I’m pretty disappointed to be writing about this show – I hoped it might run til it reached an ending and I could discuss the story in its entirety. Alas, it went the way of many great TV shows and was axed before its time.
Hannibal was an ambitious show that used the source material from Thomas Harris’ books to create an artistic prequel to Red Dragon. After all, in Red Dragon and most of Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter is behind bars. We’d be lying if we didn’t admit to being curious about a time before this man was caught.
I thought this was an excellent premise for the show, particularly the first season. It’s a detective story with no mystery for the audience. We don’t have the tedious process of guessing whodunit – we know that Hannibal Lecter is guilty. In the cases where there is another killer, a copycat or otherwise, we are relatively uninterested in whodunit anyway. What we crave is the relationships that the characters share: the animosity between them, the manipulative exchanges, the genuine moments of affection. And none of these interest us more than the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter.
Hannibal: The boat engine is a machine, a predictable problem. Easy to solve. You fail, there is a paddle. Where was your paddle with Hobbs?
Will: You’re supposed to be my paddle!
Hannibal: I am.
– Hannibal S1 E02, Amuse-Bouche
It becomes clear very quickly that Hannibal is only interested in leading Will further out to sea, leaving him adrift in the throes of his waning sanity. More terrifying, and strangely more compelling, is the fact that Hannibal’s only motive is to see how Will would react to this. In his own psychopathic way, this is Hannibal’s way of expressing his respect for Will and his ability to empathise deeply with the worst that mankind has to offer. Will’s capacity to understand Hannibal translates to a twisted kind of friendship in both of their heads. Only when Will recovers from his breakdown does he understand how wrong he was about Hannibal and by then, it is too late. In an incredible turn of events, Will becomes the patient at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane – the place we know that Hannibal’s fate ultimately resides.
What ensues is a battle of wits worthy of the rivalry between Sherlock Holmes and Dr Moriarty. Having lost everything, Will is in an impossible situation. But having regained his sanity, and knowing with full clarity that Hannibal is guilty, Will perseveres. It is here, I believe, where the line blurs for the audience. The show is titled Hannibal, and I’m led to wonder who the protagonist is here. Do we really want Will to win? I suppose we all know it is inevitable that he must (though Hannibal will also ultimately escape, so who can say for sure?). However, as an audience, I think this is a battle that we don’t want to end. We need to learn how they will both react to one another’s plans, how they will twist and turn their way through the labyrinth of possible outcomes until the end of time.
I often hate it when TV shows contain endless fillers. I much prefer it when there is a clear arc, and the end is never out of sight. Honestly, with Hannibal, I was a little more lenient because the chemistry between the characters was so staggering. It was a real shame that it ended prematurely.
Still, now that Bryan Fuller is hard at work on American Gods, perhaps the end of Hannibal wasn’t entirely in vain.