Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Hannibal Will Graham

Go To

Main Character Index | Main Characters (Will Graham, Hannibal Lecter) | F.B.I. | Verger Family | Supporting Characters | Notable Killers | Minor Characters

Will Graham
"This is my design."
Played By: Hugh Dancy

"It isn't very smart to piss off a guy who thinks about killing people for a living."

Former homicide detective turned teacher, Will Graham is pulled into the dark world of criminal profiling by Jack Crawford to help catch some of the most demented serial killers known to man. Socially awkward, but brilliantly gifted, Will navigates his way through the dark amalgam of haunting cases, guided by his FBI-appointed psychologist, Hannibal Lecter. Will is constantly on guard against and fearful of being consumed by the darkness he confronts on each case.

  • Ambiguous Disorder: He's directly asked if he falls somewhere on the autism spectrum and exhibits several characteristics commonly associated with Asperger's (e.g. difficulties in grasping social norms, inappropriately blunt remarks and trouble maintaining eye contact). Bryan Fuller has stated that "[With Asperger's] you can't [instinctively] read social cues. He has an empathy disorder where he reads too much and it overwhelms him." Expanded upon in "Buffet Froid" where Hannibal says that Will possesses an abnormally high number of mirror neurons.
  • Advertisement:
  • Ambiguous Situation: In the season three finale, After embracing following the murder of Dolahyde, Will pushes himself and Hannibal off of the cliff and into the Atlantic ocean. It's possible he intended for both of them to die once he fully succumbed to the violent urges Hannibal had spent the entire series trying to bring out, but it's also possible Will did so in an attempt to evade the FBI. He warns Bedelia of his plan to let Hannibal escape beforehand, and that Hannibal will most likely come after her, implying this was his plan. On the other hand, there was likely a much less dangerous way for them to both escape. This is assuming this really happened, and is not just one of Will's intricate hallucinations.
  • Adopt the Dog: In a quite literal sense. The first episode shows him as odd, glum and unsocial — until the halfway mark, when he rescues and adopts a stray. His compassion for the dog (as well as for the five others he rescued before) marks him as a genuinely good person.
  • Advertisement:
  • Alone with the Psycho: In "Savoureux", Will takes Hannibal back to Abigail's house in Minnesota. There, Will is horrified to realize that Hannibal is a serial killer and has been cruelly manipulating him all along.
  • Anti-Hero: He uses his perception to capture serial killers, but is tormented by the idea of coming closer to them in personality. He's also cold, unreceptive to social niceties, quiet, scruffy, and distinctly odd — in many ways, someone your average person would suspect of being a criminal on first impression, if they didn't know any better.
    • His time in Chilton's mental hospital darkens him considerably, to the point he directly attempts or considers murder several times and he begins manipulating those around him to achieve his goal of catching Hannibal. Edging closer to Villain Protagonist in Season 3 after he manipulates Chiyoh into killing her captive so she will be free to assist him in finding Hannibal. By the end of the series (and once he manipulates Hannibal's escape from prison), it is clear that Will's limits on what he will do have lapsed substantially.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: He can exactly work out a killer's methods, motivation and mindset by studying crime scenes. While this is often disturbing, he uses this ability to directly profit himself once, by mimicking Dr. Gideon's method to escape a van when handcuffed. He was nice enough to skip the parts where he murdered anybody.
  • Badass Bookworm: Although he rarely shows off this attribute, Will is more than capable of holding his own in a fight. He beat Randall Tier to death, and kills Dolarhyde with Hannibal despite being severely injured and bleeding out.
  • Batman Gambit: In Season 2, Will starts to perform these. In "Mukōzuke", he plays on Freddie Lounds' obsession with him and offers her an exclusive interview as part of his plan to discover his secret admirer. He then plays on his admirer's affections by convincing him to kill Hannibal. He also clearly plays with Hannibal's perceptions of him. After being released from the asylum, he resumes his therapy with Hannibal, and plays a careful balancing act with his own behavior to entice Hannibal in a move that Word of God has outright referred to as "seduction." The problem is, however, that not all of it is an act, and Hannibal is very persuasive...
