They first met in Aperitif, with Hannibal immediately becoming intrigued with Will's unique empathy. Soon, Will becomes Hannibal's patient, although not in official capacity, since they are "simply having conversations", which allows Hannibal to discuss Will with other people, including Crawford. Understanding that Will is close to seeing his nature, Hannibal is forced to frame him for four murders.
Their relationship becomes very complicated in Season 2. Hannibal helps Will clear his name and leave the prison. In an attempt to manipulate Hannibal and expose him, Will starts a dangerous game by pretending to be Hannibal's friend. However, Will's loyalties are becoming less clear during this game, and the darker corners of his psyche are set free with Hannibal's help. At the end of Season 2, Will finally chooses Hannibal, but it is too late. Enraged by the betrayal, Hannibal lashes out, resulting in deadly confrontations.
In the first half of Season 3, Will embraces the darker side of his nature and searches for Hannibal. However, due to complications, he changes his mind and chooses to attempt to have a normal life instead, rejecting Hannibal. Hannibal lets himself be arrested so Will can find him in the future if he should ever wish to return to him. In the second half of the season, Will tries to live with his wife and her child without thinking about Hannibal. However, the serial killer Tooth Fairy forces Will to work with Hannibal, reminding of the absolute freedom he experienced while with him. Ultimately, Will understands the hopelessness of his battle with himself and admits his true feelings for Hannibal. He understands that Hannibal is in love with him. Then he escapes with him.
Bryan Fuller, the creator, has confirmed Hannibal is in love with Will.  To the question of whether explicit Hannigram was a part of the initial plan, Bryan Fuller stated: "No, it naturally evolved because I guess I was absorbing so much of Mads and Hugh's performance, which felt like it was growing in intimacy, and it would have been inauthentic not to address it. Because all of these characters, and particularly Bedelia, was able to call out what she had witnessed [between Hannibal and Will], it seemed like a natural conclusion. I remember when I turned in the rewrite pages where Will asks Bedelia if Hannibal is in love with him, I got a note from Don Mancini, one of our writers who was always pushing for more homosexual text – not just context or subtext but text, text, text – and he was like, "I'm so glad you put that in there! They said it! They said it!"
Fuller added that the love between Will and Hannibal is queer.
Discussing what motivated him to verbally acknowledge the romance between Will and Hannibal, Fuller mentioned: "It felt like we had to s–t or get off the pot, ultimately, because there had been so much going on between these two men that when Will asks, "Is Hannibal Lecter in love with me?" it is very much about death and the romance between these two men. There is a quality to connections that go above and beyond sexuality. You can have this intimate connection with somebody that then causes you to wonder where the lines of your own sexuality are. And we didn't quite broach the sexuality. It was certainly suggested, but the love is absolutely on the table."
In Aperitif, Hannibal notices Will is uncomfortable with eye contact; his burgeoning neurosis is peeking through. It's a somewhat rocky start, but nevertheless, Hannibal is confident he can help.
Although all three planned to meet, Dr. Lecter shows up at Will's hotel without Jack, whom he claims has been deposed to court. Hannibal's brought breakfast for them both. Lecter tries to break through Will's tough exterior, but Will doesn't budge. Hannibal asks about the most recent crime. Will explains to Dr. Lecter his thoughts regarding the murderer, that he thinks the killer views one of these victims as a "golden ticket" and may have a daughter of his own that's a similar age. Playing along, Hannibal continues to psychoanalyze Will.
When Will and Hannibal visit a construction site in connection to the latest murder, Will finds something odd in one man's file. His name is Garret Jacob Hobbs, a pipe threader. In addition to some recurring absences, they notice that there's also no address on his letter of resignation. As they transport the files into Will's car, Hannibal purposefully drops one of the boxes and causes a mess. Will and the office secretary clean it up, while Hannibal sneaks back into the office to do some snooping of his own.
