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Ho Yay / Hannibal

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“Did you just smell me?”
"Hannibal does have agency in the world. He has you."
Bedelia to Will, S03E012 — The Number Of The Beast Is 666

"The homoerotic tension between Will and Hannibal is crazy. But no-one ever says, like, 'Would you guys fuck already?' Like, no-one ever says 'I think Hannibal's interest is a little gay.' It's never said, even Jack, who you'd expect to go 'What the fuck is going on? I mean, do you want—? Does he—? What does he want with you?!'"
Scott Thompson

So, as a fan of Thomas Harris novels and the subsequent film adaptations, you settle down and decide to watch a prequel to the award winning Lecter series and... wait, what? You remember Hannibal smelling people in the books, but certainly don't remember characters getting that facially close or forcing plastic tubes down throats and pining for each other...

Since relationships are key to character arcs, and that we can't exactly white out the entire page, please note that spoilers can and will be unmarked. Proceed at your own risk!

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    Season 1 

Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham

  • "Apéritif": Hannibal and Will eat breakfast together after Hannibal shows up at Will's house. At one point Hannibal refers to Will as "a fragile little teacup." He then says he's made of the "finest china" and is "used only for special guests".
  • "Coquilles": "Did you just smell me?"
  • "Sorbet": "I have a date with the Chesapeake Ripper."
  • "Trou Normand": "We are her fathers now."
  • And their final scene together in Season 1 looks very much like Hannibal trying to seduce Will and implicitly encourages him to embrace his dark side which finally clues Will into seeing Hannibal for what he really is.
  • And then there's (S1 finale spoilers) certain comments from Word of God:
    Interviewer: Is Hannibal's obsession with Will also an attempt to more fully understand himself?
    Fuller: Hannibal's absolutely on a journey of self-exploration, and he's fascinated by his fascination with Will. He is curious about this change that's come over him. It's sort of like somebody who is falling in love for the first time and had never felt that was actually a possibility for them. That's a fresh, unexplored territory for Hannibal that is exciting to him and interesting to him. Maybe his ultimate downfall is his attraction and affection for Will Graham.
    • Not to mention Word Of God describing, in an interview about the Season 2 episode "Yakimono", Will's intent in starting their therapy again as to "seduce" Hannibal, as Hannibal has previously been "working very hard" on doing.
    • Mads Mikkelsen, for his part, talks about how much Hannibal loves Will more than a little (although he explicitly says that it's not a romantic love).
    Mikkelsen: ...But he [Hannibal] definitely, definitely loves Will Graham. As pure as love can get.

Hannibal Lecter and Other

Tobias Budge:

  • On the Foe Yay front, there's Tobias Budge, who seemed to be attracted to both Hannibal the murderer and Hannibal the man. Tobias serenades Hannibal and flirts with him; Hannibal reciprocates at first, but ends whatever game he was playing with Tobias at their dinner date.
  • As if Tobias' vaguely effeminate body language wasn't enough, the music is what seals the deal.
    • The prelude to Tobias' serenade is Christian Petzold's "Minuet in G Major", played by Tobias' student. This Petzold piece was adapted by The Toys in the sixties by the name of "A Lover’s Concerto" with added lyrics:
    "How gentle is the rain
    That falls softly on the meadow?
    Birds, high up in the trees,
    Serenade the clouds with their melodies.

    Oh, see, there beyond the hill,
    The bright colours of the rainbow.
    Some magic from above
    Made this day for us just to fall in love [...]"
    • Following the musical cues, at their dinner, the background music is Mendelssohn's "Intermezzo OP. 61 No. 2" for Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream". A song described by the composer as the music for "one's desperate search for a bewitched lover".


