The Mythology of Hannibal Lecter

 

Hannibal the Series embodies so many themes and myths, its difficult to parse them all (and its possible Fuller may never have intended to make a few of them, if he was simply following the general theme of the films), but some of its themes are classics of the Western, and sometimes World, traditions.

 

Hunting:

It’s a motif that’s threaded throughout  the serie’s primary narrative, which is the Gothic Romance, between its  two major characters, Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. That Lecter is a predator is made abundantly clear to the viewers. What is not made equally clear, is that everyone else in the show are a Hunters and this is the general theme of the first season. The difference is subtle but there. Lecter preys. Jack and the others Hunt. From Abigail (note Abigail’s various hunting jackets and other attire) and her father, to Jack Crawford and his team, to the serial killers they hunt throughout the first season. Most of the hunters we see have the full weight and backing of government authority, and that includes Lecter, when he’s consulting for the FBI. One could say that their job is to hunt people who are not sanctioned by the government to do so.

But Hunting is not the only mythology represented. This is a many layered series, and a  pantheon of other stories and  mythologies  can be seen within it.

 

  1. The Wild Hunt:

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The Wild Hunt

There are myths of the Wild Hunt all over Western Europe. One of the things they all have in common is that there is a leader, his riders, and a pack of hounds, like any other hunt. It often takes place in Winter or at night, and if you’re caught out in the open when The Wild hunt finds you, your options are vanishingly small.

Flee or die.

Everyone in this series is a Hunter, to a greater or lesser degree. Even Alana,  through her work as a consultant profiler in the FBI, can also be classified as such, although she might be considered one of the lesser hounds. Jack  and Will Graham would be considered the top tier, while Hannibal is, without question, considered to be the ultimate, the pinnacle (until he is deposed by Will Graham, who captures him.)

Jack Crawford has a team of his own hounds,  Price, Zeller, and Katz, and they are very good at their jobs, bringing their prey to ground, time after time, even when it turns out to be one of their own. Jack’s primary prey is the Chesapeake Ripper, with whom he is obsessed. This is an obsession that nearly causes his downfall in the FBI, when one of his hounds goes astray, but he is willing to hunt without government authority, in season three. That said, Jack still has bosses, who can call him to heel, when they feel he’s going outside the bounds of the law.

This is something that’s also true of Will Graham. He also works within the purview of the FBI, but has even less authority than Jack, as Jack is his superior. He is often coded as a wolf to Lecter’s bear,  and at one point is openly referred to as Jack Crawford’s hound. In the first season, before he becomes fully cognizant of how much power he possesses, Will is one of those  poor souls caught out at night by the Wild Hunt. Rather than kill him however, Lecter would prefer that he join him instead, an option not  found in the original mythology.

If the FBI can be considered a version of the Wild Hunt, chasing down those humans who have wandered out into the dark night of the soul, then having positioned himself within the FBI, Lecter could be considered its leader, as he controls and manipulates the hunt and the hunters. He knows more than the government that controls Jack Crawford. He knows more than everyone, and during the first two seasons of the series, Lecter is clearly situated as an omniscient,  God-like being who  sees everything.

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2.The DireRavenStag/The Wild Hunt

Lecter is represented by the RavenStag a combination of the deer’s head and ravens found with the body of Cassie Boyle. This is Lecter’s first killing within the series, and it is the one that sets Will Graham on his trail, as The Chesapeake Ripper hasn’t killed in a number of years. In Germanic mythology, Odin is the leader of the Wild Hunt and is accompanied by the ravens Munin and Hugnin, which mean memory and thought. (In some missives, their names mean “Desire” and “Thought”, which also works within the narrative of the series.)

Both  Will and Lecter represent Odin’s ravens. Lecter ‘s primary qualification is  “thought”, in his job as a psychiatrist, and he and Will have the highest forms of “thought” and “memory”, in the series. Will, as a profiler who reconstructs crime scenes, represents “memory”. (Note:There’s a statue of a black Hart in Lecter’s office, which is often seen during his sessions with Will.) Working together, like Odin’s ravens, Will and Lecter bring information back  to Jack Crawford,  information used by Jack in his hunt for killers.

The Wild Hunt is often shown chasing  a White Hart, so all the animals of the Hunt are represented in the series. The ravens represent The Hunters, while the Stag/Hart represents The Hunted. In the series, Lecter, as the Chesapeake Ripper and member of the FBI task force charged with finding himself,  is both the pursued and the pursuer. Will is also the pursued and pursuer, as he hunts Lecter, Lecter hunts Will.

The Wild Hunt only occurs at night and in the depths of Winter. (Note how many times we get to see Lecter show his true face during the day.) During the daylight hours, Lecter wears the disguise of a benignly polite person suit, as noted by his own therapist Bedelia DuMaurier. We mostly see Lecter’s real face at night, when he’s in session with Will Graham, or eating and cooking his prey.  As the second season progresses, we see his real face more and more often, day or night. By the third season, he has dropped his person suit entirely,  which  is most evident after his incarceration.

How often do we notice snow outside of Lecter’s dining room windows? During the first two seasons, especially when visiting Lecter’s home, it is almost always snowing. It is also  snowing in the some of the  most dramatic moments of the first season, when Lecter is deeply involved in scheming. (For example, during Abel Gideon’s escape, and Will’s hunt for him.)