The intensity of the case is starting to break Will down. He pops a few aspirin before approaching the house of Garret Jacob Hobbs, now the lead suspect in the case. Hannibal follows Will at a distance. As Will nears the door, Garret opens it and shoves his bleeding wife outside. Will rushes to her aid as Garret slams the door. His wife's throat has been slit, and she's bleeding out. Hannibal remains in the distance. Will rushes in, gun drawn. He fires a shot at Hobbs right as he's slitting his daughter's throat. As she falls to the ground, Will fires six more rounds at Hobbs, killing him. Hannibal rushes in and helps stabilize the girl's bleeding. She's rushed to the hospital. When Will goes to the hospital , later on,to check on the girl, she and Hannibal are both sleeping, his hand holding hers.
In Amuse-Bouche, at his first evaluation with Hannibal, Lecter tells Will he'll declare him totally functional and approve his immediate return to the field. With formalities aside, the two are able to engage in very candid conversation. They seem to share some common guilt in orphaning Abigail Hobbs. They realize they saved her life, but are also burdened by the sense of obligation to look after her now. Will informs Hannibal about Jack's theory of Abigail's involvement in the murders. Lecter finds the notion vulgar, but entirely possible.
When Will attempts to enter the mind of this murderer, one of the buried bodies grabs his arm. They're still hanging on to life. Will realizes he still hasn't conquered his trauma stemming from the Hobbs case. He voluntarily undergoes another evaluation with Hannibal.
Back in Hannibal's office, Will is continuing to rehab his own psyche. Hannibal asks if he saw Hobbs when he shot Eldon. When Will says it wasn't Hobbs he saw, Dr. Lecter knows Hobb's ghost is not what's haunting Will. He surmises what's truly haunting Will is the rush that comes from killing a man so morally bankrupt that it actually feels good. Will resists the notion, but eventually admits he liked killing Hobbs. Hannibal says killing must feel good to God as well. He does it often enough. Hannibal says it makes one feel powerful.
In Oeuf, Graham continues his sessions with Dr. Lecter and confides that even if he finds the boys he will never be able to give them back what they gave away: their families.
In Coquilles, an unnerving bout of sleepwalking ends with Will walking down a deserted stretch of Northern Virginia back road in the middle of the night proves serious enough for Will to visit Dr. Lecter . Hannibal thinks this new disorder in Will is an offshoot of post-traumatic stress, from his recent emotionally intensive cases. Jack Crawford, in Dr. Lecter's eyes, hasn't been the most scrupulous boss when it comes to handling Will's expertise, and it's beginning to take its toll...
Later, Will Graham stops by Dr. Lecter's office to converse about his latest case. Hannibal attempts to offer his guidance with this "angel-maker," but seems more interested in subtly alienating Will from Jack.
Will has another anxious bout of sleepwalking - this time he wakes up on the roof of his home. In Hannibal's office, he brings Dr Lecter up to speed with the "angel-maker" and his newly found messianic complex.
Will thinks he's just a man, whose brain is playing tricks on him. Hannibal sees a connection to Will and his sleepwalking. But even though this angel-maker will be destroyed by what's happening inside his head, Hannibal knows Will has a choice to let his anxieties consume him. Hannibal surreptitiously smells Will, but Graham notices and is disconcerted. Hannibal has an amazing sense of smell and suggests Will change his after-shave; it might be affecting his sleep patterns.
In Sorbet, Will is attempting to recover from the trauma surrounding his role in the orphaning of Abigail Hobbs.Hannibal empathizes with Will and even goes so far as to suggest they're both parents to the girl in a way. Dr. Lecter tells Will he's heard about the latest "alleged" Chesapeake Ripper killing, but Will insists it's not the same guy. Lecter wonders if any of the killings have been "the same guy." The connection between each crime is the careful extraction and harvesting of organs. Maybe Jack is looking for a lone serial killer that doesn't exist. Will agrees to keep Lecter's theory in mind moving forward.
Graham missed his therapy session and Hannibal finds him in his classroom, steeped in a pile of crime-scene photographs depicting recent murders possibly committed by the Chesapeake Ripper. Lecter offers his help analyzing the information. The first motif he notices is one of intimacy - the killings are personal. Hannibal asks Will about Jack's former trainee, Miriam. Will knows the Ripper killed her. But where's her body? Hannibal wonders if the Ripper is taunting Jack by not displaying the "artwork" of the murdered Miriam. Will knows this is a valid hypothesis, and Dr. Lecter takes the theory one step further by predicting Jack will hear from the Ripper directly, and soon...
