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Dr. Hannibal Lecter
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/lecter_hannibal.jpg
"It's nice to have an old friend for dinner."
Played By: Mads Mikkelsen

"Killing must feel good to God too. He does it all the time. And are we not made in His image?"
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Accomplished psychiatrist, and sociopathic serial killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper, at the height of his career(s). Hannibal Lecter is assigned to be Will Graham's psychiatrist — helping navigate the increasingly disturbing cases Graham encounters, while gaining unprecedented access to the FBI for himself. Excepting his homicidal tendencies, Hannibal is every bit the gentleman, with his impeccable wit, astonishing intellect, gourmet palate and eye for the more refined aspects of life.


  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the Thomas Harris novels, Hannibal is described as small and wiry. In the TV series, he's tall and relatively well-built.
  • A God Am I: Implied. He justifies his murders by claiming that God enjoys killing and that all humans are made in God's image. When he discovers the human "mural", he looks down on the "muralist" through an opening in a grain silo, making him appear high and godlike. However, he fails to realize that he's merely a devilish man imitating God's power over life and death. See Fallen Angel below.
    Hannibal: This isn't cannibalism, Abel. It's only cannibalism if we're equals.
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  • Affably Evil: In addition to being Faux Affably Evil, since it seems he does genuinely have sincere regard for the other characters he interacts with. The events of the first season can be seen as the doctor's efforts first to make Will into his friend and get him to quit profiling in order to ensure he never captures Hannibal, and then deciding to betray Will and make him an enemy, because otherwise Will would ultimately capture Hannibal. Allowing Will's encephalitis to cloud his mind could similarly be seen as pre-emptive self-defence. He seems to display genuine regret for Will's incarceration and Abigail's murder, evil though he might be. Of course, in keeping with the source material, this is left deliberately ambiguous...
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: A creepy variant. Hannibal has a habit of stroking people's faces, as if to comfort or caress them, right before or after doing something horrible to them. Sometimes you could pass it off as simple practical touching, such as the brief physical check-up (pulse, muscle tension, temperature) on Will when he has a seizure brought on by an illness that Hannibal knows about and Will doesn't. Other times, it seems like genuinely trying to reassure them that what he will do/has done/is doing means he cares for them even while administering cruelty. Examples are when he strokes Miriam's face in "Entrée" as he chokes her (and then kisses the top of her head when she goes limp), when he cradles Abigail's face moments before killing her, drugs Will and shoves a tube down his esophagus to stuff a human ear into his stomach and pets him afterward, touches Bella's face after aborting her suicide attempt, does something like embracing Beverly Katz before he strangles her, and gently strokes James Grey while sewing him into his own mural before he dies.
    • Several times, he has touched Will as though to reassure him after Will has done something to compromise his morals. In "Trou Normand", he only rests a hand on Will's shoulder after Will decides not to tell the FBI that Abigail killed Nicholas Boyle; by "Su-zakana", when Will tries to shoot a helpless serial killer whom he thought couldn't be prosecuted, he cups his cheek with open delight.
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    • In the Season 2 finale, he does this twice to both Will and Abigail, right before gutting him and cutting her throat, respectively.
    • In the series finale, Hannibal affectionately nuzzles Will's head before they fall off the cliff.
  • Agent Peacock: He loves elegant (and brightly-colored) clothes, opera, art, interior design, and fine food. He's also a formidable serial killer and skilled fighter, as his encounter with Tobias and later Beverly and Jack demonstrate.
  • Antagonist Title: His first name is the name of the series, and he's its primary Big Bad.
  • Anti-Villain: Subverted. The first season was crafted to lull the audience into developing a fondness for him before really springing the duplicity and mind games and worse, and eventually clarifying his depraved motives for what were earlier seemingly, possibly well-intentioned actions.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: It's a key part of his job as a psychiatrist and he tends to do this more than Breaking Speech.
  • Bad Boss: It's implied in the very first episode that he killed and ate his former secretary.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • In "Savoureux", Hannibal successfully frames Will for his murders.
    • In "Mizumono", he also manages to beat Jack in hand-to-hand combat and grievously wound him, have Alana pushed out of a window by Abigail (who he secretly kept alive all season), gut Will, and then cut Abigail's throat. He then makes his escape, leaving all four of them to their gruesome fates. The last shot of the season is him on a plane out of the country. This time it is, at least, a bitter victory; he was very hurt by Will's "betrayal" or he wouldn't have reacted so violently.
    • In the Season 3 finale, depending on how one interprets the ending. Hannibal convinces Will to kill Dolarhyde with him, and they embrace afterwards... before Will throws them both off a cliff. It's left intentionally ambiguous, as we don't know if Will was sacrificing himself to stop Hannibal, succumbing to Hannibal and sacrificing himself to save the world from both of them, or if he was launching them both off the cliff in an attempt to escape from the authorities so they can begin killing together.
  • Bad Samaritan: It's kind of his thing, along with a heavy dose of persuasion.
  • Badass Boast: To Matthew Brown when he attempts to kill him.
    Matthew: Maybe your murders will become my murders. I'll be the Chesapeake Ripper now.
    Hannibal: Only if you eat me.
  • Badass Bisexual: In the penultimate episode, it's confirmed that Hannibal is in love with Will Graham and has wanted a relationship with him since the show's inception. Alongside being a devastating melee combatant who is willing to kill his foes with anything at hand and able to take down armed victims without need of a firearm of his own, creator Bryan Fuller has confirmed that Hannibal is bisexual.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: A wickedly efficient Serial Killer who happens to favor fine suits.
  • Badass in Distress: He's captured and almost killed by Will's other murderous admirer in "Mukōzuke", and then again in "Tome-wan" when captured by Mason Verger.
  • Bait the Dog: Hannibal is pretty enjoyable as a character and likable (despite us knowing his true nature) until "Entrée". See Offscreen Villainy.
    • Similarly, the episodes "Sorbet" and "Fromage" seem to be about Hannibal's admittedly peculiar way of approaching friendship with Will. But in later episodes, it turns out being Hannibal's friend might be worse than being his enemy, and more like being his plaything.
