[Spoilers for "Hannibal" Season 2, plus allusions to Season 3, below.]
After nearly being canceled following its second (brilliant) season, NBC's "Hannibal" is pulling out all the stops. At their Comic Con presentation Thursday afternoon, creator Bryan Fuller and executive producer Martha De Laurentis announced that the following seasons of "Hannibal" will introduce the second-most famous character in the Hannibal Lector universe: Clarice Starling.
"We’ll mine the book of 'Hannibal Rising' as well as the book of 'Hannibal' [in Season 3]," said De Laurentis. "After Episode 8, we’ll start the book of 'Red Dragon.' [When that’s over] we’ll start with Clarice Starling.”
"It would be completionist," Fuller said of the potential plot line.
De Laurentis and Fuller went on to clarify their plans, stating they first must get the rights to use the character of Clarice Starling from MGM Studios before they can use her. They nevertheless plan to incorporate the iconic female detective made famous by Jodie Foster in the 1991 feature film "The Silence of the Lambs" into Season 4.
If they don't get the rights, Fuller still has a plan: "Schmarlice Schmarling."
"We would do our own [version of the character]," De Laurentis clarified.
The producers also said they would be introducing a number of new characters well known to Thomas Harris fans in the coming season. Comandante Pazzi will be arriving in Episode 2; Lady Murasaki in Episode 3; Dr. Cordell in Episode 4; and Francis Dollarhide, the main villain of "Red Dragon," in Episode 8.
"I think Murasaki is going to kick all sorts of ass," Fuller said.
Via a special guest appearance, the "Hannibal" team also announced Raul Esparza will be returning as Dr. Frederick Chilton for Season 3, despite appearing to have been killed off in Sesaon 2. Eddie Izzard's Abel Gideon will also be back, but only via flashback.
Fuller also announced Season 3's food theme will be Italian, a hint as to where the season will go, and you may not see much of the show's power couple together early in the new season.
"When you separate R2D2 and C-3PO, they don’t become less interesting," Fuller said. He elaborated the final scene of Season 2 introduced an element of Hannibal on the run with Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, played by Gillian Anderson, that would continue into the third season (which picks up a year after the Season 2 finale). This storyline will eventually lead to more elements of the novel "Hannibal," as well as the aforementioned "Red Dragon" story.
"The first episode is like a pilot for a new series starring Gillian Anderson and Mads Mikkelson," Fuller said. "The entire first half of the season is relatively FBI light. They only appear once in the first seven (episodes). It's all about the pursuit of Hannibal. We've kind of abandoned the structure we had in the first two seasons for something that is unique to the book."
Fuller, a beloved showrunner known for treating his fans well, gave away prizes to anyone who asked a question at the panel and also provided exclusive soundtracks to the audience on hand.