By Adam Sturrock
Adapted: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
Developed by: Bryan Fuller
Cast: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Laurence Fishburne
Number of episodes: 13
The second season of Hannibal is insane, grotesque, charming, thoughtful and bloody brilliant.
As I write to you in this current state of shock, the magnitude of the emotional impact imprinted on me has left me a husk of my former self. The creator of the show, Bryan Fuller may as well pat himself on the back for creating such a daring and stylized interpretation of what is one of the most recognizable anti-heroes; Hannibal Lecter.
The initial idea of Dr Hannibal Lecter is one that is ambiguous. A cannibal that eats his murder victims suggests an image of a ravenous, unhinged monster but this is an antithesis to the person on screen; a suited, softly spoken gentleman. It is almost laughable to suggest that such a man could cause such barbarous acts. In contrast to the screen version of Hannibal (largely portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins), there is a methodical calmness to Lecter that is only seen by Mikkelsen. His motives for murder do not reside in random acts of callous bloodshed, but for the somewhat humorous reason that his victims were rude. Due to Mads’ excellent portrayal of the aforementioned cannibal, it is often hard to believe that he is as callous as suggested, thus magnifying the impact of his acts.
While HL may be the star of the show, the real intrigue and attachment revolves around his psychiatric patient, Will Graham (Dancy). Throughout the second series, it seems to be a constant manipulative battle between the master and his squire; a duel of one-up-man-ship. Following on from the previous events of season one, Will is accused of many murders that he cannot recall doing, but with every piece of evidence pointing at him, we as an audience struggle to grasp on to his innocence. It really is a herald to the writing by Bryan Fuller that every character that we meet is hard to trust completely but also has notes of empathy. The element of sanity hangs over everything that Will does, when he stirs the water with accusations it can be hard to judge the falsity in it considering he is in a mental institution.
I often felt that the general tone and filmography should also be applauded, with a very dark, gothic atmosphere that is consistent throughout. Quite frequently I felt repulsed and drawn in by the gore, but it is often counter-measured by deathly black humour. This is isn’t a show for those with a weak stomach. Many broadcasters may feel uneasy about airing shows like these that showcase scenes of rotting corpses, self mutilating millionaires and labotomized bumble bee husks, but they were never used gratuitously. Often the graphic moments were used to propel the story and provoke a reaction rather than to callously sicken the viewer.
We seem to forget often that even though we focus on the murders and the victims on the show, this is a story about psychology at its heart. What made the Breaking Bad series so great, arguably, was that we watched a transition in the characters and a change in allegiance after noticing their changes. When you watch the little transformations in the characters we start to question how far we as a viewer can support the protagonist’s actions. Will Graham provides that in spades. Hugh Dancy as Will seems to add more nuanced additions to his personality in every episode, but for a while we don’t notice them in our naivety. While with Hannibal, we always seem to suspect the worst, it seems that we only notice the devious, dark side of Will at the end. While the supporting cast of Fishbourne and Dhavernas are largely there to poke holes in the many theories, it is also the meat and potatoes of the plot with large sections dedicated to a cat and mouse game of who dunnit?! The audience’s undying loyalty to the main character is often put to the test but I often felt as baffled as the investigators when it came to deciding who I felt was guilty. Even when we are practically the third man in the room with the characters, we are mostly left to helplessly wait for one to slip in the cautious Mexican standoff.
All in all, if you are a fan of the books or the films or just want something new to get into, this is the show. The first series took its time to get into a rhythm, but its predecessor surely makes up for it and then some. Roll on series three.
What did you guys think? Let me know in the comment section below.