    • Fuller confirms that this was entirely deliberate:
    Bryan Fuller: I wanted to lull the audience into a false sense of security with who this character was. We had seen him in the films and the literature post-incarceration where the world knows exactly who he is and what he is and what he's capable of. He had no motivation to hide any of it, so I wanted to really get the audience into Hannibal's corner as a likable character. Then when he does terrible things, you've already fallen in love with him and like him as a character. So you have to then juxtapose what you've just seen against what you've experienced in the previous episodes. But the first time he smashed Alana Bloom's head against the wall, it's startling. It's like, "Oh, yeah. We're watching Hannibal. He's that guy."
  • Battle Couple: In the series finale, he helps Will take down and kill Francis Dolarhyde. Bloodied and beaten, they reveal their mutual feelings not even two minutes later.
  • Beneath the Mask: His civilized facade masks his depraved appetites and propensity for horrific crimes.
    • While Hannibal always speaks to Jack politely and respectfully, he's contemptuous of him behind his back. He derisively refers to him as "Uncle Jack" in a conversation with Will and cultivates distrust between Jack and Will.
    • Bedelia even calls Hannibal out for wearing a "person suit" to veil who he is inside. Despite professing friendship, he manipulates Jack into mercy-killing his wife for no reason beyond his own amusement.
    • As of "Mizumono", the mask has been fully dropped, and everyone sees him for who he truly is.
    • The mask slips more when Hannibal is engaging in dangerous fights. His hiss of "he's in the pantry" when Alana asks where Jack is shows the animalistic side of him, and he looks at Jack with seething hate when they fight in Italy.
    • In prison he cares less about talking about his depravity, but doesn't have a chance to showcase his darker side. When he does get his hands on human meat, he shows his true character with aplomb.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: To almost everyone in the show, he appears very polite, kind, and gentlemanly, which is not anything you would expect from a Serial Killer... a cannibal, no less.
  • Big Bad: He's gradually shown as being the main antagonist of the series. Though near the end of the third series, he becomes something more of a deuteragonist, with the role of the main villain passed on to Francis Dolarhyde.
  • Big Bad Friend: To Will.
  • Bi the Way: In the series finale, it's revealed that he's in love with Will and has wanted a relationship with him since the show's start. Bryan Fuller has confirmed that Hannibal's an omnisexual.
  • Blatant Lies: From the audience's perspective, anyway. But in-universe, he mostly relies on twisting things or loopholes and ambiguities to cover himself, so it's noticeable to the viewer when he just flat-out says something that contradicts what they've seen.
  • Blood Lust: When not using his civilized veil, Hannibal exhibits this trait (the character in any medium has often been compared to Dracula). When testing the point of a fish hook in "Œuf", he draws blood and sucks at the cut for a disquietingly long time. In "Fromage", when the inside of his mouth is bleeding, there's a brief shot of him licking his teeth.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Possibly, if he truly means it when he refers to Will as a friend. In "Kaiseki", his session with Bedelia and his scene with Will both indicate that he seems to genuinely consider his relationship with Will friendly, despite his actions.
    • Alana and Bedelia also note how distastefully Hannibal views rudeness, which is one of his primary motives for murder, and Hannibal even seems offended by the accusation that he poisoned a dinner — he would never do that to the food. It is possible he was also referring to the accuser himself, considering his proclivities.
  • Character Tic: Hannibal always takes a little pause before and after taking a sip or a bite to savor the taste and smell. He may even give the fork an appreciative smile, which is kind of awful when you consider what was probably on it.
  • The Chessmaster: He has years worth of backup alibis and contingency plans.
  • Close-Range Combatant: Hannibal is a devastating melee combatant, and will kill his foes with anything at hand — except guns, in contrast to all the FBI characters and several serial killers. This is used in one murder to show the audience that Hannibal wasn't responsible.
    • He's so effective that he manages to get close to and disarm a gun-wielding Beverly Katz from halfway across the room.
  • Combat Pragmatist: As an ex-surgeon, Hannibal knows where your weak points are, and will use anything at hand to strike them. Weapons he has used include: scalpel, ladder, pen, heavy statue, candlestick, kitchen knife (multiple), pepper mill, fridge door, shard of broken glass, his own apron and a freaking dish cloth.
    • When he encounters Beverly Katz snooping around his house, he switches off the lights to prevent his opponent drawing a bead on him while he approaches.
    • This is also clearly shown at the start of Season 2 in his fight with Jack, whom he is outmatched by. Mads Mikkelsen himself remarked the only way for him to win in that fight was to cheat.
    • During the confrontation with Dolarhyde, Hannibal bites out the man's throat to finish him off.
  • Control Freak: Comes with being a psychopath, but Hannibal is so intelligent and immaculately prepared for every crime he commits that it's rare we ever see him lose his cool. When he does, however...
  • Consummate Liar: Lies to everyone around him and is rarely caught. When he does get caught, he flawlessly spins a new lie.
  • The Corrupter: His true modus operandi. He gets a kick out of manipulating his patients into killing, and actively gets involved in their lives, even setting some of them on one another to do so.
    • Will isn't his first victim, but he seems to treat him as his magnum opus, convinced that goading Will to use his empathetic abilities will eventually lead him to agree with a killer's mindset instead of just understanding them. Everything Hannibal does to Will throughout the first two seasons seems to be setting him up to become a protege of sorts.
    • Bedelia Du Maurier is implied to have been a victim of one of Hannibal's patients.
      • The truth is later revealed to be that and worse: it turns out Hannibal had been planting thoughts in Bedelia's head to point where she believes that her self-defense against Hannibal's patient went into full-blown murder. Her initial reluctance to speak to the FBI isn't because she's defending Hannibal; it's because she's defending herself. It's not till this revelation that we realize how terrifying Hannibal's manipulations are. Bedelia even says it goes well beyond coercion and into persuasion.
    • Hannibal's involvement with the Verger siblings, whose relationship is already morbidly twisted and abusive, exacerbates it to ungodly levels by coercing the two into playing a game of "who will be the first Verger to kill the other". And of course being Hannibal, he doesn't jump straight to the killing before indulging in a bit of Gaslighting.