In the first season, Lecter allows his crimes as The Chesapeake Ripper to be subsumed by the crimes of others, throwing Jack Crawford and his hounds off his trail, (except for Will Graham.) But his arrogance will not allow for this situation to last for long. He is a vain and egotistical creature, that wishes to be known, and being pursued by Will Graham is restricting for him.  He has to put Jack’s hound off his trail, and so first discredits, then frames Will for his own crimes.

In season two, Lecter is content, in Will’s absence, to consume other serial killers and their works. First subsuming the crimes of the  Eye of God Killer, and eating parts of him. Finally culminating in eating most of Abel Gideon, and by doing so, erasing Gideon’s crimes, as we begin to sympathize with Abel’s misfortune at falling into Lecter’s hands.

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While Lecter is doing this, he is also hunting and being hunted by Will Graham, the two of them pursuing each other in a tighter and tighter orbit, until they have no choice but to join as one. They are the head and tail of the Ouroboros. They are Yin and Yang. As Jack states to Chiyo in season three,  “They are identically different”.

Lecter’s  pursuit of Will’s understanding, then friendship, companionship, and ultimately Will’s love, is the driving force of the second season. And if the coda to the story, at the end of season three, is truthful, then his pursuit is successful, as he and Will are now hunting together, and are starting with Bedelia.

 

3. Herne the Hunter/Cernunnos/Satan

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Cernunnos is a Celtic god associated with sexuality, fertility, the hunt, and the underworld. He was worshiped by the iron age Celts all across Europe as late as the first century CE, and his worship must have begun centuries before that. Cernunnos is a Romanized name meaning “Horned One.”

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In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. He has antlers upon his head.

In the second season, Lecter is coded as a Satanic figure, as this season chronicles his fall,  and loss of trust, with the FBI. During the first season, Lecter is represented by the DireRavenStag, an amalgam of imagery from the first Copycat crime scene. After Will Graham surmises that the Copycat Killer is also The Chesapeake Ripper, that hallucination morphs into the ManStag, into Cernunnos:

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At the beginning of season two, it is shown killing and eating The RavenStag. (This is one of several deaths of the RavenStag we will see in the series.)

In season two, Abel Gideon flatly states that Hannibal is the Devil, and every mention or appearance of Lecter is often preceded by the image, or sound, of either the Stag or  ManStag. In the final episode of Season one (Savoureux), the ManStag replaces  Hannibal Lecter altogether, just after Will’s been shot, looming over Jack Crawford. In episode one of season two, (Kaiseki), after Will tells Chilton he wants to speak to Hannibal, there’s the image of the ManStag, rising from the waters of Will’s dream river, before we go to a scene of Chilton talking to Lecter in his dining room. In the second episode, (Sakizuke), Lecter’s appearance is preceded by the sound of hooves, and shots of a cloven hoof.

Lecter is deeply lonely because he is, as was once  said of Will Graham, often the smartest person in the room (certainly in the series), just as Lucifer was the most intelligent creature God ever created. Like Lucifer, Lecter doesn’t believe God can sit in judgement of him. He believes himself to be God’s equal, and states, if a certain behavior is good enough for God to commit, than why can’t he. He thinks God is without morality. Lecter, as he tells the Eye of God Killer,  believes himself high enough to  look God in the eye.

In season three, when Bedelia  asks what happened to make him what he is, he abjures his “making” by saying, ” Nothing happened to me. I happened”, which is a callback to the Hebrew name for God, “I AM”.

 

4. The Wendigo/The ManStag:

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In keeping with the theme of Lecter as a demonic figure, the ManStag is often referred to as the Wendigo, a demonic, cannibalistic spirit of the Wilderness and a legend of the Algonquin peoples of the Northwestern US. Note the similarity to Cernunnos , Lucifer, and Herne the Hunter. (The Wendigo is just one of the many dozens of Hunting deities and demons throughout the world.)

The term Wendigo is used to describe the demonic spirit, and the being a person becomes, after eating human flesh. Legend has it that once someone has tasted human flesh, they will develop an insatiable craving, or addiction for it. Lecter often seems compulsive in his need to kill. One of the reasons he consults with the FBI, is to be close to the crime scenes of other killers, so he can copy them later, and have his own killings attributed to others.

Lecter never passes up any opportunity to insert himself into another’s crime. Its as if he can’t stop himself. It really does seem compulsive. In season two it seems  he  consumes the crimes themselves. By killing the killers he is supposed to be catching, he makes their crimes that of  The Chesapeake Ripper’s, by extension.

In the first season, we are told that the Chesapeake Ripper remains inactive for long periods of time, after killing in bounders of three or four. Will states that the Chesapeake Ripper has no respect for the people he kills, believing them to be like pigs, and he is correct. As Lecter tells Abel Gideon, its only cannibalism when its among equals, and he does not believe the people he kills are his equals. Chilton tells Jack, in season two,  that cannibalism is a form of dominance.

Jack never becomes a Wendigo, but he and Will regularly eat human meat at Lecter’s table. Only Will comes closest to becoming one, as he voluntarily eats the flesh of Randall Tier, while deceiving Lecter into believing its Freddie Lounds. Will pretends to be a Wendigo, pretends to have developed a love of killing, in order  to deceive Lecter. But the first time Will eats human flesh is when Lecter feeds him Cassie Boyle’s ground up lungs. So one can make the  argument that Will becomes possessed by the spirit of The Wendigo. Will is a false Wendigo, however, having been accused of cannibalism, and  framed, by Lecter.

