The rush through the great red dragon

Hannibal Season 3, Ep 8 The Great Red Dragon,. Francis Dolarhyde watching his handiwork (Click image for source)

One more episode of the season gone, thankfully with a new story line. I really can’t say enough how glad i am to see the back of Verger and the pigs. Talk about all too many images i wish i hadn’t seen and could forget…

But at least i stuck with it for consistency sake and it also allows to sift through the process, the weekly business of the show and actually pick out the changes inserted with the new story line.

The music is more diverse or slightly more complex than it has been recently where sole percussion was predominant. It makes for a slightly less constrictive sound universe which is good, particularly with the reduced dialogue. But it does keep us firmly in the same atmosphere. It’s got more colours but it doesn’t sound fresh or different as far as i’m concerned. But it is one of the aspects i like most, it appeals to my ears and i wouldn’t want anything else to replace it.

I am getting a bit tired of the greys through… It seems to always be late autumn and winter in this show, always twilight. In the first images i really felt like saying: ‘really just a bit more light, i can’t even see his face or tell his expressions really well’. I really think they went a shade too dark. Dolarhyde is supposed to be in a public environment, in daylight. I wouldn’t change the lighting at his house, but i think a bit of contrast between the two would have been beneficial. This way it just dragged the grey into my eyes and the uniformity of the colour pallete started bothering me. Of course not helped by the fact that we no longer have Hannibal’s colourful suits to break the monotony. He’s now stuck in a grey onesie, Dolarhyde wears, if anything 😉 variations of greys and kakis and nobody else really brings any colour into the place. With Hannibal out of the picture temporarily and Bedelia  (but also Margot) gone it was dark and grey. Or more like aged photography kind of faded to be fair or more true to the actual colour palette. The thing about it though is that the beauty of the image has always disturbed me given the content of the story… And it is only interesting for so long; too often, this season particularly, i have been bored with everything and looked at it almost as one looks at a design and decoration magazine. And Bedelia was such a splendid decoration 🙂 As was Margot to be fair and her fabulous clothes!

Sorry, i still don’t care a jot about Alana. I liked her more with longer hair and less conservative clothing. Other than giving Hannibal a knife to free himself i still don’t see the point of her in this series and that knife could have been brought along by anybody else. Including Hannibal’s long lost relative who i thought made for a much more compelling female character. Both her and Chilton seem to have fallen into the mundane and boring, maybe Hannibal free really did make them up their game before? The dialogue was certainly nothing to write home about and i just zoomed out and looked at the decoration in the room instead.

The double entendre jokes were a bit more icky than sexy this time, the last time i laughed i think is still with Bedelia and her oysters 🙂 The last bit of writing that i liked or thought finally clever again was actually in Digestivo where in a separation of sorts Will say to Hannibal he would no longer think of him, he would not consider where he was, he would simply banish him from his thoughts. Weird though it sounds that gave me satisfaction, as i felt i had a bit of Will from the beginnings back, who was trying to fight back and trying to extricate himself from the dark morass Hannibal had dragged him into. All the more poignant then when Jack came to find Hannibal and it turns out the latter didn’t flee but states he is right there, ready to be taken in and that they will always know where he is 🙂 In the spirit of the show i thought that was a clever response to Will’s declaration. And it did close the circle in a way as Will had been pursuing Hannibal all the way to Florence and now when he was ready to let go, Hannibal refuses to do so. Finally that bit of writing felt like it came back to the interesting dynamics in season 2 without the pretentious snorkly dialogue it had fallen into lately.

Anyway, i felt that was not a bad way to end that part of the season.

Where we pick up with the usuals is not that great. As already mentioned i don’t find the switch between Alana and Chilton interesting or effective, we’ll see what happens. I don’t understand how Hannibal would get to publish in professional journals while he has been declared insane and so escaped the death sentence or life sentence (thus sitting in this psychiatric institution). Too far fetched and so is the idea of Chilton’s book about a new killer.. not likely to happen during active investigations i would think.

Speaking of which, i don’t like Jack as much as i used to. However, this is not a massive surprise as, if they keep close to the novel in that respect, i am going to like him even less going forward. Having said that i can see why Will goes with Jack as there is a much more chemistry there with him than in his household. Unwanted, disturbing and uncomfortable, the connection is there, whereas i’m afraid the happy marriage story they spun around Will was totally unconvincing. There was more care between Will and his dogs than Will and his wife… I didn’t see in her reaction any concern about somebody you love and know will suffer. Even if it is the right thing to do, it felt almost like a neighbour was talking and not a wife. Looks like they just didn’t spend enough time on those scenes or managed to build any rapport. Maybe there will be more but this was very disappointing. In the book there is much more of a sense of struggle, of importance in his current life.

Will/Dancy is as good as ever and i was happy to see doubt about going back to what his head does, even if we know it is inevitable. At least it didn’t feel like the pull of a drug anymore. For my own i am sure temporary comfort, i am happy Will is not playing with the dark side for now. Not talking here about his reconstructions, but about how he came to justify and rationalise murder and instigate it even.

Generally, after a few episodes which had been increasingly hard on my stomach and my nerves this was light relief. Digestivo was much worse than the ending of season 2 and i was very close to dropping it as it turned very true horror and once again confirmed that when the series goes true to genre i just can’t stand it.

But ep.8. was a bit deceptively light, i suspect mainly because they had to go through a lot of restating all relationships given the time span. They still managed to ruin another dish for me and this time they took on hot chocolate. When i saw milk flowing i knew it was too good to be true and sure enough, soon the blood started dripping, ew. The irony of plastic spoons was not lost on me but i hate them for ruining melted chocolate for me 😦 It made me nearly vomit every time Chilton licked his spoon. At least i can ignore Alana to the point where i can almost blink out her complaint about drinking a piece of somebody in her beer… yuk! And there goes my hope of being free of any culinary tortures for 1 episode… At least there was no sausage in sight, thank G-d for small mercies! The reference to those in the last episode was not even funny.

