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There are season finales that leave you hanging… and then there are season finales that leave you bleeding out all over the kitchen floor.

Season 2 of NBC’s Hannibal went out with guns blazing (and arteries spurting), giving us a grandiosely blood-soaked finale that left most of the main characters — Will Graham, Jack Crawford, Alana Bloom, and a resurrected Abigail Hobbs — clinging to life, while ever-elegant serial killer Hannibal Lecter jetted off to Europe with his therapist Bedelia Du Maurier at his side. So is Season 3 (premiering Thursday) just The Hannibal and Bedelia Show? RIP, the rest of the main cast?

Thankfully, no. Since he’s in all the trailers and promotional photos, it’s not exactly a spoiler to say Will Graham will indeed be back on Hannibal’s trail in Season 3 — and that’s just the way Hannibal likes it. “Let’s put it this way,” Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Hannibal, tells us. “If I left Will Graham in the kitchen in the second season still alive, there’s a higher meaning to that.”

So why didn’t Hannibal finish off Will when he had the chance? And why is Will still chasing the man who nearly killed him halfway across the globe? We chatted with Mikkelsen, his co-star Hugh Dancy (Will), and showrunner Bryan Fuller about Hannibal’s strangely fascinating (and fascinatingly strange) central relationship, and what other culinary and cannibalistic delights Season 3 has in store for us.

Through two seasons, Hannibal has been a very delightful surprise indeed. What could’ve been just a cynical cash-grab reboot has instead been one of the most satisfying shows on network TV: beautifully shot, shockingly gory, and eager to delve deeply into the twisted psyches of both killer and profiler. We almost have to remind ourselves we’re watching a network procedural, because we’ve never seen one this challenging, this visually dazzling, this psychologically astute before.

“The approach of the show was always been one of a pretentious art film. And I love pretentious art films,” Fuller tells us. “I think a lot of television on broadcast doesn’t go the extra mile to present an aesthetically pleasing story. Particularly since we’re dealing in the horror genre, which is often dismissed as a B-genre and doesn’t get the respect that it deserves. I wanted to make sure that the tale we were telling is an artful one at every level.”

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