    • He instilled Miriam Lass with a fear-response that caused her to lash out with lethal intent when she came across whomever he hypnotically convinced her was the Chesapeake Ripper; in this case, Chilton.
    • He actively encouraged Randall Tier's psychotic urges, and even sets him on Will as part of his greater plan to turn Will into a true killer.
    • In the Season 2 finale, it is revealed that Abigail is alive, and her reveal comes with pushing Alana out a window. Abigail later admits to Will that she did not know what to do, and that Hannibal got in her head.
    • By the end of the series, it is made clear that Hannibal has corrupted nearly everyone around him to some extent.
  • Cruel Mercy: Showcases a variation of this to Bella Crawford in the "Takiawase" by keeping her alive when she attempts suicide by drug overdose. He later reveals to Jack that he did it so the latter would be forced to Mercy Kill his wife himself.
    • He does the same to Mason Verger, snapping his neck and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down as well as horribly disfigured.
  • Crocodile Tears: Zig-zagged in "Savoureux". During a session with Dr. Du Maurier, Hannibal sheds tears for Abigail and Will, one of whom he himself killed and the other which he framed. Whether or not the tears in question are sincere is left extremely ambiguous.
  • The Dandy: He's near-obsessed with his appearance and likes to leave an "indelible impression" wherever he goes.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: According to Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal never killed Mischa. She was murdered by a man implied to be the prisoner Chiyoh was guarding, being molested at the same time, and Hannibal only ate her after that. While his mindset was probably already close to what it is nowadays, finding his sister in such a state certainly didn't help.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In Italy, he passes as Roman Fell, an arts professor he murdered.
  • Deadly Doctor: Used to work as a surgeon and thus still has the medical experience to use in carrying out his killings or saving a life.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Downplayed; he's a confirmed omnisexual and quite a sadistic serial killer, but a connection between these two traits is not drawn within the show.
  • Destructive Romance: Essentially his relationship with Will.
  • Deuteragonist: With Will being the protagonist, and Jack and Alana sharing the role of the tritagonist.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: While the audience certainly knows what Hannibal is, nobody in the series does, nor do they even suspect him until Abigail in "Relevés" and Will in "Savoureux". He almost seems aware this is the case (or possibly fond of private jokes); any meal with him will usually involve a food-related pun, or several.
    • By the end of Season 2, this is no longer the case, as everyone in the cast is aware of Hannibal's true nature as a killer. In fact, he has either wounded or killed most of them.
    Bryan Fuller: If you look at Hannibal Lecter, he is — beyond the European dandy aesthetic and the accent, you're essentially dealing with Frasier Crane. It would be like suspecting Kelsey Grammer. Most audiences wouldn't suspect him of doing horrible things. Frasier Crane is very uptight, very fussy, he wouldn't dream of doing something terrible, because he's such a gentleman. That was the idea behind portraying Hannibal Lecter as an idiosyncratic guy, as opposed to somebody who instantly sets off everybody's alarm bells.
  • Disney Villain Death: Will pulls him off of a cliff in the series finale, though it's ultimately ambiguous whether this killed them. Word of God confirms that he survives the fall, along with Will.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: He brutally murders people who have been discourteous to him. As seen in "Sorbet", he collects business cards, then waits for years before collecting their owners.
    • His treatment towards Will is also this, giving the impression of a possessive and jealous lover. When it's revealed Will has betrayed him, he reveals Abigail is actually alive and was hoping to flee and start a new life with the two of them, but then spitefully maims both of them just to get back at Will. And this time, Abigail really does die.
  • Dissonant Serenity: A master of this, of course.
    • Just watch him near the end of the pilot. Hannibal walks calmly and sedately into the house, simply observing Will and what's going on as people bleed to death.
    • He's also unnervingly calm as he strangles Miriam Lass. He doesn't even flinch as she fights and struggles.
    • He also saves the life of Bella Crawford after she overdosed on morphine to kill herself before the cancer could with a look of pure cold inquiry.
    • Both times that Will holds him at gunpoint, Hannibal speaks calmly to him and gives no more reaction than to look away slightly.
  • Distressed Dude:
    • Will forces Hannibal to drive with him to Minnesota in "Savoureux", and he's narrowly rescued by Jack.
    • In "Mukōzuke", Matthew Brown knocks him unconscious with a tranquilizer dart, then arranges him in a crucifixion pose with a noose around his neck. Jack and Alana shoot Brown and narrowly rescue Hannibal.
    • In "Tome-wan", Hannibal is once more captured, this time by Mason Verger. It's Will, of all people, who assists in his escape.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: He's never seen using a gun, even in his murders. It's part of what makes him so terrifying; he's able to take down armed victims without need of a firearm of his own.
  • Egocentrically Religious: He justifies his murders to himself and to the "muralist" by claiming that God enjoys killing and that humans are made in God's image. He killed the "muralist" and placed him in the pupil of his human "mural" to symbolically reflect the light of God, assuring the "muralist" that God does exist.
  • Establishing Character Moment: His first appearance comes with a succession of these. We first see him in decidedly sinister lighting, but enjoying a fine meal as classical music plays. The scene comes directly after Will having a realization that the killer they're hunting is eating his victims... specifically, their livers, as a nod to arguably Anthony Hopkins's most famous line.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In the penultimate and series finales, it is made crystal clear that Hannibal is in love with Will. Despite having his freedom, Hannibal decides to help Will kill Dolarhyde even at the risk of his own life.
    Hannibal: My compassion for you is inconvenient, Will.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Repeatedly subverted. If Hannibal seems to spare someone or offer them help, he's always willing to destroy them if need be to save himself and will torment people simply out of curiosity. For example, while he clearly despises Mason and seems to like Margot, he quite casually induces the former to forcibly sterilize the latter simply to further his manipulations of Will.
    • He does have one very odd standard, falling in line with his Blue and Orange Morality; he would never serve someone a poisoned meal. Not because he thinks it's cowardly or anything; but because he wouldn't do something like that to the food.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Hannibal could not understand the unconditional love that Mischa gave him, and the love he felt for her. He eventually rationalized this as undue influence she was exerting on him, so he ate her after she was killed.
  • Evil Feels Good: Almost says as much when he compares the act of killing to acting in God's image.
