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

No Spoilers but Viewer Discretion Advised
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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

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

  1. Dannibal Lecter

    Just finished reading this post; beautifully written. 🙂 The s2 fianle is still so painful for me; just reading your brief overview made me misty-eyed.

    I was going to ask if you watched the commentaries yet or the “This is my Design” documentary on the dvd? Mads is truly a dedicated actor. Bryan Fuller said that Mads was sick for three days after doing the scene where he was strung up by the Matthew Brown (Jonathan Tucker) character. To be honest, I never had much respect for actors or people that work in the tv/film industry; I always figured how hard could it really be? But, after seeing the “This is my Design” documentary and hearing the commentaries (and watching interviews with Mads about “Hannibal” and other films he has been in), has given me a new respect for actors (Mads especially) and for those that work in tv/film (especially on “Hannibal”). They work very hard and put forth so much effort and it is amazing what they create.

    One of my favorite things about this show, and I suspect you will probably end up re-watching s1 & s2 eventually, is all the call backs and bits of foreshadowing in many of the episodes. There are things I missed entirely until the second or third re-watch. One little example…in season 1, there is a picture of ears hanging up in Hannibal’s office, by his books on the second floor…and we see Abigail pass right by it as she climbs down the ladder. Very easy to miss.

    Honestly, I am so excited for season 3, but I am not emotionally prepared for it. I know it will hurt (after all, this is Bryan Fuller we are talking about…I have said before he is the Mason Verger of showrunners; he drinks the tears of the fannibals). Only 58 days til June 4th….tick tock, tick tock.

    • I did watch the commentaries, but I must have missed something because I didn’t hear anything about Mads’ being sick after doing that scene (though I was “sick” just watching it). I read a comment by Mads that he used to have no respect for TV work, but now TV can do things that they can’t do in films, so he’s completely changed his mind. I watched 2 of his films (one in Danish, which I had to read, basically; one in French, which I understand, so I could pay attention to him and his acting): he is so brilliant, I can’t believe it. HANNIBAL, as much as I adore and respect it, doesn’t even come close to showing the range of his talent and skill as an actor.

      OMG, I did miss the ears. Now I have to re-watch some of the episodes. I was going to watch S2 again (watched S1 three times before writing blog), and now I’m really going to be looking at things. I have seen lots of the foreshadowing because I was a lit major/professor and so am used to catching those kind of things, but I may have missed some of the callbacks.

      I’m so excited about the show, to have found you, and to have the other #Fannibals connecting with me on the twitter. I haven’t had this much fun since Penny Dreadful and True Detective.


      • Dannibal Lecter

        I apologize for not replying sooner; I never got an email notice that you responded.

        What movie did you watch that was in Danish? I have watched a number of his Danish films; and I completely agree…he has tremendous range as an actor; he is just amazing. I really admire his dedication to his craft. I don’t know if you have watched any interviews or read any fan recounts of meeting Mads, but even though he is so brilliant, he never acts like he is better than other people. Every story I have read from fans that have met him have stated just how laid back he is. He also has a great sense of humor (if you haven’t watched the PaleyFest panel with him, Hugh, Bryan, Laurence, and Caroline, I would recommend it; they are all so funny). I hope that I get the opportunity to meet him one day.

        To be fair, the ear picture is at a distance so it is not easy to see. I only learned about it after reading another fannibal mention it on Tumblr. You can see it a few times, if you pay attention, but especially when Abigail is climbing down the ladder in Potage (it is above and to the right of her). I wrote a blog post a while back about some of the callbacks and foreshadowing. My writing is not near as good as yours, but if you’re interested, here is the link:

        This is my first and only fandom I have been in, and I truly enjoy it; I have been so glad to meet people (like yourself); I’ve made a lot of fannibal friends. I am so excited for season 3 (54 days), but nervous. I am hoping that NBC will better promote Hannibal this year; the past two years promotion has been pretty dismal. It’s sad when the fans feel like they have to do the promoting for the show. I have some hope though, since apparently there was a press event earlier this week. I wasn’t in the fandom last year, so I don’t know if they had a similar press event last year or not; I tried to do some Google searing to find out, but to no avail.

        If you’re not following Bryan Fuller, the Hannibal Writers Room, Sean Armstrong (he’s a boom mic operator on the show), and Tattle_Crime (not affiliated with NBC or DLC, but still an awesome account) on Twitter, I would highly recommend it.

        Last but not least, there’s a person on Tumblr that has been doing extensive recaps of season 1 of Hannibal. They are really well written and quite hilarious. You may enjoy them. Here’s the link to the one for Appéritif:


        • Hi, Danielle,
          I watched A Royal Affair, which was in Danish. Michael Kolhaas was in French. I liked them both because they showed more of a range in Mads’ acting. I assumed Mads had a sense of humor — despite his intensity as Hannibal — since, when asked how he liked being voted the “Sexiest Man in Denmark”, Mads said he’d rather be voted the “Sexiest” than the “Ugliest.” Also, in a brief interview about Hannibal, Mads said Hannibal is a “freak,” so I gathered Mads is a sensible man doing a brilliant acting job.

          I’ll certainly look up the things you suggested as I love connecting with fans of the shows or films I blog about. And thanks so very much for the links to the other blogs on Hannibal: I’m looking forward to reading them.

          I agree about the advertising: I have DirecTV, which advertises any show that’s popular, on any channels, and lets viewers know when they’re showing and on what particular channel, but I heard about Hannibal from a viewer who’s a follower on Twitter, not from any commercials by NBC. I don’t mind having the DVDs, of course, but I would have liked to have been watching this show from the beginning.


          • Dannibal Lecter

            Hey Alexandria,

            Ah, “Royal Affair” is such a great movie; probably one of my faves of his. “After the Wedding” is also really great. I haven’t seen either of his French films yet, nor his German film, but I really hope to eventually. If you like comedy, particularly dry, dark humor…then you would probably also enjoy “Adams Æbler” and “De Grønne Slagtere” (Adam’s Apples and The Green Butchers”); I found them quite entertaining.

            Mads in interviews cracks me up so much! He is so completely opposite of Hannibal Lecter. I have read a couple of naysayers about the show, complaining that Mads isn’t doing much in the way of acting. Clearly, they have never seen in interviews because they would know that he is doing a LOT of acting in the role of Hannibal. To illustrate, this is one of my favorite gif sets ever:


            The one advantage to not watching “Hannibal” when it first began airing is that you didn’t have to wait through this entire, very lengthy, extended HeAteUs (hiatus). Season two ended last year on May 25th, which means that is over an entire year before season three begins. I did start watching when it initially aired, and the first HeAteUs wasn’t as bad as this second one.


          • Wow, I didn’t even think about the hiatus. Also, I’ve never seen it with commercial breaks because I saw every season on DVD. We’ll just have to help each other through this long #HeAteUs, Danielle. Thanks for all the wonderful links. I agree that anyone who thinks Mads isn’t acting in Hannibal hasn’t seen any of his other work.
            Hugs, A

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