Do you think Will is aware that Hannibal is sexually interested in him? It's likely that he just assumes Hannibal's love for him is also platonic. And some signals can be mistaken into cannibalism and dysosmia. Like"Did he smell something on me? Am I ill?" "Why did he look at me like that?Oh, he really wants to eat my brain."
How far we have come from the days in which Bryan Fuller was uttering “heterosexual male friendship” at every turn! It’s so wild.
(Wait a minute…isn’t Hannibal smelling Will because he was ill what literally happened on the show??? XD My other initial reaction to this was to ponder whether non-cannibal people actually look at meat on the hoof and think, “Mmm, can’t wait to chow down on that bovine haunch” in the same way we suggest that Hannibal looks at people and literally thinks, “Mmm, dish delish.”)
I always took the position while the show was airing that the relationship wasn’t really sexual on either end, and to be honest, my opinion on that hasn’t changed. Now that it’s fall of 2017, from various sources and opinions and behaviors, I believe that Bryan Fuller was gradually swinging to the side of making their relationship become sexual, and that had he been allowed to finish telling his story, at some point it would have been. Perhaps it will still be, should we get a fourth season.
And I think that should the show get finished, whatever comes will color–and rightly so–valid interpretations of the first three seasons. Thus, depending on how they handle the development of any sexual relationship, it may (or may not) support a reading of the first three seasons that sees Hannibal’s longing glances at Will as sexually focused. But until that time, I have to go by only the seasons we have actually gotten. And I think within those three seasons, we don’t have the evidence to support it.
That doesn’t mean I think a sexual interest in Will was never in one of the trains of Hannibal’s thought–I’ve always thought it was there, as evidenced by his conversations with Franklyn in “Sorbet”–but I’ve always felt that Hannibal has never been particularly sexually driven. Sex for Hannibal has always seemed to me to be something that he finds fun and pleasurable, and he enjoys indulging in it from time to time, but he could probably go without it for years and years without hardly noticing except as an interesting detail of his life (regardless of whether he was incarcerated). It’s of no consequence, and its ability to motivate him is practically nil. I suppose I might say that I see him as pansexual, but only barely to that side of asexual.
There’s a line in the novel, Hannibal, that influences my reading him this way, when it talks about how he filed away his memories of Clarice’s nudity with her patient files and dismissed them to respect her privacy. I feel like that’s perfectly in keeping with the Hannibal of our show, who could undress and dress Will without it seeming to affect him in any way.
I think fandom’s traditional focus on sex in relationships doesn’t really take into consideration Hannibal’s–both the show’s and the character’s–particular kind of crazy. He is obsessed not with becoming close to Will, but with becoming Will, and vice versa, of course. With becoming one. His idea of increasing their intimacy is not to try to sleep with Will, but with Alana, for crying out loud. Because he knows Will wants to sleep with her. “I’ll give Alana Bloom your best,” indeed. smh
So I guess in a way, I still really think that Hannibal’s interest in Will is largely platonic, and his attraction largely aesthetic, if one assumes that “platonic” and “aesthetic” are more or less synonymous with “nucking futs.” Hannibal’s obsession and love is so lofty, in the murder-death-art department, and the nature of his feelings for Will are so reflective of and in tune with Will’s feelings for him, that I don’t think one-sided sexual pining is really possible. And that sort of takes whether Will could sense it off the table.
IMO, in S3, the show was beginning to transition out of “heterosexual male friendship” and into “canniblueballin’.” I do think the tide was shifting. But because there was never a way for Hannibal to express himself sexually with Will, I don’t think the show really sealed the deal yet. I suppose that’s why Bryan scaled back the “near kiss” as much as he could, knowing as he did that the show would probably be cancelled. He said he wanted to be true to the “friendship” story that they’d told up to that point. They just hadn’t gotten to tell more yet.