I’m sad, but happy. I’m angry, but calm. I’m mourning, but joyful.
For all the responses and feelings I’ve had for the news that NBC in America have pulled the trigger and cancelled Hannibal, the above are perhaps the most fitting of what the show is about. A retelling of the many stories & trials of iconic cannibal psychologist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, creator Bryan Fuller (Heroes, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me) has crafted quite possibly one of the most unique and memorable televisions experiences in history by blending horror and an original bleak artistic direction in a show filled with many conflictions. It’s beautiful and ugly. It’s dark and it’s bright. It’s so very dark. Oh so very dark.
Gifted with an incredible sense of hindsight and able to recreate murder scenes in his mind, put upon criminal profiler Will Graham (brilliant Brit Hugh Dancy) is charged with finding out what happened to a series of disappeared girls by intense FBI agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne in some of his best work in awhile), whilst attempting to catch the Chesapeake Ripper. Will is recommended to attended psychological counselling with Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen – him off Casino Royale with the eye – y’know the one who whacks James Bond in the balls when he’s bollock naked), as the two begin to bond over philosophical differences and agreements whilst Lecter begins to make his murderous plays to satisfy his own indulgences and avoid detection.
It’s Mikkelsen that makes the role come to life and thus the show also – perhaps controversially even better than Anthony Hopkins. Yeah I went there. It’s his dry but loaded delivery of every single line. Whether it’s a double meaning when he says to a potential meal “I’d love to have you for dinner”, turning a simple and innocent invite into an orgasmic quip, to bashing someone’s head in before turning to a conflicted companion and demanding an answer to the cold question of whether the person is viewing or participating, it’s an incredible performance. Mads is damn alluring and hypnotic. You feel yourself sucked in by him and being honest if he offered to feed me myself whilst I was drugged up, I would be obliged to bring my own herbs and sauces. Dancy is also highly sympathetic, not only due to events but his performance always gets across just how much Will, the poor sod, is constantly being broken to bits over his job, his gifts, the pressures they bring and the want for an understanding companion. The fact he finds it in someone who wants to push him even further to fulfil his own sadistic wants is too engrossing to miss.
What I love about Hannibal is that it didn’t so much as push the envelope; more like pushed it along the table, down to the kitchen floor that’s not been cleaned for a week, then into your downstairs bathroom with probable invisible piss leakages. Frequently, the numerous murders are super gruesome and the only way you can comprehend how someone had their neck slashed that badly was if they actually did it to a real person. Lecter’s pushing to breaking point of the human psyche just because he wants to see what will happen is part of his tremendous ego and a middle finger to God as he makes a mockery of life with his unique murderous outlook. He does it all to resist his own agreed futility of humanity as Lecter sets out on his one man war for decency and human organs. He attracts a cavalcade of varying levels of redeemable people who are broken, looking for the glue that only he can provide. To be fair, there is nothing else like this at all on TV and thank god there isn’t because the purity of how fucking beyond this show goes as a high end bespoke product doesn’t really deserve to lessened by imitators. Just look at the numerous X-Files and CSI clones we have now. It dilutes the originals doesn’t it?
I will concede at points it has pushed decency, but then with it being ‘in vogue’ to throw in an awkward rape scene in pretty much every TV show nowadays to spark a reaction just for the hell of it, I can live in the boundaries that Hannibal pitches. A show about a secret cannibal helping out FBI investigations was never going to be about rainbows & kittens and the art-like directional style is gruesome. With a stellar soundtrack filled with mechanical grunting and numerous drips that enhances the experience, various camera tricks like time slow downs and speed ups add to the damning outlook to the world of Hannibal. Numerous hallucinations and flashbacks leave you on your toes as you constantly second guess what you watch in a good way. Psychology is a constant theme as Will grapples with his relate-able animal representation of the darkness he faces constantly in the black stag. At points, some of the minor one-off killers threaten to steal Lecter’s thunder with the nightmare fuel-inducing visual images of the living statue human body mosiac (when someone wakes up alive and attempts to free himself by ripping his flesh out of his sewn bonds) to drugging a person & removing their eyes and sense via a plant poison in a living dead state. I loathe to call it a ‘clever’ show since that is a word that is bandied about far too often as a substitute for something that has well done elements… but I definitely walk away feeling a lot more intelligent and dare I say it superior from watching 40 minutes of a well crafted product like this. For all the moments I’ve had to legitimately look away in sheer disgust, Hannibal is not a show to be enjoyed – it’s meant to be appreciated for the stirring imagery and powerful emotion it evokes from it’s bleak soul.
To be honest, I had a feeling that Season 3 would be the last one anyway. With the way the show has progressed and avoiding spoilers for those who have not yet sampled Hannibal (Thanks for coming to the party late by the way…), it feels like it was going towards a natural conclusion anyway with a massive transformation to the set-up for the characters and events reaching a certain apex that any resetting would could across as being disrespectful to those who have been watching since day one. So maybe – just maybe – NBC culling it now will be a blessing without us realising it just yet. Any backward steps would have to be thought twice now as Fuller and co. have to give this version of Dr. Lecter and Will a satisfactory conclusion to draw a fine line underneath everything, although given how early into this season the news has been announced about cancellation, I feel there’s a few tricks they can pull out to show what made this show a cult classic for those with an acquired taste in their horror with mind-bending curiosities.
It feels folly to convince you to start watching an admittedly slower paced show which takes an acquired taste to truly enjoy because you would have to sink a good chink of time and emotion to really get the best out of it (but really – you should give it a fucking go). Instead, consider it to be the best alternative bit of television that one or two of your hipster friends and all the critics raved about whilst you blankly absorb the endless repeats of Family Guy & Criminal Minds and wait from the end of your meaningless life. Or develop taste. I know which one Hannibal did for me…