The Horror Honeys: Embrace the Madness...

Embrace the Madness...

A Revenge Honey Love Letter to Hannibal (2013-)

The charismatic serial killer: the character has been a part of horror popular culture for as long as writers have been writing and filmmakers have been filming. But the charismatic cannibal? This particularly unique breed of villain came to the horror community courtesy of novelist Thomas Harris and his charming psychopath, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Harris’s words may have brought Lecter to life, but it was Anthony Hopkins’s performance in The Silence of the Lambs that truly introduced audiences to the disarming magnetism of a manipulative maniac… who ate human flesh. He was brutal and terrifying and yet, you couldn’t take your eyes off of him for even one second. Very few villains in the history of horror had ever been as beautifully crafted or acted as Hannibal Lecter.

When NBC announced that Bryan Fuller would be adapting a series based on Hannibal Lecter’s relationship with FBI profiler Will Graham, devotees of Hopkins’s performance were skeptical. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen was cast as Lecter, and because the majority of viewers didn’t know much of Mikkelsen beyond his role in the villain in Casino Royale, he came with the benefit of a blank slate. Additionally, Bryan Fuller had a history of spearheading gorgeously crafted but entirely under-appreciated series in the past, such as Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and Wonderfalls. With Laurence Fishburne signed on as an FBI agent, the credentials behind the aptly named Hannibal were stellar. The only remaining question was whether or not it could live up to the fan’s expectations.

As Hannibal premiered in 2013, expectations were not only met, but exceeded. While horror television was thriving across cable networks like FX, HBO, and AMC, it seemed highly unlikely that a basic cable network such as NBC could run with the big boys when compared by necessary violence and effective visuals, however it proved itself almost immediately. Fuller's unique eye for the beautiful and disturbing side of human existence lent itself perfectly to the worlds of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. As the unlikely duo investigated a series of possibly related serial slayings, the ante was upped each episode in terms of the surrealist images of death. They were haunting, and horrifying, and yet it was absolutely impossible to look away. On Hannibal, death is utterly intoxicating to both killer and savior, and Fuller counts on his viewer's inability to put down the bottle as well.

But the visuals of Hannibal are not the only thing that have set it apart from other examples of horror television since its first episode. It's certainly not as if fans of Hannibal aren't acutely aware of where this series is headed. And yet each episode is so succinctly and expertly written, that even the more mundane moments, such as the good doctor crafting a meal, are completely fraught with tension. When Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter are playing their bloody game of cat and mouse, no one is safe, even characters you've grown to love. The Walking Dead may be known for killing off characters with impunity, but Hannibal is just as guilty of pulling the rug out from under beloved characters... and having a bear trap waiting for them when they fall.

Don't even pretend that won't haunt your dreams now...
The performances in Hannibal are equally as evocative as the visuals and writing. Hugh Dancy as the kinetic Will Graham and Mikelssen as cool as a cucumber Lecter are the perfect foils for one another, playing off the other's traits with total precision. The supporting cast, who are just as pivotal episode to episode as our main players, is just as exceptional. My personal favorites are Fishburne, Raúl Esparza as Dr. Frederick Chilton, and Caroline Dhavernas as Dr. Alana Bloom, but each is brilliant in their role. Guest stars as varied as Amanda Plummer, Eddie Izzard, and Gina Torres add hints of menace, danger, & sadness to their respective episodes. There isn't a misstep in the performances on Hannibal.

However, to love Hannibal is definitely to be a sort of masochist. Week after week, you subject yourself to the kind of utterly horrifying visions of death that generally only exist inside the mind of a madman, or Stephen King. (Same difference?) But we keep coming back, because whether or not we want to admit it to ourselves, we are all slightly envious of the life of Hannibal Lecter. He is brilliant, and cunning, and wears more masks than even he is probably aware of. He lives a life outside of the norm, doing strictly as he pleases, and getting away with it time and again, with only the occasional attempt on his life. His charm is undeniable and his skill as a doctor is unmatched. This is why we love him and maybe, just a little, wonder what it would be like to live in his skin for a day. Hannibal Lecter is the ultimate villain, because even when we fear him, we are rooting for him.

But I still would like to see Will stab him with an antler at some point.