    • When Will tells Hannibal that he doesn't want to have anything to do with him anymore and will no longer seek him out, Hannibal turns himself in to spite Will. Will later reveals that he actually manipulated Hannibal into doing so, since he predicted what would happen. But when he originally rejected Hannibal, there were two possible outcomes: if Hannibal decided to leave, then Hannibal would gone from his life permanently. If Hannibal turned himself in instead, then he would finally be in prison for all his crimes; therefore either outcome favors Will.
    • This continues into Season 3, first with Will's gambit that rejecting Hannibal will lead to him turning himself in, then attempting to lure Dolarhyde into a trap by first badmouthing him publicly, getting Chilton permanently and severely mutilated, then by engineering Hannibal's escape to have both him and Dolarhyde killed.
  • Battle Couple: In the series finale, he helps Hannibal take down and kill Francis Dolarhyde. Bloodied and beaten, they embrace afterward... before Will throws them both off a cliff.
  • Berserk Button: Will puts up with a lot of shit, but someone hurting his beloved dogs? Absolutely not. In "Shiizakana", he beats a man to death for doing precisely that. Poor Buster.
    • Hannibal sending Dolarhyde after his family turns Will absolutely livid, although he directs his wrath specifically towards Hannibal rather than Dolarhyde himself.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: While this is always present throughout the show, Will initiates it himself in Season 2. While Hannibal is a deeply evil man who must be stopped, Will's efforts to undermine him grow morally darker as Season 2 progresses. He uses manipulation and quid pro quo tactics to influence events while imprisoned. In "Mukōzuke", grief over Beverly's death drives him to collaborate with another serial killer to bring down Hannibal. Later, when he's released and begins planning his Batman Gambit to catch Hannibal out, he makes a mural out of Randall Tier's body parts in order to maintain the illusion he's on Hannibal's side. While Randall's murder was justified self-defense, even Jack begins to wonder if Will is far gone as a result of these actions, and once it's revealed that Hannibal has goaded some of his other patients into going to similar extremes in their self-defense, it becomes a scary case of Not So Different.
  • Blessed with Suck: His gift, while helpful where work is concerned, has made Will unsociable and mentally disturbed. And then there is how his empathy attracts the attention of the worst kinds of people, from one serial killer to another serial killer.
  • Broken Pedestal: To Alana in Season 2 after he attempts to get Hannibal murdered from behind bars, until she discovers the truth.
    • The reverse also applies, what with Will acting cold to her after he gets out of prison. Though some of it seems to be part of his plan to catch Hannibal, some of it seems genuine since not only did she not believe him about Hannibal, she also started a relationship with him.
  • Brutal Honesty: He is very blunt when voicing his opinions, such as when he flat-out tells Hannibal he doesn't find the latter an interesting person.
  • Bunny Ears Profiler: But a decidedly unfunny use of the trope. Will's empathy makes him approach profiling killers very differently and causes him to come across as strange and off-putting to others.
  • Cassandra Truth: Will is the first person to realize that Hannibal is indeed the Chesapeake Ripper, and he spends most of the second season repeating this to anyone who would hear him out, but by that point Hannibal has well and truly both framed Will for his murders and driven him insane to the point where he's more or less an unreliable witness. Alana, while sympathetic, believes Will is delusional and trying to misdirect his guilt, while Jack outright indulges the possibility that Will is an intelligent psychopath trying to frame someone for his murders.
  • Catchphrase: When he is taking on a killer's persona, he describes the killer's actions and reasoning in first person with the phrase "This is my design." Averted frequently, however, as Will does not always drop this line. This usually indicates that he's dwelling upon a different crime. Subverted with the mural killings in Season 2, when he angrily notes an element outside the killer's intention is "not my design".
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Despite how much his gift torments him, Will feels this way with regards to it, explaining his need to sleep in victim Abigail Hobbs' hospital room night after night — something Jack questions, but Hannibal understands. In "Coquilles", he realizes just how bad profiling and empathizing with serial killers is for him, despite all the good it does, but he ultimately can't bring himself to leave the job.
