“Hannibal” Retrospect – A Masterpiece of Beauty, Terror and the Psychology of the Human Mind

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     What a fantastic ride this was. Very few shows manage to keep up great quality consistently through all their seasons, more often than not they will jump the shark, repeat storylines that have been done before, lose focus, change cast or try so hard to be deep that it just comes out a muddled mess. Suffice to say “Hannibal” did not have that problem.

    This was a show that gave us the chance to get to know nearly every character, be they serial killer, cop, psychiatrist or other…the episode they would appear in would give us a glimpse into their mind and motivation and ask us to question it. This was a show that liked to present horror as beautiful as well as remind us of the potential for good and bad within us all or even to question that paradigm all together. This is truly Bryan Fuller’s masterpiece.

SPOILERS are going to be ahead.

     The show’s story involves the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal as Graham is someone who hunts killers by seeing their perspective through empathy as Hannibal both guides and attempts to corrupt him through it leading to an eventual confrontation and a fallout that occurs all through season 3 eventually leading to a final reckoning between them as around them other characters deal with the consequences of how they have been changed by Hannibal and from it how they relate to one another and the world.

The Pros: The Cinematography – James Hawkinson and Karim Hussain were great at this series creating stunning visuals throughout this season. From bodies made to look like trees and pieces of art to the use of shadow and light to show us the shadow and light within all of our characters. These two truly capture the amazing visual medium that is the art of cinema.

The Soundtrack – Brian Reitzell does a great job on the soundtrack throughout the series, giving us a haunting score that captures both the thriller and horror themes infused with an element of a tragedy.

The Writing – Bryan Fuller and his team did a great job on this series. From the characters, to the arcs, to the themes and the tiny details of showing us character motivation rather than telling us it. This writing also managed to breathe life into minor and one shot characters who managed to make an impact.

The Arcs – Season 1’s arc involved those who knew Hannibal was a serial killer getting killed off leading to the eventual framing of Will Graham and Will becoming more isolated from the people in the force as Hannibal becomes his only friend before he is framed for the murder of his adopted daughter Abigail Hobbs who he had rescued from a killer. Season 2 is freeing Will Graham from prison and Jack and Will’s hunt for Hannibal eventually leading to Hannibal and Bedelia escaping to Europe. Season 3 involves the capture of Hannibal by Jack and Will and Wil land Hannibal’s self destructive relationship coming to an end in the final confrontation with the Red Dragon.

The Characters – The characters drive the story and none of them are the same throughout the series. They change and we see them transformed by events to become much darker than the people they were before or in some cases more empathetic.

Dr. Abel Gidion – Eddie Izzard plays a fascinating killer who is obsessed with Alana Bloom and ends up being framed to have been killed by Chilton when he was really being held hostage by Hannibal and fed to himself. Izzard is savvy and even though he is a monster his rebellious nature against Hannibal is great as he promises Hannibal that he can’t wait for Hannibal to get his reward and be eaten too. Raul Esparaza does a good job.

Dr. Chilton – Chilton is corrupt and out for fame but he does have a noble side as we see him try to help Will as he does want to capture Hannibal. This leads to him getting shot and eventually him being burned alive by the Red Dragon and losing his tongue. He goes through a lot and in the end is the truth teller to others as in losing his skin he can see through the illusion of others.

Beverly Katz – Hetteine Park does such a great job. Beverly Katz is Will’s friend and she is one of the first to find out the truth about Hannibal, sadly is killed in the process but we see her help catch multiple killers as her, Will and Jack make a great team hunting the serial killers through Season 1 and her time with Will in Season 2 gives him hope of getting justice and Hannibal’s eventual capture. R.I.P. She was missed and one of the best characters on the show.

Bella Crawford – Gina Torres is wonderful as Jack Crawford’s wife. She has cancer and is a woman who wants to die for a lot of it but is able to connect with Jack and give him hope to fight on after Hannibal nearly kills him. She is there to show us the potential for good in Hannibal and to show us Jack’s tender side as she in many ways is harder than he is because of the constant suffering she is in because of her cancer. Her death means something.

Abigail Hobbs – Hobbs is the daughter of a serial killer raised by a serial killer (Hannibal) she is his partner in crime and sets up her fake death with him to frame Will Graham, but we see that she never stops caring for them both and truly wanted to spend the rest of her life with them as they could relate to her darkness and otherness she felt towards others. Will feels her death to the point that he hallucinates her being alive when he is in Italy hunting Hannibal.

Margot Verger – Margot Verger is awesome. Her brother is a sexually and physically abusive ass and seeing her get her revenge as well as find connection with both Will and later Alana Bloom show her recovery as she gets to get revenge on her brother and inherit the Verger fortune. She lives a horror story and manages to grow and endure through it…her’s is one of the few hopeful endings in this story.