We are told that The Chesapeake Ripper takes a sabbatical from killing for two or three year, so it is telling that,  three years after Lecter’s incarceration, Will is drawn back into Lecter’s orbit, and Lecter resumes killing. First using The Red Dragon as a proxy, then killing The Dragon in partnership with Will.

One could make the argument that Jack is immune, but we don’t  see Jack become violent in the series, until after he finds out that Lecter’s been feeding him human meat,  after which he tries to kill Lecter during the finale. (So one can make the argument that Jack becomes  more bloodthirsty, as well)

Alana is also affected by her close association with The Wendigo. She too, is possessed by its spirit. Contrast the Alana from first season with the hardened and vengeful woman of the third. Her eyes have a sharper glint and her facial expressions have hardened. Due to Lecter’s influence, she has become less human, willing to aid and abet the torture and cannibalism of another person, something that would have been absolutely  unthinkable to the Alana of the first and second  season.  Like Jack, she too, has been possessed by the Wenndigo’s thirst for blood.

Another victim of association with Lecter, Chilton, also becomes a vengeful bloodthirsty person who is  wholly justified in his sentiments, but once again, Lecter seems to have brought out the worst in another.

In light of Lecter’s practice of encouraging people to be their ultimate and   true selves, his tactics are certainly successful in getting the people in his orbit to be more like him. In that sense Lecter, certainly lives up to the Wendigo’s reputation.

 

5. The Courtship of Will Graham

Above Lecter’s mantle, hangs the 1740 painting by Francois Boucher, of Leda and the Swan. The story, as it is told from Greek mythology, is that  Zeus fell in love with her beauty, came to earth, and in the form of a swan, seduced and raped her.

In season one, Hannibal sees something in Will Graham that fascinates him. He is deeply curious about this odd man and how his empathy disorder squares with taking  life. When Will shoots Garrett Jacob Hobbes that incident seems to galvanize Lecter. He’d already seen Will use his superpowers to deduce the difference between the Minnesota Shrike and the Copycat but hadn’t yet seen the brutal, unhesitating efficiency that Will is capable of when threatened.

Lecter, so far above everyone else in taste, intellect, and bearing, is a profoundly lonely man. I posit that he has never had any actual  friends in his life. He’s always been separate and above. As a god, he has no boundaries, can do as he pleases to the creatures beneath him,  and has to hide what he is, but he finds his equal in Will and becomes smitten with the idea of someone who can not only look on his true face, but accept it. First he has to awaken Will Graham to his true nature. He has  to  get   Will to accept that they wear the same face.

Thus begins the courtship of Will Graham.

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During the Minnesota Shrike case, their first case together,  Lecter feeds Will the first of the copycat victims, Cassie Boyle. He removed her lungs while she was still alive and ground them into sausage that he fed to Will, at their first breakfast. I viewed this as a form of courtship feeding, (although if one couples this with the Wendigo narrative above, it can also be coded as a form of rape, since Lecter doesn’t get Will’s consent before feeding him people). Courtship feeding is  something that occurs at right at the opening of their relationship, and is defined as the presentation of food by one partner to the other during courtship (the behavior of male birds and other animals aimed at attracting a mate.) And Lecter does engage in a form of Courtship with Will. Having had his first overture of friendship rejected, Lecter, not understanding/caring about boundaries,  proceeds to flatter, cajole, and otherwise break down Will’s barriers to therapy, friendship and eventually love.

Lecter determines  what it is that  Will needs to hear about himself and says it. He says  flattering things to Will, and tries to create a bond through shared traits, after all Will is lonely and misunderstood, too. Later in the series, he regrets having abused Will’s trust, misses Will’s presence in his life,  and tries to win him back, springing him from prison and writing love letters to him in the form of dead bodies.

 

6. La Vita Nuova/ Vide Cor Meum

Lecter and Will Graham’s relationship has often been described as a Gothic Romance by Bryan Fuller, and one of the musical themes associated specifically with Hannibal Lecter, in both the  movies and the series, is an adaptation by Patrick Cassidy of Vide Cor Meum from the opera La Vita Nuova.

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La Vita Nuova is an autobiographical opera written by Dante Alighieri in 1295. The title means The New Life, which is an expression of “Courtly Love”, a system of ritualized courtship of that time period. Vide Cor Meum  was specially composed  and  based on the sonnet “A ciascun’alma presa”, in chapter 3 of La Vita Nuova.  Dante  addressed this particular poem to his  great love, Beatrice, from whom he tried to conceal it by dating other women.

Vide Cor Meum/See My Heart

 And thinking of her
Sweet sleep overcame me

I am your master
See your heart
And of this burning heart
Your heart
(Chorus: She trembling)
Obediently eats.
Weeping, I saw him then depart from me.

Joy is converted
To bitterest tears

I am in peace
My heart
I am in peace
See my heart

 

Lecter is Dante, and Will,  his Beatrice, from whom Lecter tries to hide his love, by killing other people, I guess.

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Dante and Beatrice By Henry Holiday (1839 – 1927) (British)

This particular custom also involved the notion of “Sweet Suffering”, featuring the imagery of pierced and bound hearts. In season three, Lecter makes an origami heart from the skinned body of Anthony Dimmond,   presenting  it to Will in the Palatine Chapel. The “body heart” is held up by three inverted swords, which in the Tarot, mean forgiveness and moving on from some great emotional setback, (meaning Lecter’s betrayal by Will, in season two.  By presenting Will  with this token, Lecter is telling Will he forgives him. ) At the same time that Will discovers Dimmond’s body, we see Hannibal making  a paper heart out of the image of Da Vinci’s  Vitruvian Man, (The Perfect Man), while discussing Will with Bedelia.