Following the Devon Silvestri's arrest, Will pays Hannibal a visit and thanks him for saving the victim's life in that ambulance. Will asks Hannibal why he stopped doing surgeries, and Lecter reveals he lost the passion after losing a patient on the emergency operating table. Ever since, he's committed himself to psychological therapy, where he's never had a patient die. Will excuses himself, as he has a "date with the Chesapeake Ripper." Though catching Silvestri was a success, the true killer's still out there, and Will has become so obsessed, he won't stop until he's caught him.
In Fromage, Will and Hannibal discuss the kill of a musician in his office and Hannibal wonders if this is a serenade for another killer.
After kissing Alana and talking to her about it, Will is upset and goes to Hannibal for help. Hannibal understands why Alana would have hesitations about beginning an intimate relationship with her former patient; it's probably not good for either of them. But Will knows why Alana came over in the first place - his mind has been playing tricks on him again, and he's hearing things. Capitalizing on a lull in the conversation, Hannibal risks breaking confidentiality agreements by informing Will of a patient's claim to know a possible suspect in the symphony killing; it's a music shop owner in Baltimore (Tobias). Will agrees to investigate.
In Trou Normand, Will blinks and, in an instant, finds himself sitting in Hannibal's office. Will has no idea how he got there and begins to panic. Hannibal suggests Will has an empathy disorder; he cares so much about his victims and the crimes committed against them that his conscious choice to ignore those feelings is negatively affecting his brain. Lecter says Will's life is separating from reality. Will admits he's been sleepwalking and wonders if he should get a CAT scan. But Hannibal knows the truth: Will's job is crushing him, and his decision to put others' lives above his own might end up being the death of Will...
While dreaming, Will gets inside the mind of Nicholas Boyle's killer and realizes it had to be Abigail. Will rushes over to Hannibal's office and tells Dr Lecter about his theory, to which Hannibal says, "I know. I helped her dispose of the body." Will is stunned, but Hannibal's explanation offers clarity: Abigail acted out of self-defense, and if Hannibal didn't protect her, Jack Crawford would have made her pay for her father's crimes. She would've been the scapegoat. Will is speechless, but when Hannibal asks if he needs to call his lawyer, Will shakes his head. It was morally dubious, but nevertheless in the best interest of Abigail. As Abigail's surrogate fathers, it's their duty to look after her now.
In Buffet Froid, Will meets with Hannibal and discusses his regret of the innocence he lost after killing Garret Jacob Hobbs. Hannibal tries to get Will to live intentionally in the present by having him draw a clock, but the doodle Will gives Hannibal is vexingly askew. Something is wrong with Will...
When Will goes back to Hannibal and tells him about the grandiose hallucinations he had at Beth's crime scene. Hannibal agrees to refer Will to a neurologist, but warns him that if they don't find anything wrong physiologically, he has to accept his problems as mental illness. Will's MRI shows that the right half of his brain is completely inflamed due to encephalitis, but Hannibal encourages his colleague not to tell will in order to study the psychological effects of the disease on Will's deteriorating mental state.
Later, Will and Hannibal meet and discuss the latest with his hallucinations. Will is still drawing messed up clocks, despite his understanding that they're perfectly in order. When discussing his recent case, Will tells Hannibal about the killer's profile. Hannibal thinks the killer might suffer from a mental illness that dissociates recognition with faces or people. The killer may have reached out to someone they loved - Beth - but struggled to see the person as anything more than an impostor. If crossed, the killer may have lashed out and gotten violent. She can't trust anything or anyone. Will can't help but see the similarities in his own mental struggles.