  • Evil Is Petty: This comes with his narcissistic nature. After all, he kills his victims due to their lack of manners or courtesy, and if he is wronged in any way, even if the other party had perfectly good reason to act against him, he will make them suffer in the worst way possible if he thinks killing them would be too easy or boring, and will continue to torment them throughout simply because it amuses him.
  • Evil Mentor: Appears to take this role toward Abigail, in addition to the complex relationship he has with Will. He certainly seems to like corrupting others or at least lead them down mentally unhealthy roads. Late in Season 2, he implies that he's been trying to make more serial killers for years, as he does successfully with Randall Tier.
    • To add, he's a former university professor of psychology, although how evil he was in that capacity is not stated.
  • Evil Tastes Good: But the audience already knows that.
  • Fallen Angel: Certainly not a literal example, but the concept is a strong influence on the show's characterization of Hannibal Lecter.
    Bryan Fuller: [Mads Mikkelsen] talked about the character not so much as 'Hannibal Lecter the cannibal psychiatrist', but as Satan — this fallen angel who's enamored with mankind and had an affinity for who we are as people, but was definitely not among us — he was other. I thought that was a really cool, interesting approach, because I love science fiction and horror and — not that we'd ever do anything deliberately to suggest this - but having it sub-textually play as him being Lucifer felt like a really interesting kink to the series. It was slightly different than anything that's been done before and it also gives it a slightly more epic quality if you watch the show through the prism of, 'This is Satan at work, tempting someone with the apple of their psyche'.
  • False Friend: To everyone but especially Will, Jack, and Alana. Throughout the first season, he counsels Will and speaks of him as a friend, only to undermine Will's sanity, frame him for murder, and gloat over him at the psychiatric facility once Will is incarcerated. Regarding Abigail, despite his outward concern for her, he's certainly made sure she feels trapped and alone by convincing her to hide the body of Cassie Boyle's brother and not tell anyone she unwillingly helped her father with his murders. When she seeks solace with Hannibal after witnessing Will's sanity slippage, he murders her.
    • This is played with later on; it's clear that he genuinely likes Will, Alana, and Abigail at the very least (Word of God also confirms this). It just doesn't make him unwilling to hurt them, manipulate them, kill them, frame them for his murders, or otherwise act as a friend wouldn't. It's difficult to say whether his friendship is false or not because Hannibal himself certainly doesn't see it as such.
  • Fatal Flaw: According to Bedelia, it's narcissism. Also, his affection for Will. Hannibal says that Will makes him "betray himself".
  • Faux Affably Evil: He counsels Will and speaks of him as a friend. His definition of friendship, however, involves driving Will to the brink of a mental breakdown, and in "Buffet Froid", he hides the fact that Will has severe encephalitis, which is terrible for his mental state and could also kill him or leave permanent brain damage. In "Savoureux", he frames Will for Abigail's murder and gloats over Will in the psychiatric facility.
  • Feel No Pain: When Hannibal is branded with an iron in "Digestivo", he barely even flinches. Same goes for his torture session with Matthew Brown. He also takes knifes, punches, grappling hooks and a shot to the stomach remarkably well. He does feel pain but has extreme control over himself and is too proud to let it show.
  • Foil: To Will. Where Will is an anxiety-ridden, twitchy, scruffy, Good Is Not Nice Anti-Hero, Hannibal is a calm, splendidly well-clothed, Affably Evil Villain Protagonist. To boot, Will is brutally honest, while Hannibal lives a life of deception. Finally, they both share stunning, paralyzing insight into other peoples' personalities. But Hannibal does it through detached analysis while Will gets under their skin and walks a mile in their shoes.
  • For the Evulz:
    • At the end of "Relevés", Hannibal admits to Abigail that he called her father just to see how he would react to news that law enforcement was coming for him. He also arranged for Abigail's tormentor to confront her because he wanted to see how she'd react.
    • When Will finally realizes Hannibal is a killer, Will specifically says the reason Hannibal was so hard to "see" was because he has no motive. He was simply curious to see what would happen. One could interpret his gaslighting and framing Will in this manner as well.
    • "Yakimono" reveals that all his crimes as the Chesapeake Ripper are more or less works of art he does for personal enjoyment rather than any sort of vengeance or self-preservation.
  • Frame-Up: He murders Dr. Sutcliffe, then frames Georgia for the killing. In the Season 1 finale, he framed Will for his murder of Abigail, leading to Will's incarceration in a psychiatric facility. In Season 2, he frames Chilton for the murders of Abel Gideon and two FBI agents.
  • Friendless Background: It seems being a sociopathic serial killer and cannibal makes it hard to relate to people and have friends.
  • Gaslighting: Starting from when Hannibal smells Will in "Coquilles", Hannibal discovers Will has encephalitis but decides to keep this from him, and convinces Will that his various symptoms, including hallucinations, lost time and other unpleasant effects are the result of a mental illness. He also convinces Will that Gideon (who Will is seeing as Garrett Jacob Hobbs) isn't actually there when he bursts into his house with Gideon at gunpoint in "Rôti".
    • He also did this to Miriam Lass, setting her up as his insurance policy to frame Chilton.
    • Almost everything he does to the Verger siblings has this intent. While he genuinely likes Margot and hates Mason, he's more than willing to tip Mason off to what Margot's plans to outmaneuver him are.
  • Genius Bruiser: His fight with Tobias left no doubt of this. Also, the fact that he can overpower and murder multiple people suggests that he's physically formidable. He also gives Jack a run for his money in the opening sequence of "Kaiseki".
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: He acts very classy with his three piece suits, fancy meals, and kindly — though detached — attitude towards others. He's also pretty sharp and well-educated; not only is he a well-known psychiatrist, he also used to work as a surgeon.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Despite his refined demeanor, Hannibal is capable of delivering some spectacularly witty remarks of his own, even when he is at his enemies' mercy.
  • Hazmat Suit: Hannibal wears a plastic body suit, sans head covering, so that he won't get blood and viscera on his elegant clothes.
