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From SALVATION to HANNIBAL to OUTLANDER: One Man’s View of Men in Film & Television

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Warning: Conclusion May Contain Triggers
(Some Film Spoilers in Post)

UnknownLast week, my life-partner Tom and I watched Salvation, the Danish tribute to Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti Westerns, with Mads Mikkelsen as the iconic “loner” whose wife is raped then killed, along with their young son, in the early scenes, and who then searches for vengeance.

images-4Salvation is also a tribute to the iconic Western “lone, good man,” defending the rest of the town, as in High Noon and Firecreek, although no one else in the place stands up with the “hero” to fight evil until the hero reluctantly fights back against the vicious gang himself.

images-2Salvation is a pretty interesting take on the iconic Western: Mads’ character is an immigrant rather than a stranger, and has already settled and prospered enough to bring his wife and son over. Salvation is also a fair tribute to the “Man with No Name” series as well as to the “good man as reluctant defender” Western icon.

Mads’ character does have a name — John — and is a more realistic shot than the character Clint Eastwood made famous in Leone’s films (i.e., it always takes John several shots to kill someone). John is first rescued from the gang by his brother, and then eventually joined by “The Princess” (Eva Green), who appears to have been the captive “wife” of one of the rapists/murderers and who had her tongue cut out by Indians when she was kidnapped as a young girl. The Princess comes to John’s aid in fighting the gang members after they kill John’s brother, and only one other town member lends his aid: a boy whose grandmother was killed by the gang. At first, John refuses the boy’s help, telling him, “You’re just a kid.” He replies, “I’m almost 16.” John then accepts his offer. The young boy dies helping John. At the end, the Princess leaves the town with John (from which I inferred that no one in the town had ever protected her from the gang members).

This post is not a review of Salvation. Instead, it is about a discussion that ensued after my partner Tom made a surprising comment about Mads’ looks in the film, which led me to an epiphany about how one man — my man — judges male actors’ looks in films and television.

Unknown“Mads is actually quite good-looking, isn’t he?” said Tom in the middle of an important scene.

I was shocked. I’d never heard him say something like that before. Not about a male actor’s looks. At first, I thought it was because we were watching a Western, one of Tom’s favorite genres. Then I thought it might be because John was already seeking “justice” by killing the bad guys. But Tom said it when Mads’ character John wasn’t actually looking his best (above). Not classically handsome or anything. So I wondered what had suddenly made Tom comment on a male actor’s looks: something he’s never done in our 22 years together, but which he constantly does about female actors if he finds them attractive. (I don’t know what female actors he finds unattractive because he doesn’t make comments like that.)

images-1“You just noticed that Mads is good-looking?” I said.

“I guess.”

“You didn’t think he was attractive in Hannibal?”images-21“He was a serial killer and a cannibal,” said Tom, as if he had watched more than the final season of Hannibal, which, by the way, he was really watching for Gillian Anderson, whom he continually called “stunning” and “gorgeous.”images-10“You never commented on Mads’ looks before.”

“I guess I never noticed.”

“You didn’t comment on him in King Arthur.”

“Mads was in King Arthur?” said Tom. “He wasn’t that pretty boy, was he?”

“What ‘pretty boy’?”

“The one with two swords.”

“That was Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) with the two swords. Mads played Tristan.”

images-14“Which one was Tristan?”

“The one with the hawk.”

Unknown-2“Oh, that was Mads? He was cool. He fought Stellan [Skarsgård, who played Saxon invader Cerdic] at the end.”

images-13“Tristan got killed.”

“Stellan looked over at Clive [Owen, who was King Arthur] to make sure he was watching before he killed Tristan.”

I was stunned that Tom remembered that detail, despite the number of times we’ve watched the film, which is one of our favorites.

“The actor who played Galahad in King Arthur was in Hannibal, too.”

“Which one was Galahad?”

“Hugh Dancy.”

images-7“Oh, that boy,” said Tom after I found a picture. “Who was he in Hannibal?”

“He played the special FBI agent, Will Graham,” I said, showing him another photo. “He was trying to help catch Hannibal.”

images copy 2“I remember that boy now,” said Tom. “They were trying to make it seem like he and Hannibal loved each other, but without their being homosexual.”

By that time, I noticed that Tom was consistently making a distinction between “men” and “boys,” though all the actors we were discussing are grown men. Even if they were playing warrior knights, such as Lancelot and Galahad in King Arthur, Tom was referring to some of them as “boys.” Before I had a chance to ask about this distinction, he made an even more startling comment.