Will is Lecter’s Perfect Man.

 

Hannibal the Series is so rich with meaning and these are just a few of the Western Myths and beliefs that have, through Bryan Fuller, infiltrated this narrative, (although Fuller may not be entirely aware of all of these himself.) Some of these themes are universal and can be found in the myth and story traditions of many countries, but since Bryan Fuller is American, I’ve stuck to Western comparisons, as these are the stories most likely to have influenced him, if at all.

Hannibal Season Two : Kaiseki

In season two of Hannibal, there’s less emphasis on the serial killer of the week, in favor of the more operatic emotional maneuverings between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. This is the point when you really need to start paying closer attention to what the characters say to each other, about each other. The vast majority of the time, when Will or Lecter is speaking, they’re often actually talking about themselves or each other. There are no wasted moments or conversations as everything the creators want the viewer to know, has become much more streamlined. Fuller is pretty clear exactly what story he’s trying to tell here.

According to Fuller himself, the relationship between Lecter and Will begins as a  one-sided friendship and ends as a horrific but  platonic, Gothic Romance, with lots and lots of blood. Some people prefer to see it as a Romance romance, and that’s okay, but it’s probably more helpful to others to view it as a big brother, little brother relationship, as by the third season, Lecter refers to Will as his family, torturing Will in ways that only an elder brother could get away with.

Last season, we saw the Satanic Lecter manipulating and deceiving Will Graham into a jail sentence, (and possible death penalty), framing him for the copycat crimes that he himself committed.  In the first season, Lecter was much more focused on saving his own ass from going to prison. He spends more than a bit of time this season saving Will’s, as his priority seems to have changed from saving himself to acquiring  Will’s friendship and trust. We watch as Will Graham  takes on some of Lecter’s worse character traits, not just to get out of prison, but to capture Lecter and bring him to justice.

We see a  less passive Will Graham, who kept  having things done to him, and who has definitely been born-again hard, scheming and conniving, being assertive, moving the plot forward, in an attempt to beat Lecter at his own game. The drawback is that Will  still cares about  human life and simply doesn’t have the stamina for evil. Lecter only cares about one or  two lives. His and Will Graham’s. But Will thinks perhaps that’s enough to be his undoing.One thing that all of this has taught Will, is that Lecter doesn’t want him dead. Lecter has had plenty of opportunity to kill him and frame anyone else. Will begins to understand what  Lecter wants from him and how he can use Lecter’s feelings for him to his advantage.

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We begin the season with a flash-forward to a massive knockdown, drag- out fight between Jack Crawford and Lecter, which Lecter seemingly wins, as Jack ends up in a wine closet, with a shard of glass in his neck.This is not the only fight we’ll see between these two massive foes. In season three, they have at it again with Jack coming out the clear winner, although Lecter survives by sheer luck.

At some point during the season, Jack becomes aware of who and what Lecter is and has come to wreak vengeance. The rest of the season is really just a flashback. We go back three weeks to Jack sitting at Lecter’s table eating what he believes is flounder, although the way Lecter talks about it, I suspect its people, and the commentary from Fuller,  asserts that’s what it is. Lecter references Mukozuke, the episode in which he kills one of Jack’s protégés.

“I never feel guilty eating anything.” He tells Jack.

Hannibal often tells the other characters a lot about his beliefs and thoughts. The other characters often think he’s joking  although  we, the viewers, know better. Like Lecter, we’re omniscient. We always know more than all the other people in the show. Does this make us superior to them? Does this make us godlike or just Hannibal-like?

Jack and Lecter discuss Will’s suspicions of Lecter, and because Jack still wants to work with Lecter, he has to investigate Will’s accusations. Jack is only doing this to cover his own ass, not because he believes Will. He is confounded but not by whether or not Will did these crimes. This is also the only conversation in which we will hear about Lecter’s aunt from the movie Hannibal Rising, Lady Murasaki (who shares her name with the real life woman who wrote The Tale of Genji.) Incidentally, Chiyoh from the third season, according to the books, is Lady Murasaki’s maid. She too, had a brief affair with Lecter, although I think she’s much too young, on the show, for that to have happened and seems more like a daughter to him.

The Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane is a very boring place so Will occupies himself with daydream-fishing. This is, I think Will’s version of Lecter’s mind-palace. He still can’t escape Lecter’s influence, however, as we can see the RavenStag standing watch in the background, while Chilton drones on in the foreground. Impatient with Chilton’s  mental fumbling, Will asks to see Lecter. Once again the appearance of the RavenStag prefaces  Lecter’s mention, or appearance, in the story.

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Alana Bloom, the protective Mama Bear, has brought a report of misconduct against Jack Crawford and the Bureau. Katie Prunell, the Federal Investigator, advises her against it, but although she is torn between her loyalty to Jack and her friendship with Will, Alana chooses to forge ahead.(In the commentary its stated that Katie Prunell is an anagram of Paul Krendler, played by Ray Liotta in the movie Hannibal,  who had his brain eaten by Lecter.)

Lecter confesses to Bedelia his obsessive fascination with Will Graham. Is this the beginning of some deeper feelings he has for Will, that he simply doesn’t recognize, although he says Will is his friend? He gives Bedelia written permission to discuss him with the FBI. She asks what’s  the purpose of his involvement with the Bureau, saying he is putting her in a position to lie for him. The threat, for not cooperating with Lecter, isn’t stated, but it is implied.