And then we had all the ‘fun’ of Will’s reconstruction of Dolarhyde’s murder, including blood gushing all over the house, etc. (I didn’t much blink, which tells the sad story of how a gruesome series such as this dulls even the most acute instincts 😦  )

Accompanied once again by censorship of human form when it is non-violent and non-crime related.. siiiiighhhh. No, let me say that again SIIIIIIGH!!!! I still have to put down my thoughts about censorship and how it seems to work these days, including in this show where it is a bit on and off, probably according to the time the censors have to dedicate to an individual episode. I just don’t get it and i never will.

But, usual business aside i was eagerly anticipating the new content and the start of the new story line. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out they had actually given it all away in the trailer and in the few images of the episode made available publicly before the show was aired. Add to that the interview content and there was almost nothing left, bar a small scene. They built it up so much that i really thought the trailer would only be a tiny preview of what the episode would actually contain and not only this episode but the also next ones.

I understand that they are trying to keep the show alive, find it a new home, a new format etc, but i can’t help but feel frustrated when in their process of marketing they screw the viewing pleasure/interest for me. I almost felt like shouting ‘hey! i am still watching!’. The issue arises mostly because this is not a plot strong show, at least not this season. The show is for me almost 70% visuals, and this includes character interaction which is very visually driven and 30% dialogues, plot etc. With the Red Dragon story, the plot isn’t even an issue since once one has read the book there is little unknown about the ‘plot’ element. Since the musical universe is also sort of familiar, the strongest element of novelty are the images. Ok, it is partially my fault as well for watching the trailers, looking at the images, reading the interviews. Still, it remains unusual for so much of the actual scenes in the episode to be given away. It created false expectations for me as i was hoping to see more of how these things tied together but all we got in the end were those shreds.

I have no issue with the balance of split of plots, i never expected anything else and they made it plenty clear that the show would still mainly be about Hannibal & Will and the Red Dragon story line would just be integrated in the overall story. But really, if the time they spend developing that story line amounts to 10 min an episode as it was in this first one the total on offer will be far less than any of the feature films which have addressed it before, quite contrary to what has been discussed. Just sayin’…. I really hope there will be more in future episodes, especially of the back-story we were promised.

I was so pleasantly surprised by what i saw in the trailer and excited about it that i was really craving more.

However, based on what episode 8 showed i am not joining the pity party quite yet 🙂  Before you call me a cold-hearted b***h, hear me out 😉 A TV series has an obligation to tell a story, to draw us in, to capture our imagination. The series, the stuff on screen… NOT the interviews of cast and producers/directors, not the books and other material they are based upon. We should not be told what it is about and how to feel about it in interviews, we should actually feel it when we watch it.

Now, forget for a moment about the book and the back-story… because you haven’t seen anything of the back-story yet!

What have we seen? We’ve seen murders, of families no less, with horrible handiwork and strange obsessions (mirrors and body parts…). We know the killer’s name and how the press has called him. And we have met the killer.

We see him as an intense, physically very strong man with image issues. Image issues that seem to be concentrated more around his face and a perceived deformity (much greater than the actual visible one). We get a strong sense of obsession and isolation. He appears to be always alone, doesn’t interact with anyone. He’s extremely neat and buttoned up, tight and almost uncomfortable in a skin that feels too tight. It looks as if he is trying to contain very forcefully with order the chaos within. And there seems to be something within as we glimpse when we see him alone in his house, liberated from clothes and human constraints. There is a sense of achievement or striving for something that he idealises and a defeat as soon as he looks into the mirror and the image he sees tells him a different story of reality.

Of the previously un-seen images i liked the broken mirror aspect more, which – as we clearly see in his almost desperately frustrated eyes – still doesn’t manage to hide the faults he sees within himself.

I really liked some choices they made here, not sure if intentional or not. In the scene where we probably see the only vulnerable moment in this episode we watch him dressed in a very soft, open necked sweater and trying to pronounce sounds. It gives a much softer appearance than the buttoned up darker shirt and even the shorts he exercises in. Whereas in the other instances there is a sense of power and aggression there, it is lacking here. For me it was maybe the tiny glimpse that there is more weakness there than the acts we are told about and shown might indicate. But we are simultaneously shown how deep the aggression and the violence runs when, frustrated with his inability to speak as he wishes, he violently attacks himself. It’s startling and unsettling and you are suddenly reminded of who this person is, that he is everything but ‘normal’.

Of course the image is only enhanced by the tattoo and the strange teeth he buys and as we later find out also uses. But up until we see his internal struggle we could very well assume that it is just a crazy idea, some aspiration triggered externally. As we the viewers can ‘see’ nothing wrong with him at first glance, quite the contrary. It’s not until that moment that we understand he’s not just aspiring to become super-human in some fanatical delusion triggered by a painting, but trying to mend and change something he perceives as broken, damaged.

And while we clearly feel the sense of conflict, i would say at this stage it is more frightening than anything else. He’s obviously not achieving what he desires, in spite of tattoo and teeth; the killings are obviously not making him feel more complete and he seems to be getting more imbalanced and frustrated. Essentially i get the sense of somebody who is increasingly loosing control – not gaining some – which makes him very very dangerous. It’s clear that the mockery he sees in the papers will only escalate him.

He’s close to unhinged, not to be pitied, but to be feared.

I am not sure the scene with the film is not too early. As you may have guessed from the title it felt very rushed to me in this episode. He practically goes from the Times mag to a full body tattoo in the blink of an eye, teeth get thrown in, films get thrown in, broken mirrors, etc. It’s all a bit jumbled at times, but mostly a bit rushed. For background and empathy i think it needs to slow down some.

