Category Archives: Serial Killers

Welcome to the Hotel… American Horror Story, Season 5 Premiere


Warning: Spoilers
Gory and Galore

images-2Though lots of critics, reviewers, and bloggers lambasted the premiere episode of FX’s American Horror Story: Hotel — the fifth installment of the anthology series written by Brad Falchuck and Ryan Murphy — calling it everything from “Garbage” (Vanity Fair) to “The Unbearable Excesses of Ryan Murphy” (Hollywood Prospectus), from “The Lady Gaga Show” (io9) to the Best Lady Gaga Video in Years,” (Gawker), the premiere episode of Hotel was a violent, intense, somewhat bizarre but fascinating mélange of a new horror story blended with allusions to famous horror films and to the past seasons of its own franchise.

From its first season, American Horror Story’s themes have been violence, rape, freaks, traps, plots, conspiracies, isolation, loneliness, misunderstanding, fear, regret, revenge, self-destruction, secrets, karmic punishment, and no escape.

american-horror-story-season-5-hotel-emmaIt doesn’t look like Hotel is going to be any different.

From the moment two Swedish tourists (sisters, I think) enter the hotel Cortez, tingles go up your spine. The carpet in the entry hallway —

images-7an homage to the hotel’s carpet in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining —

images-13might lead you to feel uneasy enough, but the fact that the hotel seems deserted might also make you more than a little nervous.


Because the ill-tempered manager Iris (Kathy Bates) refuses them a refund, the girls try to make the best of it. For one night only.


Iris shouts for “Liz Taylor” (Dennis O’Hare, in his most daring role to date), to lead the girls up to their room.images-2

Let’s throw in an allusion to that creepy, long-nailed Dracula hand sneaking up behind Jonathan Harker — from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula —


when one of the girls goes to the ice machine.


Then let’s have her sister freak out that the “room stinks,” identify the smell as coming from the mattress, which she cuts open,

images-3and have a screaming gimp pop out.

Whoa, Nellie.

We sure didn’t want to change the channel.

ahs-wes-bentleySwitch to a John Lowe (Wes Bentley), who is investigating a series of murders committed by The Ten Commandments Killer, who is called to a crime scene involving a couple.

“They’re married,” says Detective Lowe, “but not to each other.”

The woman, who is on top, has been spiked to the headboard of the bed through her hands. The man’s eyes and tongue have been cut out and left in the ashtray.

The police officer thinks the guy is saying, “Get me out of here.”

Lowe corrects him: “He’s saying, ‘Get me out of her’.”

His Viagra-enhanced genitals have been SuperGlued inside the woman.

Gross-ness to the max.

And also an allusion to Se7en, when the highly literate serial killer murders his victims according to the Seven Deadly Sins, and in appropriate fashion.

The ever reliable Sarah Paulson plays Sally, ahs-sarah-paulsona drug addict who once lured Iris’ son Donovan (Matt Bomer) into a room and an overdose, causing Iris to push her out the window, killing Sally.

After another drug addict (Max Greenfield, in a brief and horrifying role) checks in,

imageshe’s raped/sodomized by a disguised figure with a metallic strap-on. Sally kneels at the bedside, telling him that his screaming will only prolong the rape, and requesting that he tell her he loves her.

In answer to the other critics’ and bloggers’ objections to yet another prolonged, explicit, violent rape scene (male or female) in American Horror Story, rape does seem to be a bit of an obsession with one of these writers, if not both of them. Eric Thrum called the scene “sickening and pointless,” and I have to agree. The rapes scenes throughout the history of American Horror Story’s seasons do seem to be “another instance of TV shows using rape to lazily create shock.” The scenes never seem directly connected with any social, sexual power/submission, or political commentaries, or even integrally related to the plot (except perhaps in season one, where the character was pregnant from the rape, and the child wasn’t her husband’s, as she’d thought).

Maybe the problem with many of the rapes on TV, and especially with those in American Horror Story, is that I’ve gotten so used to them, they often have no effect on me. Perhaps it’s because they often involve disguises and costumes in this show, with the rapists/perpetrators being ghosts… I don’t know.

And coming from a fifteen-year-victim of incest-rape (father, step-father, and mother [with implements]), that’s saying something gruesome about television’s — and American Horror Story’s — portrayal of rape.

In an homage to The Hunger, starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon,

images-9Iris’ son Donovan (Matt Bomer)


is now the lover of  Elizabeth (Lady Gaga), also known as “The Countess,” who currently owns the Hotel, but has just, apparently, sold it.

ahs_502_0342d_hires2-e1444312140958Donovan and Elizabeth, engage in sexual activities with strangers as well as with each other,

images-4as do the characters in The Hunger,

images-7and also in blood-baths,

images-5as do the characters in The Hunger.images-11

Donovan and “Countess” Elizabeth (no doubt named after Countess Elizabeth Bathory [Erzsébet Báthory], one of the most prolific serial killers in history, who killed young virgins and bathed in their blood ostensibly to preserve her youth, and who is often compared to Vlad III the Impaler, on whom the fictional Count Dracula was partially based), are not only murdering, blood-drinking lovers, but they also seem to collect children,

images-5 like those who haunt Danny in The Shining,

images-14and which include the missing/kidnapped son of Detective Lowe and his wife Dr. Alex (Chloë Sevigny), whose marriage is suffering because of the loss of their son.