Once again the RavenStag precedes Lecter, as you hear it’s hooves, when he visits Will at the Hospital. Will accuses Lecter of having done all this to him, and when he remembers, there will be a reckoning. He also utters one of my all-time favorite lines in the entire series:

“The light from friendship won’t reach us for a million years. That’s how far away from friendship we are.”

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Which is a total lie, because in season three, Will is willing to admit, if not to Lecter, at least to Jack, that Lecter is his friend. In the second season,  all of the focus is on Will’s eyes. Its all about his ability to perceive now since his voice is mostly useless. No one wants to hear what he has to say. The trick now is to get others to see what he sees.

Alana goes romping with Will’s dogs before she visits him at the hospital. She offers to hire a non-FBI lawyer for him and that his defense will be “Automatism” -an action performed unconsciously or involuntarily, the performance of actions without conscious thought or intention. Will tells her he can hear Lecter’s voice in his mind.

Will tries to warn Alana about Lecter too, but she thinks its a delusion he adopted because he doesn’t want to face what he’s done. He asks her to help him recover his memories and the attempt is less than successful. On the other hand, like so much of the series, its a  gorgeously surreal moment.

 

Will envisions a long table, set with living and decaying  food and insects, with the ManStag, wearing Lecter’s face,  sitting at the head of the table, looking over the sheer amount of death that Lecter is responsible for.

We go from one overladen table to a spare one. Chilton is dining with Lecter, talking about how Will Graham won’t speak to him. He mentions fumbling at Will’s brain like a freshman pulling at a panty-girdle, a phrase uttered by Lecter, about Chilton, in the book Red Dragon, but here, attributed to Chilton. Chilton is a  gossip, who eavesdrops on all the conversations at the hospital, something that will come into play later in the season. Will knows better than to inform Chilton of anything useful, as he knows it will eventually get back to Lecter. Chilton  tells Lecter everything about Alana’s visit and what Will Graham has been saying about him.

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The serial killer case takes a back seat to the machinations of the various characters but its a reference to Lecter’s omniscient godlike nature, that he seems to know all and see all. The forensic team finds several rotting bodies damming up a river. Lecter is called in to consult on the whys and wherefores of all this death. The killer is making a color palette using human bodies. He poses them in the shape of a giant eye, that can only be seen from the top of the corn silo in which he’s hidden them. Nevertheless, Beverly and the others are stymied and she comes to Will seeking help on the case, without Jack’s knowledge. In her usual blunt manner she tells Will that she doesn’t know how to feel about him.

Lecter tells Bedelia that he got to be Will Graham for one day and that it was very unnerving for him.

Beverly returns to the lab with new ideas. Jack and Lecter can tell she’s been talking to Will. Jack chastises her at first, but afterwards gives his tacit permission for her to continue seeing Will, which will later prove her downfall. Jack loses a lot of people in this series. He lost Miriam Lass, then seemingly Will Graham, Beverly Katz and finally his wife, Bella. This series seems to be as much about Jack Crawford’s losses as it is about Will’s. Later, Jack visits Will’s home and encounters Winston the dog, who is also looking for Will. Afterwards, he goes to see Will, who  tries to tell him about Lecter but Jack won’t hear of it.

Jack is very torn. Will is his friend but part of him can’t help but accept responsibility for the things Will has done. As head of the Behavioral Sciences Dept. its his job to be able to spot and catch serial killers. If Will was a killer all along, he should have seen it. They all should have seen it.  If he didn’t, its embarrassing and smacks of incompetence. On the other hand, if Will became a killer because the job drove him insane, then its Jack’s fault for not pulling him out of the field, after he was warned to do so by Alana.

During his evening dinner Will has a memory of Lecter forcing Abigail’s ear down his throat with a tube.He’s gotten his first real memory. He’s ready to begin.

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In the darkness of the corn silo, one of the killer’s victims wakes up and breaks free.

 

On a Personal Note: 

I was discussing these reviews with a friend and we discovered something I found puzzling. There are almost no reviews for the third season of Hannibal. There are still people discussing the show on Tumblr and a handful of people, who are probably paid bloggers, did reviews for some of the bigger websites. The Fannibals, however, didn’t.

She and I were able to find dozens of reviews of the first and second seasons of the show, but for some unknown reason, while still being fans of the show, people stopped doing reviews before the end of the second season, and then everybody (and their grandmama) reviewed the finale.

So apparently, just like me, no one watched the first half of season three and only checked in when the Red Dragon arc began. Still, plenty of people didn’t review the finale either, especially people who’d reviewed the first two seasons. My friend and I wondered what particular set of factors led to people reviewing all but the third season.

This is why I have every intention of completing these reviews. I was getting frustrated by finding these great meta-style reviews of the first two seasons, only for the reviews to abruptly stop. (In many cases the blogs and websites were quit alltogether, with no activity after the second season.)

Not only that, but we could barely find any essays or meta on the third season, although we found plenty of gif sets. People doing gif sets are apparently completists. Many of them are still doing so, long after the end of the show. Incidentally, I won’t be tagging my reviews Hannigram, yet. I’m not going to use that tag until the middle of second season,  when Hannigram becomes explicit.

If you have any links or websites that reviewed the third season, let me know in the comments. And please like these reviews, if you’re regularly reading them, although I plan to keep going until all of the seasons are reviewed, whether or not you check that particular box.