Unless i completely missed it, i don’t think we were told about the filming and we see him there, in home-cinema mode pretty much in the buff and we get a sense of even greater frustration, but i didn’t get a clear sense of what he was watching and certainly not about why he was unhappy with it.  I also find the discussion about this in interviews confusing. The book on one hand is pretty clear, Dolarhyde is not horrified by what he sees, he is frustrated and unsatisfied with his own performance, essentially it is not good enough, it is not majestic as he expected it to be. I am not sure where the series wanted to go with the scene. It certainly went from disturbed to disturbing as he entangled himself in the bits of film with his head almost transforming into a camera itself. Visually quite a stunning metaphor for what is going on inside him and we do end up wondering which was scarier or more nightmarish, the images on the film or the ones in his head. Or would he like them to have only happened in his head? Mr A seems to indicate in interviews that Dolarhyde is disturbed  by the images of himself he discovers and almost doesn’t recognise… I am not sure based on the moment this happened in the series that i am entirely convinced by that alternative idea…

While we are at the visuals i really like the environment they have created in the Dolarhyde household, or shall we call it cave? It’s filled with all kinds of clutter, feels certainly older than the rest of buildings we see from the inside and is certainly as un-glamorous as it gets, a nice contrast to the offices in the psychiatric hospital. Will’s house is successfully somewhere in the middle, spelling normality in subtle messages. (As i’ve already said, I swear it makes me feel sometimes i am watching a design show rather than a crime/horror series 😉 )

Maybe that is why the silences didn’t bother or surprise me as much. Much has been made of Dolarhyde not speaking but it didn’t feel strange at all. And really, bar Alana and Chilton who are utter chatterboxes the rest of the characters in the show are not great talkers. And both Will and H are almost more successful in communicating non-verbally. The dialogues lately have not been as exciting i felt or as clever, but in some cases fewer words were said to greater impact. But especially with Dancy and beyond the shadow of a doubt with Armitage one only needs the visuals and the background music  to set the scene and then let their faces and bodies do the talking. So the silences i didn’t think were that unusual. But they were appropriate and very effective. Which is why again it felt almost as if the director was trying to rush through them at times for fear we’d get bored. Not at all! As what was communicated in those scenes was infinitely more meaningful than in the rest.

I know the exercise scenes – if we can call them that- have been much discussed, but i’m happy to say they didn’t feel gratuitous. For my part i have to say i wish the censorship would not be at work and they would have been able to film them as described in the book. But they even had to stick the man in uncomfortably tight pants to keep anything from showing too overtly  – all tucked in, ouch! Shrugs… as my gran used to say: ‘the naughty thoughts are in the minds of the viewers, not in the story told’ on screen. The censors i bet have a pretty active imagination.

For my part i was more impressed with the details given by the technical crew about the filming of the scene at night, after the crimes had been committed. As the Germans say ‘Hut ab!’ for dedication and also the detail in that scene, i really really hope the fake blood was the sugar syrup type thing usually used for stage as at least that wouldn’t have tasted as awful. i think doing that in the freezing night took guts and determination. Hopefully he didn’t freeze the tips of his ears off 😉

So, the episode itself was a bit hit and miss for me and i am holding them to the promise of giving us much more not just this teaser. Well done Mr A for transforming into something so utterly different from yourself from the tips of your lashes to the tips of your toes. I almost feel like i need a massage after watching you wound so tightly…

Off to watch that film /camera scene again to try and make up my mind about what Fuller wanted to say there… And then to watch ep 9.. unspoiled! (no interviews, no trailers, no photos, no more of Mr A’s ramblings, nada, nothing!)

PS I had a good giggle at Hannibal having to use cheap plastic spoons to eat that disgusting goo… revenge is.. sweet? 😉 Except i would have gone much further and would have taken away his fancy charcoal pencil and given him crayola instead, in orange and yellow! and lined paper.. see how you get on with that Mr H 😀


click for source (Will, Jack and Hannibal)

Yes, I know, absolutely overused and terrible pun 😉

Needless to say, spoilers for S1 and S2 ahead, potentially S3 as well from existing promos. My opinions are my own, no intention to offend any fans of the show :-).

But fear not (well, maybe inappropriate advice with this particular show ;-)) it is not all bad. There are many things I actually like about the show, just as there are things that irritate me, some that put me off massively and some that go against things I strongly believe in. I did watch it though, not quite as religiously as some but also not looking away quite as much as I thought i would do in S2.

I’ll never be a total fan, just as I’m not the biggest fan of GOT, I enjoy watching them, some original formatting, but mostly compelling acting.

Where to start… Probably by saying ‘horror’ is not a genre I will ever enjoy. I gave it a few tries but it’s not for me. I like being puzzled, engaged, thrilled, angered etc but one thing I do not enjoy is being frightened to the bones. The chills don’t give me any kind of thrills. I’m not one for bungee jumping, for playing with fire, for throwing myself off cliffs and things. I love fast cars and motorcycles, but they have to be safe. I know some people have genetically much higher adrenaline tolerance and enjoy extreme sports and are able to/enjoy taking more risks. I am not one of those people and I’m fine with it 🙂 I’d be equally fine if I was and was able to enjoy more risky stuff but I’m not. I tried watching the Exorcist but decided half way through it was not for me, I remember trying Carrie many years ago and same reaction, I think I watched about 20 min of Misery and stopped. I’d have nothing at all to gain by being uncomfortably scared. It is not particularly to do with the gore, I find I have a reasonably high tolerance for it, my dad is a doctor and I’ve been around hospitals more than I like. The human suffering and physical destruction that comes with accidents, war, illness I can deal with, it is fact of life and needs to be accepted as such; it makes me sad, angry, it upsets me, but it doesn’t really give me nightmares or turns my stomach.

Man inflicted aberration for thrills and gallons of blood and guts on the other hand shown as entertainment I find quite off-putting. Or the type of mutilations which horror movies tend to go for as far as I can tell from my minimal experience.

Having said that I enjoy detective stories a lot! In fact probably 80% of what I tend to watch falls within the police/detective/thriller category or documentary of some sort. These can be quite dark sometimes  and some drama , especially in historical context is terrible. But it feels very different from a spectator perspective. It is also true that it has become harder and harder to find interesting ways to tell thriller or detective stories. The usual ’cops and robbers’ has to be reinvented several times each season and it is increasingly difficult to be fresh and original. And because I guess it is harder and harder to write original characters we’ve seen some innovation in formats. One tendency has clearly been towards more and more violence so I have found myself in the last 2 years watching the Following and Hannibal. The Following didn’t actually turn my stomach with the gore but the violence was just too much and forever twisting- I switched off. Just not for me.