Tobias Budge and Franklyn Froideveaux:
  • It's not hard to read Tobias as Franklyn's jealous boyfriend in "Sorbet". He stares at Hannibal with a sour expression and comments on Franklyn's "wandering eyes", complaining of either Franklyn not paying attention to the concert or Franklyn not paying attention to him.
  • Their homoerotic subtext is lampshaded by Hannibal in the same episode, in which Hannibal directly asks Franklyn if he's attracted to Tobias.

    Season 2 

Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham

  • "Sakizuki", the Season 2 premiere, could be called Ho Yay: The Episode, for all of its slashy moments. First, there was the scene where Hannibal visits Will in jail, and this statement, which out of context seems straight out of a romance novel, happens:
    Will: (to Hannibal) I can't get you out of my head.
    • Then there is Bedelia outwardly pointing out what was very obvious but never outright stated.
    Bedelia: You are obsessed with Will Graham.
  • Then there's the fact that Hannibal and Will never seem to shut up about each other, both Frederick and Bedelia lampshade this. But the slashiest scene out of them all had to the one where Will remembers how on earth Hannibal got Abigail's ear into his stomach. Hannibal drugged him and shoved a long plastic tube down his throat, which er, symbolized something to a great deal of fans. The choking noises Will was making, dear god... a common statement in the fandom already is that they "didn't even need photoshop!" (seriously, listen to that scene without watching what's happening). Also after Hannibal removes the tube, he caresses Will's face a great deal — as pointed out in the Tumblr fandom, it's like they're not even trying to be subtle about the subtext any more.
  • In "Hassun", someone kills a bailiff and a judge so as to make it seem like the real perpetrator of Will's alleged crimes is still out there, which means Will is not guilty of the murders he's on trial for. Hannibal urges Will to use that at his trial, and when Will is reluctant, Hannibal says, "This killer wrote you a poem. Are you going to let his love go to waste?"
    • The same episode suggests that Hannibal has become a Stalker with a Crush toward Will, and that his murders and machinations are a twisted attempt to show love for Will.
    • "He wants to know me." As all the fans responded, in unison: "Biblically!"
  • In "Mukōzuke", we get a shot of Will ripping off his clothes and falling forward to his hands and knees, while antlers (Hannibal's symbol) erupt out of his bare back. Um...
    • Later, in "Futamono", we see him standing in one of the cages waiting for a visitor, again picturing antlers sprouting from his back again, but much more serenely. The visitor he was expecting was Hannibal.
    • In the same episode, Hannibal's entire conversation with Will where he expresses hurt over Will having "betrayed" (read: attempted to murder) him could out of context look like a jilted lover confronting someone who cheated on him. Hell, even in context it looks like it.
  • Any shot of Hannibal sitting in his chair, staring sadly across at Will's empty chair while sad music plays in the background, which occurs in more than one episode.
  • "Yakimono": "I have to deal with you... and my feelings about you." This after Will shows up at Hannibal's door uncharacteristically cleaned up, coat folded neatly over his arm. Hannibal, for his part, is pretty copacetic to letting a person who almost shot him (twice) and tried to murder him by proxy back into his home. But then, he has been missing Will so very sorely.
  • "Su-zakana" is basically Ho Yay: The Episode, Part II. To list a few instances:
    • The fact that Hannibal can't stop talking about Will even when he's in bed with someone else. To be entirely fair, his sexual partner is just as bad — but at least she actually does stop talking to Will when she said she was going to, unlike Hannibal.
    • Hannibal's absolutely delighted smile in reaction to Will declaring "I finally find you interesting".
    • Will makes some cannibalism jokes at dinner. Hannibal is rather pleased.
    • The extended conversation where Hannibal cradles Will's face and compares him to a butterfly. While the suspect of the week is hanging out a few feet away, they're both too caught up in the moment to care. It needs to be noted that the butterfly quote is from the books, and was originally used to describe Clarice Starling, who became Hannibal's lover. So, if we take the parallel to its logical extreme... Just look at them!
    Hannibal: With all my knowledge and intrusion, I could never entirely predict you. I can feed the caterpillar; I can whisper through the chrysalis; but... what hatches... follows its own nature and is beyond me. (smile)
    • Hannibal getting Will to describe how he'd kill him. Will plainly states, "With my hands". Watch Hannibal's face. He's barely containing his excitement.
      • Here, this video pretty much sums up the subtext beautifully.
    • The way Will tells Peter he envies his hate, as "knowing how to feel makes it easier", suggests that Will himself doesn't know how he feels with regards to Hannibal.
