Will Graham (character)

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Will Graham
Hannibal Lecter character
Will Graham.jpg
Hugh Dancy as Will Graham in the TV series Hannibal
Portrayed by William Petersen (Manhunter)
Edward Norton (Red Dragon)
Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
Gender Male
Occupation FBI profiler
Nationality American

Will Graham is a fictional character in Thomas Harris' 1981 novel Red Dragon.

Other than passing mentions in Harris' sequel The Silence of the Lambs, he does not appear in any other book of the Lecter series. In the film adaptations Manhunter and Red Dragon, he is portrayed by William Petersen and Edward Norton, respectively. In the television series Hannibal, he is portrayed by Hugh Dancy.

Character overview

Graham is an FBI profiler responsible for the capture of serial killer Hannibal Lecter, and who is later assigned to capture serial killer Francis Dolarhyde. In both the text and film adaptations, Graham is described as having an unusual level of empathy. This ability can manifest as the ability to empathize with criminals and psychopaths, which he finds extremely disturbing. He also has an eidetic memory rivaling Lecter's.

Back story

Red Dragon establishes Graham's backstory. He grew up poor in Louisiana, eventually moving to New Orleans, where he became a homicide detective. He leaves New Orleans to attend graduate school in forensic science at George Washington University. After attaining his degree, Graham goes to work for the FBI's crime lab. Following exceptional work both in the crime lab and in the field, Graham is given a post as teacher at the FBI Academy. During his career in the FBI, Graham is given the title of 'Special Investigator' while he is in the field.

His first major case involves a serial killer called the Minnesota Shrike, who had been murdering college coeds for eight months. In the 1970s, he catches the killer, Garrett Jacob Hobbs, at the suspect's home, in the process of trying to murder his own family. Graham finds Hobbs' wife on the apartment landing, bleeding from multiple stab wounds, who clutches at Graham before dying. Graham breaks down the door and shoots Hobbs, who is repeatedly stabbing his own daughter in the neck, to death. Hobbs' daughter survives and eventually goes on with her life following intensive psychotherapy. Graham is profoundly disturbed by the incident and is referred to the psychiatric ward of Bethesda Naval Hospital. After a month in the hospital, he returns to the FBI.

In 1975, he tracks down another serial killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper, who removes his victims' organs. He notices that a victim with multiple stab wounds has a healed stab wound; according to his medical records, victim received the wound in a hunting accident five years before. He tracks down the doctor who treated the victim in the emergency room, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, now a renowned psychiatrist, to see if he remembers any suspicious circumstances surrounding the patient. During their first meeting, Lecter claims not to remember very much. Graham returns to see Lecter in his office, and within minutes realizes that Lecter is the killer he seeks. Graham goes to Lecter's outer office and makes a phone call to the FBI's Baltimore Field Office. Lecter, who has removed his shoes, sneaks up on Graham and slashes his abdomen with a linoleum knife, nearly disemboweling him. FBI agents and Maryland State Troopers arrive and arrest Lecter, and Graham spends months recovering in a hospital. It was only after a while in the hospital that he realized what had tipped him off — the antique medical diagram Wound Man, whose wounds match exactly those of the Ripper's victim. Graham's capture of Lecter makes him a celebrity, and he is revered as a legend at the FBI. A tabloid reporter, Freddy Lounds, sneaks into the hospital where Graham is recuperating, photographs Graham's wounds, and humiliates him in the National Tattler. Graham retires after his recovery.



In 1981, Graham is living with his wife Molly, whom he met a year after the incident with Lecter, and her son Willy in Sugarloaf Key, Florida. His former boss, Jack Crawford, persuades him to come out of retirement and help the FBI catch a serial killer nicknamed The Tooth Fairy, who had murdered two families on a lunar cycle, the first in Birmingham, Alabama and the second in Atlanta, Georgia. After studying the crime scenes, Graham consults Lecter, now institutionalized in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, on the case. Lecter only taunts him, however, and later sends Graham's address to the killer, Francis Dolarhyde, in code, threatening the safety of his wife and stepson. The family are moved first to a cottage owned by Crawford's brother, but Molly later decides to take Willy to stay with her late first husband's parents in Oregon. Graham resumes tracking Dolarhyde and uses Lounds in an attempt to break the coded communication between Lecter and Dolarhyde by giving Lounds false information, insinuating that Dolarhyde is impotent, homosexual and the product of incest. Enraged, Dolarhyde kidnaps and brutally murders Lounds. After linking him to a film developing company, Graham, Crawford, and FBI agents arrive at Dolarhyde's home to arrest him, only to find that the killer had set it on fire while his blind girlfriend, Reba McClane, was inside; he then apparently committed suicide. Graham rescues and consoles McClane, and returns home, believing Dolarhyde's reign of terror to be over.

However, Dolarhyde's apparent suicide is revealed to have been a ruse; he had shot a previous victim, fooling McClane into thinking he was dead. Dolarhyde attacks Graham and his family at their Florida home, stabbing Graham in the face before being killed by Graham's wife. Graham and his family survive, but he is left disfigured. Soon afterward, he receives a note from Lecter wishing him good luck on his recovery and hoping Graham isn't "too ugly".

Will Graham is briefly referred to in The Silence of the Lambs, the sequel to Red Dragon, when FBI Academy student Clarice Starling notes that "Will Graham, the keenest hound ever to run in Crawford's pack, was a legend at the Academy; he was also a drunk in Florida now with a face that's hard to look at..." Crawford tells her that "[Graham's] face looks like damned Picasso drew it." When Starling first meets Lecter, he asks her how Graham's face looks. Before Lecter's escape, Dr. Frederick Chilton tells him that Crawford is not happy that Lecter "cut up his protegé", referencing Graham.[1]


Graham has been portrayed twice in film: in Manhunter by William Petersen and again in Red Dragon by Edward Norton.

The 2002 film version of Red Dragon changes the nature of his connection to Lecter. While in the novel he meets Lecter for the first time while questioning him about the death of a patient, in the film he and Lecter have apparently known each other for some time, with Graham often consulting Lecter on several of his cases until intuiting that Lecter is the killer he has been trying to catch. The film also omits Graham's disfigurement at Dolarhyde's hands; while the confrontation between the two results in Graham being severely wounded, Graham's wife kills Dolarhyde before he can cut her husband's face. Finally, the 2002 film portrays Graham and Molly as having a biological child, Josh, rather than Graham being stepfather to Molly's son.

TV series

Hugh Dancy portrayed Graham in Hannibal, a television series about his relationship with Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) prior to Lecter's capture. The show premiered on April 4, 2013.[2]

Dancy's version of Graham is implied to be on the autism spectrum, but series creator Bryan Fuller has refuted the idea that he has Asperger syndrome, stating instead that he has "the opposite of"[3][4] the disorder: Dancy himself supports Fuller's statement, saying that he believes Graham mimics the symptoms of the disorder as an excuse for his awkward, introverted demeanor.[5] Dancy's Graham possesses "pure empathy" and an overactive imagination, allowing him to mentally recreate the murders he is investigating. He also unknowingly suffers from advanced encephalitis, often making it difficult for him to cope with his mental recreations. Lecter is fascinated by Graham's ability to think like the serial killers he investigates, and he spends much of the series trying to manipulate him into becoming a killer himself.

Season 1

The TV series amends continuity so that Graham first works with Lecter during the hunt for serial killer Garrett Jacob Hobbs (Vladimir Cubrt), the Minnesota Shrike. The method with which Graham discerns Lecter's identity as the Chesapeake Ripper in the novels' universe (i.e. talking to Lecter regarding a murder victim's injuries and discovering the Wound Man picture) is instead attributed to an FBI trainee named Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) who went missing during an earlier investigation: Lecter had attacked her before she could tell anyone,[6] and it is revealed in season 2 that he has been holding her hostage and brainwashing her since then in order to misdirect the FBI's investigation away from him.[7]

During his first case with Lecter, Graham kills Hobbs and saves his daughter Abigail (Kacey Rohl).[8] Graham fears that he may have enjoyed killing Hobbs, and goes into therapy with Lecter to better understand his ability to empathize with psychopaths.[9] He also develops paternal feelings for Abigail, who he later discovers acted as her father's accomplice and hid her crimes with Lecter's help. He struggles with these revelations, but covers for both of them.[10] Graham is devastated when Abigail is herself apparently murdered.[11]

Throughout the season, Graham's sanity deteriorates under Lecter's manipulation until he begins to wonder if he committed murder in a state of psychosis. At the end of the first season, Graham is arrested for several murders that Lecter committed — but not before realizing that Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper, the very serial killer he has been trying to catch.[11]

Season 2

The second season focuses on Graham's attempts to capture Lecter. He is institutionalized in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane under the care of Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza). Graham insists to his skeptical former colleagues that Lecter is the real killer, and pulls strings from the confines of his cell to expose him. Eventually he persuades a deranged hospital orderly (Jonathan Tucker) to make an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt on Lecter's life after Lecter kills Beverly Katz (Hetienne Park), a forensic scientist and Graham's friend, who had discovered Lecter's guilt.[12] Lecter begins a sexual relationship with his former student Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), Graham's confidante, further straining their relationship. Lecter exonerates Graham by purposely leaving forensic evidence from Graham's alleged victims at the scene of one of his own murders, leading to Graham's release.[13] Graham asks to resume his therapy sessions, part of an elaborate attempt by Graham and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to entrap Lecter. Lecter quickly becomes aware of the ruse, but is fascinated by the experience and allows it to continue in order to explore the connection he feels with Graham.[14]

In an attempt to push Graham into becoming a serial killer, Lecter sends Randall Tier (Mark O'Brien), a psychotic former patient, to kill Graham. However, Graham kills and mutilates Tier instead – just as Lecter had hoped he would.[15] Later, Graham attacks tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki), and he and Lecter share a meal of what appears to be her flesh: however, it is subsequently revealed that Lounds is alive and that she is working with Graham and Crawford to draw Lecter out and capture him – the human flesh they consumed belonged in fact to Tier rather than Lounds. However, Graham finds himself drawn into his "alliance" act with Lecter and finds himself conflicted about his true allegiances.[16]

Graham and Lecter acquire a mutual enemy in Mason Verger (Michael Pitt), a wealthy sadist whom they both despise for emotionally and sexually abusing his twin sister Margot (Katharine Isabelle). When Mason threatens to cut her off financially unless she conceives a "Verger baby" with him, a desperate Margot sleeps with Graham and gets pregnant. Lecter tells Mason, who is in therapy with him, that she is attempting to conceive an heir to the Verger family fortune, so Mason removes her womb. An enraged Graham confronts Mason and warns him that Lecter is manipulating both of them.[16] He saves Lecter from being fed to Mason's prize pigs, and finds Lecter holding Mason captive in his house. He does nothing to stop Lecter from "encouraging" Mason – to whom he has given hallucinogenic drugs – to cut off pieces of his own face and feed them to Graham's dogs. With Graham's unspoken approval, Lecter breaks Mason's neck, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.[17]

In the second season finale, Graham learns that he is about to be arrested for helping Crawford entrap Lecter, as well as for Tier's murder. He calls Lecter and informs him that "they know", hoping Lecter will flee. He goes to Lecter's house to find that Lecter has severely wounded Crawford; he is also stunned to discover that Abigail is alive and has thrown Alana out of a window after Lecter instructed her to do so. Moments later, Lecter stabs Graham and slits Abigail's throat, before leaving them both to die.[18]

Season 3

Graham recovers from his wounds and goes after Lecter, going first to Lecter's childhood home in Lithuania. There, he meets Lecter's family servant Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) and kills the man who had, decades earlier, murdered and cannibalized Lecter's sister Mischa. Graham proceeds to mutilate the body and turn it into a Lecter-esque work of art. Chiyoh then helps him find Lecter in Florence, Italy.[19] Graham meets with Lecter and tries to kill him, but Chiyoh shoots and wounds him before he can kill the doctor. Lecter takes Graham back to his villa and tries to perform a craniotomy on him in front of Crawford, but he is interrupted by corrupt Italian detectives in Mason Verger's (Joe Anderson) pay, who apprehend them both and deliver them to the Verger estate in Maryland.[20] Mason plans to torture Lecter to death with the help of his physician Cordell Doemling (Glenn Fleshler). Meanwhile, Mason orders Doemling to surgically remove Graham's face – without anesthesia – and graft it onto his. Before the face transplant can take place, however, Lecter kills Doemling, frees Graham, and helps Margot kill her brother. Lecter carries an unconscious Graham to safety and brings him back to his home. Graham refuses to have anything more to do with Lecter, but allows him to escape. Later that evening, however, Lecter surrenders to Crawford to spite Graham, knowing that if Graham knows where he is, he will inevitably be tempted to visit him.[21]

Three years later, Graham has retired from the FBI and settled down with his wife, Molly (Nina Arianda), and her son, Walter. Crawford asks him to profile a serial killer dubbed "The Tooth Fairy", who kills entire families. After some initial reluctance, Graham agrees to help and decides to consult Lecter about the murders.[22] With Lecter's help, he recovers his gift for empathizing with psychopaths – at the cost of having nightmares in which he, as the killer, murders his family. Lecter says that the killer feels a connection with the William Blake painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, and suggests that Graham see the painting to better understand the man he is chasing. Graham goes to the Brooklyn Museum to see the painting, and encounters the killer, Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), who attacks him.[23] Lecter gives Dolarhyde Graham's address, and Dolarhyde attacks Graham's family, shooting and wounding Molly as she and Walter escape.[24]

To steer Dolarhyde away from his family, Graham decides to enrage him by giving an interview to Lounds in which he says "The Tooth Fairy" is ugly, impotent and the product of incest. He uses Chilton as an authoritative source for his profile; Dolarhyde then kidnaps, mutilates and burns Chilton.[25]

In the series finale, "The Wrath of the Lamb", Dolarhyde apparently commits suicide, and Graham comforts the killer's girlfriend, Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley). It turns out that Dolarhyde faked his death, however, and attacks Graham in his hotel room. With the help of Bloom and Crawford, Graham secures a deal to set a trap for Dolarhyde using Lecter as bait. Graham seems to arrange for Lecter to be transferred to another facility to draw Dolarhyde out; however, Dolarhyde attacks and kills Lecter's guard detail and allows Lecter and Graham to escape. Lecter takes Graham to a cliffside cottage where he had kept Abigail Hobbs and Miriam Lass. Dolarhyde, who had followed them to the cottage, shoots Lecter in the back and stabs Graham in the face. Graham and Lecter get the upper hand and kill Dolarhyde together, with Lecter tearing out his throat with his teeth and Graham gutting him with a knife. They embrace, and Graham pulls them both over the cliff. A post-credits scene shows Lecter's former psychiatrist and accomplice Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) dining on her own leg at a table set for three; Fuller has said this is meant to suggest that Graham and Lecter have survived. Fuller has further stated that, should the series be renewed for another season, Lecter and Graham would be on the run from the FBI in Argentina.[26][27]


  1. ^ Harris, Thomas (1988). The Silence of the Lambs. New York City: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-92458-5.
  2. ^ Gould, J.J. (April 3, 2013). "Who Is Will Graham?". The Atlantic. Washington DC: Emerson Collective. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  3. ^ Turek, Ryan (April 17, 2013). "Bloodcast Ep 33: Hannibal Showrunner Bryan Fuller". Bloodcast. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Kurchak, Sarah (July 24, 2013). Flavorwire http://flavorwire.com/405314/television-on-the-spectrum-the-best-and-worst-depictions-of-asperger-syndrome-on-tv/7. Retrieved July 26, 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Hugh Dancy "Post Mortem Interview – Hannibal" June 14, 2014. Sky Living TV.
  6. ^ "Entrée". Hannibal. Season 1. Episode 6. May 2, 2013. NBC.
  7. ^ "Yakimono". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 7. April 11, 2014. NBC.
  8. ^ "Apéritif". Hannibal. Season 1. Episode 1. April 2, 2013. NBC.
  9. ^ "Amuse-Bouche". Hannibal. Season 1. Episode 2. April 9, 2013. NBC.
  10. ^ "Trou Normand". Hannibal. Season 1. Episode 9. May 23, 2013. NBC.
  11. ^ a b "Savoreaux". Hannibal. Season 1. Episode 12. June 20, 2013. NBC.
  12. ^ "Mukozuke". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 5. March 28, 2014. NBC.
  13. ^ "Futamono". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 6. May 4, 2014. NBC.
  14. ^ "Su-zakana". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 8. April 18, 2014. NBC.
  15. ^ "Shiizakana". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 9. April 25, 2014. NBC.
  16. ^ a b "Ko No Mono". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 11. May 9, 2014. NBC.
  17. ^ "Tome-Wan". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 12. May 16, 2014. NBC.
  18. ^ "Mizumono". Hannibal. Season 2. Episode 13. May 23, 2014. NBC.
  19. ^ "Secondo". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 3. June 18, 2015. NBC.
  20. ^ "Dolce". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 6. July 9, 2015. NBC.
  21. ^ "Digestivo". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 7. July 18, 2015. NBC.
  22. ^ "The Great Red Dragon". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 8. July 25, 2015. NBC.
  23. ^ "And the Woman Clothed With Sun". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 10. August 8, 2015. NBC.
  24. ^ "...And the Beast From the Sea". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 11. August 15, 2015. NBC.
  25. ^ "The Number of the Beast is 666...". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 12. August 22, 2015. NBC.
  26. ^ "The Wrath of the Lamb". Hannibal. Season 3. Episode 13. August 29, 2015. NBC.
  27. ^ Bryant, Adam (August 29, 2015). "Hannibal Boss on the Finale: "If the Audience Is Done, Then I Will Be Done"". TV Guide. San Francisco, California: CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
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