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Hannibal – A Show You Should Be Watching (But Probably Aren’t)


It’s no secret, the writers of Rock Paper Watch are all TV junkies. While there are shows that the three of us watch together, each writer also has their personal favorites. Starting a new blog series titled “A Show You Should Be Watching (But Probably Aren’t),” here are a couple of reasons why you should join us in our favorite thrill ride, Hannibal.

There’s this little thing called the Friday night death slot and for some reason all of my favorite shows end up there (see Friday Night Lights). Hannibal airs Friday nights at 10pm on NBC and has averaged 2.65 million viewers for season 2. At a time when TV horror is at the top (see American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful, Bates Motel, The Walking Dead, etc.) Hannibal is flailing. Why? Is it the awful Friday night time slot or is it something else? The season finale is Friday night and for a series that I love so much, let me tell you why it’s imperative to set your DVR and then spend the summer catching up.

It’s got a killer cast (ha, get it). The long list of TV and movie veterans includes Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, and special guest Gillian Anderson. It’s built on one of the most bankable franchises in literature and film and tells the twisted backstory of one of the most famous villains in cinematic history. What is interesting about Hannibal is that we already know what happens. We know that Dr. Hannibal Lecter finds himself behind bars eventually. Hannibal sets out to tell the story of how he got there. And boy, it’s a twisted story.

Hannibal - Season 2

Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is on par with Anthony Hopkins (bold statement, I know). Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is so haunting that I physically cannot watch it before bed. He’s cold, dark, calculated, and detached. His counterpart on the show is Will Graham portrayed by Hugh Dancy. Will Graham is a criminal profiler and hunter of serial killers. He has a unique ability to empathize and understand the killers he tracks. The first season posed the question, how far can Hannibal push Graham before he loses it and becomes a killer himself? The second season is all about Graham’s mission to bring Hannibal’s true intentions to light while maintaining his sanity and desperately suppressing his natural instincts to kill.

This is where Hannibal is far more captivating than the other horror shows currently on air. It explores the most depraved depths of human nature. The series shows the journey of a cold, unfeeling murderer who just kills because of his own curiosity. It doesn’t use witches or zombies, like American Horror Story or The Walking Dead to justify the violence. It doesn’t care if you root for Hannibal or not, he’s not meant to be an anti-hero like Norman Bates or Dexter. He kills and then eats people because it is what he feels like doing.

Hannibal is often credited for being one of the sharpest dramas on TV. The writing is sleek, it’s haunting, and it’s artfully filmed. You may remember my recap of the premiere in which I stated, “The show is beautifully filmed.  It’s a quality that I didn’t anticipate from NBC.” This sentiment continued. Each week, I’m mesmerized by the show’s use of color, metaphorical imagery, culinary depictions (buh), and slow motion. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch. It completely disregards your gag reflex, the blood and gore is pretty gruesome. I spend a good portion of the show covering my eyes in horror.

So, Friday night. The second season opened with this flash forward, an epic fight between Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

At the time it aired, Will Graham was in a psychiatric prison after being framed for Hannibal’s crimes. Now he’s out and embarking on a mission to take down the psychiatrist. We still don’t know why Jack and Hannibal are duking it out in his chilly kitchen but we will get our answers Friday night. Will you be watching?

On May 9, NBC renewed Hannibal for a third season. If you are interested and want to catch up Season 1 is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Bon appetite.



‘Hannibal’ Premiere Recap: I’m Hooked

Oooh!  “Due to Violent Content Viewer Discretion is Advised.” My roommate says I only watch violent shows (American Horror Story, Bates Motel, Game of Thrones) there may be some truth to that.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the first episode of Hannibal is that it moves quickly and a lot happens, so let’s get started.

Meet Will Graham

Cue scene, police, puddle of blood, blood splatter, a male corpse going into a body bag, a female corpse laying on the floor, we see Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) standing in the midst of the chaos.

Graham is surveying the scene, he closes his eyes, he begins to hear a heartbeat, its overwhelmed with a noise similar to static.  He opens his eyes, the coloring of the scene has changed, everything has warm tones, and Graham looks like a crazy person.

The cops vanish, the bodies vanish, the blood vanishes, everything is in rewind, Graham is walking backwards.  Now he’s outside of the house, watching it, and we can see the woman inside.

He speedily walks to the house, forces his way in, and abruptly shoots the man.

Graham narrates, “I shoot Mr. Marlow twice, severing jugular and carotids with near-surgical precision.  He will die watching me take what is his away from him. This is my design”

He shoots the woman as she’s trying to activate the security alarm.

“I shoot Mrs. Marlow expertly through the neck, this is not a fatal wound the bullet misses every artery.  She is paralyzed before it leaves her body, which doesn’t mean she can’t feel pain just means she can’t do anything about it.  This is my design.”

Graham tries to turn off the alarm but the operator needs to know whom they are speaking with.

We flash back to the crime scene, cops are buzzing, and the warm tones are gone.  Will requests the security system incident report; that night’s incident was recorded as a false alarm.  It also says there was a false alarm last week.  Then it clicks. Graham realizes the criminal tapped their phones and recorded Mrs. Marlow’s false alarm response from last week so he could play it back and deactivate the alarm.  We see Graham acting this out, the warm tones and the static return.  We quickly associate these visual cues to mean Graham is now in the mind of the killer.

