As all the Fannibals here in America revel in hearing that the show is finally heading to Netflix (June 5th!), I decided to sit down and write about what it was that made this show so amazing to me. What was it about Hannibal that kept drawing me, as well as others, back to it? That even 5 years after it was canceled, the devotion for the show has never wavered, only increased, and created a hopeful fandom revival, not dissimilar to what happened with Firefly? I have watched this show way more times then I should admit to, but there is just so much to love. I guess I should start with the obvious, then.
If you do not know anything about everyone’s favorite cannibal, have no fear. I have not read Thomas Harris’ books since High School (circa ’06-’07), but even with no knowledge of backstory for the characters, this show is built as an introduction to Hannibal Lecter. From what I have heard from die hard Harris’ circles, though, this show takes elements of the books just briefly mentioned and expands or embellishes them. Yes, this is not an exact literal adaption but, with a Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score of 94%, I think it is safe to assume they know what they are doing. Anyone can jump into this world that is full of dark splendor and murder.
On the note of splendor lets talk about the cinematography. Each episode plays out like an arthouse film and I for one cannot get enough. There is never a time when I am watching Hannibal where I am bored of what is being shown to me on screen. Despite the gore and themes that play out every shot enhances the story in a colorful banquet of imagery. I cannot stress enough how the editing compliments the show in such a way that it plays out in a dream-like quality that draws you in and never lets go.
The writing is also another aspect that takes Hannibal to another level. Every conversation has at least three to four different meanings and is never just straight forward, but in a good way. You must pay attention to what is being said because it might relate to something that will play out later or is a call back in the most poetic of ways. The verbal ping pong between Hannibal and Will Graham is Shakespearean in a manner that is not overdone or mishandled. You can see that everyone who worked on the show loved what they were creating, and that love plays out on screen.
There is just so much I can keep going on about the wonderful aspects of this show. When I considered which I was going to stand behind as the main reason why I believed Hannibal was so amazing I realized, I had too many options. Was it just the cinematography? The acting? writing? No, there was something more. So, I went and did what any person looking for truth does. I re-watched the first episode. BOOM! Knife to the gut (wink,) it hits me. When Will Graham is giving his first lecture on screen he says something that resonated with me just as hard as it did the first time I had heard it.
This show puts us into the shoes of Will Graham, with whom we can all relate to, from a moral point of view. Will has what he thinks is a clear stance on what is good and evil but, due to his situation, we as the audience can see that he wars with these feelings. If you killed a murderer who was hurting others, does that make you evil? Now what if you enjoyed it? Could we make different choices if presented with the knowledge that hurting those who hurt others feels good?
We join Will while he slowly unravels whether he should embrace his darkness, something every human on this planet has or will experience in their lifetime. We have all internally debated on how far is too far and what justifies going to that place? What is our personal definition of Good versus Evil? And, is it something that can be changed regarding the situational requirements? Is it truly our own inherit belief? Or just something we have buried deep down due to fear of confronting taboo ideas that make us question our very reality?
Hannibal supports Will in his quest to embracing his true self, no matter what that might be, so that he could stop living under the shadow of fear that hangs over him for indulging. Taking out the idea of murder and Cannibalism this show brings up the question of total acceptance of oneself. Do we struggle in our daily lives by not being true to ourselves? And if so then what are those truths to us? At our core are we the evil society makes us to believe is one dimensional or we all just searching for a way to make sense of our personal struggles?
This for me is what makes Hannibal my favorite show and deserving of a continuation, not just as an adaption but as a phenomenal show that confronts morality. Very few shows have tackled these themes without coming off as trying to glorify them or underplaying the impact they have on the world. I can only think of two other shows that broach the same subjects with the same type of empathy that Hannibal does: Death Note and Dexter. But where Hannibal differs is that both of the main characters believe they are doing things for the right reasons. Hannibal, by getting rid of the rude, and Will by hunting down serial killers utilizing his empathy. The only difference between them is that Hannibal is sure in every decision he makes where Will is struggling to accept his own moral ambiguity.
The viewer is forced to confront these ideas along with Will and shows you that it is not always about Right or Wrong, Good versus Evil, or only two sides to one story. Morality and truth fall into a kaleidoscope scale as there is no one right way to find balance with both. If you thought you were really trying to help and save others how far would you go?
Every piece of this show is a woven tapestry that tells many stories. From the delicately crafted words, the bright colorful use of visuals, and it’s perfectly acted scenes. Everything is purposeful to the storyline as well as weighing it down with humanity in every nook and cranny. Hannibal is much more than just an adaptation of a well beloved literary character. It’s a show that has tapped into the literal vein of the human experience and placed us all as the fly on the wall.
It’s also apparent that not just the fans are hungry for more of the show as it’s main cast, as well as creator Bryan Fuller most importantly, have spoken out in positivity towards revisiting the show and continuing its world building. I’m sure that should the next season(s?) happen we would get to see an even more layers of humanity played with and shown in ways never seen before. I thoroughly await the return of one of the most human shows I have seen in a long time. Now, what’s for dinner?
Hannibal will dine at the Netflix table starting June 5th.