  • Hidden Badass: Much like the literary counterpart, Hannibal Lecter can be badass when he needs to be. As shown in "Fromage", Hannibal managed to kill Tobias by using his office library ladder to break one of Tobias' arms, throat punching him, and finally smashing his head in with a statue. And when the FBI come and see what happened, Hannibal "explains" it was all self-defense.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Hannibal repeatedly tells Bedelia that he wants to be Will's friend, and yet acts in ways that no real friend would, such as manipulating Will, lying to him about his encephalitis, and knowingly undermining his sanity.
    • In "Rôti", Hannibal waxes poetic about mental illness, telling Bedelia, "Madness can be a medicine for the modern world ... a boost to the psychological immune system to help fight the existential crisis of modern life." This from a man who is watching his colleague's life fall apart due to a mental illness, and who knows firsthand how mental illnesses can drive people to destructive acts!
    • Following the above, in "Digestivo", Hannibal admonishes Will for "delighting in wickedness", acting like a slighted friend who's been toyed for Will's own amusement... in spite of everything he's done to Will and everyone else over the past two and a half seasons for his own amusement.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: It's emphasized throughout the series that Hannibal is a narcissist who isn't capable of loving anyone or anything besides himself. However, it's revealed in Season 3 that Will is the one exception to this rule and unlike every other partner Hannibal is connected to, Will is the only one he loves or even remotely cares about.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: This is Hannibal Lecter, after all. It's heavily implied that most of his meat dishes qualify — even the ones he serves to others, making much of the cast unwitting cannibals.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Shows shades of this in "Sorbet", and much of his fascination with Will is in the idea that he may have found the one person who can understand and accept him.
  • Implied Death Threat: In "Kaiseki", when Bedelia expresses discomfort with the idea of lying to the FBI about Hannibal, he delivers a subtle threat.
    Bedelia: Jack Crawford doesn't know what you're capable of.
    Hannibal: Neither do you.
  • I Shall Taunt You: He taunts Jack about Bella's death before their struggle in Italy.
  • It Amused Me: In several situations he would be better served by simply doing nothing, but instead acts because he can't help but wonder what would happen. For example, given his extreme dislike of Mason Verger, if he had let Margot go though with her plan; Mason would have been killed anyway, and he would be completely blameless. However, he couldn't resist informing Mason For the Evulz, despite the potential negative outcomes for him.
    • He has no reason to inform Garrett Jacob Hobbs that he has been discovered, other than he was curious about what he would do.
    • Hannibal gained nothing by informing Dolarhyde their conversation was being monitored but did it anyway solely out of spite.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: For Will, and only Will in the series finale, where he selflessly fights to defend Will despite having been shot.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Every time it is implied that Hannibal may care for another person or does something seemingly altruistic, it is always eventually revealed to have been a manipulation or superficial gesture. His relationship with Will is based around horrifically abusing him psychologically and emotionally into mirroring his own mind. He slits Abigail's throat out of spite towards Will, even though she herself did nothing wrong. He ate his sister Mischa because she loved him and he loved her. This is proven once and for all in "Dolce", where when Will is revealed to no longer reciprocate his feelings, he tries to murder him.
  • Karma Houdini: At the end of seasons one and two, where in the former he frames Will for all his crimes, and in the latter he escapes scot-free while leaving Will, Jack, Alana, and Abigail mortally wounded. Finally subverted in the third season, when he turns himself in.
  • Kick the Dog: Natural, he's a serial killer. But slitting Abigail's throat in front of a dying Will, minutes after he discovered she was still alive stands out as an act of pure, sadistic cruelty.
    • He simultaneously expresses sympathy for Bella's death and taunts Jack about it when he confronts him in "Contorno".
    • A huge example in "Dolce", when he drugs and ties Jack to a chair, forcing him to watch while he saws into Will's head with the intention of feeding him the latter's brains.
    • In "... And the Beast From the Sea", he sends Dolarhyde to murder Will's wife and step-son, with him remorselessly admitting it when Will confronted him. Bedelia even noted that Hannibal waited for Will to form a family of his own, for him to take away from Will. Be it out of jealousy or just because, it was still a cruel move.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Drugging a man and convincing him to slice off and eat the lower half of his face would be an unforgivable atrocity on anyone else. When it happens to Mason, it's almost laudable.
  • Lack of Empathy: For the banal and the rude especially. In one conversation with Will, he is unusually heartfelt, apologizing for taking Abigail away from him. In their next scene he makes a callous remark about Will vomiting up her ear.
  • Leitmotif: Has one in Bach's "Goldberg Variations", which plays when Hannibal has successfully gotten away with something. An electronically-slowed, elegiac version accompanies the last act of "Mizumono".
  • Lightning Bruiser: Of the several fights we see Hannibal engage in over the course of the first two seasons, we see that he can dish out a lot of pain when necessary, and he is incredibly fast. His speed in particular is showcased at the end of "Takiawase", when he manages to outmaneuver and overpower Beverly while she has a gun pointed at him. It's mostly off-screen, but it's there.
  • Long Game: "Yakimono" reveals that everything Hannibal has been doing as the Chesapeake Ripper has been leading towards a culmination of all his crimes. To what exact end is yet to be seen, but you can tell how far back he's been planning it since keeping Miriam Lass alive and using Chilton to hypnotically influence her, in the process setting him up to be framed as the Ripper. He did this over the course of at least two years.
  • Mad Artist: He executed several of his copycat killings in an artistic manner. He also completes a human "mural" created by another artistically-inclined serial killer, by using the serial killer's body. One of his later victims is painstakingly inserted into a tree, with bouquets of poisonous flowers trained through his chest cavity.
  • Mad Doctor: Both of psychiatry and surgery. He even lampshades it to Abigail right before he kills her off-screen, saying he wanted to see what people would do given the problem in a very For Science! type of way.
  • Made of Iron: Walks away from both of his fights with Jack, even though the second fight was more of a crude torture sequence. And after being shot in the stomach in "Wrath of the Lamb", Hannibal continues to fight and kill Dolarhyde with little more than a grimace. The final scene of Season 3 even implies that he survived his fall off the cliff after the fight.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: He kills Tobias by clobbering him with a statue. Hannibal leaves no fingerprints on the statue, and carefully topples the stand it was on as well, making it appear that the statue fell on Tobias' head during their struggle.