Hotel was scary, creepy, and spooky. It was filled with allusions not only to its past seasons’ stories, but also to horror films, serial killer films, and historic serial killers. My strong objections to the pointless and graphic rape scene are noted above. Besides that, American Horror Story: Hotel rocked with atmosphere, and not just because of the claustrophobic camera angles and close-ups, and not just because the song “Hotel California” played over the end-credits, leading us to believe that all the “guests” have become permanent residents, crossing the boundaries of time and now forever in each other’s paths, just as in the first season of the series. (Airs Wednesday nights at 10 ET on FX.)


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Filed under Actors, American Horror Story: Hotel, Movies/Television, Rape, Serial Killers, Violence

When the Betrayed becomes the Betrayer: NBC’s HANNIBAL, S3E3 “Secondo”


Warning: Spoilers & Graphic Images

Bedelia: Are you the betrayer or the betrayed?
Hannibal: I’m vague on those details.images-21

NBC’s Hannibal is glamorous, luxurious, elegant, violent, bloody, viciously cruel. What is it that makes this show so captivating? Multi-dimensional characters, brilliant dialogue, devastating plot, stunning special effects, and absolutely delish irony. Viewers were treated to all of this show’s best in last night’s episode “Secondo” (which some reviewers are listing as “Secundo”).

Castle Lecter

UnknownWill (Hugh Dancy), describing his gutting by Hannibal as being “left with a smiley face” on his abdomen, went to Hannibal’s ancestral home in Lithuania, which features prominently only in Thomas Harris’s novel Hannibal Rising, about Hannibal’s childhood trauma during World War II, the fate of his sister Mischa, and Hannibal’s “Becoming” as he hunts down the men who destroyed his family and looted their castle. It was appropriately gothic and haunting in last night’s episode.

images copyIn Lithuania, on the grounds of Castle Lecter, Will found an Asian woman named Chiyo (Tao Okamato), hunting in the forest for pheasant, viewing Will through the rifle’s sights, though she did not shoot at him. Later, we saw Chiyo caressing the carcass of the game-bird, plucking it, and preparing it for roasting (alternating, for the viewers, with scenes of Hannibal cutting the hand off a severed arm, and preparing it for roasting and dinner).images-1Chiyo claimed that Hannibal had left her there to guard a man responsible for the death of Hannibal’s little sister Mischa, whom he has already mentioned to Will. In a previous season, Will asked if Hannibal had ever been a father or if he’d ever had a child, or something to that effect, and Hannibal mentioned his sister Mischa. (Even those who have not read Hannibal Rising would have eventually figured out Mischa’s fate in last night’s episode, but I don’t want to spoil it for you yet.)

When Will showed his abdominal scar to Chiyo — it being the only scar he could reveal since the remainder of Will’s scars from Hannibal are psychological — she said, “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story.”

Despite this, Will did not deign to relate his story to Chiyo.

imagesWill found the man who was being guarded in a basement dungeon, being starved to death (which confused me about the show’s timeline, since this man was supposed to have hurt Mischa during World War II, and Will et al seem to be in the 1970s or 1980s: Hannibal certainly doesn’t seem to be in a contemporary time period, so I’m not sure when this show is set).

When Will accused Chiyo of keeping the man “like an animal,” Chiyo responded that she “wouldn’t do this to an animal.” Will released the man, gave him clothes, then took him into the woods, instructing him to run away.

He didn’t.

He returned to his dungeon cage.

But the door was unlocked. images-2So when Chiyo came down again to the dungeon, the imprisoned man, who was never named, leapt out and attacked her. She killed him, in self-defense it would seem.

But then the strangeness happened: Will became Hannibal by saying he’d wanted to see what Chiyo would do.

Wait: isn’t that something Hannibal would say?

And then Will made a weird angel-moth-fetish of the man and hung him from the ceiling.

Isn’t that something some of the other serial killers Will has been hunting in the previous season have done: making angels, totem-poles, etc out of victims?

Either Will has lost his mind, or he has, indeed, become Hannibal.

Will as Dr. Hannibal Graham

images-10There was another bizarre instance of Will behaving as Hannibal: the two are sitting (in Will’s or Hannibal’s imagination) as they used to during Will’s psycho-analysis, only Will is asking the questions of Hannibal. The question and answer scene was filmed or edited in some fancy-schmancy fashion that made it seem as if we were viewing them through shards of broken glass, fit back together in some imperfect puzzle.

It was beautifully symbolic, not only of how much of Hannibal has infiltrated Will’s personality, but of how much Will was already like Hannibal before Hannibal encouraged him to “Become” more like him.

The initial similarity between the two men, I assume, is what drew Hannibal to Will originally, and what is drawing Will to Hannibal now.

They do love each other — that much is obvious, and I don’t mean in a sexual way, though they could have erotic feelings of arousal without their love being sexual.

Perhaps Will and Hannibal love each other for the parts of themselves they see in the other one.

Now, the question is this: do Will and Hannibal love each other for the good they find in the other, or for the evil?

Bedelia: Gone Girl

images-14Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) is, like… wow… suddenly cray-cray über-confident in her relationship with Hannibal.

She’s really starting to scare me silly.

She initiates the conversation on being betrayed and on forgiveness, telling Hannibal, as if she’s still his psychotherapist and as if she still retains some of his respect or still has some authority over him, that it takes two to forgive: the betrayer and the betrayed.