  • "Shiizakana" opens with a dream where Will has tied Hannibal to a tree, in which Hannibal explains his actions obliquely as an attempt to understand his "beloved". Will is literally dreaming about Hannibal confessing that he loves him. Admittedly, just before Will decapitates him.
    Hannibal: By that love we see potential in our beloved, and through that love, we allow our beloved to see that potential. By expressing that love, our beloved's potential comes true.
    • Bryan Fuller has discussed the show's "homoerotic" subtext, particularly in light of this episode, and admits that it's "practically text in a couple of episodes". Read the interview here, and another relevant article here. However, it's also stated that the intimacy they share is something akin to brothers, and equals — a primal bond that transcends sexual love. But just see if that stops the fanfic.
    Fuller: There's a scene at dinner where we were tackling in the edit bay because it was so transparently homoerotic. They were doing something that was not sex or anywhere near sex, but it was shot so suggestively that they may as well have been.
    • "You must allow yourself to be intimate with your instincts, Will," Hannibal says as he stares at Will intently.
    • Hannibal asking Will how he felt when he killed Garret Jacob Hobbes and thought he'd killed Hannibal. It's... hard to put into words how transparently he's looking forward to Will's response, but the way he pauses and licks his lips before quietly asking Will how it felt is a good start.
  • "Naka Choko":
    • Hannibal tenderly dresses Will's hand wounds from last episodes. When he tells Will not to retreat from him and what he's done, Will asks where he would go.
    • Hannibal and Will wax poetically on a killer at the latest crime scene. Given the context, it reads like they're flirting and Jack's "WTF" look does not help.
    • Hannibal tells Margot she can't kill her brother because she still loves him. Parallels have been drawn between Margot's relationship with her brother and Will's relationship with Hannibal, so if the parallel is taken to its logical conclusion, Will can't kill Hannibal because he loves him.
    • There is a brief shot of Hannibal, Alana and Will in bed together.
    • Romantic music plays as Hannibal and Will eat what is implied to be a piece of Freddie Lounds. That Will killed and brought to Hannibal.
    • While Will is having sex with Margot, he sees the wendigo that represents Hannibal to him.
  • "Ko no Mono":
    • Fuller told us there would be a scene dripping with Ho Yay. Look no further than the Ortolan Bunting dinner between Will and Hannibal. It's somewhat hilarious how heavy handed the eating of the birds is treated to invoke fellatio.
    • "It's a courtship."
  • "Tome-wan":
    • The opening fantasy sequence with Will murdering Hannibal is incredibly sexualized. Bryan Fuller's tweet on the scene describes it as "WILL GRAHAM IS COVERED IN #HANNIBAL'S BODILY FLUIDS #GAYAGENDA."
    • Will notes that Hannibal doesn't want anyone else in Will's life except himself, citing the relationships he's destroyed and distanced Will from.
    • There is some concentrated eye contact happening between Hannibal and Will, mainly when Hannibal is tied up and suspended.
    • Hannibal compares himself and Will to Achilles and Patroclus, known for being lovers as well as comrades in arms.
      • Possibly YMMV but the actual drawing of said Achilles and Patroclus, seems to look an awful lot like himself and Will. Hannibal's pretty much officially thrown subtle entirely out the window, and just stares at Will meaningfully, pencil in hand.
  • "Mizumono":
    • Everything Hannibal does to Will in the last few minutes of the episode is the equivalent of a scorned lover getting their petty revenge against the person who rejected them. Him gently stroking Will's face and pulling him in for an embrace before he stabs him in the gut with a linoleum knife, standing above Will and looking down at him while he bleeds out on the floor... Even him slashing Abigail's throat — a young girl who Will has long viewed as a potential daughter — and leaving her for dead is completely symbolic of Hannibal destroying the life he and Will could have had together.
    Hannibal: I let you know me... see me... I gave you a rare gift... but you didn't want it.
    • Will is confirmed (by Hugh Dancy) to be alive. The very fact that Hannibal didn't ensure the wound was fatal hints at lingering feelings, despite Will's betrayal — it would have been all too easy to kill him otherwise.
    Hannibal: Do you believe you could change me, the way I've changed you?
    Will: I already did.
    • Before that, there's a scene where Hannibal asks Will to run away with him that very night rather than follow their plan. It comes soon after Hannibal discovers Freddie is alive, so it feels like Hannibal's trying to test if there were any genuine feelings on Will's part or if it was all an act. In the same conversation, Hannibal indirectly states that he will always carry a mental picture of Will with him as a loved one.
    • Hannibal leaves his house wearing Will's coat. Ostensibly, it's to cover the blood stains on his shirt, but he had a chance to grab a coat of his own and instead chose to grab Will's rain-soaked one as a memento.

