Alana Bloom, Cannibal, Caroline Dhavernas, FBI, Francis Dolarhyde, Frederick Chilton, Hannibal, Horror, Hugh Dancy, Jack Crawford, Joe Anderson, Katharine Isabelle, Laurence Fishburne, Mads Mikkelsen, Margot Verger, Mason Verger, NBC, Raul Esparza, Richard Armitage, Tao Okamoto, Television, The Chesapeake Ripper, The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, The Red Dragon, Thomas Harris, Thriller, TV, Will Graham, William Blake
I love “Hannibal”, it’s intelligent, violent, and honest. However, just a couple of weeks after I posted my “Hannibal” premiere review NBC cancelled the show. A fourth season won’t appear on NBC and right now it’s up in the air whether or not it will appear on any network at all. In my opinion this is a massive shame because we are talking about a genuinely exceptional show – there’s really nothing else like it on television. Of course, that’s one of the reasons why it isn’t doing as well as it could be, because while the violence and symbolic imagery is intriguing and entertaining to someone like me, it isn’t for everyone, and the nature of the show also dictates that it can’t be aired at the perfect time of day.
The first seven episodes of this season have been great, despite the fact that the use of artistic imagery has been slightly heavy-handed at times, and also that there are a couple of plot holes within the narrative. I’m more invested in the future of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) than I am any other fictional character, and I even want the best for Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) despite the fact that he’s a ruthless killer. I love these characters because there’s so much depth to their personalities and they’re so unpredictable, which is credit to the writers and everyone involved with the show.
“Hannibal” has spent the best part of three seasons crippling, maiming, and psychologically torturing its characters, usually as part of the sick game that Dr. Lecter likes to play with his patients and his acquaintances – moulding them in his own image, seeing whether or not they are capable of taking a life. This is more apparent in season three than it ever has been before, as we see that Will Graham, Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza), Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), Mason Verger (Joe Anderson), Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and more have been physically and mentally scarred as a result of Hannibal’s unique brand of treatment.
Hannibal revels in his torture; he enjoys hurting the people around him and he also enjoys watching them hurt themselves, but at the same time I feel as though Hannibal forces these changes in others so that he can relate to those around him. Hannibal is infatuated with Will because he knows that Will can truly understand him, and in a twisted and almost abusive way he draws that infatuation out of Will. He wants Will to know him, to let the lines blur between beast and prey, and seeing that transformation happen over the course of three seasons has been breath-taking, never more so than in season three.
Nevertheless, in episode seven Will ended his relationship with Hannibal, revealing that he didn’t want to know where he would be or what he would do, that the teacup that Hannibal shattered would not ‘gather itself back together again’, and perhaps most poetically that he does not have Hannibal’s appetite. It was in this moment that we saw a real change of course for the series, a shift in both character and narrative. Episode seven of season three marked the end of the story that has been building since the very first episode back in 2013. The F.B.I has finally caught The Chesapeake Ripper, and the ties between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter have been irrevocably severed (even though readers of “Red Dragon” will be aware that the two meet again). The story has been about the pair and their complicated ‘friendship’ right from the start, never simply about our favourite cannibal as the title might suggest, but if the series does get a fourth season it seems like that will change.
So far the series has done a good job of mixing up the chronology of Thomas Harris’ novels, taking inspiration from each book without necessarily sticking to the narrative – many of the events that have happened over the course of this season have been plucked right out of “Hannibal” (the book), despite the fact that that book doesn’t actually feature Will Graham. As we move into the latter half of this season the narrative will shift, probably with a large time-jump, and we will see Will Graham and Jack Crawford attempt to catch The Red Dragon (played by Richard Armitage). From my perspective this is extremely exciting, given the fact that I only recently read the book and I thought it was fantastic, and also because for better or worse we probably won’t see Will Graham again after season three.