  • Man Bites Man: Hannibal bites a chunk out of Dolarhyde's throat, effectively killing him.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Hannibal is this in spades. He's brought in to help Will mentally, but, if anything, only serves to quietly undermine his stability. He also manipulates Dr. Sutcliffe into not telling Will about his severe illness by playing on the research merits of watching a man go insane in real time.
    • In "Futamono", he seduces and drugs Alana in order to use her spending the night with him as an alibi for extracting Abel Gideon from the hospital. It's especially potent since Alana herself seems genuinely invested, with Hannibal playing on her disillusionment of Will to fuel it.
    • Taken even further in "Yakimono" when it's revealed he let Miriam Lass live so he could use her to frame and possibly even kill Chilton for his crimes.
    • In "Mizumono", he manages to top it all: he has been keeping Abigail alive all season, hoping to "give her back" to Will, and she's sufficiently under his sway to hurl Alana through a glass window. Hannibal then uses Abigail to basically freeze Will in his tracks before gutting him. At that time, both Jack and Alana are already grievously injured.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Everything he owns or wears screams, "I am very wealthy and not afraid to show it."
  • Master of All: He's a skilled surgeon, an expert psychiatrist, a gourmet chef, a musician and composer, is trained in hand-to-hand combat, and stays in peak physical condition. It's almost impossible to believe how many fields Hannibal is expertly talented in.
  • Master Poisoner: In "Takiawase", we learn that Hannibal was secretly administering drugs to Will in order to induce his blackouts and possibly aggravate his encephalitis. In "Futamono", he sedates Alana with drugged wine after they have sex so that she won't wake up when he departs to amputate Gideon.
  • Moral Myopia: When Will ultimately turns on him in "Mizumono", Hannibal is livid and even cuts Abigail's throat out of spite for the "betrayal", totally ignoring the living hell he had put Will, Abigail and everyone else through. In particular, he is mad that Will wants to take his life or his freedom, which is pretty hypocritical given that he is a Serial Killer, and speaks to the fact that he doesn't think he should be held to the same standards as anybody else.
    • The whole scene contains several references to Hannibal the movie (including the "life or freedom" argument), and the biggest example of just how myopic and egomaniacal Hannibal can be is when you realize that he gutted Will the exact same way he guts Inspector Pazzi in the novel/film — "bowels in or bowels out, like Judas?"; in other words, he's comparing Will to Judas.
  • Morality Pet: Subverted with both Abigail and Will, both of whom he professes to feel a genuine connection for. In spite of these feelings, he manipulates and cajoles them both into becoming killers and warping their psyches to mirror his. In spite of valuing their presence, Hannibal is clearly incapable of truly treating them as independent people instead of valued toys.
    • Double Subverted at the very end with Will. In spite of everything that's happened, Hannibal does love Will as much as he is capable of and fights Dolarhyde to save his life.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He receives several shirtless scenes in Season 2.
  • Narcissist: His murders are motivated by his god complex and disdain for people he feels are wasting their lives. He demonstrates his superiority by degrading them and either leaving them on display or turning them into lavish meals. Moreover, he sees the people around him, even the people he likes, as being far beneath him — toys at the very best and mindless animals at worst. He indirectly refers to the common people as sheep in a very condescending way. Regarding the murder of Cassie Boyle, Will remarks that her killer "thought that she was a pig", and then there is Will's "wind him up and watch him go" speech.
  • Nephewism: He was apparently raised by his uncle and mentions cooking meals for an aunt.
  • Nerves of Steel: Inhumanly calm and calculating in any situation. This overlaps with Dissonant Serenity in some cases.
  • Noble Demon: Hannibal displays honor, politeness, affection and loyalty, albeit often in a twisted form. He mentions that he always keeps his promises, as he did so to spare Alana and save Will. He's a monster, but when compared to Mason he is clearly a monster with some standards and dignity. Also subverted, as any standards he has are self-serving and abandoned if they become inconvenient for him.
  • The Nose Knows: He recounts how he was able to use this to tell his teacher was dying of stomach cancer before the teacher was diagnosed. He also uses this to find out that both Bella and Will are sick, and suffering from stage 4 lung cancer and encephalitis respectively, and is able to tell that Georgia has entered the room where he's killing Dr. Sutcliffe when he smells her.
    • In "Mizumono", he realizes that Freddie Lounds is still alive after smelling her on Will and it clues him in to Will's deception. It's especially insidious because as brilliantly as Will attempts to manipulate Hannibal, he can't prepare for the bloodhound-like sensitivity Hannibal possesses.
  • Not So Different: From Franklyn. Both men try to dissolve professional boundaries with their respective psychiatrists. Also, both men have an unhealthy fixation on another person that leads to unpleasant behavior. Franklyn is obsessed with Hannibal and stalks him, whereas Hannibal is fascinated with Will and plays deadly mind games with him.
    • Also from Mason. Both men are wealthy, proud, and prone to tormenting those close to them.
  • Odd Friendship: With Will. He even lampshades it in "Fromage".
  • Offing the Annoyance: Before his fight with Tobias, Hannibal snapped Franklyn's neck because Franklyn annoyed him one too many times.
  • Offscreen Villainy: His kills are mistakenly attributed to another serial killer, a copycat. As is often the case with this show, the aftermath of his killings are shown over the actual deeds. It takes quite a while before the audience witnesses him killing. There are even one or two fake-outs. In "Entrée", when he strangled Miriam Lass, she wasn't killed in that moment.
  • Outlaw Couple: Possibly becomes this with Will after the season 3 finale.
  • Paranoia Gambit: Pulls off a sinister variation of this on Jack, to erode his trust in Will.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • He comforts Abigail when she confesses that her father forced her to recruit his victims. Hannibal hugs her and assures her that she is a victim, not a monster.
    • When Margot comes to him for therapy, he's respectful and supportive of her, giving her the affirmation that her family will not. Hannibal gives Margot another pet-the-dog moment, albeit an extremely twisted one, in "Tome-wan". He administers psychotropic drugs to Mason and encourages Mason to mutilate his own face, then renders Mason paralyzed. In doing so, he liberates Margot from further abuse at her brother's hands and leaves Mason at his sister's mercy.