I’m currently watching Stalker which scared me quite a few times to the point where I did question if I was going to continue watching, but so far it managed to stay within tolerable limits even if sometimes barely so. But I like the psychological element of it. I’m also watching the Blacklist, which I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying! Yes there was too much gore at times and I had to fast forward a few times, but they have toned down that aspect recently -thankfully- and the characters are just so much fun to watch! I enjoy watching James Spader as Raymond Reddington much more than I am enjoying anything in GOT for example (also because there are far too many characters involved in the latter for my favourites to get much screen time anyway) .

But getting back on track, sorry for the digression. There are 2 movies I do remember which have definitely scared me, but I did sort of enjoy watching them and they have left a lasting impression: one is ‘Seven’ and the other one is ‘Silence of the lambs’. Thoroughly disturbing but brilliantly executed and acted. Although they do give me the chills in retrospect still I don’t regret watching them. Clever and very convincing. Maybe these kind of stories do work better across more hours  or are more effective if a real story line can build with physiological depth. The rapid succession of crazy serial killers in shows like the Following never engage me, they tend to just twist my stomach especially as they don’t come with the reward of said killers being caught  or normality prevailing.Actually, scratch that about Silence of the lambs, incidentally it was back on TV last night and i watched bits of it and wondered what i found interesting last time i saw it, didn’t seem half as claver now and pretty heavy handed.. it hasn’t aged well as a film ;-).

It is I guess why I did stay with Hannibal for the full 1st season, because the acting was good and the characters were engaging.

click for source (Will)

Let’s talk a bit about the book material before going into some of my pros and cons about the show. Thomas Harris’ novels, which provide the material for the series.. I have only read the Red Dragon and based on that one I doubt I’ll read the rest. I’m afraid I didn’t find them original in terms of story line and a lot of it was very predictable. A lot of it was far too cliché for my liking and some of it just felt way to exaggerated in terms of environment and prejudice. Having said that I reminded myself of when these were written (1981 for the Red Dragon). I think psychological thrillers have moved on a lot since, there has been much preoccupation with serial killers, both in fiction as well as documentary  and as viewers we’ve become much more demanding and sophisticated in our expectations of the characters we get served up 🙂 So I guess the books are just a bit outdated in terms of character build up and we’ve seen too much since for them to read ‘fresh’.

One of the ‘pros’ of Hannibal the series from my point of view is the fact that they take the material of the books and make much more of it. The main characters in the series are much more complex and multidimensional than they appear in the book.

The other big ‘pro’ factor is the great acting from Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, Hugh Dancy as Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter. All 3 of them make strong, believable and engaging characters. I really disliked Crawford in the book, but Fishburne makes him a much more balanced and human character. I felt Graham came across broken, empty and weak in the book, but Dancy is almost nothing like that. He’s sensitive and complicated inside, not quite whole I guess, but not the confused character in the book. Mads makes a very convincing case for the soave and charming… murderer 😉 And with that I mean he looks like he really does believe the aberrations that he utters, the twisted logic of what he does and is really good at letting through all that elegant civility just enough twinkles of the madness within. He’s flamboyant all-right but within the reality-expanding boundaries of the show it is ‘natural’. He doesn’t come across as fake and in such a surreal show that is no mean feat.

However, because I’m not familiar with the genre and very ‘straight’ I guess in why I like thrillers/detective stories, I got caught up with it in S1 because of Will himself. I never thought the show was to be taken at face value, that it was going to be a logical, life-like narrative, but I did feel Will’s psychological quirks were within what I could engage with as a viewer. In fact I like stories where the bad guys get caught because somebody understands how their minds work, or what kind of people they are or because people can connect with the victims on other ways than just the logical, factual ones. These days that is no longer outside police work and in terms of fiction it is certainly a very grateful way of learning more about victims and killers as well, of learning more about the human element than just the clinical facts. So it is definitely something that attracted me to the premises of the series, or to Will’s character in particular.

However, I fell into the trap of expecting things to go sometimes bad but ultimately good for the ‘good guys’ while I was being treated to a ‘horror’ show logic of bad, more bad leading to worse. By the end of S1 I was literally fed up with Hannibal experimenting on Will, physically and especially mentally, with no end in sight. There was no end to suffering, no good was coming to any investigation anymore as Will was getting more and more messed up internally and I got annoyed and at the end of S1 decided I’d had enough and wasn’t prepared to see more of it.

Let me be clear, I am fully conscious of the glamorous, inventive, striking and sometimes oddly beautiful visuals of the show. That is innovative, and fresh and certainly very creative. It is a look that is ‘pleasing’ a lot of the times and creates a clever and mind-twisting contrast to the actual subject. But ultimately I watch TV for the stories and this was going nowhere or I just felt strung along to no interesting or satisfying end. As mentioned I am ‘straight’ that way, no matter how elaborate the dinners (and I love to cook and eat, pretty much foodie), how elegant the dress for me Hannibal will never be anything else than a very clever and totally mad killer. I want him stopped and caught. I don’t buy into his charms other than seeing them as a weapon, a means to his twisted end. While I appreciate and applaud the acting, it is not attractive to me because the bottom line for me never changes, he is a killer. I don’t need to understand why, I’m only interested in as much as I want him stopped. There is nothing logical or normal about it, it is sick, it is an illness that drives him, he’s broken beyond repair. That may not be the premise of a ‘horror’ show where black and white and grey are not as we normally interpret them, but it is the way I see things in such context. There is no way this kind of ‘bad’ becomes attractive to me, it just doesn’t. Which is probably why I’ll never be a complete fan of the show, because even while watching or thinking ‘this looks fine’, I still think it is sick and he is bad and over 2 seasons now that view I have has never changed, never wavered one bit. I actually expected it to maybe change or shift during S2, but it hasn’t.

same source as above (Jack)

(Time for a tea-break 😉 Go make yourself some coffee or tea and relax, I’m probably only half way through! And thank you for not falling asleep already if you are still reading 😉 )

It also means it will take a whole lot of convincing and coaxing for me to feel a lot of sympathy for RA as Dolarhyde. The horrible whys of how he became so broken won’t make me automatically be on his side. I’ll want him stopped and the fact that he is a killer will always be at the back of my mind. Realistically, there is no going back after the first deliberate and gruesome killing. I think Bedelia is absolutely right in her argument about it and hers is the only psychological reasoning I have been able to buy into so far in the show; I find her most convincing and in a strange way objective.

