laughs] I’m sorry to say, but if we never see them again, then they never made it from their fall off the cliff. [Laughs] It’s hard to say, because do you really kill Hannibal? No. And it’s also, it’s a very conscious reference to Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. We all know that Sherlock Holmes came back from that. Whether I’m Sherlock or Moriarty in that equation, I don’t even know.
But you know what? I guess, actually thinking about it, it’s hard to believe that Hannibal would really die. Because he’s not exactly mortal. And I personally think that if Hannibal’s going to survive, he would save Will. So I don’t know. Let’s just say they’re on a beach somewhere.
Just chilling on a beach?
Yeah, just chilling on a beach. Drinking something out of a coconut. Or a skull.