A Guide To Fandom: Hannibal
By Nicole Bresner
*This article contains spoilers, that I tried to write about in code, but are still spoilers.*
Despite my surprise (and joy) that a show as graphic and psychologically disturbing as Hannibal made it to network television, I’m both pleased that such a beautifully executed series graced our screens for three epic seasons, and deeply traumatized that it was not renewed for a fourth. In fact, I must have appeared rather insane for a the weeks leading up to the finale, as I tweeted taunts at various TV networks daring them to be the first pick up Hannibal and make millions.
I have a theory that the very reasons many people adored the show are the same reasons others did not, and I speculate often as to why it was cancelled. I suspect its extremely explicit violence was off-putting or downright abhorrent to some. Let’s be honest, cannibalism is significantly different than typical American shoot em up’s or cop dramas. A more subtle, but critical, factor behind Hannibal Fandom is that Mads Mikkelson portrays a horrific murderer – who happens to have impeccable style, manners, refinement, and oozes sexuality, a fact I imagine is incomprehensible to some–perhaps even unpalatable? Sorry, I had to…
This Guide to Hannibal Fandom is for the fans of the show, and hopefully for people who have never seen it might read and be inspired to do so. Then Hannibal fandom will become a behemoth of advocacy, and the fans shall RISE UP, resulting in a drastic shift in power and the ultimate return of the show! As if a million voices cried out “Hannibaaaaaaal…….come hoooooome….”
Okay, I’m breathing again. Here Fannibals…some goodies.
Mads Mikkelsen: Hannibal
If you have the movie Silence of the Lambs in your brain, wipe it out, because Hannibal the television series truly reinvents the character. As a huge fan of Silence of the Lambs, I didn’t care for Mikkelsen at first. That changed. Hannibal (of the Mads Mikkelsen variety) is tall, built, suave and sexy – and that accent! ….swoon! It’s a very different take from Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal (which was also brilliant).
Lawrence Fishburn: Jack Crawford (Special Agent in charge of the FBI BSU)
It’s Lawrence Fishburn. Enough said. He’s badass. He rocks. And, the sub plot about his wife was just heart-wrenching. So many layers. All the feels.
Hugh Dancy: Will Graham
Oh, what can we say about Will? He’s a cutie, on the Autism spectrum, highly intelligent, and excellent at using his disorder to his advantage in analyzing crime scenes. He’s an unwitting and very dark version of Sherlock Holmes and his abilities are, to say the least, uncanny. A staple of the show was watching as Will imagined a crime scene rewinding , then entered it again as the killer, in his mind. It’s pretty cool, and is the origin of what would become a recurring quote from Will throughout the show.
Caroline Dhavernas: Dr. Alana Bloom
Frankly, Alana annoys me. She’s an extremely trained psychologist for the FBI and somehow ends up consorting with the enemy. All the while, the adorable Will is perfectly available. She redeems herself, however, when unfortunate events lead to a rather drastic shift in her personality. I much prefer vampy and vengeful Alana.
Gillian Anderson: Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier
Brilliantly casted, Anderson upped the geek-out factor of the show several deep and beautiful notches. Not only was I so happy to see Scully again, Anderson looks totally gorgeous and plays a role so dark and complicated, we don’t even learn the half of it until season 3. It definitely changes our vision of her as the straight-laced FBI agent chasing aliens. Fun fact: Season three takes place and was filmed in Florence, Italy, and Anderson had an AMAZING wardrobe for her stint in Europe. As a society, we really need to bring back hats.
Richard Armitage: Frances Dolarhyde/The Red Dragon
Armitage does an amazing job with this character and manages to portray him as somewhat sympathetic and absolutely terrifying at the same time. He is something to behold. Plus, there are cool human-turning into a dragoon special effects!
Kacey Rohl : Abigail
Abigail’s entire story is one big spoiler, but her character comes with the more twists, turns, tragedy and heartbreak than most on the show. What a roller coaster ride they took us through. Sigh. Abigail.
Lara Jean Chorostrcki: Freddie Lounds
Do we love her or hate her? I hated her at fist, but she’s got a brass pair. I like that.
Raul Esparza: Dr.Chilton
It’s just uncomfortable to watch any scene with Chilton in it, just cringe-worthy, especially when he’s schmoozing with Hannibal and clearly waaaaay in over his head. He’s such a putz, jabbering on and on, while the look on Hannibal’s face says “I will devour your vocal chords someday.” Hitchcock did say it’s not about the bang but the anticipation of the bang…
There are numerous secondary characters to enrich the cast including, among others, recurring guest appearances by Eddie Izzard as Dr. Abel Gideon, Gina Torres as Bella Crawford, Cynthia Nixon as Investigator Kade Purnell, Hettiene Park as Beverly Katz, Katherine Isabelle as Margot Verger, and Tao Okamoto as the mysterious Chiyoh.
Hannibal as Art:
Near the top of the Hannibal fandom Why-This-Show-Rocks list, is its stunning cinematography. The show is shot with more intensity, creativity and professionalism than most of the movies I’ve seen lately. Every scene, every camera angle, is uniquely and thoughtfully executed, and I maintain that every still shot from the entire series is frame-worthy. Even the most gruesome scenes are visually captivating. The lighting is dim in almost every set, with a heavy play on light and shadow. The overall effect is a vague but nagging sense of impending doom, hanging over the characters and the fans, an ominous cloud that never let up from the series premier to the series f… f…finale.
