Reviews: Hannibal

When hypocrisy taints brilliance

I loved Hannibal. A good friend of mine introduced the series to me a few years ago and I was hooked. Also kinda creeped out, not for the obvious reasons but rather because I thought that if I ever got to direct a TV series it would be 99% in the same style. As a matter of fact, after How I Met Your Mother ended, I parodied the ending on my (now defunct) Tumblog, referring to the Ďfirst natureí scene from The Silence of the Lambs; the next episode referenced that exact scene and I got seriously creeped out.

The cinematography is brilliant. The writing is tight. The music is haunting and beautiful. Everything about the artistic side of the show is amazing.

But the thing is, aside from minor Seasonal Rot (Hannibalís senseless babbling shtick was stretched thin, and the Mind Screw got toned down too much for me), there was a particular blemish that made me feel really mad at Fuller and disappointed with his work was that the insanely hypocritical stance he took when making this show.

Spoilers ahead.

Fuller proudly proclaimed that he would not use rape on his show, feeling it to be exploitative (cf. Game of Thrones). He got rousing cheers for that. I was mostly happy about it: although I figured it could theoretically be handled delicately and with a sense of nuance, it was good that he explicitly wanted to avoid exploiting such trauma.

Then, in season 3, Will got sexually assaulted by Freddie Lounds, who took a picture of him naked under the hospital covers, and told Will he should thank her for using a big censor for his genitalia. In the original novel and the film adaptations Will almost assaults her male counterpart for less, and he gets some serious comeuppance; in the series, Freddie gets away scot free.

Worse: after three seasons worth of gaslighting Will and abusing him physically and emotionally, Will and Hannibal become an item. After the special brand of hell Hannibal put Will through, Hannibal, who never so much as hinted at reforming, finally nabs his (married!) abuse victim.

I didnít realise it at first. I figured Will actually pushed him over the cliff to kill him. But apparently theyíre an item, and it sickens me. Itís as if Kilgrave got back with Jessica Jones (actually, itís exactly like that).

But that alone I could somehow let slide—not like thereís a shortage of Unfortunate Implications out there, I mean, Literature/Twilight is a thing, after all. But itís the hypocrisy that gets me. Fuller openly condemned rape and earned lots of points with fans, but then featured a man getting sexually assaulted and getting with his abuser, and... nobody panics.

It felt like Fuller threw away his principles for some quick-and-easy Author Appeal, and I hope season 4 fixes it. Meanwhile, I donít feel comfortable grading this work.

Devilish Delight

If you've got a strong stomach - and are comfortable with some pretty dark material - then this is a show you're not going to want to miss out on.

The visuals and cinematography are absolutely amazing (seriously, this might be one of the most beautifully shot television shows I've ever seen), and the acting is magnificent on all cylinders. Mikkelsen, Dancy, Fishburne, and Dhavernas paint character portraits that are equal parts compelling and disturbing. And for those who are fans of the Harris mythos, you're in for an additional treat: Bryan Fuller and his team clearly know what they're doing with these stories. Everything is filled with references and subversions of the original novels, but it's all fresh enough that newcomers still find plenty to enjoy.

The only real critique I have of Hannibal is that it can sometimes have a tendency to stray into the realm of melodrama. This is especially clear in the dialogue, which can be a bit angsty and over the top. But when weighed against all of the other amazing things this show's got going for it, that's not much of a detracting point.

Lastly, this series is chock-full of all kinds of motifs and symbols which only deepen the re-watching value. It's the kind of thing that tropers go a bit nuts for, and it's what I fell for pretty much right away. This is not your average 'murder of the week' show, although it might start off that way. It's not formulaic, and it will surprise you in the best (or maybe the worst) ways.