    • After Bella's death, he sends Jack a card expressing his condolences. And this is actually even bigger than its equivalent scene in the Silence novel, as he hasn't been caught yet and is thus risking giving Jack a way to track him down.
    • After his cover in Florence is destroyed and he has to flee, Bedelia decides not to leave with him and asks how they will part. Hannibal tells her he will support whatever story she decides to tell, meaning she can lie about being with Hannibal willingly, because she actually asked him rather than trying to force him.
    • He follows through on his promise to Alana to save Will from Mason and agrees to take the blame for killing Mason so that Margot can have her freedom and revenge.
  • Perverted Sniffing: Occasionally overlaps with the above trope.
  • The Philosopher: Many of his conversations with Will segue into discussions on the nature of life, death, God, and other similar topics.
  • Poisonous Friend: He endangers Will's mental and physical health, and yet still speaks of himself and Will as friends.
    • He similarly refers to Jack as his friend, but does horrible things such as manipulate him into mercy-killing Bella and plotting to kill him. The venom with which he fights Jack implies that this affection is faked.
  • Pride: Every single thing about him, from his dress sense to his dietary habits, is a way of proving his superiority over everyone else. Even his crime scenes are theatrical and showy.
  • Psycho Psychologist: A zig-zagged trope; he's psycho, he's a psychologist; but he's actually a psychiatric genius. It's whether or not you're on the receiving end of his mind games that determines how psychopathic he is at any given moment.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Despite being cultured, cunning, and a strategical genius, Hannibal regularly displays downright petty behaviour, for example making veiled confessions to the FBI agents he's toying with or killing people because they offended him. His main motive for his crimes seems to be curiosity, as he says: "Occasionally, I drop a teacup to shatter on the floor on purpose. I’m not satisfied when it doesn’t gather itself up again. Someday perhaps, a cup will come together." He just wants to see what happens. At some point, he shows mannerisms that resemble a child in an unsettling manner, like toying with a pencil, deliberately pricking his thumb on a fishing hook, then sucking the blood off his finger, or his childlike happiness about seemingly meaningless, little things.
  • Parental Substitute: For Abigail Hobbs — even up to the moment he kills her offscreen, in a twisted way.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: When Hannibal is killing with the intention to eat the victim, he minimizes their stress and suffering. He's not showing them kindness: a stressed animal releases hormones that cause the meat to taste off.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: A variety of this: Hannibal finally managed to corrupt Will completely, but Will still manages to hold enough morality to end him once and for all by pulling a murder-suicide. It ends up being a failed attempt, but the series was cancelled before Hannibal's reaction to that act could be explored.
  • Renaissance Man: Gifted psychiatrist, chef, surgeon, artist, and musician.
  • Sadist: Made explicit in one particular episode when somebody copies his crimes; the key difference turns out to be that the copycat didn't torture his victims to death. Beyond that, of course, is the way he psychologically messes with everybody in the show, often simply for his own amusement or curiosity.
  • Satanic Archetype: He tempts, manipulates, deceives, and destroys those around him. He appeals to the worst impulses in his targets (fear in Abigail, guilt in Jack, and ambition in Sutcliffe). He mimics God's power over life and death and arrogantly thinks he understands the Almighty, as suggested by his conversation with Will about how God enjoys killing, and his conversation with the "muralist" about reflecting God's light in his "mural". In several scenes, he's lit with bright light from behind, evoking Lucifer as an angel of light. In Will's dreams and hallucinations, Hannibal is symbolized by a monstrous horned man. Just as Satan imprisons his victims in the pits of hell, Hannibal imprisons Miriam Lass in a hellish pit. A traumatized victim tries to describe him, but can only say all they ever saw was light. See Fallen Angel above.
  • Serial Killer: He's the Chesapeake Ripper, a well-known serial killer with over a dozen victims. In his youth, living in Florence, his murders led him to be called Il Mostro.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: In Season 1, he kills Tobias in self-defense, although it's also to remove him as a threat to his professional life and own murderous activities. He later kills Georgia because she witnessed Sutcliffe's murder. In Season 2, he murders the man responsible for a wave of killings and installs him in his own "mural" made of human bodies. Subverted in that Hannibal kills other serial killers for pragmatic rather than moral reasons, since he also kills plenty of innocent people.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Again, in contrast to the often scruffy-looking Will.
    Beverly: You might want to think about supplementing your wardrobe.
    Hannibal: I often do.
    • It's been noted that while he dresses in stylish clothes, that doesn't mean he's exhibiting much taste. They're garish and attention-getting, basically the opposite of the stereotypical shrink's. In Season 3, he tends to dress more soberly and tastefully, and more like the archetype.
  • Shirtless Scene: He has several in "Mukōzuke", such as when he's swimming, and later when Matthew Brown torments and nearly kills him while he's wearing nothing but swimming trunks. His love scenes with Alana in Season 2 also shows him shirtless.
  • The Sociopath: Played With. Hannibal exhibits all the signs of aggressive psychosis, lacking empathy for others, cultivating and fulfilling murderous urges, yet is also impossibly calculating and restrained. His feelings for Will, while possessive and harmful, appear genuine. All in all, it's hard to describe what Hannibal is.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: He speaks calmly and gently at all times. There are only two times when he does not: when he is being hanged by Matthew Brown, likely because he has to in order to be heard, and when rasping to Alana that Jack is in the pantry.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Hannibal is obsessed with Will, talking about him endlessly with Jack, Chilton, and Bedelia. He even longs to be Will, bragging to Bedelia that he "gets to be" Will Graham in his new role as an FBI profiler. When gruesome crimes mirroring Will's alleged ones are committed in "Hassun", Hannibal makes thinly-veiled remarks attributing the killer's "love" for Will to himself, and questioning Will's unwillingness to accept him.
  • Stealth Pun: All the time with respect to having friends for dinner, given many cannibalism-related stealth puns. Of particular note is this one:
    Hannibal: You slice the ginger.
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: On the attack against Beverly Katz, who is armed, he slams the light off before lunging.
  • The Stoic: His demeanor is always calm and reserved. In "Mukōzuke", while he's clearly in agony, he remains calm even as Matthew Brown tortures him. When Jack skewers his calf, Hannibal merely grunts. He does not even visibly react to Cordell branding him.