Hannibal Season One: Roti/Releves

Roti

I’m going to combine these two episodes into one long review because they both deal with themes covered in previous episodes from another angle, they are  both Abel Gideon intensive, and I’m eager to review the finale.

These particular episodes both deal in foreshadowing, meaning they contain elements that will come back to haunt us and the characters in season two and beyond. As I write these re- watch/reviews, I’ll be throwing in a lot of  spoilers for seasons two and three. I don’t recommend you read these without having watched all three seasons, as what I’m trying to do is thematically connect all three seasons into a kind of overview of the entire series.

Roti deals with the aftermath of Dr. Chilton’s Psychic Driving of Abel Gideon. There are parallels and echoes all over this show and in and through all the characters. Abel Gideon’s story is an echo of Will Graham’s story, about the mental manipulation between a therapist and their patient. All season long, Bryan Fuller has been introducing various concepts and themes that will play out through the next two seasons,  without a basic understanding of these concepts, it will be  difficult to understand the characters motivations later. So what happens in seasons two and three shouldn’t be a surprise for us if we closely watch the story arcs of other characters.

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Abel Gideon, while on his way to court, to testify against Chilton for mentally manipulating him into killing people, (from now on I’m going to call “Psychic Driving”, “Mental Manipulation” and “Gaslighting”. I looked up the definition and what Chilton and Lecter are doing isn’t actually Psychic Driving, which is more like  brainwashing. What they’re doing seems more like Planting/Suggestion), escapes custody and seeks revenge on all the therapists he felt manipulated or abused him somehow.  Actually, his motivations are not entirely clear, as  another one of his reasons for escaping custody was to find out if he is the Chesapeake Ripper, by drawing out the real Ripper.

This is foreshadowing for Will Graham’s  story line of seeking revenge on Lecter for what Will thinks was done to him. The difference between the two is that, in season two, Will knows exactly who he is and what he’s doing.

Chilton, while having dinner with Lecter, admits that he manipulated Gideon for narcissistic reasons. Lecter tells Chilton that his approach was too heavy handed. That once the victim knows what has happened to them, they will rebel against their programming, so Gideon’s enmity towards him is to be expected. Lecter should know this as he has done an excellent job on Will Graham. In season two, seemingly forgetting this conversation with Chilton, he will express a certain amount of puzzlement over Will’s anger at him. At some point he is convinced that he means Will no harm, and wants what’s best for him.

Chilton doesn’t seem to know enough to ask the question of how Lecter knows all this, and who he’s done it to, until well into season two. With the exception of Bedelia, most of the characters never bother to ask Lecter follow up questions about any of his assertions. Many of the things Lecter says, provide insight into his motives and mindset, even when he is discussing seemingly unrelated subjects.

Will dreams of breaking glaciers. Of some strong and stable thing breaking down. Could this be Lecter’s programming?  Does this represent Will’s mind? He has many images and daydreams of water and drowning in this episode. He feels like he’s melting, blurring into something or someone else. At least part of this is because he’s deeply ill and feverish throughout most of the episode.

Will and Alana confront Chilton about what he did to Gideon and his escape. To avoid blame, Chilton turns the discussion into what Alana did to Gideon instead, which pisses her off. During the briefing to capture Gideon, Will hallucinates that the room is full of antlers and that Jack is screaming at him. He looks ill. When Jack asks him about it,  he says its just a cold or flu. Later, he tells Lecter what happened at the briefing in a rather poetic way, which sounds lovely, but anyone hearing him say it would think he was just speaking gibberish. (I know I did.) Lecter’s breakdown of Will Graham is almost complete, as he offers himself as Will’s  mental gauge of stability, the way Jack did once.

Gideon kills two of his old Doctors by lobotomizing them. Alana is also on his list of therapists. Jack provides her with an FBI protection detail.

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Freddie Lounds gets a call from Gideon masquerading as one of his old Doctors. He tells her he wants an interview and where to meet him. She arrives at the Doctor’s office to find Dr. Carruthers is already dead, having been given a “Colombian Necktie’ by Abel Gideon.  The Corte Corbata, as it was called was practiced by the Colombian cartels, to psychologically terrorize during the political uprising period of what became know as La Violencia, during the Guatemalan Civil War, from 1978-1984. But I don’t think Gideon is making a political statement here. I think he chose this method because he thought the doctor flapped his tongue too much.

Gideon takes Lounds hostage and goes hunting for his next victim, Dr. Frederick Chilton.

Will is doing that thing where he talks to the corpse in the voice of the killer, when they find Dr. Carruther’s body. This time none of his colleagues blink an eye. I guess they’ve gotten used to him doing that. They also discover that Lounds has written about the murder before its discovery and know that Lounds is in danger.

Gideon kills Dr. Carson (Why do all the last names of the  doctors he’s after,  begin with the letter “C”?) and removes his arm. This is a message for Jack telling him where to be found. Or Lecter kills Dr. Carson. I’m unsure on that point, but the Doctor’s arm is missing, and the last place Jack saw an arm was when he found Miriam Lass’ arm at the observatory.

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Gideon has, by this time, found and kidnapped Chilton, who he intends to surgically reduce by several pounds, with Lounds as nurse and witness. He begins removing Chilton’s internal organs, starting with his kidney.

