Season 3 is the season of Hannibal that I both adore and get frustrated by. It's split into two parts that were originally meant to be two separate seasons. The first half is 7 episodes of the Italy/Hannibal on the run arc and the last 6 episodes are dedicated to a retelling of the first Thomas Harris novel 'Red Dragon'. That features Hannibal behind bars and institutionalized at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
During season 2 Bryan Fuller saw the writing on the wall. The show's ratings were not good and financially they couldn't swing the budget to film extensively in Europe like they originally intended. So, he combined seasons 3 and 4 of his 7 season plan and made it into a 6 season plan.
The first 7 episodes of the Italy arc are visually stunning. Season 3 ups the ante in such a bold way that it was bound to alienate some of its viewers. Bryan Fuller told his directors, "make the most pretentious art film of your dreams" and boy did they. It's a dark fairy tale filled with bloody nightmare imagery. Half the time you had no idea if what you were watching was a dream sequence or actually happening.
Unfortunately, the limited episodes short changed some of the characters, both new and old, and their storylines. Early versions of the scripts and the episode commentaries done by Bryan Fuller and his group of writers hinted to storylines that were cut due to time constraints during filming and within the episodes themselves. Some detractors of the Italy arc blame the slow pacing for the poor development of new characters. I personally loved the pacing and felt the show earned it. I blame the limited episodes. The Italy arc could have benefited from one or two more episodes. The Red Dragon arc definitely needed at least one episode to touch upon Will's state after Hannibal was arrested.
After season 1, the Italy arc is my most rewatched segment of the show. I adore it that much. It doesn't hurt that I had the privilege or watching both the premiere and second episode on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse during the ATX Festival. It was quite the experience to witness the highs and lows of Will and Hannibal's relationship at this moment in time with a room full of fellow fans.
I'll be doing a weekly rewatch of the season. In 12 weeks the exclusive US rights contract for Hannibal currently held by Amazon expires and the show's producers can approach other outlets to see if they're interested in getting the band back together. It's the beginning of the end. At least we'll know if we're holding on to false hope or if we get to see what Will and Hannibal have been up to since the season 3 finale.