In Rôti, Will visits Dr. Lecter to talk about his deteriorating mental health. Will fears he is going crazy, and says he doesn't know who he is anymore. Perhaps Gideon is feeling the same thing. Hannibal thinks Dr. Gideon may want to find the real Ripper so he can gauge who he is; Will doesn't have to do something drastic like that... Hannibal is his gauge. Later, in forensics, Beverly tells Will that Gideon scrambled the brains of his victims. Will sees it as a symbolic gesture in retaliation to the suits that "scrambled" Gideon's brain. Will guesses Dr. Gideon will begin emulating the Ripper's previous murders and fears Alana Bloom might be a possible victim.
Gideon gets into his getaway car, but Will Graham is in the back, already pointing a gun at him. Will is struggling through hallucinations, but manages to take Gideon to Hannibal's house, where he sits the murderer at the dinner table while he converses with Lecter. Will begins to have a psychotic episode, and Hannibal assures him he came over alone; there was no Dr. Gideon with him. Will begins to sob. What is happening to him? Will's condition worsens as he has a minor seizure. As Will goes out of it, Hannibal calmly sits down and addresses Dr. Gideon, who has been sitting there all along. Hannibal doesn't appreciate him stealing the Ripper's identity, yet still offers up Alana Bloom's location, if Gideon would like it...
When Will comes to, Hannibal is standing by his side. Hannibal lets Will know he had a minor seizure, but is otherwise fine. His hallucinations have spiked, but he'll be okay. Dr. Lecter prepares to leave on the news of Dr. Chilton's critical condition, saying he's worried Alana may be next. Hannibal insists Will call Jack so he can go to the hospital, but when Dr. Lecter leaves the room, he purposefully "forgets" the gun and keys on the table. When Hannibal comes back, Will is gone, desperate to protect Alana. What Will doesn't know, however, is that he's walked right into Hannibal's trap.
In Relevés, Hannibal visits Will. Together, the two talk about his hallucinations and loss of time. Hannibal is worried Will has something more than just a fever. Will may have dementia. When Hannibal asks about Georgia, Will says he doesn't think she wants to recover. Who could blame her?
Will meets with Hannibal to discuss his inclinations regarding Hobbs' copycat. Will doesn't realize he's talking to the copycat at that very moment; nevertheless, he details how Dr. Sutcliffe's murderer must not have intended to pin the crime on Georgia Madchen. She wasn't supposed to be there... no, the murderer intended to frame Will Graham. Hannibal wonders if Will thinks the copycat has something personal on him. Will doesn't know, but plans to bring Abigail back to her home so they can retrace the events following Nick's death from the beginning. Hannibal, for obvious reasons, hates the idea.
In Savoureux, Will is slipping into a state of dementia. He can no longer differentiate between reality and hallucinations. Will tells Hannibal he took Abigail to Minnesota, but didn't come back with her - and now, Will has no idea where she is; Dr. Lecter asks Will to show him. Together the two go back to Minnesota, where Hannibal "finds" an ear in the kitchen sink. Dr. Lecter says they can't run from this problem. They'll have to call Jack.
In his office, Hannibal encounters Will, who is on the run and hiding on his balcony. Will tells Hannibal he could've believed he killed just Abigail, but when he got accused of all the copycat killings, he knew he was being set up. Playing along, Hannibal says they'll have to act as if he did commit the murders and then disprove the theory.
One by one, Hannibal walks Will through each of the copycat murders, considering ways in which Graham could have carried out each crime. Will resists, sure of the fact that he didn't kill any of these people, but Hannibal presses onward. Perhaps Will got so far into the minds of these killers that he ended up becoming one himself. Ending on Abigail, Will asks Hannibal to take him back to Minnesota, back to where Abigail died...
Will begins to put the pieces all together. Every time he was around the copycat crime scenes, Hannibal was by his side. In the Hobbs' household, Will has a revelation. It wasn't him that killed all these people... it was Hannibal! Will pulls a gun on Hannibal, aware he's now in the presence of a serial killer. Hannibal remains calm and asks Will what his motivations possibly would be to carry out all these murders. But Will is on to him; he knows the lack of motivation is exactly why it was so hard to find Hannibal in the first place. Hannibal is a psychopath and just wanted to see how Will would react if he carried out these crimes. Hannibal wanted to just wind Will up and let him go, to see where he'd end up. Well, Will has ended up back where he started, but now he has a gun to Dr. Lecter's head. Will tells Hannibal this is how he goes. But at the very last second Jack Crawford walks in and shoots Will in the shoulder, ensuring the safety of Hannibal from Will's "murderous" ways.