At the observatory, Will starts to follow Jack and his team, but is distracted by The Stag, standing in the forest outside. For some reason, he follows it into the woods and finds Abel Gideon. He is hallucinating badly and believes Gideon is Garrett Jacob Hobbes.

Jack and the team find Freddie Lounds alone, barely keeping Chilton alive, as he holds his innards in his arms.

Gideon is confused to be captured by Will Graham, as he was expecting The Ripper.Will takes Gideon to Lecter’s home, to confirm that its Hobbes. Lecter is somewhat nonplussed to see Will at his door with Gideon. He wants Gideon but he wasn’t expecting this. He tells Will there’s no one there because Will is totally unpredictable. If he tells Will its Hobbes, Will may shoot him, and Lecter can’t have the FBI investigating a murder in the home of The Chesapeake Ripper. The alternatives  are: Tell Will that no one is there and disarm him and get them both away, kill Will if he shoots Gideon and then hide both bodies, or tell Will its Abel Gideon and get the first result again.

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One of the most heartbreaking moments is Will pleading with Lecter not to lie to him while Lecter lies to him. Lecter has no choice if he is going to protect his interests, which always come first. I’ve noticed that Lecter most often touches Will in his most vulnerable moments, as if to reinforce his calm authority over him., in the midst of some crisis. He touches Will’s face and hands far more often than Will touches anyone in the show, except Alana.

Lecter has a few choice questions for Gideon, who has a few questions of his own. He tells Gideon where to find Alana and sends him after her. He lies to Will about going to check on Alana, while leaving Will with his car keys and his gun. There! He’s gotten both Will and Gideon away from his home, and if Will is as good as Hannibal thinks he is, Gideon will soon be dead.

Will catches up to Gideon outside Alana’s home and shoots him, which Alana witnesses. She calls for help and Will and Gideon are taken to the hospital. Jack finds Lecter sitting at Will’s bedside and he gives Jack the official diagnosis of extreme fever. Lecter believes Will is recovering well but he still asks Jack to take away Will’s licence to carry firearms. Jack disagrees with this direct request, so Lecter tries something more oblique, planting the idea in Jack’s mind, that Will is mentally unstable.

Bedelia, ever the Truth Teller, believes Lecter is more interested in how Will’s mind works than in Will as a person. She cautions him again about becoming emotionally entangled with Will. She is starting to suspect something.

 

 

Releves

 

Its been a few days and Will is visiting Georgia Madchen in the same hospital. She looks better, healthier and so does he. This is not the first time the two of them have spoken. Will can’t seem to help collecting strays, dogs or people. She is pessimistic about her recovery and his. She thinks she dreamed the death of Dr. Sutcliffe, but can’t remember the face of the person who did it, although she believes it was Will. I would say, she shouldn’t remember Will’s face, but he’s been coming to talk to her for several days, and she probably recognizes him by now.

Lecter brings Will Chicken Soup. (Remember when we talked about “Courtship Feeding” among predatory animals.) Will passingly mentions that Georgia doesn’t want to remember what happened. This is the same discussion that other characters will have about Will, in season two, about his lack of memory for his crimes.

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That evening Georgia, still in her oxygen chamber finds a plastic comb. Having taken off her grounding bracelet, she begins to comb her hair, which causes a static charge resulting in one of the more horrific deaths this season, and that’s saying something, in a season full of awful deaths. The forensic team can’t figure out what caused the fire and think its suicide but Will knows it wasn’t. Will’s compulsion to emotionally connect with the killers he captures,  is something that Will come back to bite him in the ass, in season two.

Oh look, there’s another Abigail scene I’d like to ignore, but can’t, because it might be important later. Abigail discusses her book deal with Freddie. I think Freddie suspects  Abigail might have killed Nicholas Boyle. Freddie isn’t dumb and her instincts are often very good. They just point in the wrong direction sometimes. Every time Abigail  shows up, I feel like she’s a distraction from the “real” plot. Everything slows down so we can deal with her emotional issues. I know I’m supposed to care about this traumatized young woman but the feeling  just isn’t there. (We can argue about whether or not I’m a psychopath after this review.)

Will dreams about Georgia. His dream connects her death to Hannibal Lecter, when The RavenStag impales her on its horns, after she bursts into flames. One of the most striking visuals this season, is the sight of the RavenStag, shaking the fire off its antlers.

Will prematurely checks himself out of the hospital just to confront Jack about Georgia’s death, insistent that it was not a suicide ,and that she is a victim of the Copycat Killer. Yes, she suffered from mental illness, but that doesn’t mean the forensic team should slack off and dismiss her death as part of her illness. Now that his fever has broken, and his head is relatively clear, Will’s empathy superpower seems to be working overtime to catch up to Lecter. (I sometimes think of Will’s pendulum as a kind of Geiger Counter, that oscillates faster and faster, the closer he gets to the answers to his questions, or the perpetrator of a crime.)

Jack is worried about Will’s mental state. Worries that have been planted by Lecter over time. He goes to Lecter to discuss it and Lecter is greatly interested in Will’s new theory that all the Copycat Killers are one person. Will has picked up Lecter’s scent but doesn’t know it yet. Jack thinks Abigail killed Nicholas Boyle and that Will is covering for her.  Apparently,  all the acting Abigail did, when she went to view Boyle’s body, didn’t impress Jack. Unsatisfied with Lecter’s vague answers, Jack goes to speak to Bedelia. (And can I just Squeeee! quietly here for just a moment. Its Lawrence Fishburne and Gillian Anderson in the same scene! How awesome is that!)

