TV’s Hannibal Says Goodbye Far Too SoonSeptember 2, 2015
I prepared to view the series finale of Hannibal with a mix of anticipation, trepidation and sadness. I was unsure how they were going to end it and if indeed they would be able to pull it off in a way that didn’t feel cheap and rushed. I am happy to say it was an enjoyable episode with some excellent moments between the lead actors. In fact, I got so caught up in it that at one point I almost forgot that this was the last episode of the series.
Almost being the key word.
For three seasons, Hannibal was a very different animal in the world of network television. The acting, especially that of Mads Mikkelson and Hugh Dancy, was top notch and the violence while sometimes pushed to the extreme, was written and filmed in a way that was very artistic, almost a symphony of blood if you will.
I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first heard that Hannibal was going to be turned into a TV series, on network television no less. I mean, there was no way NBC was going to let anything controversial slip by the censors and risk it’s ‘family’ image. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the network had either fired all the censors or lost its mind in terms of what was being shown each week. I was shocked and so damn happy at the same time, it was like I had died and gone to heaven.
It also became very clear that this was not going to be a simple ‘shock and awe’ kind of show. There was substance here, beautifully photographed with interesting story lines that included the strange and twisted relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. It was a courtship between two men, connected in a way few could understand. As they continued their dance with each other, the stakes got higher as did the body count, and some of those who actually survived being in the same vicinity as these two might have been better off dead themselves.
The show was also blessed with a great supporting cast, with the likes of Gillian Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas just to name a few. When the focus shifted from the two main leads at any time, there was more than enough talent to keep the quality of the show at a very high level. The only down side was finding enough camera time for all of the talent each and every week.
Extremely low ratings were always puzzling as fans and critics alike had so many good things to say about the show. Maybe the day it aired played a role in this, or the timeslot, I’m not sure. The visuals and violence could also have been a factor that kept many viewers away. Or maybe it was just so different that people couldn’t understand it and didn’t give it time to grow on them.
The writers had a tough job from day one, not only dealing with some familiar material but having to overcome the long shadow cast by Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in the movies Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon. Actor Mads Mikkelsen took on this challenge and surprised many people with his strong performance and believable portrayal as the brilliant and twisted Dr. Lecter.
Conversely, they needed an actor just as strong to be able to stand up to Hannibal and be incredibly vulnerable at the same time. Hugh Dancy did this amazingly well, showing us the tortured soul and broken psyche of Will Graham each and every week. Once these two got in front of the camera the writers, producers, directors etc. must all have breathed a huge sigh of relief as they knew that not only were these two actors very good at what they do but had great chemistry together as well.
The show was not perfect, however. Some plot arcs went on too long or were so short if you blinked you missed it. Also, some scenes needed you to take a leap of faith and pray they knew what they were doing and would explain it all at some point. This was not always the case.
Be that as it may the overall quality and originality of the show, especially the look, was exceptional. It is hard to imagine the inside of a psychiatrists office as a setting that would interest anyone but the showrunners did an excellent job of using it as a setting where Hannibal began his hunt if you will, feeling out his patient to find out if they were interesting enough to play with, let alone eat. When Will Graham entered the picture, it became even more interesting to watch. Hannibal became enamored with the strength and vulnerability that Will possessed, yet while he played games with him he was always sure to stay on guard, aware that Graham was capable of seeing through his mirage if he wasn’t careful.
As the first two seasons progressed, the viewer was treated to a wonderful game of cat and mouse that ultimately saw Hannibal captured, but as always, on his terms. The final season became the hunt for Lecter and as we watched characters come and go, the disintegration of Will Graham and what he would actually do if and when he found Hannibal became fascinating to behold.
At first glance, the final episode may seem to leave no doubt as to the future of the show. However, the final after credit scene throws a wrench into things that may make the viewer stop to ponder just what exactly is going on. Regardless, Hannibal was a great was to spend an hour each week for the past few years, taking risks and going places that most network television shows would never even dream of going. That combined with the talent involved made Hannibal one of the best shows I’ve seen on television in the past twenty years.
RIP Hannibal. You will be missed.