“This is when it gets truly horrifying for Mrs. Marlow.”

Elements of the scene transition, his clothing, the cool tones return, he is leaning on a podium.

“Everyone has thought about killing someone one way or another.”

Graham is in front of a classroom, delivering a lecture about getting into the mind of a killer.  “Tell me your design.”  Class dismissed.

That was just the first four minutes of Hannibal; you can stop holding your breath.

Special agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) enters the classroom and introduces himself to Graham.  He inquires about Graham’s mental state.  We learn that Graham is autistic, he has Asperger Sydrome (Hugh Dancy also portrayed a character with Asperger’s in the movie Adam) but he empathizes with narcissists and sociopaths.  Graham credits the empathy to an overactive imagination.  Crawford needs to borrow his imagination.

This Week’s Case

Crawford explains there have been 8 girls abducted from 8 different Minnesota campuses in the past 8 months.  There have been no bodies; they were all abducted on Fridays.  The latest girl is Elise Nichols.  All the girls fit a profile, same hair color, eye color, age, height, and weight.  Graham explains its not about all the girls, it’s about one girl.  To illustrate his point he uses a clever Willy Wonka metaphor. Each girl is a candy bar, hidden inside one of these candy bars is the real true intended victim – the golden ticket.

We learn that Graham is unlike other behavioral analysts.  He solves the crimes faster than others.  Graham says it’s the evidence but the audience already knows it’s his mind.  He specializes in thinking like a killer, understanding their design.

At the home of Elise’s parents, they are explaining to Crawford other possibilities.  Maybe she just took off on her own, left on her own free will.  Just by observing his surroundings, Graham figures out that Elise was abducted from the home because the cat was well fed, meaning she had to have been there.

Graham requests to see the bedroom.  Once he opens the door, we see Elise’s corpse lying on the bed.  Unlike the other girls, the killer brought the body back, what makes Elise different?

Crime scene investigator Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park ) interrupts Graham before he can fully imagine himself as the killer.  She is looking for antler velvet, which was evident at other crime scenes.  Deer and elk pin their prey to suffocate them, similar to how Elise died (by strangulation, also her body was strangely full of piercings).  Graham points out that antler velvet is full of nutrients and promotes healing.  Graham explains that the killer is sensitive, he tries to undo as much of the death as he can, which is why antler velvet was found at the other crime scenes.  With Elise, he couldn’t undo what he did to her, which was why he brought her back to her bed.  This is his apology.

After his day is done, we see Graham return home where he picks up a stray dog, feeds him, gives him a bath, even blow dries him and names him Winston (DAW!).  Graham introduces him to the other dogs, turns out he has several.  If I had to guess, this probably has to do with the fact that dogs are good by nature; they’re loving and loyal.  All emotions Graham lacks but is trying to understand.

That night, Will is trying to sleep, we hear the infamous heartbeat and static, things are about to get crazy. He rolls over to see Elise lying beside him.  He wakes up drenched in sweat.

Back at the office, Graham explains to Crawford that he can’t figure out this psychopath, he’s different.  He’s not insensitive or shallow.  He couldn’t honor Elise; he couldn’t show her he loved her so he put the corpse back.  He loves one of the girls and in some form loves all the girls.  He kills them quickly, thinks in mercy, the killer knows he is going to get caught eventually.

Katz inspects Elise’s clothing and finds a piece of metal.

We then see a construction site where a young female matching the profile gets out of her car, waves to a construction worker, and then walks away.

Crawford meets with one of Graham’s coworkers, Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and they discuss Graham’s mental state.  Alana is obviously concerned, she warns to not let Graham get too close.  Translation, don’t let him fully slip into the mind of a killer.

Katz and the other CSIs are investigating Elise’s corpse in effort to find more evidence than the piece of metal.  She is gorged, antler velvet was present, but why?

Graham sees another vision and he puts it all together.

The killer is mounting the girls on deer antlers, like they’re hooks (eck!).  They then realize that her liver has been removed and then reinserted and sewn back into the body.

CSI – Why would he take out the liver and then put it back?
Graham – There’s something wrong with the meat.
CSI – She has liver cancer.
Graham – He’s eating them

After twenty-six minutes we finally see Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen), doing what he does best, listening to classical music and eating some form of meat that we’re sure he didn’t buy at the grocery store.

Enter Hannibal Lector

The next day, we see Mr. Hannibal Lector at his office.  He’s sitting across from a patient who’s begging for a tissue.  Hannibal, coldly, complies.  The patient is experiencing extreme anxiety, which Hannibal compares to knowing there is a lion present that is on the verge of devouring him.  “You have to convince yourself that the lion is not in the room, when it is I assure you, you will know” Or not.

Crawford is waiting for Hannibal outside of his office.  Hannibal makes him wait, obviously asserting his dominance.  Crawford makes conversation, Hannibal is quite charming.  Alana referred Hannibal’s psychiatric services because Crawford needs him to keep an eye on Graham’s stability.