“That boy in Hannibal was about the same as that red-head boy.”

“What red-head boy?”

“That red-head husband in the past.”

By now, I was most sincerely confused, since we were watching Salvation and The Princess’ husband had been dark-haired, and he’d only been killed by Mads’ character a few days before.

“What red-head husband in the past?” I said.

“The red-head husband in the show with the woman who fell through the rocks.”

images-32“You mean Outlander?”

“If that’s the one where the woman has two husbands,” said Tom, “one in the past and one in the future.”

Did Tom really just make a comment about Outlander?

My Tom?

He’d only watched the show twice — the final two episodes — though he knew the premise, vaguely, and had caught a couple of glimpses of Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie) when they were nude (as he was passing through the room where I was watching Outlander, to return to the room where he was watching sports).

“You mean Jamie, the Scottish husband?”images-10“Is he the boy who got his hand nailed to the table by that ugly man in the prison?”

“He’s the man who got his hand spiked…”

“The boy who got raped by that ugly man.”

“His name’s Jamie,” I said. “And he’s the man who got raped by Black Jack Randall.”

“The ugly guy who threatened to rape the red-head boy’s wife?”

images-32“Black Jack Randall,” I said, certain now that we were, indeed, discussing Outlander.

“That’s the guy who raped the boy?” said Tom, persisting in using the word “boy” to describe Sam Heughan’s character.

“Black Jack Randall raped Jamie.”

“That ugly guy,” said Tom, “who raped that boy and then tried to make it look like some kind of love scene or something.”images-8“They were probably only doing what the writers and director told them to do. I think I read that they were trying to make one of the scenes between the two actors look like Michelangelo’s Pietà.

images“That statue of Jesus after they took him off the cross and his mother was holding him?”

“They might have been trying to make Jamie a symbolic Christ figure… I don’t know. It didn’t work for me.”

“None of it worked for me,” said Tom. “It was disgusting and horrible, what that vicious ugly man did to that poor boy.”

images-36He kept calling Tobias Menzies (Black Jack Randall) “ugly,” and he kept referring to Sam Heughan (Jamie) as a “boy.” I thought I was beginning to understand what Tom was unconsciously saying, but I wasn’t sure.

“You know that the actor who played Black Jack Randall also played Claire’s other husband, right?”

“What did he look like?” said Tom.

images-23“It was the same actor,” I said. “Only his name was Frank when he was her husband in 1945.”

“That’s not the same man,” said Tom after looking at the photo above.

“It’s the same actor,” I said, showing him another view. “Honest.”

images-29“That’s not the same guy.”

“It is the same guy.”

images-33“No, it’s not,” said Tom, looking at the picture (above) with Tobias and Cait. “That guy is not ugly.”

“Is he good-looking?” I said. “Like Mads?”

Tom stared at the photo of Cait and Tobias, as Claire and Frank on their second honeymoon in Scotland, before Claire was transported through the stones at Craigh na Dun to Scotland two hundred years in the past.

“No. He’s not good-looking. Just average. But he’s certainly not ugly like the guy who raped the boy.”

“I swear to you, it’s the same actor,” I said. “Tobias Menzies.”images-43After looking at the side-by-side photo (above) for a while, he said, “How’d they make him look so ugly then?”

“All they did, as far as I know, was put a wig or hair-extensions on him,” I said. “And he acted like he had a facial tick.”

“He is not a good-looking man,” said Tom, handing back the picture of Tobias. “He’s ugly. In fact, he’s extremely ugly.”

“Even as Frank? Her husband in the future.”

Unknown-13“Then he’s just average. Unremarkable.”

“Why not good-looking? When he’s Frank, I mean.”

“Because he didn’t save his wife when he heard her calling at the stones. He just cried like a baby.”

images-47Now I was really caught off-guard. When had Tom seen that? Before the final two episodes, which he watched to be morally supportive of me in case I got triggered since I’d heard there were torture and rape scenes in them, I wasn’t aware that Tom had seen anything substantial in Outlander. 

I knew he’d caught a glimpse of nude Sam in the water because Tom said, “You know men didn’t look like that back then, don’t you? Men don’t look like that now unless they work out at a gym all the time.”

images-36I knew he’d gotten a good long look at nude Cait in one of the sex-scenes with Sam because he was standing there staring until the scene ended, when he said, “Her breasts look better when she’s lying down” before walking away.