Casually, while sipping wine, she asks which Hannibal is: the Betrayed or the Betrayer?

He tells her he’s vague on that.images copy 2Then Bedelia, who’s already killed one man herself  (the patient who attacked her) as we discovered in the flashback in “Antipasto” S3E1,

images-23become like Abigail (Kacey Rohl) after killing the brother of one of her father’s victims by asking Hannibal for help and protection afterward (becoming, in effect, like a slave or a voluntarily indentured servant for life),

images-12“participated” in another killing (this time in Florence, of Tony the poet, who was going to reveal that Hannibal and Bedelia were not Dr. and Mrs. Fell, as they are claiming to be),

images-24all the while knowing that Hannibal is still killing people and serving his victims to their dinners guests as food,

Unknown-2Bedelia then virtually taunted Hannibal, claiming she was confident that she could “navigate her way out of what she’s gotten herself into.”

With Hannibal.

With Hannibal.

Gone is the frightened, disoriented woman who begged Hannibal to protect her after she killed the patient who attacked her.

Gone is the girl who sat in the train station being “surveilled” just as she was being watched by Hannibal.

Gone is the terrified girl who was going to run away, who was running away, just as Hannibal opened the apartment door with Tony the Poet behind him.

Yes, that Bedelia seems to have vanished.

She’s gone.

This girl, she’s giving me the shivers.

The Hannibal & Bedelia Show

images-11Yes, some critics have expressed concern that Hannibal is becoming the Hannibal and Bedelia Show, but I find Bedelia’s relationship with Hannibal fascinating, even though I’m scared to death for her.  After inviting his nemesis Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco) for dinner, Hannibal stabbed him in the temple with an ice-pick.

Sogliato continued laughing and talking weirdly, though not really moving much. So he was alive after Hannibal skewered him.

That is, he was alive until Bedelia got up from the table and, annoyed by his incoherent gabbling about his not being able to see anything or his inane giggling, I suppose, yanked the ice-pick out of his temple, causing him to pitch forward, blood gushing from the wound, onto the dinner table.

She turned to Hannibal and said something like, “Now that’s two you’ve killed from the Palazzo Caponé.”

To which Hannibal responded, “For the record, technically, you killed him.”

images-6Bedelia knows that Hannibal kills and eats people. She doesn’t eat the people-entrées when they’re served to guests. Tony the poet commented on her “different diet.” That avoidance of eating Hannibal’s victims was shown again last night, while Bedelia was again eating oysters, which the guests were not being served, and Bedelia was clearly uneasy about the guests’ expressions and exclamations of pleasure over the food.

images-2Yet Bedelia was, in effect, scolding Hannibal after she yanked the ice-pick out of Sogliato?

I guess that means the girl never sleeps.

But then, when has Hannibal ever killed any his victims while they were sleeping?

Hannibal likes them to know he’s coming.

Apparently, so does Bedelia.


UnknownIn an ironically erotic scene, Hannibal was washing Bedelia’s hair while she was in the tub discussing little Mischa and her fate, letting viewers know that Bedelia knows all about Hannibal’s sister and what the Nazis (or pseudo-Nazis) did to her and his family during the War. This linking of sexual arousal and killing is exactly what real serial killers unconsciously do. The writers of Hannibal did it by linking the erotic nature of Hannibal’s washing Bedelia’s hair, camera focused continuously on the weaving and entangling of his long fingers through her hair, while she asked things about his past that involve murder and cannibalism.

Things like: “What happened to you in Lithuania?”

To which Hannibal replied, “Nothing happened to me. I happened.”

Then Bedelia, wicked little girl that she’s become, casually asked, “How did your sister taste when you ate her?”

Hannibal knelt there, motionless, his soapy hands and fingers mid-air, staring, as Cruella-Bedelia sank slowly — almost luxuriously — into the tub, rinsing her hair — and herself — clean of the filth of that question.

imagesThe teacup has once again been broken.

images-17Only this time, Bedelia and Will, in different scenes, are the ones who have knocked it from its secure place, both of them betraying and intentionally hurting Hannibal.

You’d think they’d know by now that the teacup, once shattered, cannot be put back together again.

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Hannibal Lurker: NBC’s HANNIBAL S3E2, “Primavera”


Warning: Bloody Spoilers
& Graphic Images

NUP_166105_0396.0.0After the glorious and sublime departure from the usual expectations of a show about serial killers in the premiere of NBC’s Hannibal season 3, “Antipasto,” the show took a curious and unpredictable U-turn into flashbacks that contained much that viewers already knew. Instead of moving the story forward in its new landscape of Florence, Italy, where Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) “has found a kind of peace” that he’d “like to preserve” since he’s “hardly killed anybody” while he and his “wife” — his former psychiatrist —  Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) have been in Europe, episode 2, “Primavera,” took viewers back to the finale of Season 2. It was a strange. images-15

The Flashbacks

It was an unnecessary flashback — even if we did get to see just how gracefully Mads, formerly a dancer, can move. First of all, anyone who hadn’t seen Seasons 1 or 2 would not be likely to begin Hannibal with season 3 episode 2. For all of us who have seen those previous seasons, “Primavera” contained an unnecessary flashback of the season 2 finale. More important in artistic terms, however, was the fact that instead of viewers’ getting any new information in E2’s flashbacks — as we did in episode 1, “Antipasto,” where we learned Bedelia’s secret about her attack by a patient and Hannibal’s role in “saving” her” — we got no new plot information or character development in this episode’s flashback.