Back at Quantico, Crawford and Graham fill Hannibal in on the case.  Hannibal points out Graham’s social difficulties such as avoiding eye contact and emotion.  Graham is immediately insulted that he’s being profiled.

“Don’t psychoanalyze me. You won’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed”

Once Graham leaves, Crawford encourages a less direct approach.  Hannibal points out that Graham works on pure empathy, he assumes the point of view of the killer.  He wants to help Graham see this killer’s face.

In the Minnesota desert, Graham and Crawford are at the latest crime scene where a body has been forcefully laid on top of a stolen stag head.  Graham sees right through it, this is a copycat.  There is no sensitivity in this crime scene.  Also, he took her lungs and she was alive when he cut them out.

We then see Hannibal preparing a set of lungs, squishing and cutting them, dinnertime.

Graham knows that the cannibal that killed Elise had no part in this; he now fully understands.  The killer has a daughter that matches the profile, we see the girl from the construction site as Graham explains, and the father can’t stand the idea of losing his daughter.  It’s then clear; Hannibal committed this murder to help Graham see the killer’s face.  Look at you Hannibal, so generous.

Knock knock knock.  Hannibal shows up at Graham’s hotel, they’re paired together today.  Hannibal explains that he is very particular about what goes into his body so he prepares all his meals himself.  He has brought breakfast to split with Graham, scrambled eggs and sausage.

They begin to discuss the case.  Graham explains that he knows it was a copycat as Hannibal pushes for details.  He explains he had to see the negative to understand the positive, that the crime scene was practically gift-wrapped.  In his description, he seems to insult the copycat’s work and therefore, Hannibal’s work.

Hannibal then inquires about Graham’s ability to reconstruct the crime in his mind.  Does it ever lead to other problems?  Hannibal explains that the two of them are just a like; they have nothing to feel horrible about (just as Graham eats the sausage, buh).  Graham, interested, asks how Hannibal sees him “ You are the mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by.”

The two are exploring construction sites together (because of the piece of metal found on Elise), looking for anything peculiar.  When looking through the union papers, Graham notices the paperwork for Garrett Jacob Hobbs and asks the office manager if he has a daughter.  His paperwork is suspicious because he only left a phone number, no address like everyone else.  They pack up the car and plan to pay Hobbs a visit.

Hannibal goes back in the office and discreetly makes a phone call.  He’s calling Hobbs “This is a courtesy call. Listen carefully. Are you listening?  They know.”

Hannibal and Graham arrive at Hobbs house just in time to see Hobbs push his wife out the front door; her throat is slit.  Hannibal passively looks on as Graham tries to save her.  Once she is dead Graham goes running in the house.  He hears the daughter crying.  As Hobbs begins to slice his own daughters throat, Graham shoots him a dozen times.

Graham immediately runs to the daughter to stop the bleeding, he has a vision of Hobbs looking at him and saying, “See?

Graham, running on pure adrenaline, is trying to stop the bleeding.  Hannibal stands over, he’s just watching the girl die, he then grabs her neck and helps Graham.  Hannibal ends up saving her life.

We then see Graham standing in the front yard, covered in blood as Hannibal climbs into the ambulance with the girl.

Crawford goes to see Alana who scolds him for letting Graham get too close.

Graham is at the hospital; he walks into the daughter’s room to find Hannibal sleeping by her bed.  Graham takes the seat on the other side.

The end.

The biggest shock of the episode was definitely the phone call Hannibal made to Hobbs.  By this point Hannibal had his own profile, he knew how Hobbs would react when caught and he wanted Graham to be thrown into that situation.  But why?  Graham is the original Clarisse.  Hannibal wants to be responsible for his unraveling.  Why?  Because he’s Hannibal Lector, the epitome of evil.  And there you have it, the baseline plot for the show.  How far can Hannibal push Graham before he loses it and becomes a killer himself?

The show is beautifully filmed.  It’s a quality that I didn’t anticipate from NBC.  The contrast of warm and cool tones to explain Graham’s state of mind is interesting.  The only thing I worry about is that it will become a “case of the week” kind of show (see, Criminal Minds and CSI).

What did you think of Hannibal?  Will you be tuning in for more episodes?  Did you expect a show like this to come from NBC?  Let me know your thoughts.  Something tells me I’ll be a full-on vegetarian by the end of it.

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What to Watch This Week – Hannibal

Keeping with the thrillers currently dominating television (Bates Motel, American Horror Story) NBC offers up its own version in Hannibal, which kicks off this Thursday at 10pm.

Hugh Dancy plays Will Graham, a tormented profiler recruited by FBI boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to help profile a gruesome murderer.  Before ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ before ‘Red Dragon,’ Hannibal reminds us of the brilliant psychiatrist, Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen).  Lector is enlisted by the FBI to help Graham, who is haunted by his ability to understand and see into the minds of serial killers.

Only the audience knows that Lecter is a killer himself that prefers his meat human.  The shows dynamic of course being “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” since Lector finds himself sitting across from a hunter of serial killers every week, picking his brain (hopefully not literally), and listening to his weaknesses.

The trailer is below, do you plan to tune in?