It is interesting that she is the only one who really understands the extent of Will’s innocence – but also guilt. I’ll come back to her but I just want to say a few more things about Will. For me the central theme of the 2nd season was innocence or guilt.. Will’s in particular, with variations and examples on each side shown through other characters. But essentially it is about Will. Has he changed, how? Is he a murderer? And I think it is a story line the series has done really well, ie manage to break free from the Will in S1, vulnerable and adorable though he was. What Will becomes in S2 is much more complex, more interesting and it opens up many possibilities for the series.

I’m glad for the evolution, but am sorry for the loss of innocence… Another clever thing they did in S2 was pile on the evidence and suspicion about his guilt to the point where you believe he is just like Hannibal. It is painful to watch if you are engaged in the character and very convincing done. We find out reality is not quite as bad towards the end. Essentially, we see Will kill in self defence (after we have already seen him try to kill Hannibal for revenge by proxy, convincing another killer in the hospital he is incarcerated in to do the deed), but we are also led to believe he’s killed Freddie Lounds when she finds him out. I felt a massive relief when I saw Freddie survived and it was actually part of an elaborate strategy to try and catch Hannibal in the act. But! The deception was so good I wish they’d kept it until the end of the series and revealed it all in one go.

The way it was done made the last episode anticlimactic, especially if like me you saw it now, before S3 starts and when you know all characters survive the attacks suffered from Hannibal. Basically they try and count their chickens a bit too early and he literally smells them out (ie smells Freddie on Will, who has been meeting with her to talk about a future article). Bedelia warns them… but nobody seems to really listen to this women in that show. Bar Hannibal that is.

So it turns out Will is not a serial killer…. But he is a killer nevertheless. Yes he convinces himself that it is necessary to catch Hannibal, so he lets him believe he’s killed more times. But we also find he moves unusually quickly from attempting revenge to killing in self defence and then horribly displaying the mutilated body. Which I hoped until the last minute was actually Hannibal’s work (the show tries to make us believe in this sort of ‘tandem killing’ idea), but turns out it was all Will.

His mind is no longer affected by physical illness, but one wonders about how much of this is motivated by seeking justice and how far Will is actually able to go. Needless to say the most interesting aspects of the show, including visually, are the goings on in his mind. The picturing of the killings, the doubts and so on, which he is much more in control of in a way but which populate his mind constantly. Bad for poor Will, but great for the series. I still like some of him and I hold on to hope that he’s not completely tipped over, but he’s moved past the character I can be supportive of to a character I observe and maybe hope the best for.

I think Will is trapped in trying to catch Hannibal and realising too late after the fact what the consequences are; I think Bedelia is much more conscious of them than Will. Sadly her taking a wise distance from Hannibal and everything means we don’t see all that much of her in S2.

The reasons I like her and like seeing her in the series is that she is by far the most complex female character. Freddie is smart and risk taking and a good portrait of her profession and I am glad at least she didn’t fade into the background, but apart from her, the only female character with any depth and complexity is Bedelia.

I am sure I’m not the first to notice or the first to complain about it: the show sorely lacks a female perspective. Women seem to be passers by in the story, without leaving much imprint and generally weak, easily trapped and quickly eliminated. I don’t like any of them except the two mentioned above. I thought the storyline of Jack’s beautiful but sadly ill wife was going somewhere, but when Hannibal actually didn’t let he die (presumably to let her continue suffering and let Jack continue suffering) she was dispatched to the sick bed barely to appear again. Any interaction or grief Jack Crawford might feel was just a glimpse, again never repeated. Why?

Don’t even get me started on Alana… for God’s sake… how self-delusional and blind does one have to be? None of her is believable, likeable or even in the slightest convincing. There is zero chemistry between her and Hannibal and her interaction with Will is just silly. I’d have more respect for the character if she decided either way and stuck to her guns, but she’s depicted as one of those airheads, an emotional bundle, totally charmed by Hannibal (insert gagging noises).

Who else?

Ah yes, poor Abigail, who Will thinks Hannibal has killed and feels guilt about that he could not only not save her but also not find her. She turns up again, hidden away …  in Hannibal’s house… only very predictably to be killed again. Not very effective or convincing as the damage that particular guilt trip did on Will has long since been inflicted, nothing new will come of it. She’s treated as disposable anyway. Not before she dispatches Alana equally dully through an open window, (not interesting enough to even get a proper killing, all she gets is a desperate shove through the window) which I am afraid has not finished her off…

Equally quick work was made of Will’s police colleague who starts believing him only to get very easily killed and sliced.

Ah one more, Verger’s sister – introduced on an ever more hyperbolic arc and equally quickly discarded. Continuously abused by her brother, she is also Hannibal’s patient and ends up pretty swiftly in Will’s bed…. Poor sod, not particularly good taste. Ok, it is comfort sex… which ends up creating a baby!!! Well, nearly, babies are much too cute for this show. Hannibal only taunts Will with the idea,they don’t really explore it enough for it to take hold or do any lasting damage when it is taken away (other than to the women herself…). Brutally I might add, by the sick brother literally taking not only the baby but also her ovaries -presumably- away from her and therefore any chance of escape from under his control.