  • Composite Character: His working with Hannibal to catch other serial killers and forming a romance with him brings the novel version of Clarice Starling to mind.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: For Hannibal. Despite the nasty affair of Hannibal framing him for his murders and getting him thrown in jail before getting him right back out again, Will immediately returns to resume their therapy. He spends the rest of season two acting hostile toward his previous crush, Alana, who is Hannibal's partner at the time. Where he once treated her with warmth and sympathy, Will is now cold and snippy with her especially when their conversations steer towards Hannibal. While some of it is revealed to be an act to cozy up to Hannibal enough to trap him, Will is at the very least genuinely competing for his attention on a subconscious level, and his relationship with Alana only improves after she sees Hannibal for what he is and becomes uninvolved with him.
    • Season three proves even worse as the relationship grows more and more romantic. Where Will once thanked Bedelia for believing him about Hannibal's true nature, he is utterly savage in his disdain for her after he finds her in Florence, clearly upset that Hannibal had taken her with him in Will's place. After going to see Hannibal in prison after three years apart, his first move is to immediately go see Bedelia, wherein he mocks her and asks if she's been to see Hannibal, too. He tells her that if Hannibal ended up eating her, she'd have it coming. The Stinger at the end of the entire series is Bedelia sat at a table set for three, her leg severed from her body and roasted before her, implying it was Will's idea to go after her.
  • Creepy Good: In Season 1, Will is a good person who wants to help others, but most people keep their distance around him and vice versa. Taking on the personalities of serial killers does not make him the most friendly or comforting individual.
  • Dark Is Evil: He starts to wear darker clothing once he seemingly allies himself with Hannibal. This is at first subverted when it was revealed it was just a ploy but is then played straight in Season 3 when he switches back to long, dark coats and styled hair, symbolizing his genuine fall into darkness.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Between his neurotic tics and reserved nature, Will finds time to weave in some truly beautiful snark.
  • Dead Person Conversation: In prison, with barely any contact to the outside world (except Chilton, who's Chilton), Will takes to occasionally addressing shades of people he's lost, recalling what they said to him in life, especially in his mental river-space. He also does this in Season 3 with Abigail.
  • Defective Detective: As Freddie Lounds cruelly points out.
  • Destructive Romance: Essentially his relationship with Hannibal, though season three shows that as their relationship gets more romantic and Will starts fully succumbing to his repressed darkness, their mutual tendencies towards violence get turned on everyone else around them rather than at each other.
  • Drugs Are Bad/Drugs Are Good: Hannibal was secretly administering mind-altering drugs to Will in order to induce his blackouts and possibly aggravate his encephalitis. In Season 2, however, narco-analytic therapy allows Will to recover buried memories and reconstruct Hannibal's machinations.
  • Easily Forgiven: For his treatment towards Hannibal during his incarceration by both Jack and even Hannibal himself. Subverted with Alana Bloom, to whom Will becomes a Broken Pedestal until she discovers he was right.
  • The Empath: Deconstructed. His ability is described as "pure empathy." He can feel exactly what others feel and get into their heads to take on their point of view. The downside is that the impressions he get are often so strong that they overwhelm him both mentally and physically, leading to him be deeply disturbed, finding himself too able to sympathize with killers while rarely getting exposure to those with kinder natures, and often considered to be on the edge of madness himself by those around him. This bites him in the ass at the end of Season 1 when Hannibal convinces everyone that Will murdered Abigail.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • In "Savoureux", he realizes that Hannibal is a serial killer.
      Will: I know who I am. I'm not so sure I know who you are anymore. You... you have no traceable motive., which is why you were so hard to see. You were just curious what I would do. Someone like me, someone who thinks how I think — wind 'em up and watch 'em go. Well, apparently, Dr. Lecter... this is how I go.
    • Has another in "Takiawase", when he realizes that Hannibal's a cannibal.
  • Evil Tastes Good: In the second half of Season 2, though it's unclear if it's genuine as a result of Sanity Slippage or if it's part of his Batman Gambit to finally catch Hannibal out. It's revealed to be the latter in "Ko no Mono."
  • Eyes Always Averted: He wears his glasses in such a way that he doesn't have to make eye contact but can still maintain a measure of courtesy. Jack Crawford explicitly calls him out on this.
  • Fallen Hero: Though his moral compass grew gradually darker over the course of the series, Will cements himself firmly as this trope in the series finale, where after his actions directly lead to Dolarhyde permanently scarring and mutilating Chilton, he manipulates both Jack and Alana in order to plan Hannibal's escape from prison and participates in the brutal killing of Dolarhyde alongside Hannibal.
