The Only Show that Makes Eating People Seem Delicious
Martino Martinez (Contributor)
Hannibal is a psychological thriller TV show revolving around characters from Thomas Harris’s series of Hannibal Lecter novels and, dare I say, happens to also be the best adaptation of his work. Yes, that includes Silence of the Lambs. Allow me to explain.
As an enormous fan of his very first book, Red Dragon, I could easily see how hard it would be to properly portray protagonist Will Graham while still allowing the audience to sympathize. An FBI profiler with the ability to understand the minds of serial killers, Graham possesses an incredibly empathetic mind which allows him to understand the killers’ methods and motives. However, he is also constantly on the verge of collapsing, the empathy pushing him to commit the horrible murders he tries to
prevent. Deep down, he suffers from a lot of the same problems that the serial killers do.
Naturally, I was somewhat skeptical about the show’s ability to make us understand and, by extension, sympathize with Graham’s conflict. To my very pleasant surprise, the writers exceeded my expectations and have successfully crafted the best recent television series I have had the pleasure to watch. They perfectly represent Graham’s ability to empathize with the killer of the week in a way the cinematic adaptations have struggled with.
In those films, Graham awkwardly talks to himself when investigating a crime scene. A monologue works wonders in a novel, but less so in live-action. In Hannibal, we see Graham approach the site of a horribly gruesome murder, his eyes close as golden rings flash over the black screen and, once they are opened, he begins to narrate while we see the vicious murders take place in the form of flashbacks before us. The only difference being that Graham is the one seen performing those gory acts while he narrates the true murderer’s motive. This reinforces an important theme of the character; he is much like those he fights. All that separates him from them is that he did not give in to his deepest and darkest desires.
After we see him describing and performing each visceral deed, ranging from amputation to gauging of the eyes, he says “this is my design” with satisfaction in the same way a twisted serial killer would take pride in his “work”. Those haunting words are heard when the FBI profiler fully embraces the inner darkness he fights so hard to suppress in order to truly understand the murderers behind such crimes and stop them. And yet, we are still able to root for Graham because he is terrified and tormented by this evil he has hidden within himself.
I have yet to discuss the eponymous character, the shrewd Doctor Hannibal Lecter. Played to perfection by Mads Mikkelson, he is intelligent, manipulative, ruthless, and an excellent cook. Lecter is a cannibal and is often seen cooking what seems to be an excellent meal…until you remember the meat he’s preparing consists of people…gross.
That’s an important aspect of the show: Making icky stuff look beautiful. The bright red blood is seen flowing in majestic waves while elegant orchestra music is played in the background. The cinematography is so excellent that it actually makes a totem pole composed of human corpses seem artistic. However, the lighting and angles in the shots do much more than just illustrate gore. The shadows around Hannibal’s face will demonstrate his evil nature, for example. It’s all shot beautifully. All things considered, any fan of a good psychological thriller should watch Hannibal, as they’ll surely enjoy it.