It is I think where it was most evident in the series that a female perspective was totally absent. Yes Hannibal is cold and he’d use the whole idea to torment Will even further. And yes I fell for it, thinking there could be a small positive turn, forgetting this is a horror show and nothing ever ends even remotely well. I would have thought Hannibal would have played that card longer tbh. And I found it utterly disgusting how they all, including Will, treated that poor women as just an object in their various strategies. And once ovaries were out and baby was out, out she went to, unceremoniously, never to be heard of or cared about again.

Dear Mr Fuller, I’ve put up with those stupid man-eating pigs for an exceeding number of episodes! It was a boring and predictable story line, though the right one never got eaten by those pigs. Sadly it just annoyed me, I’ve not become a vegetarian. You spent a silly amount of time with the pigs but made a mess of the much more harrowing story twist above… bleh! Definitely a big ‘con’ in my book.

The women’s fate was dispatched almost in the blink of an eye or wave of a hand while I had to watch the pigs again and again and, to top it all off,  you inflicted Mason Verger upon me and I actually accidentally nearly watch him fillet his face off and feed it to Will’s dogs! I’ve looked away a few times in the series, but that particular image still makes my stomach turn. And in combination with the above lack of depth makes my mind twist in anger as well.

And while I am at the ‘cons’ and especially the ones that annoy me incredibly –> while I had to put up with that particularly disgusting scene, in comparison the sex scenes which supposedly conceived the baby above made me laugh. For such imaginative and fantastic minds they sure are Victorian bores in bed. Not that I could find anything attractive in silly Alana getting into bed with Hannibal, I just wanted to shake her! But there was nothing there to suggest she was really attracted to him physically or even emotionally, she seemed to be more drugged than enamoured.

Same with Will and Margot (finally remembered the Verger sister’s name),  I just thought: ran out of conversation subjects, have they? And then it becomes truly hilarious and in all honestly not at all surprising: Will and Alana – or whichever combination of 2 people of the 4- turn their heads on their respective pillow after the ‘event’ and what you see is the two couples merged in one image: ie Will sharing sheets with Hannibal! LOL It was really funny, but yeah some chemistry was there, predictably. Just because the idea in itself was so predictable; they only way to virtually get them in each other’s beds was to get them in each other heads ;-). Funny, but not necessarily fun for the characters I’m guessing – as in ‘between the sheets’ fun. Nobody really looks or breathes enough away from the whole murder business for other passions to emerge or some real fun to happen.

In fact, with so much murder business and eating constantly on screen, I was surprised we were suddenly in bed with them; it is not a natural place for any of them to be in and it felt as if the production as well as the characters didn’t really know what to do with themselves there. It was awkwardly and ironically out of character for everyone.

Which raises some doubts for me for the next season where several love interests are supposed to appear. They better do a more interesting job of it than they have done so far.

I am excited to see more of Bedelia but she’s going off with Hannibal?? Really??? Unless she thinks she can trap him somehow and get him caught… she is probably bold enough to try. I’m just not convinced they will be able to sell me some sudden chemistry if that should be their intention. Mind you, if anyone can pull of chemistry in that show it is Gillian Anderson 🙂

I’m curious to see what they make of Will’s wife and hopefully she’ll be a bit more than a piece of human furniture to populate his life.. I am exaggerating, but I’m just hoping for some strong definition in that character, more than I have seen them capable of doing so far.

Thankfully in terms of the Dolarhyde story Reba McClane is already written as a pretty strong character, so at least the model has already been created, hopefully nothing will go wrong there.

They have shown in S2 that they can bring interesting twists and fix weaknesses of the show so I am hoping they can do that in S3 on the female front. Those men need some distraction from their constant digging in their own minds 😉

From Fuller’s very interesting interview I gather we can hope for some complex relationship development, even though we’ll still see more gore than is good for my stomach and only Victorian sex (from the shoulder above)… yeah I can’t quite wrap my head around ‘face filleting allowed but don’t show me your nipple’.

There is only one more quibble and a few quirks to mention from my side.

click for source (that tattoo image)

I sometimes have problems with Mad’s diction to be honest. I’ve heard him in interviews and I have much less of a problem. But in the show as a non-native speaker I find it difficult to follow that psychobabble the character is prone to because I can’t always understand the words, literally. I could rewind but that destroys the intended atmosphere and that I find is more important than the words that are said. Still I wish they would be a bit more careful and work harder at it.

In the S3 promo I only clocked he was speaking Italian when I heard ‘Dante’… . and I speak Italian. I know they were pressed for time… but the show is aiming for quality and achieving it a lot of the times, for me this is part of it. I just had to say it, because I think it is something that can be improved on pretty easily. And it is a pity for a good actor who can pull of such a strange character to loose some of the impact because we can’t quite understand what he is saying. Not least because I want to be able to make up my mind about the text of the script, not just the story line.

For a bit of light side Hannibal click here for the gag reels from S2 🙂 

I don’t know about you, but I find myself laughing with it quite a few times. I am not sure it is intended to be funny, but I somehow suspect it is. The chewing, eating, ingesting puns can’t really be meant to be taken seriously, can they?

Take the latest example which had me bursting into laughter, from the S3 promo: Bedelia :’ there is only one way you can forgive Will’, insert more images, a small pause later, Hannibal: (Wait for it……)  ‘I have to eat him!’ ROFLMAO!!! Groan.. it is so bad it is good 🙂

Or  Hannibal: I’ve hardly killed anybody during our residence! Or H again: my wife and I would love to have you for dinner 🙂 LOL… seriously… I know it is sick, but it is funny 🙂 The mind-twisting that must be going on in the team to come up with new eating-puns!

While these are meant to be funny, I think I have laughed at things that probably weren’t intended to be funny, like the bed scene mentioned above 🙂 And I have to say Hannibal does make me giggle when he wears one of those ultra- extravagant suits of his, in checks of way too many colours and with much too clashing ties. Or maybe it is just the European in me that interprets elegance as something slightly more subtle and refined and sees this more as an eccentric twist. I’d never be attracted to any of those suits! I find him much better in plain shirts or t-shirts tbh. Maybe he’ll find elegance in Florence, there is always hope 😉

Will and his clothes are a bit boring by comparison but that’s ok, plain suits him.