  • Frame-Up: Hannibal frames him for several of his murders. In the Season 1 finale, he is incarcerated at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Hannibal later arranges for his exoneration and release, however.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Will has a soft spot for stray dogs, patiently rescuing a skittish one, taking him home, and giving him a bath in the pilot. It's revealed it's his sixth dog. He named it Winston. As of "Fromage", he's up to seven.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Ultimately why Will decides to stop following Hannibal. After trekking across half of Europe to find him while attempting to understand his mindset, Will figures it's a lost cause, saying to Hannibal that he "doesn't share [Hannibal's] appetite." This unintentionally turns out to be the straw that breaks Hannibal, driving him to turn himself in, unable to cope with Will's dismissal.
    • Subverted in "The Wrath of The Lamb" where it was revealed that Will only feigned rejection so that Hannibal would turn himself in, implying everything he said was actually false.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Will's involuntary mental intimacy with hardened psychopaths (and general lack of social skills) makes him somewhat hard to get along with, in contrast to the charming Hannibal Lecter. He has a kindly nature (if inappropriately honest) when he's not flipping out. It's just that he's usually flipping out.
    • He starts becoming more ruthless in Season 2 in his desperation to catch Hannibal. He bargains his help with an ongoing investigation for another look at the evidence against him from Beverly, and he later tries to arrange Hannibal's murder, though he does not seem happy resorting to either for obvious reasons.
  • Guile Hero: Will at first very rarely encounters physical confrontations and uses his sidearm rather than fighting hand-to-hand. He instead overcomes challenges using a combination of his native intelligence, lateral thinking and his empathy — though he almost never does so until later seasons, he can manipulate people's emotions and perceptions as well (or nearly) as Hannibal.
  • Happily Married: From what is seen in his scenes with Molly in the latter half of Season 3.
  • Happy Place: Will's coping mechanism in Season 2 is to imagine that he's fishing in a quiet river, alone and free. The alternative is to rot in his cell. Occasionally, he imagines extra factors influenced by recent experiences, such as Abigail when he's trying to avenge her death, and floating corpses when he thinks about a murder. He later discusses it with Hannibal in "Mizumono", which Hannibal later mentions as a possible coping mechanism when Will is bleeding out.
  • Hearing Voices: He starts having auditory hallucinations in "Fromage", the cause of which are unknown, until "Buffet Froid" where he is revealed to have encephalitis. And by "revealed," we mean to the audience, not to him.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Subverted. His extreme empathy is very useful in his line of work but is a source of massive psychological issues and makes it hard for him to have even casual social relationships. And that was before Jack started using him to back-engineer the psychoses of serial killers.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Just how many times does he alternatingly assist and try to kill Hannibal?
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Courtesy of Freddie Lounds and, as of the first season finale, Hannibal himself. This is reversed after his exoneration to an extent.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: He has adopted many stray dogs (to the point of being a Crazy Dog Dude) and seems much more comfortable around them than he is around people.
  • Heroic RRoD: The more he uses his empathy to scan crime scenes and extrapolate what happened, the more problems Will seems to develop.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: People around him wonder whether he's on the path to becoming a killer himself. Naturally, he shares their fears. Illustrated vividly in "Mukōzuke", when he imagines growing his own pair of Wendigo antlers after asking a serial killer to murder Hannibal. As the second season wears on, Will realizes that he must play into Hannibal's expectations to bring him down, and it's more and more difficult to tell how much of what Will does is for that end — including by Will himself.
    Will: It's not very smart to piss off a guy who thinks about killing people for a living.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Described by Word of God as a heterosexual man who happens to be in love with Hannibal.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Inverted. In Season 3, Chiyoh points out that Will fears if he doesn't kill Hannibal, then he will end up being like him.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Subverted. It's strongly implied that he's killed Freddie Lounds to endear himself to Hannibal but she's revealed to be just hiding.
  • Ill Boy: In "Buffet Froid", it's revealed he has severe encephalitis on the right side of his brain, which is causing most of his symptoms. Dr. Sutcliffe, with Hannibal's urging, decides to keep this from him so they can observe his symptoms. As of the second season, the inflammation has been revealed and treated.
  • Imaginary Friend: Hallucinates Abigail for eight months in an attempt to deal with the grief of losing her again.
