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Hannibal? More Like Vodka Crannibal! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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December 18th, 2013


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11:26 pm - Hannibal? More Like Vodka Crannibal!
Who could blame people for not expecting much from Hannibal? After all, the idea sprung from the production company as a way to keep the franchise alive; surely it would be a shitty show coasting on brand recognition for viewership. No one much liked the post-Silence of the Lambs movies anyway, so no one was asking for this television show. Yes, it was Bryan Fuller, but he's known for quirky humor, not exactly the person you'd think of to run a show about a cannibalistic serial killer. Then again, it was Bryan Fuller, and he's known for blackly comic portrayals of death.

Imagine everyone's surprise when it turned out Hannibal was FUCKING AMAZING.

Hannibal shows us Hannibal in his best days, when he was—as Fuller puts it—a practicing cannibal and a practicing psychiatrist. He has patients who come to him to discuss their problems, and then he probably eats the annoying ones. The show knows that we know who Hannibal Lecter really is, even though the characters don't, and it has way too much fun with the dramatic irony inherent in the premise. The characters only see the surface—the elegant, refined gourmand with a keen sense of style and presentation—and they trust his judgment, never hearing our screams of "HIS NAME RHYMES WITH CANNIBAL" and "THE [INSERT FOOD HERE] IS PEOPLE!" The show is so winky-winky about Hannibal's darker side that—even though we know it's coming—it actually comes as a shock when it becomes explicit. Mads Mikkelsen does not ape Anthony Hopkins's iconic performance at all, not only because it would be distracting but also because it would make no sense. Hopkins played Hannibal Lecter exposed, incarcerated—Mikkelsen is playing Hannibal concealed, free. He puts on his person suit and only we, the viewers, can see through the thin veneer of humanity he projects.

FBI profiler Will Graham, then, complements Hannibal. Whereas Hannibal has no empathy, Will has pure empathy, a fictional condition—with a scientific basis—that allows him to get inside of the minds of serial killers. Unfortunately, they get inside him a little too. In some of the most unsettling sequences in the show, we see Will reenact the murders, and it's sometimes hard to see where the killer ends and Will begins. "STOP KILLING PEOPLE WILL GRAHAM" became my constant refrain and—to my utter delight—it also became his character arc. Unlike Hannibal, who is confident in his identity and kills without abandon, Will Graham must battle his darker impulses for fear of turning into the very killers he hunts. Continuing the dramatic irony, Will seems creepier than Hannibal because he doesn't try to hide anything; his emotions are written all over his face. Hugh Dancy gives him a vulnerability that makes you want to give the poor guy a hug, but he also feels dangerous, always a step away from pulling the trigger at the wrong moment.

And I haven't even mentioned the authoritative Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne, who in one scene destroyed me completely with just his face), Will's boss/friend (like Will has any friends); the underused Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas, playing the complete opposite of Jaye Tyler), Will's colleague/friend (like Will has any friends); the mysterious Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson, icy cool), Hannibal's psychiatrist/friend (like Hannibal has any friends); the wily Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki, wonderfully amoral), a tabloid blogger and force of chaos; and the delightful members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, who provide much of the comic relief. There are no weak links on this show.

Beyond the fantastic cast, however, the show looks and sounds like nothing else on television. Although it may have the trappings of a procedural show, with a new serial killer every week, Fuller thinks of it as a horror show, and the mood and atmosphere reflect that. With Breaking Bad off the air, Hannibal will become the most cinematographically interesting show on the air. Not only does Will's headspace allow for dreamlike, nightmarish visions but also the shot composition in general has a sense of aesthetics, from the intricately arranged food to the gruesome but beautiful tableaux of corpses. The music—the entire sound design—is designed to creep you the fuck out; composer Brian Reitzell strives to create new sounds, sounds you've never heard before so that they exist as aural wallpaper. But he also uses classical music when appropriate, a symbol of Hannibal's refined tastes.

Hannibal makes all my neurons fire on OH FUCK. For 43 minutes my whole body is OH FUCK. It examines mortality and death and killing, why we do it, what makes a person do it, what it means for a person's identity and sense of self to take a life, whether killing makes one a killer, whether helping kill makes one a killer. It looks at human connections, what keeps us apart and brings us together. It asks what makes a monster like Hannibal Lecter do the things he does and what keeps Will Graham from becoming a monster like him.

It's visually and aurally stunning. It's gorgeous and gory. It's unnerving and brutal. It's far, far too good for network TV. The first season, though not without its flaws, is exquisitely constructed, with such narrative density and character mirroring and parallels. It's an absolute marvel how all the themes and symbols and recurring images and lines come together in the end. Bryan Fuller is a goddamn genius, and I am ready for a second helping.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Current Music: Snow Patrol - Gleaming Auction

(8 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:beeker121
Date:December 19th, 2013 02:04 pm (UTC)
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I think it's the most beautiful show on TV. But when you say that people tend to get weirded out. It's also a difficult show to recommend sometimes, because the subject matter is understandably not okay for some people.

What I found interesting is that there would be nights I'd have time to watch two episodes of something after work and after one Hannibal Jay and I would have to switch to something else because a second episode would have been overwhelming. There's so much to take in that it's almost the anti-marathoning show, at least for me at first view.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 19th, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
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I watched one episode a week (two this final week), but, yeah, other people have said the same thing.

And yet I want to just go back and rewatch the whole season right now.
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From:etherealclarity
Date:December 19th, 2013 05:00 pm (UTC)
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I'm finding it hard to summarize my feelings on this with anything but 'well said'. Yeah. Fantastic show, and fantastic summary.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 19th, 2013 05:07 pm (UTC)
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As usual, I don't think it turned out as well as I imagined, and there's so much I didn't even talk about! There's just so much about this show that's fantastic, and I was already more spoilery than I usually am with this one.
[User Picture]
From:etherealclarity
Date:December 19th, 2013 05:08 pm (UTC)
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I think it turned out great, personally! And you didn't spoil TOO much.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 19th, 2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
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Aaargh I totally forgot to mention the part where the show makes two-person conversations as fucking intense and suspenseful as any action scene. And how the language is so fucking poetic. And aargh there's so much.
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From:random_yayness
Date:December 20th, 2013 01:03 pm (UTC)
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I absolutely applaud and agree with all your thoughts about this show, especially the visual and aural beauty of it all. The atmosphere is so rich and gorgeous, I'd want to wallow in it if it weren't so disturbing. ♥

But I do have a slight nitpick? :\

As someone on the Autism spectrum, blanket statements really leap out at me and trip up my brain. Here, you said No one much liked the post-Silence of the Lambs movies anyway, so no one was asking for this television show. Hannibal was actually my favorite book and movie of the series and I was SO EXCITED when I heard a TV show was coming. Now, I do understand hyperbole, and tend to use it myself, and this isn't a major thing, but since I've noticed you using similar language in other places in the past, I just thought I'd speak up and let you know that some non-neurotypical people get stuck on statements like that and can take them literally.

I hope you don't take that personally or anything. /o\ It's just a personal button, as well as the fact that I was just SUCH A HANNIBAL FANGIRL for a while and it's kind of important to me that it not get totally written off in history like nobody at all cared about the original canon outside of Silence of the Lambs. Thanks for listening. :)

(this is UnstrungZero/TheRaqSays from MDS, btw.)
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:December 21st, 2013 04:32 pm (UTC)
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I had forgotten I was intending to watch this!

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