When Will makes his full recovery, he is placed in a maximum-security cell pending trial, and Hannibal pays him a visit. It is here where the hunter fully enjoys his work, smiling at his powerless prey, lost in his own head, stuck behind the metal bars of a system that has turned on a man that once fought to protect it. In Hannibal's eyes... he has won.
- "You and I are just alike, problem free. Nothing about us to feel horrible about. (Lecter)
- "Hannibal Lecter is a better fit. Your relationship is not personal." (Jack to Will)
- "Why don't we have a conversation with Hannibal? He was there. He knows what you went through." (Alana)
- "Is it hard imagining the thrill somebody else feels killing, now that you've done it yourself?" (Lecter)
- "Never apologize for coming to me. Office hours are for patients. My kitchen is always opened to friends." (Lecter)
- "I was worried you were dead." (Lecter)
- "For the first time in a long while, I see a possibility of a friendship." (Lecter)
- "He's nothing like me. We see the world in different ways. Yet, he can assume my point of view." (Lecter)
- "You spent a lot of time building walls, Hannibal. It's natural to want to see if someone's clever enough to climb over them. (Bedelia)
- "I'm worried about you, Will.
- "What about your life? I'm your friend, Will. I don't care about the lives you save. I care about your life. Your life is separating from reality.
- "We can tell no one. In time, this will be the only story any of us cares to tell. (Lecter)
- "We lied for her." (to Lecter)
- "We both know the unreality of taking a life, of people who died, we had no chance, we know, in those moments, they're not flesh. Light, and air, and color." (Lecter)
- "You're in very good hands. Dr. Lecter here is one of the sanest men I know." (Dr. Sutcliffe to Will)
- "You wouldn't publish anything about me, would you, Dr. Lecter?"
- "Will, you have me as your gauge."
- Will: "You made me chicken soup?"
- "Achilles wished all Greeks would die, so that he and Patroclus could conquer Troy alone." (Lecter)
- "If I saw you everyday forever, Will, I would remember this time." (Lecter)
- Will: "Is this a therapy session or a support group?"
- Hannibal: "It's whatever you need it to be."
- Hannibal: "Am I your psychiatrist, or are we simply having conversations?"
- Will: "Yes, I think, is the answer to that."
- Dr. Sutcliffe: "So, how far does this go? Do you put out the fire, or do you let it burn?"
- Hannibal: "Will is my friend. We'll put out the fire when it's necessary."
- Will: "No. I'm alone in that darkness."
- Hannibal: "You're not alone Will. I'm standing right beside you."
- Bedelia: "Have you been to see him?"
- Will: "Yes."
- Bedelia: "You haven't learned your lesson, have you? Or did you just miss him that much?"
- Will: "Is Hannibal in love with me?"
- Bedelia: "Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for you, and find nourishment at the very sight of you? Yes. But do you.. ache for him?"
- Hannibal: "This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For the both of us."
- Will: "It's beautiful."