In the same vein, recurring images of surreal visions are seamlessly woven into various episodes, created with a singularly morbid artistry that I have not quite seen before; the large black stag, the slick black human-ish figure with horns, blood coming to life to form psychedelic patterns, transforming corpses, and the iconic kaleidoscope view of an unexpected lesbian love scene. As both Will and Hannibal are psychologically askew, and maybe we fans are as well (in a good way), the trippy imagery seems just a matter of course, and it’s utterly mesmerizing to watch. They are, in fact, little snippets of moving horror masterpieces, within the larger masterpiece that is Hannibal.
The Season Finales!!! OMG. (Watered-Down Spoilers Ahead):
While the plot of the show deviates from standard Hannibal cannon on many occasions, I found these instances to be some of my favorite episodes. When Will dispatches a proxy to show Hannibal that he can “‘get to him” (season 2, episode 5), the scene that ensues is visually stunning and had me at the edge of my seat. Hannibal, poised as if upon a crucifix, is the type of bold gritty and unflinching imagery characteristic of the show, and is done so well, it has maximum omg-_ ca’t-believe-that-happened impact. While it’s an important moment, as viewers get to see Hannibal in a vulnerable position for the first time, there’s also a thrilling lurking tension throughout; we know Hannibal is not one to remain restrained, and are just waiting for the other brilliant bloody shoe to drop. This episode also marks a huge character shift for Will Graham, who is now so obsessed with Hannibal he is willing to perpetuate a violent act seemingly incongruous with his personality. Hannibal is an expert at manipulating people into killing and maiming others (or bringing out their latent tendencies); in this case the victim just happened to be him.
The season two finale and the series finale both left me open-mouthed, speechless, and emotionally drained. Fannibals across the nation waited with baited breath for season three, to see who survived the cliffhanging carnage from the previous season. An important thing to mention here is that Hannibal leaping over a counter in a fight-to-the-possible-death with Jack Crawford is the hottest thing ever. Below is the fight scene, including THE counter jump of the century. IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO WATCH THE SHOW, PLEASE SKIP THE VIDEO. Let yourself be shocked properly when the time comes. Trust me.
The series finale was a very different animal than the season two finale. Season three is very different in tone and style, though not a disappointment in the least, and follows the Red Dragon plot line as well as a more predominant role for Gillian Anderson. The final fight scene should win an award. All the awards. The imagery as Hannibal and Will fight The Red Dragon plays like a brutal and primal dance, bodies poised in animalistic masculine grace, predatory and passionate. The elements of eroticism are palpable as Will finally succumbs to Hannibal’s darkness, and I loved every minute of the five times I’ve watched it so far. I’m due for six.
As a side note, the song that plays during the scene is by Siouxsie Sioux. It called Love Crime and it’s good.
Hannibal is Hot. So is Will. And Alana and Margot. But mostly Hannibal.
Speaking of eroticism, the ultimate truth that Hannibal fans know and recognize is that this show is sexy. The lavish feasts (prepared from dubious meat sources) and close-ups of delectable dishes being eaten, leave us hungry and perhaps a bit intrigued; food and sensuality just seem to go together.
As the show progress, Will and Hannibal’s relationship becomes undeniably erotic in nature. In the last season, Bedelia (Anerson) blatantly references the men’s obsession with each other in a very non-flinching way, from a how-will-the-public-respond-to-this perspective. It was during season three that I also began to see articles and posts referring to the show as a great love story. When Hannibal allows himself to be captured by the police so Will “…will always know where to find [him]”……awww man! Come on!
Aaaaand I have to add that in the opening to season three, when Hannibal takes off his badass black motorcycle helmet…that slick black jacket….just….there’s not really an end to this sentence…
The Psychology of Hannibal:
Above all else, Hannibal fans have some smarts and love that the show is so much more than blood and guts. While the psychological talk (example: Empathy Disorder) is sometimes fudged in the way Star Trek techno-babble is not always sound science, it comes off as believable. The characters are so deeply developed, as are the intense and complex relationships between them. It’s a veritable spider web of mind games, master manipulations, secrets, obsession and love. In fact, psychological drama, tension and torture get more airtime on Hannibal than actual physical violence, though when it hits the fan it Hits. The. Fan. I did, however, find the lengthy therapy sessions between Will and Hannibal just as suspenseful and frightening as the moments of action, maybe more.
Quotes to Remember:
“Please don’t psychoanalyze me. You wouldn’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed.” -Will Graham (So. Perfect.)
“It’s only cannibalism if you are equals.” -Hannibal (Under this logic, though warped, he does make sense…I’ve met dogs I liked better than some people.)
“You turned yourself in so I would always know where you were, but you’d only do that if I rejected you.” -BAM! Mic drop. -Will Graham
“He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.” -Bedelia
“There is no such thing as morals-only morale.” -Hannibal
“Save yourself. Kill them all.” -Hannibal
“I didn’t know it was that kind of party.” -Dude who should not have come to dinner.
“This is my design.” – Will Graham
“It’s beautiful.” -Will Graham
and my fave…
“When life becomes maddeningly polite, Will, think of me.” -Hannibal. This is brilliant line from brilliant writers who maintained , without exception, a consistently excellent storyline and dialogue that was like nourishment for my brain. Also, it would work well as the ultimate break-up-and-walk-out-the-door-see-ya! Keep it in your Memory Palace for future use.
I could go on for much longer, so many good episodes and moments, so many plot points too complex to cover here. If nothing else, I think I’ve expressed enough unbridled enthusiasm that I expect it shall seep out into the collective unconscious of the human race and we can henceforth live together in peace, harmony and mutual Hannibal adoration.
Oh, and stay tuned for the very last scene. The very last. Wow. Did not see that coming.
If you loved the show as much as I did, please feel free to give a shout in the comments about your fave episodes, thoughts on the show, or just to vent about the TRAVESTY OF ITS CANCELLATION. Thanks!