I do agree with some of my readers, however, in comments, that viewers had a long #HeAteUs of about 12-18 months, and so they might have appreciated the flashbacks of the S2 finale. (I watched both seasons on DVD, and recently, several times, so the flashbacks were fresh in my mind. However, I stand by my assertion that any flashback, in any artistic medium which allows it, must always provide new information in order to be relevant and not become repetitious: see my sample details in the reply to Dannibal Lecter’s comments below.)

images-9I’m at the head of the line applauding last season’s finale, which was an absolute tour de force: the acting, writing, character development, and choreography were magnificent beyond description. It left everyone covered with blood, even Hannibal.UnknownAll his victims were mortally wounded and bleeding out: Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), filleted like the fish he loved to catch himself; and Abigail (Kacey Rohl), beside Will on Hannibal’s kitchen floor, with her throat slit as her own serial killer father Garret Jacob Hobbs had originally attempted to do before Will shot him dead.

images-2Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), after having been given a choice by her lover Hannibal “to walk away,” sobbing in grief and betrayal, attempted to “do her job” and shoot him. No bullets in the gun. Hannibal had removed them while she slept.

images-2 Following Hannibal’s instructions (before he slit her throat), young Abigail pushed Alana out the window of the second floor.

images-6Department Chief Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), despite his larger girth, was simply no match for Hannibal’s savagery, skill at using multiple instruments to kill, and his physical speed and agility. (I mean, the man leapt over a kitchen counter, for heaven’s sake.)

imagesMaybe they just wanted viewers to see the artistry of that scene once again, even if it was only in “flashbacks” — which, to be effective in art, should always provide new information, not information that the viewers (readers) already know; otherwise, it’s just repetition.

And, perhaps, as one of my readers suggested, they wanted to make up for the long break between seasons 2 & 3.

May I suggest that, in the future, if there is going to be a long #HeAteUs between seasons of Hannibal, NBC show re-runs before the premiere of the new season, as cable channels do, and that the writers still include new information in the flashbacks, as they did so expertly in S3E1 with Bedelia’s secret.

Will  & Abigail

images-2Despite the severity of Will’s and Abigail’s wounds, despite the massive amount of blood on Hannibal’s kitchen floor around them, they both seemed to have survived. Imagine my surprise.

Despite Abigail’s claim that Hannibal knew “just how to cut them so they would survive,” I still found it bizarre that both of them lived. Hannibal is a killer — a serial killer. And yet, these two survived?

I found the survival of both of them neither probable nor believable — even though I guessed that Will would survive, not only because he does in the Thomas Harris books on which the show is based, but because the trailers showed Hugh Dancy discussing what his character and Hannibal… (thank you very much for all the Spoilers, NBC-guys).

I turned off the trailer.

So, in episode 2, I found that, apparently, both Abigail and Will had survived mortal wounds.

willseason3ep2-2As if that weren’t disappointing enough because of its unreality, I found their dialogue in the Florentine church dull, uninspired, and uninteresting. They sat and talked on the altar steps in front of dismembered, inside-out, headless body of Tony the poet, who discovered Hannibal and Bedelia as imposters in S3E1 because they were posing as Dr. and Mrs. Fells, and Tony had been Fells’ TA. Hannibal was forced to kill Tony the poet.

I didn’t understand Hannibal’s arrangement of the body, I admit, until Will said, to Abigail, of Hannibal, “He left us his broken heart.”

imagesI admit, I totally missed the fact that the body was supposed to look like a giant, mounted heart.

So… unlike all serial killers in reality, Hannibal can not only have a heart, he can have a “broken heart.”

Sculpted out of another human being’s body, but… all right, I’ll play along.

Still in the church despite the amount of time it would have taken Will to get from the US to Italy? No, it was probably an hallucination, or a memory from the crime photos.

Beyond that, considering the fact that this is an artistic portrayal of a serial killer, I think I can see how Will broke Hannibal’s “heart,” but I’m not sure how Abigail broke it. By recognizing Hannibal for what he really is: a serial killer and not a surrogate father-figure?

Yet Hannibal seems more comfortable when people see him as he is, e.g., Bedelia is well aware of exactly who and what he is without his person-suit, and Hannibal said he’s been feeling a sort of peace, living in Paris and Florence with her as his “wife.”

Did Abigail and Will “break Hannibal’s heart” by not “living up to their potential” and becoming serial killers like him? It wasn’t clear to me, and it’s still not.

Will & … Will

Unknown-1Then we discover that Abigail, despite the theological and philosophical discussions with Will in the Florentine church, did not survive the attack. That confused me even more. I know Will has the so-called “empathy disorder” (a common trope in serial killer novels) where he can see both the victims and the killers at the crime-scenes so that he can “re-create” the scenes. I know that when he was afflicted with auto-immune encephalitis, he was having delusions and hallucinations, which Hannibal encouraged him to view as “reality,” if only to see how far Will would go with his own murderous impulses.

Since when does Will hallucinate when his AIE has been cured? When he’s in the hospital recovering from his wounds? Okay, those could have been pain-drug-induced. But when he’s in the Florentine church? So all his conversations with Abigail about Hannibal were hallucinations?