I guess he’d also seen Frank weeping at the rocks and heard Claire calling to him, though I’d never realized Tom knew what was going on in the show. I never discussed it with him because he doesn’t like fantasy and thought the premise was silly, and he rarely reads my blogs. (I don’t mind: he reads my books, which is a much bigger commitment, and he knows what I blog about.) I was still confused about Tom’s association between Will and Jamie, however.

“Why did you say that Will Graham in Hannibal was just like Jamie in Outlander?”

“Because one didn’t stop a serial killer and the other didn’t kill the ugly bastard that raped him.”

“You think Will should have killed Hannibal?”

“Of course, he should have.”

“He pushed Hannibal off a cliff,” I said.

“No, he hugged him off a cliff and they both fell together, like they were lovers about to have sex or something. And they probably survived for another season. So it was just stupid.”

I was starting to understand this film world-view. A male character’s being “stupid” can make the actor playing him a “boy.” A male character not killing another male character he knows to be a serial killer can make the former one a “boy.” A male character’s not killing his rapist can make him a “boy.” After all, the first time Tom ever remarked about Sam Heughan as Jamie, when he saw him nude in the water, he referred to him as a “man,” saying that “men” didn’t have bodies like that back then. After Jamie was raped by Black Jack Randall, he and the actor playing him became a “boy.”

I wondered what “boys” were —  attractive, unremarkable, or ugly — in the world according to Tom.

“Do you think Jamie’s good-looking?” I said.

“Which one’s Jamie?”

“The red-head husband in the past.”

“The one who gets tortured and raped.”

“Right.”

“He’s a boy.”

“But is he good-looking?”

“He’s a boy,” said Tom. “With a weight-machine body.”

“Is he ‘average,’ like her husband Frank. Or ‘ugly,’ like Black Jack Randall?”

“He’s just a kid,” said Tom.

So, no comments or judgment on a boy’s looks, even if the “boy” is an adult male actor.

“But you think Mads is attractive.”

“He’s a good-looking man,” said Tom.

“But you never thought he was good-looking in Hannibal,” I said. “I even asked you about it.”

“I said I didn’t notice.”

“What about Mads in this picture?” I said.

images-20“He looks good in glasses. He’s very manly.”

“It’s from The Hunt.”

“What’s that about?” said Tom.

“See the little girl? She’s one of his Kindergarten students who says that he molested and raped her. The whole town…”

“Is he guilty?”

“What?”

“Did he hurt the little girl?”

“No,” I said. “She doesn’t even realize what’s she’s saying about him.”

“How can she not realize that?”

I explained that her older brother and his friend had been watching porn on their tablets, and showed it to her in passing, as a joke, saying something like, “Look at that big ugly cock.” Later, the little girl, who was unconsciously jealous that she wasn’t getting enough of her belovèd teacher’s attention, told one of the administrators at the school that she didn’t want to see “Lucas’ (Mads) big ugly cock anymore.”

“So Mads didn’t ever do anything to the little girl?” said Tom.

“No. Never. But everyone assumed she was telling the truth because of what she said.”

“But he was really innocent.”

“Totally.”

“I’ll have to watch that some time,” said Tom. “And he does look very handsome in the glasses.”

Unknown-11

This is our 22nd year together; we love films and watch them all the time, yet I never realized that Tom judges a male actor’s looks by what his character does in a role. Tom’s only one man, so I’m not saying that he’s representative of all men, but he’s my man, and that makes this an important revelation to me. Whether Tom consciously realizes these distinctions he’s making about a male actor’s looks — and I’m guessing that he does not — this is what they seem to be.

If a male actor’s character sexually assaults or otherwise tortures or physically brutalizes children, women, or other men, he’s “ugly.” If the violence does not happen on-screen and the other parts of the story-line are compelling, then, at the very least, Tom doesn’t seem to notice any physical attractiveness or ugliness in the male actor, as with Mads in Hannibal. He played a serial killer but Tom rarely saw any on-screen violence because he only watched parts of the final season, i.e., the episodes containing Gillian Anderson.

If the male actors’ characters don’t save their women — even if it’s because they cannot go through the stones at Craigh na Dun themselves — they’re just average-looking, plain, or unremarkable.

But the most important — and saddest — part of the distinction Tom (unconsciously) seems to be making between male actors as “men” or “boys” is this: if the male actors’ characters are raped (as Tom was, repeatedly, when he was a six-year-old boy, by his father’s best friend), then the actors, no matter their age, are “boys.”