With that in mind, Hannibal will probably be nothing more than a peripheral figure for the remainder of season three, which will be a real shame if we don’t get a fourth season, but I think it’s a smart move going forward. We’ve seen a lot of Hannibal this season and it’s been great fun, but if he’s locked away in a mental institute he isn’t going to have anyone to play off, so his presence will be best felt as a shadow on Will’s mind rather than a key advisor. It will be nice to get a breather from him and see Graham do what he does best, turning “Hannibal” back into the police procedural that it began as. Every now and again Will can visit Hannibal and we’ll see how their relationship has been altered by the hands of time, and that’s perhaps more fascinating than seeing the two go at it in a game of life and death each week. On top of that, Francis Dolarhyde (The Red Dragon) is a frightening and dangerous killer in his own right, and the fact that this show takes no prisoners should stand his story in good stead.
Having written at length about how nicely the season is positioned moving forward, I should probably say why I think what’s already happened has been exceptional. The first thing I’ll say is that the acting has been superb. It must be extremely hard to convey the mental anguish and internal struggle that these characters are going through on a show like “Hannibal”, because for the most part things are intended to be quiet and restrained until a moment of ferocity rears its head. For example, the pain that Jack Crawford feels after his wife dies isn’t explicitly shown on screen, there are very few tears shed and no screams of sadness, instead we see Jack’s reaction at the funeral and his subsequent mission to find Hannibal.
We’ve seen how much Jack loves his wife in the past, which has been beautifully conveyed by powerful but often subdued performances from Fishburne, so to see his suffering we didn’t require those feelings to be crammed down our throats. Fishburne’s performance demonstrates that he understands his character, as he looks into the distance pained, delivering lines like, ‘Bella’s dead, that should change the view from these windows’, with a soul-destroying sense of disillusion and loneliness emanating from his voice. His sorrow is often most clear when he’s calm and focused because Fishburne portrays how artificial this behaviour is, and how damaged Jack is behind the façade he has created. That to me is incredible, because to pull that off you have to be so in character, otherwise you’re going to come across as though you are underacting and portray the false sense that your character simply doesn’t care.
Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen have a genuine rapport. Their first scene together in Florence is stunning, as they show that they really do feel something for one another, and Graham’s pain is etched on his face as he realises that he is there to kill someone that he loves. To put their feelings across as they do is genuinely outstanding, because those feelings are truly complex and they are challenging not only for the actors to understand, but also their characters.
The supporting cast is also excellent, particularly Joe Anderson as Mason Verger, as he pulls off being the creepiest guy in the room no matter who is there with him. I was really sad to see him leave the series in episode seven, but even from my desensitised perspective having Margot’s (Katharine Isabelle) baby kept inside a pig was a step too far.
If I have one criticism to make of the season so far it would be that the use of imagery can sometimes be a bit excessive, which cheapens the impact of certain seemingly significant moments for me. The main offender here would have to be the climax of episode six, in which Hannibal begins to cut Will Graham’s head open, only for the camera to follow a drop of blood and transition into a scene clearly taking place hours later. I was really disappointed with that scene after what was an awesome episode of television, because the fact that the series has changed so many things from the books and altered certain character’s stories left me wondering whether or not Will would actually survive, and I would definitely have preferred just to watch that scene play out naturally.
Lastly, there’ve been certain plot points over the course of the season that’ve seemed a bit silly to me, particularly when Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) shot Will in broad daylight. I understand that she was a distance away and using a silenced rifle, but someone must have seen her before or after the event. Now, the easy way to explain her escaping would be to say that the police in Florence looked into it and ignored what had happened due to the fact that they wanted to catch Hannibal (or had depending on when they found out about the shooting), due to the fact that they’d been bought off by Mason, but that wasn’t explicitly said which I thought was a bit frustrating. Also, Chiyoh managed to save Jack, so if the police had initially ignored her transgression that still doesn’t explain why they would let her escape a second time.
To sum up, this season of “Hannibal” has done nothing to quell my love for the series, despite the fact that it has had a couple of annoying issues. Overall, I think that the performances are well above average, the story is intriguing, the characters are extremely well developed, and the direction that the season is taking is exciting. My only concern is that this could be the last season of a wonderful television series, but I’m holding out hope that someone will take it on and give me more to chew on.