Are Hannibal and Will Lovers?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Creator Bryan Fuller has confirmed Hannibal is in love with Will in the TV show “Hannibal.”
  • Multiple references are made throughout the show about Hannibal’s romantic love for Will.
  • The complex relationship between the two main characters is described as a love story by many fans and critics.
  • Actors and production staff have acknowledged the intentional homoerotic subtext between Hannibal and Will.
  • Despite no explicit romantic scenes, there is significant evidence for a deeper bond beyond friendship.

The relationship between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham in the psychological thriller TV series “Hannibal” has been a source of much discussion and debate among fans. Are Hannibal and Will merely friends, patient and therapist, or something more intimate and romantic? With its homoerotic subtext and emotionally intense scenes between the two characters, there is convincing evidence within the show itself to suggest that Hannibal harbors romantic feelings for Will, despite their unconventional connection.

This article will comprehensively evaluate and analyze the various textual and creative aspects which point to a romantic love between the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal and the exceptionally empathetic FBI profiler Will in “Hannibal.” Key scenes, dialogues, parallels to traditional romance tropes, input from the show’s cast and crew, and the enthusiastic “fannibal” subculture supporting the pairing will be explored. The in-depth examination provides a persuasive case that within the context of the show, the relationship between Hannibal and Will transcends friendship and includes a genuine romantic element, at least on Hannibal’s side.

For fans of morally ambiguous, dangerously co-dependent relationships or anyone intrigued by the psychological complexity of Hannibal and Will’s bond, this article illuminates the compelling evidence for why their connection can be interpreted as a dark, twisted love story. The analysis will leave little doubt that unrequited longing and romantic affection, particularly by Hannibal towards Will, is a genuine theme of their relationship in the show.

Is Hannibal Romantically in Love with Will?

One of the clearest indications that Hannibal harbors romantic feelings and a genuine love for Will in the show is the confirmation from “Hannibal” creator Bryan Fuller himself. In multiple interviews, Fuller has directly stated that Hannibal is “absolutely in love with Will Graham” in a way beyond friendship or fascination. This love actually motivates many of Hannibal’s actions in the show as he tries to get Will to embrace his inner darkness and realize they are two sides of the same coin.

In the commentary for the final season, Fuller notes that Hannibal is “still very much in love with Will,” highlighting the persistently romantic nature of his fixation despite Will’s repeated rejections. References made by characters like Bedelia Du Maurier in dialogue further reinforce Hannibal’s intense single-minded love for Will that shapes many of his manipulations in the show. Their connection is frequently described as “intimate” and unlike any other relationship Hannibal has had before.

Does Will Reciprocate Hannibal’s Romantic Feelings?

While Hannibal may long for a romantic bond with Will, the show leaves Will’s precise feelings more open to interpretation. There are suggestions that Will does love Hannibal in his own way, valuing their friendship and shared understanding of each other. However, romantic attraction is more ambiguous on Will’s side, especially as he struggles between embracing his bond with Hannibal and rejecting Hannibal’s murderous actions.

Will demonstrates care and emotional reliance on Hannibal that could be seen as love, but likely not equivalent romantic affection. He makes several attempts to cut ties with Hannibal upon realizing Hannibal’s true nature, breaking Hannibal’s heart in the process. Their relationship is unequal with Hannibal demonstrating the clearer romantic longing. Will values and is drawn to Hannibal as a confidante, but does not exhibit the same degree of romantic infatuation.

Does Hannibal Try to Romantically Court Will?

A case for Hannibal’s romantic motivation is also evident in his many efforts to court Will in his own unique, often unsettling, manner. From cooking elaborate meals to giving “thoughtful” gifts like killing the people who wronged Will, Hannibal tries to demonstrate his affection and win Will over in ways suited to his morally ambiguous worldview.

Romantic relationships frequently involve giving gifts, wanting to share meals together, and doing special favors to show affection. While horrifying from an objective viewpoint, Hannibal’s actions mirror these traditions in ways he believes shows his fondness and longing for Will to return his feelings. Hannibal wants Will to fall in love with not only him, but also the gruesome crimes Hannibal commits under the guise of avenging Will. His overtures blend romance with manipulation and living by his own ethical code.

Do Hannibal and Will Have Traditional Romantic Tropes?

The dynamic between the brilliant but twisted psychiatrist and the emotionally vulnerable profiler closely parallels many typical romance narratives. TV shows and films often depict an “opposites attract” relationship between two very different people who develop an unlikely but meaningful romantic bond. The “falling for the killer” trope also occurs in stories where a character becomes enamored with someone who leads a dangerous double life.