- "For us in the story of Hannibal in the first season is really about the friendship, the bromance between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. The relationship between Will and Hannibal in this first season is the seduction. It is Hannibal Lecter recognizing in WIl Graham for the first time in anyone that he's ever encountered in his life - the opportunity for a friendship, a real friendship. Because he sees something in WIl Graham that he also sees in himself. They're both unique and they're crazy." (Bryan Fuller)
- "One man is slowly but surely manipulating another man to, maybe the breaking point." (Hugh Dancy)
- "Well, Hannibal is almost the first person, for certainly a very long time, that Will does allow into his life. They are the two smartest people in the room, in the terms of what they both do. The only difference is that Will doesn't know what Hannibal does in his spare time. But, of course, Hannibal has an agenda for Will, he doesn't know about. Hannibal doesn't think he's doing anything cruel or unfair to Will. Or, at the very least, he thinks that with little help, with a little nudging, Will can recognize something about himself. And, if he fully embraced it, fully embraced that darkness, then he could be, I don't know what...A companion, friend, partner to Hannibal. As Will becomes more fragile, more suggestible, Hannibal's methods become darker I guess." (Hugh Dancy)
- "Hannibal has found someone in Will, that Hannibal can be a friend with. Hannibal Lecter doesn't really have friends. And Will Graham, oddly enough, has his own issues. He's a broken man. Adorable, vulnerable, but he's broken. And, so the two do come together. Of course, they don't trust each other. But, it's the manipulation of Hannibal Lecter, to kind of see that he can make this friendship with WiIl, that WiIl should open up. So, it's that transformation of WiIl's character to then drift towards the friendship, and once you get too close Hannibal will bite back, so, we know we're leading up to that. So, it always has that tension of - where is this going and watch out WiIl." (Martha de Laurentiis)
- "Will's not a healthy man. There's something wrong with him. And, I will make sure I can cure that." (Mads Mikkelsen)
- "In the scripts, there is a kind of a bromance between Will and Hannibal, that is quite real, and I believe that Hannibal is quite happy to finally be able to make a friend." (Mads Mikkelsen)
- "Hannibal" executive producer and showrunner Bryan Fuller explained in an interview that Hannibal's feelings for Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) are entirely sincere. He says that Hannibal views Will as a real patient, undergoing a highly unorthodox (you can say that again!) form of therapy. The therapy is intended to turn Will into a murderer -- what Hannibal views as the purest form of something that already exists inside of him -- and an equal.
- Despite the fact that Will seems to be Hannibal's opposite (hyper-empathetic as opposed to non-empathetic), Fuller suggests that Hannibal feels a real sense of friendship toward Will. Fuller even implies that the tears Hannibal has shed for Will and Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) are genuine, although perhaps for different reasons than those Hannibal voiced to his own therapist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). Is that even possible?
- "His feeling toward Will Graham are absolutely sincere and genuine. In Hannibal’s mind, everything he has done to thwart Will’s psyche has been a radical, unorthodox form of therapy. So it’s almost bad parenting, in a way, where I want what’s good for my child or the person of my affections, but my point of view on the world is going to greatly determine whether that is actually good for them or if it is actually quite damaging. In Hannibal’s mind, everything that he has done to Will Graham and for Will Graham has been to get Will to a place where he can more truthfully see himself and accept what it is he is as an empath, as a human being, as sort of a pure thing in Hannibal’s mind. It’s part of the attraction. For Hannibal, he wants an equal of sorts, and Will Graham is in some ways, on the other side of the mirror, a purer soul than Hannibal is, but they have a similar intelligence and they have a similar understanding of the darkness that lies in a man’s soul. Hannibal’s just trying to convince Will that it’s okay to be the way you are. It’s okay to think about killing people. It’s okay to kill people. Those are all the things that Hannibal is just trying to help Will accept about himself, and I think now that we’ve crossed this benchmark in their relationship, that’s not going to stop Hannibal from trying to convince Will that he did do these things and he should just accept it." (Bryan Fuller)
- "Will now, of clear mind, is beginning his own seduction of Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal has been working very hard to seduce Will, and now, it's up to Will to seduce Hannibal and perhaps lull him into a false sense of security, so he can ultimately be exposed." (Bryan Fuller)
- "It felt like we had to s–t or get off the pot, ultimately, because there had been so much going on between these two men that when Will asks, “Is Hannibal Lecter in love with me?” it is very much about death and the romance between these two men. There is a quality to connections that go above and beyond sexuality. You can have this intimate connection with somebody that then causes you to wonder where the lines of your own sexuality are. And we didn’t quite broach the sexuality. It was certainly suggested, but the love is absolutely on the table. There is love between these two men, and confusion between these two men. We had to articulate it, and the idea for a [potential] Season 4 was an interesting continuation of that, as well as a subversion of it at the same time. So it’s strange to look at [this week’s episode] as a finale, because part of me believes that the most interesting chapter of Will Graham’s story is yet to be told." (Bryan Fuller)