By the climax of season three, there's no getting away from it: Hannibal is a love story, the bloody, romantic tale of the twisted, doomed connection between hunter and hunted, doctor and patient, hero and villain, Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. Extrapolating and expanding on a few sentences in the Red Dragon novel that explain the capture of Lecter by Graham into two and a half seasons of narrative, the show builds Graham as Hannibal's nemesis, as well as the other way around. More than that though, the friendship between the two is completely genuine, despite the manipulation and deceit between them. Lecter is a lonely figure, isolated by the skewed way that he sees the world and humanity in general. Will is lonely too, ironically alienated from everyone around him by the very gift that allows him to feel exactly what they feel, his superhuman empathy. Both men yearn for companionship on their level, someone who might understand them, kindred spirits. It's not necessarily anything sexual, although that can play a role rather, it's achingly romantic (in a weird and twisted way, naturally). Mikkelsen is convinced that Lecter's feelings for Will are very real:
Not only a friend. He's the first person for many, many years that he has genuinely loved. He saw a mirror image of himself in Will; a younger version, not necessarily going down the right path yet, but potentially going down the right path with himself... So I think it is genuine what he saw, and for one weak moment he became vulnerable and was fooled - ClashMusic.com
By the middle of season two, the intricacies of the two characters and their individual mental states have begun to mesh, become inextricably entwined. At the climax of season two, Will doesn't go to Hannibal's home to confront and arrest him, as Jack Crawford does he goes to warn him, and to go with him, although he doesn't fully realise his own real intentions until some time later. For his own part, Hannibal sees Will's betrayal coming a mile off, yet it's no less painful when the moment actually arrives. Will actually breaks his heart. His disappointment manifests itself in typically bloody fashion, of course but then it's Hannibal, the man and the television show. It's exactly what we've come to expect.