And boys need to be protected from “ugly men” (as my poor Tom was not protected by his own father, though Tom told him, and others, what was happening).

Women, too, need to be protected from “ugly men,” and the women don’t have to be “stunning” or “gorgeous” to need such protection.

They can be ordinary women like me.

That’s why Tom watched the final two episodes of Outlander with me: because when I was a child, I was repeatedly tortured, molested, and raped (by my father, step-father, and mother, the last of whom raped me with implements when I was 11, causing so much internal damage that I could never have children). Tom feared that the scenes of torture and rape in Outlander, though they were happening to a man, would “trigger” me. Just as the horrific rape scenes in Casualties of War or The Accused “trigger” me. (In fact, I’ve never actually seen more than a few seconds of either of the rape scenes in either film: I can’t even listen to them.)

Tom was there to protect me, even if it was from a film or a television show.

He protects me now, in any way he can, because no one protected me when I was younger.

Just as no one protected him when he was a boy.

When I finally realized what Tom was saying during our talk after his comment about Mads’ being “actually quite good-looking” in Salvation, I went into the other room and wept with grief.

For both of us.

Unknown-10Epilogue

As I mentioned in the original post of this topic (above), Tom has long since stopped reading my blogs, though he always asks what I’m writing on. Always. For every single post. When I showed him some of the remarks and responses I was getting to this original post, and told him that it had gotten over 60K unique reads in less than 24 hours, he seemed confused.

“Why does everyone in your Facebook Outlander groups and on Twitter keep saying I’m sweet?” said Tom. “Why do they say the blog is ‘heartbreaking’? I thought you said it was on my view of men in some films and a couple television shows.”

“It is, based on the fact that you commented, for the first time ever, on a male actor’s being ‘actually being quite attractive’. Mads. In Salvation.”

“Mads is good-looking,” said Tom.

You never said Mads was attractive when he was in Hannibal. I mentioned that in the blog. Then I put in the things you said about Jamie… the red-head husband in Outlander… about his being a boy.”

“He is a boy,” said Tom. “He couldn’t protect or defend himself from being raped, just like I couldn’t defend myself when I was raped as a little boy. And no one helped the red-head husband. Like nobody helped me. So he is a boy.”

“Some of the very thoughtful readers who responded wanted you to know that the character, Jamie, heals and becomes more of a man in the later Outlander books,” I said. “They don’t know what will happen in the show, of course…”

“He’s a man already. Or he was before the rape,” said Tom. “Now he’s a boy. And no matter how much healing he does, or how much of a man he becomes, that wounded, damaged little boy will always be inside him.”

“So you intentionally called him a ‘boy’?”

“Did I call him a ‘boy’?” said Tom.

“You did. Consistently. I thought you might be doing it unconsciously.”

“I guess I was, since I don’t remember it. But he is a boy if he gets his hand nailed to a table and gets raped over and over by another man,” said Tom. “He can’t protect himself. He can’t fight.”

“Then you really didn’t expect Jamie to just jump up afterward and kill Black Jack Randall?”

“He was in a prison. In the dungeon. How was he going to get out? He couldn’t have killed that guy,” said Tom.

“Why’d you say that he should have killed the rapist then?”

Tom was silent for a while.

“I guess I said that because I wanted to kill my dad’s friend every single day of my life,” said Tom. “Right up until the day he died. And you know how I feel about my dad never protecting me. Same as you feel about all the people you told, the ones who never saved or protected you.”

Because he’d mentioned me, but I’d never heard him call any female actors “girls,” I asked about Claire’s character in Outlander.

“What about Claire… the red-head’s wife… what if Black Jack Randall had raped her?”

“Look,” said Tom, “there would have been nothing she could have done about it. If she didn’t manage to run away before he caught her, then she couldn’t have stopped it. Rapists are despicable. You can’t fight them. You don’t know if they’re just vicious, disgusting people, or if they’re pedophiles, or if they’re serial rapists, or if they’re serial rapists about to flip over into serial killers. If you fight too hard, you might die.”

“What I wanted to know is this: would she have become a ‘girl’ if she’d been raped, instead of a woman?”

“She’d be a woman, just like you,” said Tom, “with that permanently damaged little girl inside her. That wounded little girl will always be in you, no matter how fierce or independent or sweet or loving or protective you are. That raped little boy will always be in her red-head husband. Same as he’s in me. Even if nobody else knows about it. You can’t go back and make it never happen.”