As for the recent S3 promos, intriguing things ahead. I like the idea of seeing Florence in grey weather as the image I have in my mind is so deeply characterised by sun. I’m looking forward to seeing the city through their eyes. It certainly will be a refreshing change from the endless prison/mental hospital images we had to put up with for more than half of S2.

I’m also very intrigued but the prominence of Dolarhyde’s hands in the promo. It is not what I would have thought of in connection to the character so I am curious to see what they came up with. I am very glad they did, those hands shout out for screen time!

click for source (the hand)

Having said that, the tattoo is not what I expected and so far not really to my liking. I guess from the point of view of the character he wanted to cover as much as possible of himself with the dragon to absorb him. I on the other hand wasn’t expecting an actual depiction of the painting but rather a graphic interpretation of it. This is a bit of copy paste, more artful of course ;-), but essentially a transfer of the image onto the body. It is so broad I initially though they were using a transparent sleeve, which would have made application easier, or even that it was as projection of the image,  but apparently they were stickers re-applied each time. I think it looks a bit odd that they cover the back as high as the armpits and also completely on the sides; after some pondering that it is what makes it look somewhat odd to me.

But tattoo aside I’m curious to see how much they develop Dolarhyde’s character and how close they will bring him to the brink of turning back before they let him fall. I am however not at all looking forward to them finishing off poor Freddie Lounds 😦 When I thought Will killed her I thought they used that idea already and was relieved we’d be spared all that horrible attack, but not so lucky I’m afraid. Honestly don’t think I will be able or will want to watch that. So far the series has excelled more in presentation of victims post event, but that changed towards the end of S2 with icky Verger and the last episode. I have a feeling there is more of this coming in S3… sigh. And that is the bit I definitely don’t want to watch; question is, will I be able to suss out which will be the episode to fast forward through…

In any case, S3 is coming to the UK on June 10th on Sky Living (ominous tone fully intended).

Follow me into… murder?

Main cast of Hannibal, from left to right: Dancy (Will Graham), Dhavernas (Alana Bloom), Fishburne (Jack Crawford), Abrams (Brian Zeller), Chorostecki (Freddie Lounds), Park (Beverly Katz), Thompson (Jimmy Price), Mikkelsen (Hannibal Lecter).

I was going to write mass-murder but i didn’t really want my blog connected to who knows what searches so i wasn’t cheeky enough to take the joke that far. But it is the questions of the day for sure after it has recently been announced that  RA will join NBC’s Hannibal in Season 3 in the terrifying role of Francis Dolarhyde (aka The Tooth Fairy)  – the main villain of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon Warning about opening the links to spoilers and well, gory details.

I shouldn’t have read that before eating the recently arrived fresh pizza, it’s now sitting a bit square in my stomach…

Look, this is by no means an attempt to have a clear opinion, i’m just dumping the fuddle duddle from my brain onto here in the hope that i can forget about it and carry on watching Robin Hood which i have just started at the weekend (and S3 is just waiting for me now to continue). But it will bug me now that i know about it, so here are my various thoughts on it as they are today.

Let’s start by admitting I’m a bit of an addict of detective type series, i’ve read them since i was pretty small and continue to watch them on TV. Every possible CSI, Bones, Wallander, Sherlock, Elementary, the Blacklist and others (to call out a few recent ones), you name it, i watched it. But not just those, i watch/ed the much darker stuff too, Criminal Minds (yes all 9 seasons, in fact i’ve got yesterday’s recorded ready to watch) and i have watched the entire S1 of Hannibal (alongside the Following). Some of the latter ones grab you and trap you so you watch until there is some resolution (ie because you hope for a positive outcome).

But i don’t like horror movies or TV series. I don’t like to be scared (i even watch Sleepy Hollow for example with the lights on). I don’t mind some suspense, even uncertain outcomes, but to still enjoy/be interested in watching a program i need the human element to prevail.

Obviously my preference for detective series over time comes from the need of knowing that good will prevail or that problems can be solved and likely from wanting to have the feeling of being protected. I can deal with quite a bit of gore as long as it is mostly in a forensic context as the science aspect fascinates me. It’s about catching the killer and never about being fascinated with the killer. Which is the reason why i stopped watching Hannibal beyond S1 (or The Following), it was too dark, to evil really for my psychological sanity. It disturbed me too much and stuck to me like something awful just at the edge of consciousness so i stepped away from it. Having said that i watched The Fall (Anderson, Dornan) absolutely riveted and that’s a case where both policewomen and killer fascinated me (one of the best and most interesting TV series i’ve seen recently); it is all about psychology and reasons why and very cleverly revealed step by step. I guess it just stays on my acceptable side of humanity, it’s not made the journey to the complete, extreme beyond-reason. It’s not deliberately out to shock you, stun you with terror.

That’s not to say i haven’t watched things that have scared me or made me very uncomfortable.  I’ve watched a lot of war drama and one could argue reality is much worse than any fiction could be. I’ve also watched Seven for example and Silence of the Lambs and both i probably shouldn’t have as the mere thought disturbs me still. Interestingly enough i think i may have watched Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde, probably not the entire thing as i don’t recall it, but definitely quite a bit as i immediately recognised that image of Fiennes in the wiki link above and it made me recoil (and i remember the tatoo).

The question is not if he should do it. Of course he should if he has decided he wants to/can. Actors have to be much braver than average you and me. I love RA as an actor and a big part of it is precisely because i admire how determined he is to challenge himself, to push against his own boundaries and explore these in depth. I have no doubt his blood curdles just as much as mine and his stomach churns at who he is about to embody, all the more reason to appreciate his bravery in attempting to take himself there. I fully understand why for an actor it is very important to explore all the pits and extremes of humanity, the positive ones, like Proctor, and the darkest ones like this role. I admire both Fiennes and Hopkins for their evil characters as much as i do for their more positive ones 🙂 I am sure it has made them even better actors.