  • Important Haircut: After he's released from the asylum. Will's curls had been growing steadily longer and wilder, but are now cut shorter than they were originally, presenting a much less hapless face to the world (and to Hannibal).
  • The Insomniac: As a side effect of his abilities.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • While he's nowhere near as bad as the titular antagonist, one does wonder how Will got off with little more than a slap on the wrist and the eternal scorn of Alana Bloom for attempting to murder Hannibal by manipulating Matthew Brown, although there was little to no evidence he could've been involved beyond Hannibal's word.
    • He also gets off relatively lightly for his murder and mutilation of Randall Tier, though Kade Prurnell's comments prove the FBI is aware of his involvement. This seems like it's leading into this being averted, as the FBI puts out a warrant to arrest him for the murder in Mizumono, but by Season 3 this plot point has vanished, most likely because the FBI now knows that Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper, which would then — if not pardon — clarify Will's actions.
    • Although he's called out on it by Chilton and Bedelia, there was no real way of bringing him to task for his hand in Chilton's mutilation.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Will might not much like being around people, and he might regularly expose himself to the worst they have to offer, but his foremost priority is bringing killers to justice. Even behind bars, he wants to escape because only he knows Hannibal for what he is, and refuses to lie and plead guilty even if it would save his life.
  • Let's You and Him Fight:
    • In "Mukōzuke", he asks another serial killer to kill Hannibal.
    • And again in "Ko no Mono", where he sets Mason Verger against Hannibal since he has reason to want both of them gone.
  • Loners Are Freaks: At the beginning of the series, Will does not have friends unless you count his dogs. His empathy makes others wary of him and Will himself prefers to be alone. This starts to change as the series goes on — the list of people Will has become familiar with includes Jack, Hannibal, Abigail, Alana, Beverly and Margot.
  • Made of Iron:
    • He survives Hannibal gutting him like a fish with nothing but a scar to show for it (though, admittedly, it's mentioned that Hannibal deliberately cut him surgically and in a way that ensured his survival), and gets up impressively quickly after being thrown off a train.
    • In the series finale, he manages to assist Hannibal in killing Dolarhyde despite multiple stab wounds, including one to the face. The third place setting at Bedelia's meal in the final scene implies that he may have survived the fall off the cliff.
  • Man Bites Man: Restrained, he bites a chunk out of Cordell's face out of spite for his coming execution.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Will starts to show shades of this in Season 2, after Hannibal frames him and gets him sent to an insane asylum. His conversations with Beverly in particular begin to evoke this feeling, starting as early as "Sakizuki". It's clear from the beginning of the episode that he is willing to lie and deceive those around him to bring Hannibal down. However, "Mukōzuke" really marks the beginning of Will's manipulative tendencies, as continues to play everyone in his ongoing game of Xanatos Speed Chess with Hannibal, this time by playing on his secret admirer's affection to convince him to kill Hannibal. It really comes to a head after his release from prison, wherein he manages to manipulate Jack, Hannibal, Alana and Freddie to varying degrees to the point where nobody is really sure whose side he's actually on (perhaps not even Will himself).
    • He puts Chilton in the line of fire through specific hand placement during their attempt to lure out the Red Dragon, although this seems to have been subconscious.
    • His arrangement of the plan in the series finale is also remarkably cunning — he convinces Jack to "fake" Hannibal's escape in an attempt to lure out Dolarhyde by supposedly having Hannibal transported in a van to another secure location, but unbeknownst to Jack, he'd also made a deal with Dolarhyde himself behind Jack's back that results in Dolarhyde shooting and killing the police officers escorting them, allowing Hannibal and Will an opportunity to escape the van and drive off, culminating in the joint-killing of Dolarhyde.
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    Hannibal: Am I your psychiatrist or are we simply having conversation?
    Will: 'Yes', I think is the answer to that.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: His ability to empathize with serial killers leaves him unstable and gives him terrible nightmares. They only get worse as the first season wears on. As it turns out, his way of escaping this is turning toward the darkness inside him and embracing it rather than rejecting it. He seems much more stable and confident the more his morality evolves to be more like Hannibal's.