“So, you were unconsciously calling the red-head husband a ‘boy’. Just like you called the Special FBI Agent in Hannibal a boy, and he didn’t get raped.”images-15“He couldn’t kill Hannibal, even though Hannibal was obsessed with him,” said Tom. “Maybe if he’d snuck up behind him as soon as he’d figured out Hannibal was a serial killer and cold-cocked him, he might have had a chance to cut his throat before Hannibal gutted him like a fish. But you don’t have any chance with serial killers. Hannibal would have killed and eaten that boy eventually.”

“I guess the part that annoyed you, then, was how the shows tried to make the rapes like love scenes, or a serial killer relationship like a love story.”

images-16“Hannibal might have wanted something from that boy, but he didn’t love him,” said Tom. “He had sex with Gillian. But he didn’t love her. Even she said she knew he’d end up killing and eating her. You can’t change serial killers. You can’t change serial rapists or pedophiles. The only thing they love is themselves and hurting other people. You know that. Your own mother was one.”

I sat for a moment, thinking about everything he’d said, and how he’d called the victims “boys” unconsciously, because, in the 22 years we’ve been together, Tom has never come right out and admitted that his father’s friend repeatedly raped him when he was a little boy. He always said he was “only molested” and “performed fellatio” — forced fellatio — on his rapist.

images-31“By the way, be sure to tell them I’m sorry,” said Tom. “The people in those Outlander groups.”

“About what?”

“I know they really like that red-head husband. I’m sorry if they got upset because I said he was a ‘boy’. The actor’s a guy. Even if he kinda looks like a kid.”

“Someone wrote in comments that she thought they might have purposely cast that actor because of his boyish looks.”

“Then they knew he was going to become a boy, too. Because of the torture and rape.”

“Maybe,” I said. “They might have just thought he was pretty.”

“Pretty doesn’t make you a ‘boy’.”

“The actor who played the Special Agent in Hannibal is boy-ish.”

“When a serial killer’s got you in his sights,” said Tom, “or the writers of Hannibal make him act like he loves you, you’re a boy because he’s gonna get you eventually. There’s nothing you can do except run away as fast as you can. If you can’t do that… well, you know… It’s the same as when you were a kid. If nobody listens to you, and no one protects you, you’re gonna get hurt. Bad. And that kind of damage never goes away. Not completely.”

I kissed him on the cheek.

“The person who said you were ‘a good, good man’ meant that you were sweet for watching Outlander’s last two episodes with me, knowing they contained rape and torture, in case they triggered me.”

maxresdefault“You’d do the same for me,” he said, putting his arm around my shoulders. “You’re my Eva and my Claire.”

Unknown

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Filed under Actors, Hannibal, Memoir, Movies/Films, Movies/Television, Outlander, Rape, Violence

Bello, Bellisima: NBC’s Hannibal Season 3 Premiere — Antipasto

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Warning: Spoilers
& Graphic Images

imagesIf you’ve read my previous blogs on NBC’s amazing and daring series Hannibal, you know I was catching up on Seasons 1 & 2, and so intentionally did not reveal any spoilers or important plot lines in case there were other viewers like me who had never seen the show. (For one thing, I’m rarely awake @ 10p.m., being an early riser, and for another, the local network here delays Hannibal by an additional hour beyond the 2-hour time-zone difference, but that’s another source of irritation and rudeness that I’ll have to address with them.) From now on, my Hannibal blogs will include some spoilers, but they are not merely plot summaries. That’s not my style.

images-12That being said, I have to say Bravo! to the writers of the Premiere episode of S3: “Antipasto,” and not just for going back to names of dishes that I can pronounce and understand as episode titles. The premiere of Season 3 was a bold and brilliant departure from the previous seasons’ premieres, as well as from the seasons themselves. It was symbolic of the manner in which Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen, above) and his former psychiatrist, Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), who are now posing as husband and wife in Paris and Florence, are attempting to re-invent themselves.

Season Two’s Finale

images-25The extremely violent, excellently acted, brilliantly choreographed, and almost — dare I say, erotic — finale from season 2, left us with Hannibal being “recognized” for who and what he is by many of the characters in the show. Of course, Hannibal did not go quietly into that dark night. No, he raged against the dying of his light. His gutting of Will (Hugh Dancy) while holding him like a lover (above) was blatantly erotic and showed just how much Hannibal had come to care for Will Graham.

images-7And by “caring for Will,” I mean as much as a serial killer can care for anyone other than himself, and only because Hannibal believed Will could become more like Hannibal himself.