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Jack is beginning to question why Lecter seems to have so many complicated relationships with his patients. Something is starting to form in his mind about Lecter but it is in its nascent stages and unclear. Jack tells his forensic team to go over the Hobbes case again, looking  for every tiny detail.

Will talks to Abigail about her father…NOPE! I still don’t care about her and must resist the urge to fast forward through all of her scenes. Will says he needs her help to catch the Copycat.

Lecter and Bedelia discuss Jack’s meeting with her. Lecter insists he’s just trying to be Will’s friend and Bedelia tells him he can’t be friends when he doesn’t know what that means or with someone else who doesn’t either. This sounds unnecessarily harsh but she is right. I don’t think Lecter’s  ever had a friend. What a profoundly lonely creature. I think he’s seen other people be friends, admires it, is curious about it, and wants it. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to be friends or what that entails. I think, as he begins to learn what it means, it  changes him, but this feeling is in its infancy. His  transformation (and Will’s too) won’t reach its full flower until season three.

Will figures out that when Georgia witnessed Sutcliffe’s murder, she was framed for it, but the killer was really there to frame Will for it, and if that is true, then the killer is someone who works for the Bureau. Lecter needs to discredit Will as quickly as possible.

Will takes Abigail back to Minnesota to start at the beginning, with the phone call to Hobbes.

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A number of pieces begin to fall into place for jack too. He discovers Abigail’s secret and that Will spirited her out of the hospital. Jack  is primed by Hannibal to think of Will as dangerous to Abigail when he plays a recording of Will reconstructing Marissa Schurr’s murder.

 

At the cabin in Minnesota, Abigail gets scared and runs away from Will, believing him to be sick. Will finds himself on a plane back home having lost more time. He doesn’t know where Abigail has gone. Abigail runs into the arms of Hannibal and correctly guesses that he is the instigator of all these events, the caller on the phone ,the killer of Cassie Boyle, Marissa Schurr and the orchestrator of Nicholas Boyle’s death.

He says he did all of these things, and more, because he was curious about what would happen. For the first time, Lecter opens his ” meticulously constructed “person suit” so we can glimpse the face underneath, which is deeply terrifying. He is so dispassionate about the things he’s done, its like looking into the eyes of a giant predatory insect.

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I’m reminded of a quote from the 1986 version of The Fly:

Seth Brundle: You have to leave now, and never come back here. Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I. Insects… don’t have politics. They’re very… brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect. I’d like to become the first… insect politician. Y’see, I’d like to, but… I’m afraid, uh…

Ronnie: I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

Seth Brundle: I’m saying… I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamed he was a man…but now the insect is awake…

 

MUSIC:

Roti – Debussy’s Les Sons Et Les Parfums Tourment Dans L’air Du Soir

Releves – Beethoven’s Ghost Trio Op. 70 No.1

 

SPOTLIGHT:  Bedelia Du’Maurier

 

Bedelia is entirely original to the series. I like to call Bedelia “The Truth Teller, as she is the only character, at least in the first season, who is capable of telling Hannibal the truth about himself, to his face, saying that he is  wearing a “people suit”. She is the only character, outside of Will Graham who”sees” into the nature of the creature she is dealing with, on her own, and is fearless enough to confront Hannibal about it.

It’s interesting that she is one of the few characters that Lecter looks up to. He mimics her behavior at times, wishes to be her friend, and attempts to be as honest as possible with her. She is beautiful, graceful and sophisticated and  I believe he covets her, like a rare vintage of wine or a piece of fine jewelry. The only time he directly intends to harm her is in the second season, when he believes her  to be a threat to his freedom, but his threats are  implied long before that, and Bedelia is smart enough to run from him. For a while.

She is not smart enough to remain entirely out of Lecter’s clutches indefinitely, and soon finds herself back in his orbit in season three. Lecter holds her to him using a combination of coercion, professional curiosity and overt threat. She is mart enough to never completely let down her guard around him, although like most people who wind up under Lecter’s power, she comes to regret it.

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In season two, she finally admits the hold Lecter has over her, and in return for immunity from prosecution, confesses to Jack that she killed one of Lecter’s patients, when he tried to attack her. She falls even further into the rabbit hole in season three, when she becomes complicit in Lecter’s crimes, while gallivanting around Europe, posing as his wife.

Gillian Anderson is absolute perfection as Bedelia. She says everything in the slow, measured tones of someone who is thinking deeply about what she is about to say, and by season three she has reached such a pure level of sophisticated camp that its unbearable. One of the most hilarious moments is when she’s speaking to the police after Lecter has fled, thoroughly maxxed out on a drug cocktail of heroin and other pharmaceuticals.

Her excuse for staying with Lecter is that he has kept her drugged and she know longer knows who she is. I didn’t think it was possible for her to speak more slowly, or be more languid than she was before. One of the highlights of season three is watching her and Will bickering at each other like a couple of Lecter’s ex-wives. She calls the two of them “The Brides of Hannibal” and the highest form of insult she can give to Will Graham, after he tells her to prepare to be eaten by Lecter, is that he is a “righteous, reckless, twitchy, little man”.

I really did love this character. It  seems like she’s in another, more Hitchcockian series, than everyone else, and its easy to see why Lecter would be reluctant to kill her.

His world is a much more interesting place with her in it.

But for the record, that is Bedelia ready to eat her own leg in the epilogue  of season three and the dinner table is set for three. So,you make of that what you can.