  • Messianic Archetype: He's tempted by a Satan figure (Hannibal), persecuted by Freddie Lounds, betrayed by one of the men he trusted most, and unjustly punished. His daydreams in Season 2 show him standing in a stream, as if to invoke the image of baptism. In "Hassun", Hannibal likens himself to the disciple Peter and Will to Jesus when he says that he cannot deny Will a third time, a reference to Matthew 26:69-75. In "Mukōzuke", however, Matthew Brown compares Hannibal to Judas for his betrayal, so he similarly hangs Hannibal while ironically crucifying him.
    • Hannibal directly refers to him as "The Lamb of God" during a conversation with Jack.
  • Messy Hair: It doesn't matter whether he's asleep, just woken up, wandering around semi-conscious in his underwear, dressed for teaching, or visiting someone; his hair is always the same mass of untamed curls. One suspects that if he does own a comb, it gets used on his dogs (who all have very well-maintained coats). Likewise, though he owns a hair dryer, we only see him using it to dry a dog after its bath. As of the end of "Yakimono", however, he's sporting a quite neatly styled new 'do as part of his new "lure" for Hannibal.
    • Subverted through most of Season 3 where he keeps it styled back, especially when he plans on meeting with Hannibal.
  • Missing Mom: His dad looked after him as a child.
  • Missing Time: Experiences periods of this as a symptom of his encephalitis which disturbs him greatly.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Nearly every episode so far has featured him in tight briefs (they're his usual sleepwear, and we frequently see him suddenly awakened) that leave little to the imagination. In "Sakizuki", he winds up totally naked.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: After Beverly's murder disproves Will as the Ripper, he decides to send another killer after Hannibal in revenge, leaving very obvious hints from Gideon to tip off Alana and Jack about it, and thus incriminating him for conspiring to kill another man. Thankfully nothing serious comes of it, but it's the moment when Will becomes a Broken Pedestal to Alana.
  • Not Good with People: He's much better at dealing with animals. His reluctance to interact with others slowly diminishes, though he's still twitchy and awkward around others most of the time.
  • Not Helping Your Case: While incarcerated, his repeated accusations of Hannibal tire Jack and Alana to no end, with each subsequent accusation causing more and more disbelief.
  • Odd Friendship: Pretty much any friendship he manages to have is odd, because he still exudes discomfort when interacting with anyone, even people he likes. High-powered, dominant, loud Jack and twitchy, sensitive Will are a particularly strange match, but Will's relationship with Hannibal takes the cake for strange friendships on the show. Despite all the horrors Hannibal puts Will and his loved ones through, the end of "Mizumono" seems to imply that Will genuinely has some form of respect towards Hannibal; when Hannibal is discussing the fact that he trusted, opened up to and let Will see him, with the latter apparently repaying that friendship with betrayal, Will denies it. Also, when Hannibal accuses Will of wanting him dead, Will denies this as well.
  • Official Couple: With Hannibal at the end of season three.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: In Season 2, Will regains some of his lost memories from Season 1, and relives events with his hallucinations removed, showing that in spite of his illness he could perceive reality on some level. Will learns some things the audience already knew, such as the fact that his hallucination of Garrett Jacob Hobbs was in reality Dr. Gideonnote  and Hannibal's lies about the clock drawing test. But new things that the audience missed are also shown, such as Hannibal force-feeding Will an ear and purposefully inducing his seizures.
  • Only Child Syndrome: As Brian correctly and mockingly guessed.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: At the end of "Yakimono", when he goes to resume his therapy with Hannibal, he's better-groomed than we've ever seen him, indicating he has an ulterior motive.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Averted. Hugh Dancy is able to constantly maintain his American accent all throughout the show despite his natural accent being British.
  • Parental Substitute: He has paternal feelings towards Abigail Hobbs, although we haven't seen him in that role outside of dream sequences. When he tries to act on his paternal impulses toward her, the fact that he killed her father makes her resentful. But she also looks to him for understanding about how it feels to kill somebody. By the end of Season 2, he finally confronts Hannibal about Abigail's death and accuses him of taking her away from him. And then in "Mizumono", it's revealed that Abigail was alive all along and under Hannibal's control, and that Hannibal was planning to take both Will and Abigail away with him until he learned of Will's betrayal. The whole idea sounds like Hannibal wanted to start a family with them.
  • Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: Will always wakes up sweating, and frequently sweats when stressed or scared. In "Rôti", his sweat reaches new levels of moisture as his illness worsens.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Begins embracing this after Beverly's death at Hannibal's hands.
    • He sends Matthew Brown to murder Hannibal, a task that Brown almost completes.
    • In "Su-zakana", he would have killed a particularly loathsome serial killer in cold blood if Hannibal hadn't stopped him.
    • In the series finale, he concocts a trap with Alana and Jack to kill both Hannibal and Dolarhyde — though, in reality, he is actually planning Hannibal's escape and is manipulating them in order to allow himself and Hannibal to kill Dolarhyde together, therefore invoking this trope toward Dolarhyde.
  • Perma-Stubble: It adds to his scruffy, disheveled look.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Not that he has much to smile about.
  • The Philosopher: He can be quite poetic and philosophical at times, and is capable of holding a conversation with Hannibal in this regard.
  • Precision F-Strike: In Season 3, Will is furious with Hannibal for trying to kill his family, his verbal reaction being this:
    Will: I'm just about worn out with you crazy sons of bitches.
  • The Profiler: This is Will’s profession. Like most TV profilers, he builds hypothetical psychological profiles of serial killers. Unlike most profilers, his extreme empathy means that he eventually becomes just like the people he hunts.
    • Profilers, generally, tend to have mental breakdowns because they realize they share traits with the killers they hunt. For Will though, rather than run scared, he begins to embrace this identity.
  • Prone to Tears: But it isn't so much "bursting into tears" as it is "becoming insane". He does exhibit extreme distress to the point of tears after one exceptionally brutal re-imagining in "Entrée" and has to take a moment or two to gather himself. Subverted in "Sakizuki", when Will breaks down crying during a prison visit with Hannibal and Alana, begging Hannibal to help him, and Hannibal accepts. Will's fragility lasts exactly as long as it takes to get back to his cell. It turns out Hannibal isn't the only one who can manipulate other people's perceptions of him.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The Manly Man to Hannibal's Sensitive Guy and the Sensitive Guy to Jack's Manly Man.
  • Sleepwalking: Starts having bouts of this. First, he wakes up on the road a few miles from his house, and then later wakes up standing on his own roof, having somehow gotten out there during the night.
  • Sanity Slippage: As detailed above — he feels the way killers feel, and worries he'll eventually do as they do. Suffering from a neurodegenerative illness which he was unaware of from as early as "Coquilles" certainly didn't help one bit. In Season 2, he gets treated for his encephalitis, so the worst of his neurological madness is behind him. However, as the season goes on, he begins to indulge in some worrisome habits that seem to be egged on by his philosophical musings with Hannibal.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Not that Will starts the series as a killer willingly, but as his character develops from twitchy and nervous to composed and confident under Hannibal's influence, he does eventually start committing more murder attempts and actual murders, realizing more and more that it feels good to do bad things to bad people. He starts the series shooting Garrett Jacob Hobbs to death, went after Abel Gideon, he killed Randall Tier in self defense after Hannibal sent him his way, almost shoots Clark Ingram for being human garbage, goads Hannibal into breaking Mason's neck hoping it would kill him, and eventually he and Hannibal take down the Great Red Dragon together. He eventually reveals in the finale that he considers these acts "beautiful."
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Just like his literary counterpart, there are times he gives this to the Trope Codifier himself.
    • He confronts Hannibal in "Su-zakana" with a hint of Tranquil Fury when Hannibal continues to play innocent towards him, telling him that he won't put up with any more of his lies.
    • In "Digestivo", he tells Hannibal that he no longer cares what he does anymore. Hannibal tries to get a rise out of him by claiming that he still denies the fact that he enjoys killing. Will counters that he merely tolerates his darker urges whereas Hannibal revels in it, and concludes by saying that he doesn't share Hannibal's depravities.
    • In the Red Dragon arc, almost like in the novel, when Hannibal attempts to make a verbal jab at him, Will immediately prepares to leave while telling Hannibal that he's tired of that tactic.
