A farewell to “Hannibal”

In my earlier posts about Hannibal, I pointed out that the show has never been a ratings success, and part of that may be because the show should not even be on television. (My posts are here and here.)

Well, the show has finally met its maker, and it went out in a blaze of glory.

This interview by Bryan Fuller at HitFix is a great wrap-up of the various quirks of Hannibal that made it so distinctive. Everything there is worth reading, but I found this quote representative of what made this show great:

It was very literary, it was very pretentious, and very niche. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised that it didn’t find an audience.
— Bryan Fuller

He’s right on all accounts.

From the start, Hannibal never sought to find a mass audience. Even though it began in a procedural style, the show looked, sounded and worked far removed from NBC’s other shows. And that’s what brought me to love this show, because Hannibal was, quite simply, insane.

From throat cellos to skin angels, the show did it all. And it did so while spinning love stories between people: man and woman, woman and woman, and lastly, man and man. After the series finale, “The Wrath Of The Lamb”, I can say for certainty that despite all the crime-solving and investigative work, Hannibal is about the love story between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham.

Hannibal and Will are symbiotic. Throughout the show’s run, both of them have danced around each other’s veiled intentions, hunted each other down, and embraced each other. There won’t be a happy ending – it’s Hannibal Lecter after all – but they understood each other. And like it or not, despite him being part of law enforcement, Will Graham was always going to embrace his darkness; Hannibal simply helped him find that part of himself.

Throughout the show’s run, Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy were also supported by a great cast of supporting and recurring actors: Laurence Fishburne, Gina Torres, Raúl Esperza, Gillian Anderson, Richard Armitage, Anna Chlumsky, Michael Pitt, and Eddie Izzard. They brought to life the other characters in the Hannibal Lecter universe, and they did wonderful jobs. I can’t imagine anybody other than Armitage, for example, being Francis Dolarhyde after seeing his portrayal in this season.

The show also underwent several shifts in plotting throughout its run. As I noted earlier, the first season was mostly procedural, with an ongoing arc for the Chesapeake Ripper; the second season was much more serialised and saw Will and the FBI slowly tighten their search onto Hannibal; the third season was split into two serialised arcs, with the first arc set in Europe with Hannibal and Doctor du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) and the second arc focusing on the hunt for the Great Red Dragon.

The third season started off a little too pretentious for me, during the Europe arc, but even so, I understood what Fuller and his staff were trying to achieve. I admire them for going all out, too; artistic audacity is something we rarely see on a regulated medium like television.

Art seeks to inspire, to incite a reaction. A show like Hannibal which is so artsy, so pretentious, never had a chance of finding a large audience. Considering that, three seasons is a good run for the show. At times the show confused me, at times the show disgusted me, at times the show frightened me, but every time the show incited a reaction from me. Hannibal is a great show that got what it deserved, and I’m happy at how it went out.


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