Alana Bloom – Alana Bloom is the one who is a bit more detached than Will but still feels even after Hannibal nearly paralyzes her and Mason Verger continues to harass her. She is powerful and a great character as she never breaks her integrity even as she becomes more ruthless as her philosophy truly becomes one of survival and growth. Caroline Dhavernas does a great job.

Bedelia Du Maurier – Gillian Anderson is awesome! Bedelia is in many ways as sociopathic as Hannibal as she uses people for her gain and survival though we see her vulnerable as Hannibal tries to make her more than just an observer. She is great though as she navigates each of her escape and is still safe from the FBI at the end and possibly Hannibal, that is still a question as it depends what he did after the Red Dragon rescues him and before they face off against the Red Dragon. Her arc is realizing how dark Hannibal’s darkness goes, stepping away from it and setting down boundaries in turn forcing him to leave her.

Francis Dolarhyde/The Red Dragon – This guy is the best of the serial killer antagonists. He is sympathetic as he protects his blind girlfriend from himself faking his own death so she won’t have to deal with the Dragon and even giving Hannibal and Will a fighting chance before together they finally take him down as he finally becomes the Red Dragon as he ends the Angel of Darkness (Hannibal) and Light (Will) and in turns dies and becomes the Dragon as he chose death on his own terms. It’s horrifying to think about and shows just how well this character was handled. I didn’t care about this guy at all in “Red Dragon.”

Hannibal – Hannibal is a fascinating character as his arc is becoming more like Will as he saves Will’s life from Mason Verger after trying to kill him on multiple occasions as he and Will’s co-dependence leads them to destruction. He loves Will and from it hurts him as Hannibal is someone who never knew love because of the Nazi guard having him eat and kill his sister. This leads to Hannibal dealing by embracing delusion where he is always in control but it is built on a lie as he denies the humanity of others and in doing denies the humanity in himself that is always reaching out to Will and in some ways to stop (he stops killing for a while in Italy), showing there is some good in this broken monster. Mad Mikkelson might be the best Hannibal.

Will Graham – Will is awesome! He is the hero whose very ability to empathize with others makes him realize how deep his shadow goes. This show is about exploring Will Graham’s shadow as he realizes how similar he is to Hannibal in both his otherness in how people can’t relate to him and his need to hunt and stop killers in the same way Hannibal hunts victims (not eating them of course). This leads to his final choice as he realizes his self-destructive love for Hannibal will only lead to ruin as Hannibal is already ruin to all those around him and from there he makes the last noble choice to end them both. Hugh Dancy is awesome.

Good, Bad and Paradigms – Another theme is that of good and bad or good and evil. We are dealing with sociopaths and killers and the darker side of human nature is presented with different characters like Alana, Will and Hannibal attempting to upset the paradigm as we get the practical point of view of ends justifying the means through Jack Crawford, the surivalism of Alana Gram, the empathy and focus on the individual relationships of Will and the law of predators and prey with Hannibal.

The Shadow in People – The Shadow of people is another thing, with Dolarhyde and his becoming the Red Dragon that he is fighting to control, Will and his empathy and becoming the killers he is trying to avoid. Hannibal embraces his shadow making him the corrupting figure to those around him as he knows he is a sociopath and doesn’t care except in relationship to Will.

Empathy – Empathy is a theme of the show, for better and for worse. Will’s empathy leads to him being manipulated and Alana’s empathy leads to Hannibal using her. Empathy is shown to be dangerous but important as it is the only way people can truly relate and grow together. It is empathy for Will that shows that Hannibal is capable of being more than a monster with honor.

Love and Relationships – Love and relationships are a major theme. From Margot Verger and Alana Bloom escaping from their abusive ex-partners (Hannibal and Mason) and rising up as powerhouses and rulers of the Verger fortune…from Bedelia and Hannibal and Bedelia setting boundaries and surviving in the process, Jack and Bella with letting go, (which also happens with Will and Alana and them going from lovers to friends) and Hannibal and Will who become reflections of one another and is the only person Hannibal truly loves leading to their final suicide together as Will realizes that he could become Hannibal as he enjoys the rush of survival and the kill.

    The only con I could think of in this series is sometimes it gets too meditative rather than letting the action drive forward it will sit in a character’s head for a long period of time, which is fascinating but at the same at least in regards to Season 3, it held back the final confrontation between Crawford, Will and Hannibal and the Red Dragon Arc, which without a doubt was my favorite arc in the series and an excellent close to an amazing show. This is the kind of show that took it’s audience and story seriously and let them change and grow giving us character arcs and consequences to create one of the greatest and most beautiful shows on television.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 A nearly perfect show.

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