Or were they just his thoughts with himself?

Why didn’t he hallucinate Hannibal himself then? Or is Abigail supposed to be Hannibal’s spokesperson for Will at this time, right after he’s recovered from his wounds? Her responses do sound an awful lot like Hannibal’s philosophy.

So, who, exactly, is Will having these philosophical conversations with?

Inspector Pazzi

NUP_166105_0335.0Episode 2 introduced us to Inspector Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino), an Italian homicide detective from the Harris novels who was unable to capture an Italian serial killer known as Il Monstro, who modeled his murdered couples in tableaux after Boticcelli’s Renaissance paintings, especially Primavera. While I can usually understand most accents within a minute or two, I found it virtually impossible to understand Mr. Cerlino, who was attempting to tell Will who Il Monstro was.

images-1He produced a sketch of Mads-as-Hannibal as a young man, saying he was still an active killer. Of course, Will recognized Hannibal immediately. But the endlessly talky scenes with Pazzi delayed the forward momentum of the show, making it drag.

Hannibal as Lurker

hannibal-primavera-850x560-2One of the most exciting scenes in “Primavera” was seeing Hannibal appear above the church cloister looking down on Will. I thought we were going to have a major encounter between the two.

Or at least a really good chase.

When Will went down into the catacombs with Pazzi, and then began roaming about by himself, talking about Hannibal, and we saw that Hannibal was down there with Will, I was sure the momentum of the show was back on track.

Yes, Hannibal was there, presumably all the time that Will had been there — both in the church and in the catacombs. He was either stalking Will or attempting to avoid meeting him. In any event, that made the tension, which was largely absent in the episode, begin to build.

Hannibal as Lurker.

Despite the fact that the season 2 finale had Hannibal saying to his victims, “Now that you know me, see me.”

Very interesting play, making Hannibal lurk about the church while Will is there.

Then Will raised his face to the ceiling of the catacombs, as if he were raising it to the heavens, and said, “I forgive you, Hannibal.”


(Pan to Hannibal’s silent visage, pensive.)


04-hannibal-set-04.w529.h352I don’t know what the whole forgiveness theme is about in Hannibal because most of us would not forgive a serial killer who had killed one of our loved ones. Most of us would even be angry at law enforcement who didn’t catch the serial killer, and thus stop him, earlier.

But if we were an actual victim of a serial killer and we had survived? I think our PTSD would take years of therapy to control; I don’t know if we’d ever feel safe enough to “forgive” a serial killer, whom we know has no empathy and who, furthermore, gets sexually aroused by torturing, raping, and killing his victims. Especially by killing them.

(Serial rapists who kill in order not to be identified, for example, report no arousal by the actual killing, whereas serial killers in captivity who have been interviewed extensively by the FBI do admit that the killing itself it what excites them the most. In fact, many of them don’t get sexually aroused until after the killing.)

The true empathy disorder is the inability to empathize with the suffering of another, even if the victim’s suffering is caused by the one with the empathy disorder. So despite the serial-killer-fiction trope of the investigator with an “empathy disorder,” it is, in reality, serial killers who have an empathy disorder. Still, the show’s based on the books which use that trope, so I’ve been going along with it, even though it’s nothing new (or realistic).

But what’s with this forgiveness theme?

In last year’s finale, Hannibal told Will, “I forgive you. Can you forgive me?” But there are multiple things Hannibal could have been referring to.

  • I forgive you for trying to kill me. Can you forgive me for trying to kill you?
  • I forgive you for trying to arrest me and take me into custody. Can you forgive me for defending myself?
  • I forgive you for being so blind and not seeing my true nature. Can you forgive me for attempting to force you to see me as I really am?
  • I forgive you for not becoming like me. Can you forgive me for trying to make you more like me by not telling you about your auto-immune encephalitis, for trying to frame you for murders, and for hiding my own serial killings so expertly?

Or was it as simple as this:

I forgive you for not loving me. Can you forgive me for everything I did to you?


I don’t know what Hannibal meant when he said it to Will.

I don’t know what Will meant when he said it at the end of S3E2.

I do know that I don’t want to listen to Bryan Fuller’s interpretation of what Will meant because, brilliant and innovative as Bryan is, his interpretation is only one of many that are available. I don’t want to hear how the actors interpreted it either, for the same reason.

I want to know how other viewers interpreted it.

What is Hannibal forgiving Will, et al, for?

What is Will forgiving Hannibal for?

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The Nightmare That Followed Him Out of His Dreams: NBC’s HANNIBAL, Season 2


No Spoilers but Viewer Discretion Advised
(Graphic Photos)
May Contain Triggers

Unknown-1Bryan Fuller’s innovative adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and other Hannibal Lecter novels and films has become one of the most intriguing television shows ever. And it’s on network television, no less, doing such daring things that I’m constantly amazed that it gets by the censors. Season 1 introduced us to Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) as an ER surgeon-turned-practicing psychiatrist with a penchant for violent and disturbed patients.

In that capacity, Lecter was asked to “unofficially monitor” an “unofficial” FBI consultant Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), whose “empathy disorder” allowed him to connect with the killers at horrific crime scenes, but opened him up to emotional instability through the very connection that helped him stop said killers. Throughout Season 1, a close relationship developed between Hannibal and Will, though Hannibal’s reasons for pursuing this “relationship” were ambiguous and questionable, at the very least. Season 2 continues that relationship, while drawing others into this macabre emotional dance with Hannibal.