Hannibal Lecter and Other

Matthew Brown:
  • Brown and Hannibal's half-naked torture session definitely brings the Foe Yay.

Frederick Chilton:

  • There was something very odd going on with their relationship in Season 2 up 'til then already, but the wink Hannibal gave Chilton in "Futamono" really came across as flirty.

Will Graham and Other

Matthew Brown
  • Matthew's intense, worshipful obsession with Will, and the way Will totally plays on it, practically batting his eyelashes at Matthew to get him to do a favour.
  • He killed his friend in an attempt to prove Will innocent, hacked and reread Will's files, seemed to go out of his way to be the one who cared for and accompanied Will in or outside the hospital, and rewired the mics so that Will's conversations weren't always being eavesdropped on. And all this occurred before Matthew even talked to him.
  • Despite knowing how dangerous Hannibal is, Matthew does what Will asks and goes after him within two days of Will's request. Then he brutally tortures, crucifies, and hangs Hannibal in a manner reminiscent of Judas Iscariot. And, as this all happens in/around a swimming pool, they're both wet and half-naked.
  • When Hannibal tries to turn Matthew to his side by telling him that Will isn't a serial killer, he says that he doesn't care and then criticizes Hannibal for betraying Will's trust. Matthew is obsessed with Will himself, not the murders attributed to him, which he gleefully makes clear to Hannibal.
    Matthew: Judas had the decency to hang himself in shame at his betrayal. But I thought you needed the help.
  • Matthew's also the one who killed the bailiff and wrote the "love poem" (as described by Hannibal) for Will as well.

Frederick Chilton

  • Will butters up Chilton in "Takiawase": "I will be under your exclusive care."

