February 25, 2016

Perhaps the greatest ‘will they, wont they’ couple to appear on television in the teenaged years of this century, are Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), the murder sets’ Ross & Rachel, whose loaded and lethal repartee play out against a glorious canvas of ripped flesh, contorted cadavers and epicurean entrails.

Based on Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon- but borrowing heavily from the other books in the series, creator Bryan Fuller winds back the narrative clock to see just how the FBI profiler and cannibalistic serial killer first meet, sparking a personal and professional infatuation that buries deep, before blooming a brutal bouquet of paranoid psychosis.

Over three seasons we’ve wondered if Graham would be seduced into insanity during his attempts to bring Lecter to justice for the multitude of murders he committed as the Chesapeake Ripper- then helped investigate through his day job as a forensic psychiatrist.

Or would their psychological flirtation end with him filleted and fried on Lecter’s griddle. Tarantulas cannibalize their mates when they have fulfilled their purpose, and having each flattered, then deceived the other, would the end be nigh for Graham when the allure of his intellect no longer compensated for the threat he posed?

Hannibal, the series, swaggers away from any suggestion that any of this could actually happen. It creates, instead, a poetic, haunting dreamscape with an approach that seems to draw on modern dance and freestyle jazz, as much as it does the spoken word.

Attributing Graham’s ability to put himself in the shoes of the monsters he hunts to an untreated case of encephalitis, Fuller drew forth a world of anthropomorphic visions, with terror seeping from the banal, as everyday objects take on terrible forms, and our protagonist struggled to decipher what was actually happening and what was a delusion.

The ‘psycho of the week’ cases proved that, if murder was an art, then the corpse is a canvas, one that can be twisted to make the most horrifying images striking in their beauty. Rot and decay have an unnerving allure, blood splatters with the fury and finesse of a Pollock; while the show milked the sexualized gastronomy of Nigella Lawson and lavishly marinated Hannibal’s taste for flesh in it.

The first two seasons followed a fairly independent path, following how Hannibal fooled Graham and the FBI, while also introducing a selection of other killers for the gang to hunt down. These include a homeopath who replaced peoples brans with beehives, a pharmacist who turned his victims into living, breathing Fungi and a terminally-ill patient who turned bad people into angels, creating wings from their own skin.

Yet nuggets from the novels were scattered throughout, as Fuller showed he was willing to circumvent the story laid down by Harris- only to return to it later, keeping the audience blindsided by what occurred, enriching the cannon by nourishing its roots.

He teases out throwaway comments and characters from the novels to open up the world in a way that wasn’t available to the filmmakers who preceded him and reframes some of the series most infamous lines, in a manner that will delight fans (if occasionally camp up otherwise grisly situations)

True, Hannibal’s creators have a tendency to get so stoned on their own visual flow that it can drown out the cat and mouse game played. But the fact that a fourth series has yet to find a home in the streaming afterlife, means the Fuller’s Grand Guignol has a carnivorous thrust to its crescendo.


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