I have watched a lot of TV shows over my short existence on this planet called Earth. Some good, some bad, but some, those rare, rare gems: phenomenal.
NBC’s “Hannibal” is everything TV should aspire to be. In some aspects, it is beyond the realm of cinematography, instead, existing in the elite world of literature. True, they were books first, but the even the books have not transcended to the level the show has. (In my amateur opinion)
With the amount of symbolism, foreshadowing, parallelism, and dramatic irony packed into this show, you could use this show in an English Lit class and write a ten page analysis paper. I would have definitely paid more attention in class if they had showed “Hannibal” instead of making us read The Catcher In The Rye. I could break down each episode and break down every layer of hidden meaning, but that will take forever, so I won’t (today). I’ll just continue my ranting praise of this show.
(Excuse me, sir, your face)
As an aspiring writer, I can’t help but to admire the depth this show contains. True, “Hannibal” has a small fanbase, but it is a very concentrated and passionate one for a reason. This show is smart, beyond smart even. It refuses to be dumb down by the normal conventions of television. Real terminology is used and complex psychological ideas come to play. Because of this, it can be a turn off for those who don’t like to think when they watch TV. There are no straight answers in “Hannibal”, only increasingly complex ideas building into a deafening crescendo of mindfuck (excuse my french).
(Ugh! The coloring! The detail!)
Before I go into a deeper analysis of “Hannibal” and break down everything, let me just give kudos to Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, and Laurence Fishburne for their fantastic acting. Let’s start with Mr. Mikkelsen. As a fan of Craig’s Bond, I recognized him as Le Chiffre right away. I didn’t pay him much attention back then and boy do I regret it now! Where do I even begin with his Hannibal? He is so controlled at all times. His every emotion is so subtle, from his anger to his amusement and yet, when he is angry, you are scared and when he is amused, you laugh. Mikkelsen commands the viewer’s undivided attention and somehow makes use fall in love with a cold-blooded serial killing cannibal. Hugh Dancy as Will has his own charm. Will always seems on the edge of breaking and Dancy manages to pull off the internal pain and conflict without over doing it. He portrays Will’s social ineptitude through nervous tics and elusive eye contact and quite a contrary demeanor. Which is an interesting point, actually. Will is, for the lack of a better word, cranky. He’s cranky and defensive and has a creepy ability to think like murderers. And yet, here we are sympathizing with someone who will more likely bite our hand off than let us help him. It’s weird to remember him as Prince Char from Ella Enchanted sometimes. Then, Fishburne as Agent Crawford. There is a complex love/hate relationship with him. That’s a delicate balance being played. Play him too mean and Crawford becomes the enemy. Too nice and the authority is gone. Fishburne finds the balance and we as the viewers are split between hating him for how he treats Will and sympathizing with his current struggles.
(Look at my babies!)
Now, back to the show itself. “Hannibal” raises questions about morals, many we’d rather not think about. What does it really mean to be right and wrong? Often times morality falls in a gray area and it is in the same area the “Hannibal” operates in. We say it is wrong to kill, but is it wrong if that person was bad? It’s wrong to feel good about killing someone, but what if you saved someone’s life because of that. Is it still wrong? Well? There are no answers, but as I watch I can’t help but feel my opinions waver and that is perhaps what attracts me to “Hannibal” the most, the blatant manipulation of the viewers.
(Look at you, so smug…it’s because you just ate people, isn’t it)
Shows are meant to entertain viewers, but I’ve rarely seen one so aware of its audience. Everything, literally everything, is a performance for the viewers. From the music to the coloring to the little cannibalistic puns Hannibal can’t seem to stop himself from saying, they are all for the viewers. We see Hannibal manipulating Will, Jack, Abigail, Alana, pulling the strings like a puppet master and we watch so closely, we miss the way he manipulates us. Hannibal charms us with his perfect suits, fantastic cooking skills, and love for all the finer things. He whispers into our ear with his exotically dark accent, makes us laugh, and makes us forget the horror we are actually watching. He makes his puns because he knows we are watching and listening.
(Again with your face!)
Then there is the show itself. The cinematography is simply breathtaking. Each shot is carefully composed to invoke a sense of emotion from us. The coloring is simultaneously beautiful and uncomfortable. As a friend pointed, there is an abundance of yellow, a color that reminds us of sickness and decay. Most of the other colors are muted or dark, carrying a sense of dread. However, the thing that I notice the most is that red is always so vivid. It’s the repetition of blood, blood, blood in our subconscious.
(seriously, that is really red)
What is most beautiful in the show is what is most horrific. Unarguably, Hannibal is the most beautifully dressed of all the characters and yet he is the monster we hide from at night. The murders are visually stunning and orchestrated so that our apprehension and discomfort is overshadow by our need to appreciate beauty. What comes to mind is Oeuf where the victims’ homes were so intricately detailed. Then there was Fromage where the gesture was breathtakingly grand. Perhaps the most obvious example is the food. Each dish is an extravagant display of color and texture and god do I want a taste every time I see it. But underneath the beauty of the food is the truth that everything is made from human. Still, there is the moment when you forget and your mouth waters.
(Check out the food stylist’s blog because she is AMAZING)
I am going to stop here on my rant now. I’m sure I have more to say, but I’ve exhausted myself with all this fangirling. I don’t meta much, but something about “Hannibal” just makes me want to break apart and analyze every single moment of the shows. And even then I’ve probably missed something. I could also go on and on about its black humor, but I won’t. So, if you have nothing to do and aren’t afraid of a bit of gore (considering, it’s not really that bad. It’s just different from the gore you would normally see) I would definitely recommend watching Hannibal. Go do it and love it as much as I do! (Or I will judge you…jk…no but really…)