Why Aren't You Watching The Most Brilliant Show On Television?
I am back once again to talk about HANNIBAL. Yes, I realize that most of you do not – and most likely will not – watch this show, no matter how much I gush about its brilliance. I have been unsuccessful in converting most of my personal friends into watching the show, let alone those strangers who might happen to read my blog. Be that as it may, I will not stop trying. You see, HANNIBAL is a show unlike any show that has ever aired. It is a creature as unique in television programming as the platypus is to the animal kingdom. While one could say that the show borrows its format for the police/detective procedural, that assertion would be as inaccurate as it is accurate. HANNIBAL is no more a procedural than a gardenia is the loam from which it springs, and yet the flower cannot exist without the soil. The procedural can be immediately recognized on the show’s surface, because the extent with familiarity ends there.HANNIBAL is a nightmare come to life, but not just any bad dream. This is a very particular phantasm, a profiler’s unending bad LSD trip – specifically the dark fantasy of what was once known as an “alienist”, and –in this case – a particularly intelligent and perceptive one. It is by no accident that this profiler’s quarry is at least as intelligent as the profiler himself… or perhaps it is the profiler who is the hunted? Those lines are constantly being blurred and redrawn, several times per episode, sometimes presenting profiler Will Graham as the cat and sometimes the mouse to Hannibal Lecter’s cannibalistic serial killer (although this season finds poor Will Graham to be predominantly the mouse). Theirs may well be the most complex relationship ever presented on television. These two do not simply play the role of antagonist to the other. In some strange ways these two rely upon and even need their doppelganger, although it is only Dr. Lecter who has admitted as much to himself. This season finds Will Graham imprisoned in the Baltimore Institute for the Criminally Insane and standing trial for crimes committed by Hannibal Lecter. The psychotically ingenious doctor has very effectively framed Graham, and elaborately created circumstances which have even Will doubting his own innocence. However, Lecter is not content to merely sit back and allow Graham to be convicted; he constantly subverts the investigation, interrupts the trial (in nightmarish ways that you cannot even begin to fathom), and purposely creates doubt by tampering with evidence… to what end? That is the compelling mystery of HANNIBAL; what are Lecter’s motives? What is his end-game? Could it be that Hannibal wants nothing more than to “break” Will Graham in mind and spirit? It is obvious that Hannibal considers Graham to be his only intellectual equal, so perhaps he has some personal need to utterly decimate Graham’s psyche or to drive him into complete and unconditional submission so that Lecter is the only one left standing. Even that seems too simplistic for this complex narrative; Lecter does seem to literally “need” Will Graham, or at least believes that he does; and although after this experience it would seem that Graham could easily dispatch Dr. Lecter if the opportunity arose, something tells me it wouldn’t be so easy for Graham to follow through on that impulse. Will Graham’s trial that is currently the primary driver behind the narrative is fascinating. I cannot help thinking that this is the kind of storyline that I would not expect to see until at least the third or fourth season. The finality of a trial, whatever the outcome, will leave behind a milestone that cannot be revisited. Although this may not be the final season of the show (I sincerely hope it is not, but ratings have been poor), the resolution of this trial will bring about an inevitable change in Graham and Lecter’s relationship, and I am dying to learn what that change will be and how it will affect the series’ narrative. One thing is certain – although neither Lecter nor Graham has revealed their true nature to anyone else, they know each other deeper than anyone else; their cards are on the proverbial table. So here is the part where I – once again – implore you to give this show a chance before it is gone forever. The show has some significant “issues” which will forever prevent it from gaining a large viewership. It is shockingly graphic in its depiction of violence. That kind of thing has never been an issue for one such as myself that grew up on a steady diet of horror films, but it certainly can be for many who have a weaker constitution or who are more sensitive to fictionalized violence. Some people have commented that they find it hard to relate to any of the characters, particularly the lead character of Will Graham. Again, I can understand that. Graham is a very complex character who, as I mentioned before, tends to be very closed off and doesn’t let anyone into his headspace. However, I have never had a problem feeling sympathy for Will Graham. I love the unique nature of his character, and feel for his plight. I should also add that while the show can be very cold and clinical in its approach much of the time, there are moments of great pathos. One recent scene comes to mind between Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and his wife (Firefly’s Gina Torres) who is dying of lung cancer, where she forces her husband to come to terms with the fact that he cannot change her fate. It is a very quiet and tender moment, beautifully acted and shot. Finally, there is one thing that stands in the way of HANNIBAL ever being a “hit” show, and that is the level of intelligence in the writing, and the fact that the writers respect their audience enough to “get it” and to not spoon feed every detail. I am an attentive viewer, and I like to think that I am a reasonably intelligent fellow. Even I – at many times – am confused by what is going on in this show; but eventually most of my questions are answered. If they are not, then those questions are likely not intended to have answers… at least not at this point in the story. I am able to comprehend enough of the details (sometimes not until the episode has ended) to track most of the plotlines, and am content to chalk up the remainder to the “mystery” which is HANNIBAL.
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