Throughout the first two seasons, Hannibal has been drawn to patients who seem to have some criminal, especially murderous, leanings, and has pushed them to “see” and to “become” — a common theme in the Thomas Harris novels on which the show is based — and to honor their true natures. In fact, one of Hannibal’s lines in last season’s finale was, “Now that you know me, see me.”

images-2His warning to his lover Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) — that she had a choice to walk away, after she confronted him, weapon drawn, weeping at her own blindness and at his “betrayal” — surprised me. I thought he might find her pulling a gun on him “rude,” and we all know how Hannibal feels about rudeness. I wasn’t surprised that he’d emptied her gun while she slept in his bed beside him a few days earlier, or that he went after her when she pulled the trigger.

He had warned her, after all.

images-8His confrontation with Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne, above R), who seems to believe that “might makes right,” was one of the saddest in terms of Jack’s inability to outmaneuver Hannibal psychologically or physically. It was also one of the most beautifully choreographed.

images-6You could see Mads’ dancing background in virtually every move, but especially in his jump over the counter when he went after Jack (above). I don’t know if Mads was wearing a harness to help him leap over that counter, but even it he was, it was still a jeté magnifique.

imagesDespite Jack’s most valiant efforts to defend himself and take down Hannibal, however, Jack was simply no match for Hannibal’s physical agility and determination. Jack was left locked in the pantry, bleeding out, desperately trying to reach his dying wife on the phone to say good-bye.

images-24Most shocking in the S2 finale was the reappearance of Abigail (Kacey Rohl, above L, below R), whom both Will and Hannibal had begun to view as a “daughter-figure.” Will did so after he shot her father Garret Jacob Hobbs when the FBI, i.e., Will and Hannibal, were attempting to apprehend Hobbs for a string of murders. During that showdown, Hobbs had already killed his wife, pushed her, dying, out the front door, and was threatening to slice open his daughter’s throat. He did. Will shot him dead. Will became the “protective” father-figure. images-4Hannibal became  a “father-figure” after he caught her killing the brother of one of her father’s victims. Hannibal realized then that Abigail had been a willing participant in her father’s killings of the girls — she was the bait — despite her protestations to the contrary. Hannibal realized her potential to “become,” and told her he could protect her, as long as she asked for his help. Hannibal became the “teaching” father-figure.

images-7In S1, Abigail came to realize that Hannibal was a serial killer, and viewers were given the impression that Hannibal had killed her, however reluctantly it might have seemed at the moment he first tenderly touched her face after she had seen beyond his “person-suit.”

Hannibal framed Will for her murder by forcing Abigail’s ear through a feeding-tube into a relatively unconscious Will, who vomited it back up along with his medications. Although Will didn’t recall killing Abigail, he believed it might be possible since he could find no logical explanation for vomiting up her whole ear, un-chewed and without apparent bite-marks. (Viewers didn’t know how the ear had gotten into his stomach until the premiere of  S2, when Hannibal’s force-feeding was shown.)

images-2Abigail reappeared in the S2 finale, upstairs, with a crying, bewildered, and obviously disoriented Alana Bloom, and pushed her out a second-story window, leaving her broken on the stone doorstep below, in the pouring rain. She then went down to Hannibal, where he then proceeded to slice her throat open as her father had originally unsuccessfully did.

Will and Abigail lay side-by-side, both bleeding out, with Will vainly attempting to reach her and stop her bleeding as he had done so long ago in her father’s kitchen.

images-3The final, pre-credit scene, showed Hannibal stepping out into the rain. In this metaphorical baptism, Hannibal is re-born.

Having finally been seen for exactly what he is, Hannibal can now become himself most fully.Unknown

If you were foolish enough to turn off the S2 finale before all the credits rolled, then you missed the most startling moment of all: Hannibal, drinking champagne aboard a jet, with his companion, the lovely Dr. Bedelia du Maurier.

images-5

Hannibal’s “Kind of Peace”

images-18Season 3 begins in Paris, where Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom, above L), a former Teaching Assistant (TA) of a Dr. Fell, makes Hannibal’s acquaintance, meeting Hannibal as “Boris Yakov” and sans the ubiquitous plaid suits and sans the laquered hair.