On the surface, Hannibal and Will are opposites – one pushes ethical boundaries and hides his crimes, while the other is sensitive and prefers to uphold the law. Will’s ability to understand and “see” Hannibal creates attraction on both sides. Will is also as fascinated by the darkness in people as Hannibal, he just does not act on it like Hannibal does. The clash between them as Will uncovers Hannibal’s secrets can come across as a psychological romance steeped in manipulation.

Do Critics Describe Hannibal/Will as a Love Story?

Numerous critics and reviewers analyzing the show have pointed to the homoerotic tension between Hannibal and Will and described their relationship in romantic terms as a twisted love story. AV Club critic Molly Eichel notably states there are “obvious indications that Hannibal and Will are more than just doctor and patient, the heterosexual herself couldn’t help but notice the budding love story at the heart of the series.”

The emotional intimacy and “palpable chemistry” between them led to comparisons with famous literary romances between men like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their bond transcending that of friends even as they inflict harm on each other mirrors so many star-crossed fictional lovers. The romantic parallels are evident enough that many pick up on the strong likelihood that unrequited love motivates Hannibal in how he desperately tries to earn Will’s understanding and acceptance. Their push and pull dynamic can be viewed as one of the great dark romances shown on television.

Do Fans “Ship” Hannibal/Will Romantically?

Perhaps the most obvious sign that Hannibal and Will are perceived romantically is the sheer popularity and devotion of “fannibals” who adore the pairing. Hannibal/Will remains one of the most “shipped” (supported as an imagined romantic couple) LGBT pairings, with fans dedicated to highlighting their emotional intimacy via fanfiction, fanart, fanvideos and more.

Fannibals celebrate the complexity of having two men communicate without conventional shows of affection. The tragedy and anti-heroes appeal of a killer longing for someone morally good who will likely never requite his taboo feelings also resonates. Hannibal/Will shippers see their bond as transcending labels to capture the darkness of love. Fuller himself has shown appreciation of the diverse, creative fanworks portraying Hannibal and Will romantically.

Do the Actors Hint at Romantic Undertones?

In interviews, cast members have frequently spoken about the homoerotic subtext between Hannibal and Will, and their awareness that the relationship was being presented as intentionally deeper than a typical friendship. Hugh Dancy, who portrays Will Graham, noted the homoerotic elements purposefully built into their interactions and script.

Mads Mikkelsen has been especially vocal, stating Hannibal clearly “had a hard time hiding his jealousy and love for Will Graham.” He perceived romantic undertones in how Hannibal gazes at Will and aggressively wishes to make Will accept him. The hand holding, symbolic dream sequences, murder valentines, and other suggestive moments are, according to Mikkelsen, indicators of Hannibal’s powerful longing for Will to reciprocate his feelings.

Why Was an Explicit Romance Not Shown?

Considering all the implicit clues that Hannibal loves Will romantically, why did Fuller never have them become an explicit couple with romantic scenes in the show itself? Part may be due to network restrictions against LGBT content, but Fuller also mentioned he did not want to define their relationship too narrowly given the abstract, complex dynamic between them. Leaving the tension unresolved leaves their relationship open to interpretation.

Fuller has also shared regret that he did not take Hannibal and Will’s romance further on screen, saying he should have had them kiss in the second season. However, the sense that Hannibal remains lovesick for Will despite Will’s wariness of fully giving into the darkness makes their star-crossed connection all the more poignant and tragic. Not consummating their relationship only highlights Hannibal’s yearning as Will himself remains torn between resisting and embracing Hannibal’s twisted but captivating romantic pursuit of him.


The intricately crafted world of “Hannibal” leaves room for layered interpretations regarding the true nature of the bond between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. However, a wealth of textual and creative evidence strongly indicates that their relationship fundamentally transcends normal friendship and includes romantic love, at least on the part of Hannibal. The show may present an unconventional depiction of romance and intimacy between two complex, morally ambiguous men, but the depth of feeling driving Hannibal’s obsession with Will takes on undeniably romantic dimensions.

In the end, Hannibal’s romantic feelings and motivations regarding Will are extensively developed and highlighted through show creator statements, script dialogue, parallels to common romance tropes, academic analyses, and the massive popularity of the pairing among fans. Hannibal’s unrequited but powerful love for Will can be considered one of the most poignant and intricately depicted love stories between two men shown on modern television. Their relationship defies labels and societal norms to present an entirely new, if twisted, take on the traditional frustrated longing of a lover trying everything he can to seduce the reluctant object of his affection to finally return his feelings

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