    Season 3 

Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham

  • Hannibal tries to attract Will's attention by carving and binding Dimmond's body into the shape of a heart and impaled by three swords. Visually, it resembles the three of swords from the Rider-Waite Tarot in the inverted position. It symbolizes, amongst other things, reconciliation between lovers.
  • In "Secondo", Will says he knows Hannibal "intimately", and Hannibal describes his feelings for Will as "love". All platonic, but very suggestive.
  • In "Aperitivo", Will reveals that he called to warn Hannibal because he wanted to save his life, and to run away with him.
    • In the same episode, Jack and Chilton are discussing Hannibal and Will, and there is this exchange.
    Jack: Maybe it's one of those friendships that ends after the disemboweling.
    Chilton: I would argue that with these two that's tantamount to flirtation.
  • In "Dolce", Hannibal and Will meeting in the museum feels like two lovers reuniting. All the talk about "blurring" with each other, followed suggestively by a sex scene in which the lovers — Margot and Alana — are visually blurring.
  • At the end of "Digestivo", Hannibal looks absolutely broken when Will tells him that he will not miss Hannibal, and the whole thing comes across as a breakup:
    Will: When it comes to you and me, there can be no decisive victory.
    Hannibal: We are in zero-sum game?
    Will: I miss my dogs... but I'm not going to miss you. I'm not going to find you. I'm not going to look for you. I don't want to know where you are or what you do. I don't want to think about you anymore.
    Hannibal: You delight in wickedness, and then berate yourself for the delight.
    Will: You delight. I tolerate. I don't have your appetite. Goodbye, Hannibal.
    • Topped off with Hannibal then calmly leaving the house, before he waits for Jack to arrive and surrenders, implying that he saw no reason to live anymore since Will "rejected" him.
  • The episodes after "Digestivo" just throw all pretense out the window:
    • "The Great Red Dragon" has the term "Murder Husbands" used in canon.
    • "...And The Woman Clothed With the Sun" features more sniffing and Hannibal telling Will they're "family", complete with jealousy over Will's wife. Not to mention that early in the episode, Hannibal looked stung when Will avoids addressing Hannibal by name to keep things more professional and less personal between them.
    • "...And the Woman Clothed in Sun" goes all out and has Bedelia accuse Will of being Hannibal's wife (which he doesn't deny) and then ask if Molly knows "how intimate" Will and Hannibal used to be. To add, there is the thinly-veiled hostility Will shows to Bedelia.
    • "...And the Beast From the Sea" has Hannibal persuading Dolarhyde into killing Will's family — which is very similar to a possessive ex trying to get their significant other's current lover out of the picture.
  • Basically canon now, in "The Number of the Beast is 666", after Bedelia confirms that Hannibal is in love with Will, and implies that Will feels the same.
  • Just watch "The Wrath of the Lamb". Just watch it. It's confirmed that Will does return Hannibal's feelings, right before he throws them both over a cliff. Falling into the sea together can be seen as a metaphorical baptism/rebirth, and it's all but confirmed that they would have spent Season 4 on the run together.
    • And when Will more or less declares that he does return Hannibal's feelings, they embrace tenderly and Hannibal's face is nothing short of ecstatic and full of bliss.
  • The ship is already canon at this point, but Bryan Fuller has mentioned that during the filming of the series finale, there were many takes of the final scene — minus The Stinger — where Hannibal and Will nearly kissed, and what was seen in the clips of the alternative takes were far more intimate than the final take. The comments of the cast and the crew weren't helping.
    Fuller: Mads and Hugh, there were a lot of takes where they got very intimate, and lips were hovering over lips. I definitely had the footage to go there, because Mads and Hugh were so game. They called me and warned me: “We really went for it!”

Hannibal Lecter and Other

  • Hannibal's whole conversation with Antony Dimmond. Actually, everything Dimmond says or does.
    "Shall I... untwist you?"
  • The fact that Dimmond was implied to be expecting a three-way with Hannibal and Bedelia and looks disappointed when he's wrong. This is enhanced by a bit of esoteric Bi Yay in the episode: both snails and oysters are prominently featured as food items, referencing a famous scene in Spartacus.


  • Lingering glances and gaze-y shots aside, Alana and Margot's first meeting is innuendo-laden to the point of hilarity.
    Alana: I'm not sure if this is my entrance.
    Margot: This can be your entrance. It isn't easy to find the first time you come.
    • And then, in "Dolce", they finally unambiguously do the do!
    • After the timeskip we learn in "...And The Woman Clothed With The Sun" that they're now an Official Couple who are married with a baby son.
  • The back-and-forth between Chilton and Mason in "Aperitivo" has a palpable sexual tone. ("I'll show you mine if you show me yours.") However, the two having the conversation with their deformed faces exposed makes it more No Yay territory.


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