“Occasionally, I drop a teacup to shatter on the floor on purpose. I’m not satisfied when it doesn’t gather itself up again. Someday, perhaps, that cup will come together.” – Hannibal
As I mentioned in Part 1, Mads Mikkelsen can fill Hannibal’s shoes. He epitomizes the intellectual cannibal; his performance, like his wardrobe, is impeccable. Hugh Dancy is the new Will Graham, his boss Jack Crawford is played by Laurence Fishburne, and this time around, Freddy Loundes is played by Lara Jean Chorostecki. And while I enjoyed the newly stylized first season of Hannibal, after a sub-par second season, I wondered if they could repair the shattered series and come together in the third and—as it stands—last season?
The first season takes place prior to The Red Dragon. Crawford asks Graham to help him with the investigation of a series of missing college girls, who may be the victims of a serial killer called the Chesapeake Ripper. As always, Graham has the ability to empathize with serial killers, especially ones with a God Complex, unraveling their brutal crimes, or what he calls, “Designs.”
Contrary to the other films, when Graham does step into the shoes of the killer, a pendulum sweeps across the screen, jumping him back in time so that he can watch a projection of the crime unfold. It’s a clever way of showing rather than telling, Will’s capabilities. The show never ceases with these fascinating visuals. Be it the crime scenes—artworks in their own right—or the way Hannibal prepares his victims. Even though I’m aware of what he’s cooking and serving to his unaware dinner guests, I’ll be damned if don’t want join in.
The relationship between Hannibal & Graham begins when Hannibal observes the way Will investigates the crime scenes. The tension for the season stems from Hannibal’s fascination with Will and Will’s ignorance to what Hannibal is. The audience knows what Hannibal’s capable of, only it plays out in such a way that you’re always uncertain how Hannibal will manipulate all the characters to achieve his goals.
One thing is certain though: If he finds you to be of no use, he’ll put you to use as an appetizer at one of his parties—This is his design. By the end of the first season Hannibal frames Will Graham for murder, and Graham is left to don the facemask made famous by Hopkins.
Unfortunately, the second season dropped the beautiful cup that first season laboured to craft. I knew we were in trouble in the first episode: it starts off with a fight sequence between Hannibal and Crawford, ending with Crawford bleeding to death in Hannibal’s locked pantry. Flashback twelve weeks earlier and the second season actually begins. It would be far better to let the audience gradually follow Crawford, Graham and the rest as the truth about Hannibal is revealed.
The acting is still excellent, but the story falls apart. It becomes convoluted with constant Psych sessions; I assume the writers figure they need these sessions so that the ongoing story and characters motivations can be explained to the viewers. Also you have far too many sub-plots. To top it off the season finally ends up with the main characters, being eviscerated by Hannibal, leading us to believe everyone is dead. Then Hannibal flies off to Europe with his psychiatrist and main squeeze, Bedilia—we may need more sessions to explain this shit. At that point I lost interest in the series. I thought Okay, the series’ is being canceled; the creative team has pulled out the stops and let loose.
Season three tries heavily to piece the cup back together. It begins with an explanation of how all the main characters survived. I suspended my belief because I got sucked back by Mikkelsens performance. He could read the phonebook and I’d probably find the performance mesmerizing. After a few episodes centred around the aforementioned Verger story, the glue seams to be holding.
Mid season it shifts to three years later. Graham has recovered from his physical and mental wounds and is now living a peaceful life with a new wife, her son and his trusty pack of dogs. Graham’s brought out of retirement to capture a new killer labeled the Tooth Fairy—the Red Dragon. The killer is wiping out entire families on full moon cycles, so Graham and Crawford have a limited time to solve who he is before the next victims.
They returned to their roots and it works. There are a few shifts from the story: Chilton subs in for Lounds in the wheelchair scene—poor guy. In the first season he had is organs removed and replaced. In the second season he got shot in the face. In season three, he loses his lips and is set on fire. And somehow, after all of that, he’s still kicking.
Some of the sequences that we’ve seen before are made all the more brilliant. When Dolarhyde takes his girlfriend Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley) to see the tranquilized Tiger in a vet’s office, the animal seems to emanate a neon glow—invoking a more obvious reference than the other films to the power balance between that of the Tiger and the Dragon. The scene also serves to frame Reba as The Woman Clothed in Sun; the light to Dolarhyde’s darkness.
The ending is quite different from the book and both movie versions. Graham and Crawford hatch a plan to use Hannibal as bait in order to capture Dolarhyde. Problem with this plan is that it fails miserably; several police officers perish when Dolarhyde aids in Hannibal’s escape and at the end of it he doesn’t bother to kill Will or help Hannibal—it’s makes no sense.
Conveniently, Hannibal and Graham end up at a cliff house. They both look over the cliff at the Atlantic coast. Hannibal remarks about the erosion of the cliff, than they go in the house where Hannibal pours two glasses of wine. Suddenly, the semi romantic moment is shattered when a bullet slams through the glass sliding doors and into Hannibal’s side blowing the wine bottle apart. A wonderfully choreographed fight ensues between the three men. Dolarhyde is a tough kill, but eventually the two triumph. As blood spills out around Dolarhyde, both Will and Hannibal embrace.
Then Will pulls Hannibal with him over the cliff edge. Obviously, it harkens to Sherlock Holmes, but this scene goes even farther back in literature. Many of Blake’s works, including the painting of the Red Dragon are based on the book of revelations. And funnily enough, the devil’s defeated temporarily in Revelations 20:3 when an “angel [throws] him into the bottomless pit.” It’s likely that Will is our ‘angel,’ saving the world from the devilish Hannibal. It’s up to the audience as to whether Will’s pretending to love Hannibal in order to go in for the kill, or whether there’s a cosmic bromance between them akin to that of the Tiger and the Dragon.
After the credits roll, one final scene plays out: Bedelia sits at a dinner table with a delectable roast on top. The shot moves across the table to reveal that the roast is a human leg. Then a slow pan reveals her stump; The ultimate sacrifice for love. But is Hannibal sitting at the table? My guess would be yes. Because one can’t kill Hannibal, or Will for that matter, at least not what they represent. This fitting end redeems the series as the last ceramic shard needed to reassemble the cup.