  • Stunned Silence:
    • Hannibal's reaction to Mason Verger stabbing his furniture. For a man who kills others largely based on rudeness, Hannibal can only stare at Mason open-mouthed.
    • Will reveals to Hannibal that he predicted that Hannibal would rather surrender to hound Will rather than choose his freedom and leave him be, therefore he manipulated Hannibal to allow himself to be arrested for said reasons. Hannibal's reaction is a subtle example of this trope, as unlike in other instances, he could not make a single comeback to that statement.
  • Supreme Chef: Hannibal is an amazing chef, and his guests almost always rave about his food. However given what's usually in it it crosses into Food Porn Fan Disservice. Food Gorn?
  • Taking the Bullet: In "The Wrath of the Lamb", Hannibal knows that Dolarhyde is standing right behind him, but he purposely stays in front of the window to shield Will from being shot. He ends up taking a bullet to the stomach, although that doesn't stop him from charging back into the fight to defend Will.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: After tormenting, murdering, and publicly displaying countless victims, Hannibal gets a taste of his own medicine in "Mukōzuke". Matthew Brown tortures and nearly kills Hannibal, and had Brown succeeded, Hannibal's corpse would have been on public display. He also now bears prominent scars on his wrists and forearms from Brown cutting into them.
  • Tastes Like Friendship:
    • In the pilot, he turns up at Will's doorstep with scrambled eggs and suspicious sausages. As the two eat breakfast together, Will warms up to the psychiatrist.
    • In "Savoureux", he arrives at Bedelia Du Maurier's house with an elegant dinner, and their mealtime conversation suggests that they are bonding.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Most of his students thought he was having an affair with Alana. He wasn't, but he was having an affair, according to Alana. Then later, they do indeed start having a relationship.
  • Tranquil Fury: When he discovers Beverly in his basement, he says not a word, but his displeasure is palpable.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Or perhaps Traitorous Counselor?
  • The Übermensch: He certainly sees himself as one, and acts accordingly. While his being Egocentrically Religious mitigates it somewhat, he doesn't hold himself to the moral standards of the people around him, and has a distinct philosophy of life, one centering around murder and cannibalism. His digressions on morality, compassion and other subjects seem reminiscent of Nietzsche, albeit in a suitably twisted way.
  • The Unfettered: Hannibal has absolutely no restraining morals or principles, and is in fact driven largely by curiosity or self-amusement. This is shown best by his choice to let Bella die peacefully or not being decided by a casual coin toss.
  • Unusual Eyebrows: Of the non-existent to barely visibly variety.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: Seeing as he's played by Mads Mikkelsen, it's hardly a surprise.
  • Villainous Glutton: Hannibal is one more to a degree of decadence than amount. When he kills, he usually just takes enough from his victims to last him a couple of meals and disposes of the rest. While he doesn't gorge himself on human meat, the rate at which he goes through murdering folks for a few choice cuts makes him qualify for this trope nonetheless.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Actively maintains a reputation as a brilliant and cultured psychiatrist with close friendships with Alana Bloom and Jack Crawford. He even enhances his seeming innocence by framing others for his crimes, such as Will and Chilton. This ends after Season 2, when the facade comes crumbling down.
  • Voice Changeling: During Miriam's captivity, he discarded his European accent and mimicked Chilton's voice so that Miriam wouldn't know he was her captor. When Hannibal chloroforms Chilton, he mimics Chilton's voice to call out to two FBI agents who are knocking on the door.
  • Wakeup Makeup: He looks more put together first thing in the morning than Will does ever.
  • Wendigo: In "Savoureux", Will hallucinates that Hannibal is a wendigo, with a black, emaciated body and antlers. Hannibal's monstrous crimes and cannibalism make the symbolism appropriate.
    • The statuette in Hannibal's library is of the same creature in its earliest appearances in Will's dreams.
  • What Is Evil?: As shown in "Antipasto", he doesn't consider morality as factoring into anything he does, and doesn't even believe in it.
    Hannibal: Morality does not exist. Only morale.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: In true Hannibal Lecter fashion no one is quite sure what his accent is. note 
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Part of his initial obsession with Will was in reply to how the sleuth dared to call him "uninteresting" to his face.
  • Wicked Cultured: Obvious enough, with his love of refined music, food, and wine. "Sorbet" confirms this by showing him attending the opera. His appreciation for Glenn Gould appears earlier on, as a Call-Forward to The Silence of the Lambs when he butchered two prison guards in his successful escape from the asylum to the accompaniment of Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Bryan Fuller's interview with Collider indicated that future seasons would explore romance with Hannibal. Fans noticed romantic tension between Hannibal and Bedelia in Season 1. This tension also existed with Alana, although it wasn't highlighted as much.
    • Also, to an extent, with Will. The nature of their relationship is ambiguous, to say the least (though Word of God says that from Hannibal's side it is genuine love, though that love doesn't necessarily have to be romantic or sexual) and whether it really is just Foe Yay or legitimate Ship Tease is just as vague. Bryan Fuller's response to being asked if they're ever going to kiss (apparently quite a common question) was... not saying one way or another.
    • In "Futamono", Hannibal becomes sexually involved with Alana.
    • In the series finale, it's definitively revealed that Hannibal is in love with Will and everything he's done has been to bring them together. Will reciprocates.
  • Worf Had the Flu: The only reason he's so easily subdued by Matthew Brown is because he was caught off guard and sedated by a villain absolutely no one would have suspected.
  • Yandere: To Will. Season 2 suggests that his manipulation of Will and many of his murders are attempts to understand Will and express a twisted "love" for him.
    Hannibal: This killer wrote you a poem. Are you going to let his love go to waste?
    • Will even lampshades it in "Tome-wan".
    Will: You don’t want me to have anything in my life that’s not you.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Despite preferring to be Crazy-Prepared for any contingencies, Hannibal is equally a master of this as he is of long-term scheming, notably when he kills Tobias, his framing of Will at the Hobbs' old house, and in "Mizumono" when Jack, Alana, and Will all end up at his place in an effort to stop him... and they all end up either dead or dying while Hannibal makes his escape.

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