Hannibalisms

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).

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