Will Graham

UnknownSeason 2 begins more slowly than did the first, if only because of the trial trope. Fortunately, however, this element of the show didn’t last too long, and Hannibal returned to its dealings with the FBI’s BSU members, headed by Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), who’s not only attempting to determine Will’s role in Season 1’s killings while solving new crimes, but getting physically and emotionally closer to Hannibal himself.

The Killers

images-9As in the first season, the FBI members investigate the crimes of several different serial killers, but none seemed as compelling as those in season 1, though the writers certainly attempted to make them as imaginative. I don’t know how much of these crimes come from the books themselves, but season 1’s killers were more gruesome, somehow, and discovering them seemed more imperative.

images-10The storyline concerning the killings in the grain silo was one of the most compelling of any season, especially with one victim awakening before he was dead. What followed was horrific yet masterful writing, storytelling, special effects, and acting.

imagesWhen Hannibal gets involved, that storyline takes an unexpected and most gruesome turn, as you might imagine, but one that challenges the FBI investigators in their thinking. They’re forced to think “outside the silo,” you might say, in order to question their own assumptions about each other, about the killer, and, eventually, about Hannibal.


Danger, Hannibal, Danger

While the silo killer/killing was interesting, the show became even more compelling once Will let some of his darker impulses out, intent on harming Hannibal.

images-1Even though we knew — from films and books — that Hannibal wouldn’t be killed in this scenario, he could have been seriously harmed. After all, the series is departing as much as it can from the books while staying true to the spirit of them. Besides, it was a chance for brilliant acting, especially on the part of Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal — a cannibalistic serial killer who’s been caught off-guard a few times in the series when someone out-thinks him, or when circumstances over which he has no control present themselves and he has to make quick decisions.

Mason Verger

images-4In season 2, Michael Pitt (Jimmy Darmody from Boardwalk Empire) enters the scene as Mason  Verger, heir to his father’s pig-breeding/butchering empire. Though there are some hints of pedophilia in Mason’s character, he is much more sadistic to his sister than to any children. (His sister is one of Hannibal’s patients from the beginning of Season 2).


images-10Everyone is manipulated by Hannibal is season 2. Everyone thinks he’s Hannibal’s “special friend,” even minor characters such as Jack’s dying wife. Everyone gets betrayed in some way or another, as you might imagine, even though s/he may not become part of Hannibal’s gourmet buffet.


Stag-man, the personified version of Raven-Stag from Season 1 — Will’s animal-vision of one of season 1’s killers — returns, appearing more visibly (and is somewhat less threatening because of this visibility).

images-2Stag-man is not only Stag-man, but appears at least once as a Hindu diety, in particular, as Shiva, giver of life and death, in a vision in Hannibal’s office.


Hannibal the Cannibal

Of course, Hannibal continues to have dinner parties. He dines with virtually every major character in the series — only some of whom express anxiety about eating the “meat” course, though Hannibal himself jokes about it.  He even has his long-awaited “spectacular” dinner party, requested by a character who appeared only briefly in season 1 at a concert.

images-5Hannibal continues to be threatening, alluring, dangerous, exciting, deadly, and vulnerable — all at the same time. I attribute this phenomenal feat to Mads’ acting: I don’t even think that the great Sir Anthony Hopkins could have pulled off such a complex character for such a sustained period. Every character in the show seems to trust Hannibal, and to be attracted to him in some way as well — as a lover, as a friend, as a trusted colleague, as a confidant, as an arts lover, as a dinner host.



In a strange and amazingly successful twist, however, virtually everyone seems to get involved in some sort of erotic dance with Hannibal, whether or not the relationships are actually sexual or involve some other sort of intimacy.

images-4 From Will Graham to Dr. Alana Bloom (Carolina Dhavernas), from Jack Crawford to Lecter’s psychiatrist Dr. du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), from Lecter’s patients to Lecter’s victims — including other serial killers — erotic tension abounds between the characters and Hannibal.


Sometimes, one scene involving other characters besides Hannibal will seem erotic, mirroring other scenes involving Hannibal that are overtly sexual. images-2

At other times — especially with Hannibal and Will — the eroticism of the scene is beautifully symbolic.     images-7

The relationship and tension between Will and Hannibal becomes powerfully erotic, though not in a sexual way, as far as I can determine.

images copy 3 At times, the eroticism of the scenes relates back to one of the crimes in the season, giving it an especially eerie tone.


The Finale’s “Dance”

The entire season, with all of its conflicts, investigations, crimes, duplicity, betrayals, love, and interconnected emotional relationships, heads toward a powerfully brilliant finale that is as erotic as it is violent. The final, extended scene is so gracefully choreographed that you feel as if you are watching a ballet rather than a scene in a show about serial killers, and about a cannibalistic one, at that.

images-6Everyone is involved in this brutal dance.


Everyone is hurt, emotionally and physically.

imagesEveryone is betrayed.

images-2Everything is erotic despite its extreme violence.

images-9Yet, Hannibal appears in the penultimate scene that is highly symbolic (don’t even get me started on all the potential symbolic interpretation of this view of Hannibal right after the last “dance” because I promised no spoilers, and, besides, I wouldn’t want to influence your own interpretation of Hannibal in the rain).

images-7And whatever you do, whether you’re watching the DVDs or on Amazon Prime Instant, do not turn off the final episode when the credits come on (as I usually do for each show). If you do, you will miss one of the most stunning and outré cliffhangers ever. So, just don’t do it. Watch it all the way through even after you think it’s all over.

Hannibal, Season 3

Hannibal Season 3 starts Thursday 4 June at 10pm ET, so you have plenty of time to catch up on Seasons 1 & 2. Both are available on Amazon, and, as of this writing, Season 1 is free for Prime members, and Season 1, Episode 1, “Aperitif” is free (with ads) for everyone. Season 2 is also free for Prime Members, with the “First Look” free for everyone. Others can view either season via streaming for $22-30 (SD v HD) or for roughly the same price on DVDs. The DVDs contain some great extra commentary by Bryan Fuller, the special effects team, the production design team, wardrobe team, and some of the actors.

I’ve elected not to include the official trailer for Season 3 as I believe it contains Spoilers.

Related Posts

The Nightmare Under the Pillow: NBC’s Hannibal, the Series, Season 1



Filed under Actors, Books, Movies/Television, Serial Killers

The Nightmare Under the Pillow: NBC’s HANNIBAL, the Series, Season 1


No Spoilers but Viewer Discretion Advised
(Graphic Photos & Official Trailer)
May Contain Triggers


I’d heard of Hannibal the Series, but since it was airing on a network (NBC), I never bothered checking it out. You see, I erroneously assumed that since it would be on network television rather than on a premium — or even basic — cable channel, it would be superficial at the very least, and absurdly boring at the most. I now publicly and humbly apologize to all the creators, writers, actors, special effects staff, producers — as well as to NBC itself — for thinking that a show like this couldn’t work on a network because it wouldn’t be able to get by the censors of free television programming. I was wrong. Although it does have some minor weaknesses, Hannibal is one of the most daring, exciting, brilliant, and innovative television series ever created.images-20Based on the characters created by author Thomas Harris in his novel Red Dragon, the official series description runs along these lines:

Gifted criminal profiler Will Graham  has a unique way of thinking that allows him to empathize with anyone, including psychopaths. But while helping the FBI pursue a particularly complicated serial killer, he decides he could use some help and enlists the brilliant psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. The two form a partnership and it seems that there is no villain they can’t catch together, but Lecter harbors a dark secret. His own brilliant mind has gone to the dark side and he has more in common with the criminals they hunt than Will could possibly imagine.

Yes, it’s a pretty poorly done description, and I’m glad I didn’t write it. After all, who hasn’t seen Silence of the Lambs? Who on earth does not know of Anthony Hopkins’ terrifying and Oscar-winning performance as Hannibal Lecter, the doctor-turned-cannibal-serial-killer who was called upon by the FBI to assist them in locating the kidnapped victim of another serial killer? Lecter has always been portrayed as an intelligent — genius, maybe — crafty, charming psychopath. Therefore, viewers already know Lecter’s “dark secret.”

The actual premise of the series is more intriguing and complex than the above description would indicate.

images-34Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, above right) has the unique ability to re-imagine the crime scenes. We’re told he’s “overly empathetic” with the killers, that he has an “empathy disorder,” but it’s really just the unbelievable literary trope that this Professor of Criminal Studies can unfailingly “re-create” the crime scenes, step-by-step, just by looking at them afterward. I must say, though, that Hannibal does an excellent job of showing Will doing this, with a flashing pendulum “undoing” the crime scene, as it were, until Will can “connect” with the killer.

(I’ve been told that this ability of Graham’s is in Harris’ novel — in comments: thank you, Dannibal —  and I know that it’s a popular trope in many serial killer novels. The premise itself, however, is unbelievable. If such a person existed, he’d not only be the highest paid FBI agent on record, but serial killers would always be caught, and missing women, teens, and children would be found before they were brutally raped, tortured, and murdered. But that’s just a minor complaint about an otherwise well written show and, no doubt, well-written book. So, I guess I’m not complaining that the show has this trope in the first place since it was initially in the book, but that serial killer novels have it so consistently. Maybe the authors think it will make their readers feel safer somehow.)

Because of his unique skills, Will is called away from his classes at the FBI Academy by Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne, above left) to “unofficially” help out catching serial killers. Will Graham’s role is unofficial since he didn’t manage to make it into the FBI. When consulted, psychiatrist Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas, below), who’s a friend of Will’s, argues against his involvement because of his emotional and psychological “instability.”

images-29Crawford, however, wants to utilize Will’s special gift. He asks her to recommend another psychiatrist for a second opinion, one who can give a more “unbiased” evaluation, i.e., one which agrees with Jack’s, on whether Will can handle the crime scenes he’ll be viewing and analyzing. She recommends Hannibal Lecter.

imagesPlayed to perfection by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, this Hannibal Lecter is not one we’ve ever seen before. He’s ostensibly given up his position as an ER medical doctor — before the start of this show — and practices psychiatry. Lecter is asked to evaluate Will’s mental stability, which requires “informal” sessions. These are to be reported back to Jack Crawford since, technically, Will Graham is not Hannibal’s patient, so there are no doctor-patient confidentiality issues.

images-19What a concept. Serial killer Hannibal the Cannibal (above, left) as a psychiatrist to an overly empathetic “special agent” Will Graham (above, right) who reports all the grisly details of any and all crime scenes to his “psychiatrist” — informally.

So, apparently, Will can look at a scene like the one below, and know what happened from the serial killer’s perspective:


He can imagine the kind of serial killer who would do something like this:

images-26Like this:

Unknown-1Like this:

images-25And like this:

images-28Accompanied and aided by a crack team of forensic MEs Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park, below, second from left), Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams, below, left of Laurence Fishburne), and Jimmy Price (Scott Thompson, below, far left, across from Hugh Dancy), who wise-crack their way through post-mortem autopsies as well as crime scenes, this FBI crew — including the ever-lurking Lecter, who is ostensibly shadowing Will for professional reasons — covers a variety of crimes.

images copy 2The story of the crimes of the first serial killer being sought in the series — Garrett Jacob Hobbs — is carried throughout the season, as is the continuing story of his daughter, Abigail (Kacey Rohl, below), who develops extremely complicated relationships with both Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter.

images-7Some killers appear for only an episode — and this causes one of the weaknesses of the show, only because the same FBI teams goes to WI, MD, CT, OH, and VA, always arriving at the crime scenes in the same, standard-issue black SUVs.

Some killers and crimes recur through several episodes, so their stories become more complex and interesting than the ones that are only in one episode. The longer, recurring stories are obviously more developed than the ones that appear only for an hour (minus commercials). Some of the scenes in these recurring stories even become motifs for the series, like the antler room:

Hannibal - Season 1(If, like me, you think the girl on the stag-horns in the middle of a field [first crime scene photo above], the hanging victim [fourth crime scene photo above], and the antler room all hearken back to season 1 of True Detective, bear in mind that Hannibal was on the air long before TD’s Hart & Cole investigated the “antler girl” in the open field, viewed the “latest victim displayed from a bridge/overpass,” and searched for the maze called “Carcosa.”)

images-21Throughout Hannibal, online tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki, above) annoys the FBI with her “investigative crime reporting,” as she calls it, irritates Hannibal Lecter — who’s an avid reader of her site TattleCrime — by attributing crimes to the wrong killers, and even aids the FBI by “planting” stories to flush killers out.

So far, this might all sound terribly trite, but because of the skill of the writers, the actors, and the unbelievable special effects, Hannibal rises above any clichés, and its production is more impressive than  the more costly films concerning the same characters. The quality of its acting and the character development surpasses virtually all serial killer films and series made to date.

images-11One of the most innovative aspects of the series is the fact that Hannibal has his own psychiatrist, with whom he discusses his patients, while she discusses Hannibal’s “person suit” with him. Played exquisitely and cleverly by Gillian Anderson (above), Dr. Bedelia du Maurier almost always behaves completely professionally with Hannibal, and continuously counsels him to do the same with all his patients, even his unofficial ones, like Will Graham.

images-16Series creator Bryan Fuller continuously states that season 1 of Hannibal is an exploration of Will Graham’s “descent into madness,” but I disagree. If we are to go along with the show’s initially unbelievable premise that Will can simply re-envision a crime scene’s unfolding as well as all the thoughts and feelings of the killer who committed such atrocities (one of the show’s weaknesses, but writers, readers, & viewers seem to like this trope, so it continues to appear in books, series, and films), then Will isn’t mad. Rather, the show seems more a depiction of the unraveling of his personality as he continues to empathize with psychopathic and socio-pathic serial killers.

images-13As a collector of strays, like abandoned dogs, and victims of crime, like Abigail, Will keeps attempting to create a “family” of sorts. Perhaps he wishes for stability. Perhaps he wants “roots.” Perhaps he only seeks comfort after all the brutality he continuously views in order to help the FBI solve especially heinous crimes.

images-12Hannibal is already a cannibal (I don’t think that counts as a spoiler), but no one except the viewers and Hannibal knows this, creating a delicious irony every time Hannibal is cooking, having a dinner party, or simply enjoying a fine meal and glass of wine on his own.

images-6Hannibal is daring. It takes risks. It re-invents — successfully — one of the most famous villains in literary and cinematic history: Hannibal Lecter. It creates a bond between Hannibal and its viewers because we already know Hannibal’s secret, and because Mads Mikkelsen is such a versatile and talented actor. This unique twist on Hannibal’s character is well worth watching.

One example of the delicate integration of writing, innovation, acting, and production values of this show is the title sequence, which combined scans of 3 heads — that of Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), Hugh Dancy (Will Graham), and Laurence Fishburne (Jack Crawford) — into one bloody unity. How symbolically significant.


Season 3 of Hannibal premieres Thursday 4 June 2015 at 10pm ET on NBC. That gives all of you time to watch seasons 1 & 2. Both are available on Amazon, and, as of this writing, season 1 is free for Prime members, and season 1 episode 1 “Aperitif” is free (with ads) for everyone. I’m watching Season 2 next, and will blog on it (without spoilers, of course), but if you can’t wait, Hannibal Season 2 is also free for Prime Members, and others can view it via streaming for $22-30 (SD v HD). Meanwhile, enjoy the trailer for Hannibal.

Warning: Viewer Discretion Advised



Filed under Actors, Books, Movies/Television, Serial Killers, Videos