They later discuss a few things at a party, mainly some poet’s “bad writing,” before Hannibal leaves to follow an older gentleman at that party home, where he kills him and eats his liver, greeting the man’s wife-now-widow with a pleasant Bon soir when she enters the apartment.

images-10Later in the S3 premiere, no longer in Paris but in Florence, viewers learn that the beautiful Bedelia, played by Gillian Anderson, is living with Hannibal as man and wife. We are treated, too briefly, to a dancing scene, where Hannibal gives us a glimpse of a smile. When the dance ends, he gazes down at Bedelia and murmurs, “Bellisima,” to which she softly responds, “Grazie.”

(Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker wittily mused on Gillian Anderson’s gorgeousity —

I think it’s the wardrobe change, or perhaps Bedelia’s bathing in Hannibal’s victims’ blood, but it may be Gillian’s physical proximity to Mads that has her glowing.)

images-21In any event, Hannibal wants to “preserve the kind of peace” he’s found in this new life, where he’s “hardly killed anybody.”

Yes, let it be a fairy tale, then…

Not That Kind of Party

images-24Between flashbacks containing Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) and Hannibal, as Hannibal is slowly chopping off bits of Gideon’s body and feeding them to him while they discuss the definition and morality of cannibalism, Hannibal is posing, in his new life in Florence, as Dr. Fell, whom he murdered to “vacate” the faculty position he held, making it available to himself. Bedelia is aware of this. She is posing as Mrs. Fells.

Alas, Dr. Fells’ former TA Dimmond appears in Florence, too, meets Hannibal again, who is now calling himself Dr. Fells instead of Boris Yakov. Dimmond’s no fool, or so it seems, and though he casually and repeatedly tells people that he knows Dr. Fells well, and hints at the “stories he could tell” were he not “such a good friend,” Hannibal invites him to dinner.

images-16There, Dimmond comments on Bedelia’s diet, and the exchange which follows, involving what the Romans fed animals to ensure their unique taste, and ending with “It’s not that kind of party,” is too exquisite for me to ruin it for you here. You have to see it to catch all the nuances, the sexual innuendo, the chemistry between Bedelia and Hannibal (and between Gillian and Mads).

Quite the couple, they make.

Bedelia’s Secret

images-23Alas, all is not well in Bedelia-Land.

Though Hannibal claims to have found a sort of peace, Bedelia is clearly uneasy, anxious, and increasingly frightened.

images-7The scene of her waiting for the train — to what destination, we are not told, since she walked to the market — while gazing up at the surveillance cameras, serves as a metaphor for Bedelia’s life with Hannibal. She is more than uneasy, in fact: she is terrified because she is constantly being watched.

images-9We also learn where Hannibal went immediately after the carnage in S2’s Finale — to Bedelia’s house. When she entered, she discovered him taking a shower in her master bath. He came out of the shower to find her sitting on the bed, with a loaded pistol in one hand, and a drink in the other. After asking if he could get dressed, he told her he’d taken off his person-suit.

She asked how that felt.

He told her she was in no position to ask such a question.

Now, in Florence, living with Hannibal as his wife, Bedelia’s trips to the market do nothing to quiet her.

images-20Her attendance at Hannibal-as-Dr.-Fells’ lecture on Dante is apparently required, because she is obviously uncomfortable, and she bolts as soon as she catches a glimpse of the former TA Dimmond, leaving Hannibal to gaze upon her empty chair.

images-22Scurrying home to their elegant Florentine apartment, she packs, and is just about out the door when Hannibal opens it, followed by the big-mouthed Dimmond, whom Hannibal must deal with.

05HANNIBALRECAP6-blog480Hannibal’s and Bedelia’s ensuing conversation about “participation vs observation” open other, symbolic, doors: into how much Bedelia knows about Hannibal, how long she’s known it, and the secret Bedelia and Hannibal have never revealed about the time she was attacked by a former patient of Hannibal’s, who was killed, and Hannibal’s role in that.

It is this secret that has apparently bound Bedelia to Hannibal, even when she tried to “retire” from clinical psychiatry.

No other major characters appeared in the premiere, so their fates are as yet unknown. I have intentionally avoided viewing any Season 3 trailers which might reveal who survived and who didn’t, and I have not included them here.

Meanwhile, I say Bravisimo to Bryan Fuller and the others who have changed the entire approach to Hannibal.

Because, after all, now that he has been seen, he can become.

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

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

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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:

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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.

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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

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