Also, the series is very popular (see titles above, there is an increasing abundance of this genre on TV these days and a growing audience). I think i am lucky in that although i enjoy the type of drama (murder mystery) i have not yet been completely desensitised to the level of violence (physical and psychological) depicted, which is ever increasing together with the growing appetite of the audience for it. And while i think it is brave for an actor to take himself on a journey from man to almost beast, i’m not comfortable with charting that journey myself.

I’ve got other more prosaic/realistic questions (APM protection mode ahead ;-)) Ever the doubtful, i am slightly concerned that this is a bit of physical typecasting. I wasn’t happy reading in the Tv article linked above about the hulking, burly, teeth business. I hope they decided to cast him for his acting chops primarily and not his physical body type, but i wonder… I’ve always wanted to see him do a baddie, but i thought more of a brainy baddie than a burly, very physical one if you know what i mean (biting noises in my head… ). He’s mentioned how much he liked Fargo and although i didn’t like it nearly as much (precisely for the everyman into killer twist), this is not something in that sort of vein but much gorier, brutal. I would have been more fascinated by something as psychologically twisted but fascinating as a journey as Fargo (in fact that’s the sort of baddie i would have been more interested in exploring). There is (don’t hit me please) precious little original about Dolarhyde as a villain (abused becomes abuser and the epitome of the worst of the worst, beyond reason and any shred of humanity).

Also, as you can probably read through the lines above, while i consume massive amounts of murder mystery, i’m deeply uncomfortable and concerned  with the growing trend towards ever viler, gorier, more inhuman violence which seems to make it acceptable/normal. In fact i’ve found less and less in this genre that i actually enjoy watching because it seems to be a race in who can do the worst.

I’ve also got a slightly smaller worry about what the role will do to him, but it’s only 6 episodes and i’m confident something else will come along and he’ll launder himself of the character soon enough 😉

So, will i follow? Will i (be able to) watch?

I don’t know… Unfortunately just reading the wiki page and seeing that image of Fiennes as the character has already triggered some scary thoughts and pictures in my mind (too much imagination!). I’ve stopped watching the series precisely because it made me so uncomfortable and also because the evil just spun in on itself. In order to follow the character i’d have to watch the full series to properly understand where they are going…

Curiosity killed the cat and that’s precisely what i am afraid will happen to me. That the curiosity about wanting to see him act will get the better of me and i will watch (and i know already it will be intense) and then i’ll have the image of some big evil monster literally gnawing through my brain forever… Will i be able to see/think of Proctor, Thorin without getting the monster in there too? I’m most afraid of those precious imprints being tainted by other images that i won’t be able to stop…

And these are my honest thoughts at the moment, uncomfortable as they are… disturbing enough that in the end i haven’t continued watching Robin Hood tonight as this occupied the little free time i had.

But there’s another day tomorrow (and another argument to be had about another baddie who puts babies out in the forest…and has tatooes… and is an assassin… no biting so far 😉 )

Edit – Extras (or recommendations for murder-mystery junkies like me)

I thought since i mentioned various stuff i might as well recommend some i watch/ed and enjoyed for those among you into the genre and to point out that the stuff out there is very varied indeed.

Favourites over last year:

True Detectives – brilliant, absolute highlight with amazing Harrelson and McConaughey, great script, plot, everything, brilliant location, i felt sticky and hot just watching it was so well made and real; go for it! It’s psychologically intense with a lot of character insight.

Fargo – definitely an interesting and somewhat original concept with Freeman at his best and different self 🙂

Broadchurch – great script, even better acting from Tennant and Colman; In fact i am not sure they shouldn’t have stopped at S1; it was so good that 2 eps into S2 i feelt S1 is very hard to live up to, but we will see.. acting still great from all cast in fact; A lot of background and community insight, complex and very human.

The Escape Artist – again Tennant and again at his very best; i loved this because it was very controversial, primetime and original in many ways; It was probably the most tense thing i’ve seen 15/10, off the scale and it is all in the viewer’s mind, not prompted by any visual gore at all; Which is why i think it was particularly good; the art of keeping the audience on edge without turning their stomachs and instead taking them to unusual moral grounds.

The Fall – riveting and so so good, Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan (she’s the cop, he’s the killer). Such interesting characters, not what you would expect and i marvelled at every episode how good it can be on such a low budget. S2 has just finished and i’m as excited about S3 as i was about S1 and S2. Little to no gore at all but plenty of psychological pits to fall in.

What i’m watching now

Some of which are 2nd seasons of last year’s new stuff-

The Blacklist – James Spader is brilliant and the idea is pretty original in mix, but it lives and breathes through his character. Interesting and controversial premise (which i like), quite on the edge tension wise. Almost in my upper tolerance level, but just, it’s episodic and the character development is strong throughout the series to keep you interested beyond some extreme tension moments. It’s in S2 at the moment, mid break and i can’t wait to see what’s next, one which has managed to be just as good in S2 as in S1.

Criminal Minds – oldie by now but still goldie, for me it still works as they managed to build a great actor team and the script continues to be good and fresh even after many seasons. A tough watch sometimes but once you get used to the format you learn that they keep carefully within a thin boundary.

Stalker – new on board so to speak, sort of fresh subject, well enough written so that it kept me guessing for quite a while about the main characters and still keeps me guessing at times. Dylan McDermott  does a great job in it and of the new stuff this is the only one which really caught my attention.

Elementary – S3 now and i haven’t missed an episode, very clever modernisation of the Sherlock Holmes idea with Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn. Witty fun with great casting (they kind of brainy stuff that really entertains me)

There’s repeats of a lot of stuff but the above are the things i made sure i recorded (to avoid any add breaks) and sat down and watched with eyes peeled. The is also Sherlock of course but that is on/off as they get round to filming it and some i like better than others. Let me know if you have any suggestions of things you have enjoyed 🙂