  • Specs of Awesome: In their first scene together, Jack cannily realizes Will uses his glasses as a means to avoid direct eye-contact. He always removes them when about to analyze a crime scene. You can generally tell how much he trusts another character by whether he wears his glasses in their presence. Tellingly, if Freddie Lounds is in the same scene, he always either has them on or puts them on. However, this trope is relatively void from Season 2 onwards, as he almost never uses his glasses.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: His obsession with Abigail Hobbs is only healthy in comparison to her real dad's, though he genuinely means well for her.
  • Taking You with Me: He pulls Hannibal over the edge of the cliff with him in the series finale, in what Hugh Dancy described as an attempt to rid the world of the danger of both of them. Whether he succeeded or not is left uncertain.
  • Thinking Tic: Will is twitchy and tends to move around a lot anyway, but it's especially noticeable when he's deep in thought. When hashing out a case he often wanders around Hannibal's office fidgeting with whatever's in reach (another contrast with Hannibal, who maintains a predatory stillness and moves very deliberately).
  • Took a Level in Badass: When Will gets released in "Yakimono", his entire demeanor has shifted. No longer is he the nervous, mentally unstable wreck he was prior to his incarceration, but he is clear-headed, confident in his words and even colder than he was before, but out of determined clarity rather than from his antisocial tendencies.
  • Tragic Hero: Will's talents as The Empath are what allow him to be a successful FBI agent, but these talents also cause him to empathise with monsters and psychopaths to a degree that could change him for the worst, something he's aware and terrified of. These talents also end up drawing the attention of Hannibal Lecter, who gradually attempts to use Will's abilities to corrupt him, and in order to fight back, Will is forced to not only think like a Serial Killer, but act like one, a course of action that begins to consume his kind nature. By the end of the series, his relationship with Hannibal has permanently altered him and he attempts to prevent himself from becoming a monster by throwing himself and Hannibal from the top of a cliff. Depending on how one interprets The Stinger, he may have survived and become a Fallen Hero alongside Hannibal.
  • Übermensch: How he describes himself when he discusses his renewed outlook on life in "Naka-Choko", complete with an "above good and evil" spiel. Although this was merely part of the facade Will adapts to lure Hannibal into a false sense of security as part of his plan to entrap him.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: He begins to have a few more traces of this (as well as Nominal Hero). After being institutionalized and framed for Hannibal's murders, Will is forced to use increasingly questionable methods in his attempts to expose Hannibal. When working with Beverly results in her death at Hannibal's hands, Will goes all out and sends Matthew Brown to kill him. After his exoneration, he remains significantly more willing to kill and even admits to finding the experience empowering.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Although partially a result of his profession, Will seems to be attractive to killers who love his "pure empathy" and want him to understand them. Hannibal Lecter is obsessed with him from early on in the first season, Matthew Brown protects and kills for him throughout the second season, Georgia Madchen stalked him and Abel Gideon turns to Will to confess his fears about his lost identity. On the less murderous side of things, Peter Bernadone appreciates Will for treating him like a human being, while Margot Verger drags Will into her macabre family affairs during her attempt to sire a child to steal the family business from Mason.
  • Wendigo: Appears in Will's imagination/hallucinations as the embodiment of Hannibal's true nature.
  • We Used to Be Friends: With Alana in Season 2. After attempting to have Hannibal killed, she no longer considers him a friend, even pursuing a relationship with Hannibal to cut ties with Will, and and she all but gives Will the cold shoulder from then on. This is subverted when they reconcile in "Mizumono" after Alana realizes what Hannibal really is.
  • When He Smiles: It's usually a little awkward and he's obviously not used to the expression, but it's all the sweeter for it. The three best examples of genuine, not-awkward-at-all smiles from Will throughout the show are when he is reunited with his dogs after being released from prison in Season 2, his smile to Hannibal when they see one another in the gallery for the first time in eight months in "Dolce", and the one he gives (also to Hannibal) after killing Dolarhyde in "The Wrath of the Lamb" before declaring that the murder they committed together was beautiful.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: He has terrible nightmares and hallucinations that worsen the more involved he becomes with serial killer cases.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Setting Mason on Hannibal serves Will's purposes no matter what the outcome is, since he has reason to want both of them dead at that point. However, when Mason gives him the opportunity to kill Hannibal, he chooses instead to risk his life to free him.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: At the end of "Su-zakana", Hannibal is openly delighted to see Will ready to execute a serial killer in cold blood. The later in the show we go, the less shame Will feels about his approval, though.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: