MASSIVE SPOILERS, with more on sources at the end:
New characters: Pazzi (Hannibal), Lady Murasaki (Hannibal Rising), Cordell (Hannibal), Francis Dolarhyde (Red Dragon). MGM still has rights to Clarice and Barney (and Ardelia, who I would really like to see, but no one's mentioned her). Last I heard, David Bowie (for Hannibal's uncle) and David Tennant (a character to be written for him? he was one of the original final three contenders for Hannibal himself? I have never heard who the third was?) had scheduling issues, but would be willing to do the show if they could work those out. In other words, no news there.
Returning characters whether alive or dead, short version: Will, Jack, Alana, Abigail; Bedelia, Chilton, Gideon (flashback), Bella; Zeller and Price, but have not heard about any further afterlife appearances from Beverly; Cordell's presence confirms that Mason and Margot will be back; I had heard Matthew Brown would be involved in the Dolarhyde storyline, but no current mention of him.
Returning characters, long version:
Hugh Dancy will be back. This has been in multiple interviews, including ones he did back in May. Will is specifically mentioned as being in episode 2 (see below), which is when we'll start to find out who survived the finale. He's not going anywhere.
Laurence Fishburne will be back for a few (a couple?) episodes, per multiple interviews/articles; the first half of the season will involve less of the FBI (see panel). It sounds like Jack survived the finale, although on this show, you can be dead and still show up; Jack is in the books, but then, so was Beverly. But I would put money on Jack being alive.
Kacey Rohl will be involved in some capacity (my guess is specifically episode 2 at the very least, below). The ambiguous phrasing of the announcement ("She will be a part of season 3. We will see the actress again") and the theme of episode 2 (below) makes me think that Abigail is no longer among the living, and her scenes will be visions and/or flashbacks.
Caroline Dhavernas will come back, but she genuinely has no idea in what capacity ("alive, dead, ghost, dream"), because "they're still writing it." If episode 4 is about what happened in the year we skipped, logically Alana might appear or at least be mentioned there. Regarding theories that Alana might be blind or paraplegic, she says in one interview that Alana will probably be "walking and talking," but in another says she's not sure, and has ideas on how Alana would react to the events of last season if she lives. I think she will, but bear in mind that Caroline herself says that she does not know. That said, apparently:
I did mention to Caroline that I loved how fierce Alana was during the finale, and Bryan leaned over and said, "Wait until you see how fierce she is in season three!" I laughed and was like, well yeah, she’s got a grudge to settle now, to which he responded with a chuckled "Oh yeah."
Unless she's fiercing it up in a memory palace, it sounds like she survives. The second episode (see below) is an homage to Don't Look Now. Someone's got to die. Odds are, it's Abigail. But I've been wrong about
Speaking of which: Bryan Fuller also talks about how individual episodes are inspired by various movies. Bear in mind the various homages to Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising (and even a shot from Manhunter in "Shiizakana") last season--they were just that, piecemeal homages of dialogue, visuals, or individual plot elements "remixed," as he likes to phrase it. I feel like they will take individual elements, maybe visual homages or general themes, from these movies rather than doing any kind of literal remake, to really fully clarify what I'm saying here. He also mentions the show being "more like a soap opera" with "side stories," since Will and Hannibal are apart, and it's possible that Will may be overseas and away from what's going on with the FBI. As previously mentioned, the cuisine/titles will be Italian. Notice how three of the five movies are set in Italy:
EPISODE 1: The Talented Mr. Ripley ("The Talented Mr. Lecter"). The movie is set in Italy, including San Remo, Rome, and Venice, and involves a man taking another's place/identity after murdering him, and having to juggle various people figuring out that he's not who he says he is (also, murdering them). While we don't know what they would reference or how, you can see where they might go with this. The IGN interview is partly about how Bedelia is Hannibal's "partner in crime" in the whole fugitive deception way of life thing. TVLine: Flashbacks to "previous points in their life" explain how she ended up on the plane.
EPISODE 2: "Don't Look Now with Will Graham." That is specifically the phrasing used; Will is in this episode, rather than returning much later. The movie is about a man, grieving his young daughter's death, going on a trip to Venice with his wife, based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier (!); he keeps seeing "a childlike figure" in a red raincoat like the one his daughter was wearing when she died. So there are visions, premonitions, and a deceased daughter. And now, Will Graham. In the episode where we find out who died. Draw your own conclusions.
Meanwhile, Pazzi is introduced in this episode; I can't tell if the Venice setting of Don't Look Now is meant to carry over to the episode, or just suggest Italy generally; it might be that Will takes the manhunt to Venice while Pazzi (and Hannibal?) are in Florence, but they could just as easily do the themes of the movie in a U.S. setting and Will doesn't go overseas at all. I'll leave off speculating on the rest of the movie.
I asked foresthouse to ask if Il Mostro would be used as a subplot (there is an 11-minute subplot in the deleted scenes on the Hannibal DVD); haven't heard back from her as to whether she got to ask that question at the roundtable interviews.
EPISODE 3: Death and the Maiden. I have actually seen this movie, and I am not sure what to make of its inclusion. (Sigourney Weaver, who Bryan mentions in one of the interviews, is in this, by the way.) Three possible aspects are 1) a former political prisoner demanding that a man who may or may not be her torturer confess to what he did; 2) the victim threatening her torturer with, uh, payment in kind (clearly the show would not literally use rape, a plot point that resulted in some dialogue that is burned into my brain, but I wonder about the "I'll do to you what you did to me" idea); 3) the victim putting the maybe-torturer "on trial" at her home. It's a movie (originally a play) with three characters (the third being her husband); the play leaves confirmation of the torturer ambiguous, whereas the movie makes a decision on it. The final scene is at an opera, which seems relevant visually. I don't know what they might use or how; "I want you to confess to what I'm accusing you of" seems most likely, and I wonder if it's Bedelia and Hannibal (demanding that he admit to how he drove her and their patient to violence?), although really it could be any of a number of characters. There might be an overall theme of people being metaphorically put on trial (will someone, maybe Kade Prurnell, ask Jack to defend his "trap" and what happened at Hannibal's house?). Also: Murasaki will be introduced in this episode; a "tell me what you did" theme could include her in some way. Angelina Burnett seems to be writing this one.
ETA: I have overlooked the most obvious interpretation: that "death and the maiden" are, in the more general sense, Hannibal and Mischa. Her back story might be in this episode?
EPISODE 4: Kill Bill. This is one of those movies I haven't actually seen but I keep forgetting to watch because I feel like I already have. It's definitely a revenge story, though. Murasaki is going to "kick all kinds of ass." (Swords from Kill Bill and/or Hannibal Rising?) Also, I just finally realized that Murasaki's background will have to be different, due to the show updating the main story to the present day and moving the back story up a couple of decades from WWII, so--inspiration from the O-Ren Ishii character? There's a lot of different directions Kill Bill homages could go.
This is also the episode that introduces Cordell (which means the Vergers will be involved, if not sooner) and tells us what happened in the year we skipped. Chilton may return at this point. Nick Antosca seems to be the writer; David Slade will direct.
EPISODE 5: The movie Hannibal. It'll be nice knowing you, Pazzi. I don't know how much of this they'll use; are they going to do the Mason puts a bounty on Hannibal storyline (sounds like it)? Will we revisit the pigs and Hannibal's capture that they went ahead and used in "Tome-wan"? Are they going to have Will decide to save Hannibal from Mason, à la Clarice? Will we go into the WELL, THAT JUST HAPPENED subplot afterwards? Will there be brain eating? Who gets eaten? Might something else get eaten?
@Devilligan: Biggest topic of conversation in the Hannibal writer's room today: How best to cook a cock...
@Devilligan: (And no, I don't mean chicken.)
@angelinaburnett: We may have just spent ten minutes discussing how one would prepare a cock for cooking. It involved garlic stuffed urethra. I love this job.
GUYS. GUYS, IT'S DARK AND I'M SCARED.
We don't know anything about episode 6 or 7 yet; they may not have gotten that far. Bryan, earlier this month: "We're going to do something similar to what we did last season, where we break it into two chapters – one seven-episode chapter and one six-episode chapter. We've broken out that first chapter in broad strokes, and now we're going through and doing the outlines, and we're right in the middle of episode four."
The impression I am getting is that the first half of the season (episodes 1-7) is in Europe, the "manhunt," and then Dolarhyde shows up in episode 8, and that the FBI would show up more in that second half (episodes 8-13) of the season. Will episode 7 be a "bridge episode" like "Yakimono" was last year? Is it possible that they might actually do all of Red Dragon in the back half of season three? Does it logically follow that... Hannibal is captured by/in/during the bridge episode (a parallel to Chilton being "caught" as the Chesapeake Ripper in 2x07, "Yakimono"?) and is fully behind bars by episode 8 for the Red Dragon storyline to start up? Will that require another time jump? How much of Red Dragon are they doing--all of it, or starting it and then continuing into season 4, the season they originally planned to do it? I've got questions but I don't have answers.
EPISODE 8, though: "Francis Dolarhyde has something that Hannibal Lecter doesn’t, which is an inkling of humanity left, he’s trying to stop. Will sees Francis Dolarhyde as a version of Hannibal Lecter that he can actually save from himself." Which is a very different take, emotionally speaking, from previous versions of the story. In terms of casting, Bryan describes Dolarhyde, by the way, as someone "tall and imposing with a great physique [...] in his 40s," and that aging/mortality is part of the story. They have "a couple of ideas" for casting, but can't talk to anyone about it until they've written something, possibly in November.
Meanwhile, Bryan talks about how each season needs to end as if they might not get another. If they do all of Red Dragon in six episodes, it is possible that season 3 might end with Dolarhyde going after Will, the way the book ends. That said, he's said before that the series "is the story of Hannibal and Will," so I don't think they would ever write him entirely off the show ("a drunk in Florida with a face that's hard to look at"). NOBODY PANIC. If anything, I feel like they would "remix" Clarice into the existing storyline, and as such, we really have no idea what role she might play in that (... although Martha likes the Argentina ending), because I do think they want to honor the existing relationship at the heart of the show. However, a "full court press" to get the Clarice rights (or going forward with a Clarice analogue if they have to, which they sound set on one way or the other) suggests that they may be moving towards the Silence of the Lambs material, or at least her existence (by the back half of season 4, since they seem to like starting new stories in the middle of a season? Or not until season 5, as planned?), and that's why they're really pressing now. On the other hand, the way Caroline phrases it is that the end of S3 will get into Red Dragon. So I don't know if they might continue the Red Dragon storyline into S4 after all, or if they even know, given where they are in the writing process. Who knows! Will might continue chasing Dolarhyde into season 4 after the attack! The second half of the season might have bits of Red Dragon mixed in with other stories and not used all at once! It sounds like we are definitely getting into something involving Francis Dolarhyde this coming season, though.
SOURCES: Yes, I watched all of these, because someone had to. Quick notes if you're looking for S3-related info:
SDCC Pannibal: Official video; my livetweet collation on Storify with multiple sources; Alan Sepinwall's liveblog for Hitfix. Quick notes: Raúl Esparza (Chilton) is coming back; Eddie Izzard (Gideon) is returning in flashback; "Full court press" to get Clarice rights; "it would be completionist"; they will do "Shmarice" if they have to. Bryan: "Will and Hannibal have a pure general [genuine?] love for each other. That's why it's so complicated." (x) "This whole show is fan fiction." Cuisine/titles are Italian. "I would love to do a surreal musical in Hannibal's mind palace. Mads can dance. I want to see Mads Mikkelsen dance like Christopher Walken in Weapon of Choice." (I'm not saying take this at face value.) "The entire first half of the season is FBI-light...it's all about the pursuit of Hannibal." (x) The FBI will only appear in one episode out of the first seven. (x) S3 begins one year after S2. 3x04 will fill in the gap. (x) "We wanted to come into Hannibal and Bedelia's story at the most dramatic point." (x) Kacey Rohl and Gina Torres will be back. "It would be a lot of fun to do an episode in season 3 that explains where [Abigail] was and what she was doing. She will be a part of season 3. We will see [Kacey Rohl] again." (x)
IGN group interview shortly before Pannibal: Caroline will be back, but does not know in what capacity (alive, dead, ghost, etc). Bryan: "Someone is dying." "How far off book are you willing to go?" Mashup DJs. "We have a Tarantino-esque approach to the show. We play a lot with timelines." One year time jump. Will and Hannibal are two side of the same coin. The depth of Alana's betrayal. 1st episode, Hannibal and Bedelia. Whole new pilot. "The Talented Mr. Lecter." How he gets away with it with "his partner in crime" (Bedelia). She is "one of the smartest characters on the show, able to protect herself even when dancing very close to the fire." Getting away with so much gore, working with Standards & Practices. Food; José Andrés; people would taste better than any animal due to quality of life. Caroline does not remember being shocked by anything; Bryan talks about a plan to have Mason incubate Margot's uterus/baby in a headless/legless/armless body (WHAT THE FUCK), but decided that went too far. Interviewer doesn't think anyone can reach Will's humanity but Alana; Caroline says Alana has never blamed him or judged Will no matter what he's done ("Mukozuke" aside). What new characters? Pazzi (ep 2), Murasaki (3), Cordell (4), Dolarhyde (8). Red Dragon is still the trajectory, very important to go through that. Dolarhyde has an inkling of humanity left, a version of Hannibal that Will can save from himself.
Entertainment Weekly group interview: "This unicorn with the strap-on"; Scott Thompson has been OUT OF CONTROL all weekend. SDCC costumes. Bryan has a shopping list; big Alien fan; would ask Sigourney Weaver to do a spot on the show (would, not necessarily will); "MAYHEM"; "Hannibal dropping the mic and walking out, and he got on a plane with Agent Scully"; season starts with the two of them, slowly introducing other characters as they go; taxidermy fans?; what on set freaked them out.
Shock Till You Drop with Bryan Fuller: Really key interview. Manhunt rather than procedural; "lots of side stories and side plots"; putting procedural aspect on back burner, "opportunity to tell much more of a soap opera," episodes not so much "informed by death tableaux" list of movies/episodes; "Talented Mr. Ripley with Hannibal Lecter"; "Don't Look Now with Will Graham"; Death and the Maiden; "the fourth episode is sort of Kill Bill"; "and the fifth episode is Hannibal the movie." Fun to throw out procedural aspect but scary to lose that structural backbone and thematic umbrella; "filling it in with a lot more character detail and introducing a lot more characters"; "having Lady Murasaki as this force to be reckoned with in a fantastic way." Dolarhyde--not cast; "a couple of ideas" (actors) they're considering, don't want to reveal who, "don't have any words written for the role, probably won't until November," and that's when they would start talking to people. Dolarhyde needs to be "tall and imposing with a great physique," character is about mortality, "a guy in his 40s," another transformation story.
Caroline Dhavernas roundtable interview: "I think I’ll be able to walk and talk. I know that she will be changed by what happened to her, because she’s in complete and utter shock, and I think that she doesn’t know if she can trust her instincts anymore.... Honestly, I don't know anything" because they're still writing. "You're always a meal away from disappearing." Caroline thinks Alana will blame herself, be angry at herself, "also that she got in the way of the investigation because she was always defending [Hannibal]."
(Caroline may get a Twitter. BE NICE TO HER OR I WILL COME FOR YOU)
Raúl Esparza roundtable interview: "I want to come back as Cronenbergy as possible," i.e., body horror from being shot in the face. Says that the first three episodes have to do with hunting Hannibal, so he thinks he would come back in episode 4.
TVLine group interview: "We know Laurence is coming back for a couple of episodes." Bryan indicates that everyone present (Aaron, Scott, Caroline) will be back, though whether alive is uncertain. Talks about wanting the season finales to be series enders if necessary, never assuming they'll get another season, due to experience with Pushing Daisies. Episode 1 will have flashbacks to points in Bedelia and Hannibal's lives ("The Talented Mr. Lecter" again). Discussion of new characters; Caroline appalled that people think sleeping with Hannibal is "below Alana's intellect"; discussion of "weird sex" that just totally goes off the rails omg.
Shock Till You Drop with Caroline Dhavernas: "She probably wants to see [Hannibal] behind bars really badly, but then again she's not the kind to judge... she understand that the human mind can become very complicated." Year time jump, then "at the end of season three, we're going to start getting into Red Dragon." "You play a pretty big part in all of that" (meaning the Alan Bloom character's role in the book?).
STYD with Raúl Esparza: "You're going to have a bigger role, [Bryan] said.... what are you looking forward to in S3, besides being in a coma?" (Episode 4 catch-up flashback?) Talks about Chilton's sense of humor as a saving grace, but, in the context of Chilton having Hannibal behind bars, "I think you can't go through this kind of thing [the tribulations of the previous two seasons] without getting darker and uglier."
STYD with Aaron Abrams: Hey, they mention ppyajunebug's question! "I have a Camaro and a leather jacket, and I'm roaming the coast... and also like, irresistible to the ladies." Talks about timelines and separate stories.
STYD with Scott Thompson and Martha De Laurentiis: Hee, more about the "spinoff." "Call it The Pussy Hounds" (SCOTT!!!!) while Martha nods patiently. She mentions the end of Hannibal, and how Thomas Harris wrote the changed ending for the movie, but now he's had a change of heart and feels like the end should be more like the book. Interviewer Ryan Turek somewhat hilariously compares Harris to George R.R. Martin "knocking these epics out for HBO," which will make any Game of Thrones fan laugh until they cry (so bitterly. so very, very bitterly), I think.
STYD with writer Steve Lightfoot: Talks about fans and social media; reinventing the show every season, ending every season "written into a corner"; getting out of Baltimore, "going on a European adventure," Hannibal having a new persona (à la Talented Mr. Ripley?). Their version of Pazzi deciding to take the money or not "is really exciting" (so they're definitely doing that plotline).
STYD with director David Slade: Coming in to direct episode 4, "there's going to be a lot more European light" in terms of the show's look; talks about director of photography James Hawkinson. "Exciting and fun," "a piece of my heart in the show."
Hitfix group interview: "Is there any point at which you did not think you were coming back?" "Yes, when they shot me in the face." Caroline seems less sure what physical condition Alana might be in. Really interesting general discussion as well.
There you have it. *CAPE SWOOSH*