(JUNE 2016) The Brilliance of Hannibal and the Relationship Between Graham and Lecter

  • AUTHORS NOTE: In celebration of the recent rumours of the possibility of Hannibal coming back to our screens I thought I would edit and upload an old article I wrote last year about my love of the show and and the love of Will and Hannibal. Beware of spoilers if you haven’t seen the show, (and if that’s the case, what are you still doing here? Go watch!).

Haven’t we seen so many iterations of the Hannibal Lecter character? From Brian Cox in Manhunter, to the utterly captivating Anthony Hopkins portrayal in Silence of the Lambs. Hell, maybe you’ve even picked up the original book series by Thomas Harris.

The character has surely crossed your path at one point in your life, although perhaps not quite like the 2013 television remake, Hannibal. The show is based on Harris’ book Red Dragon. Show-runner Bryan Fuller plays with the book’s storyline and characters so much so; to a point that it’s arguably a big budget fan fiction in the form of a TV show.

This show is quite unlike any other of its kind, it’s difficult to describe Hannibal and not depreciate its beauty and intelligence. There are no words that can quite capture the breath taking cinematography and mise-en-scène that is presented in this show. It is quite unique stylistically, often using poetic visual images to symbolise or represent a feeling or theme. Particularly, the ‘Wendigo’ that follows Will throughout the series, representing his relationship with Hannibal.

The team behind the show have stated many times that Hannibal exists in a ‘heightened reality’, and this isn’t any more obvious than when it comes to analysing the different murders and serial killers that are hunted down week by week. As the show goes on, the murders become increasingly macabre and for lack of a better term, completely and utterly insane. From a murder victim being turned into a living breathing plant eco-system, to a killer using his victim’s guts to string his cello, Hannibal brings no shortage of disturbing and gory murders in all the best ways.

The show stars Casino Royale bad guy, Mads Mikkelsen as the infamous Hannibal Lector. Also starring is Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, the scruffy criminal profiler that is suddenly sucked into the world of darkness that is Hannibal Lecter.

Will Graham and Jack Crawford on Will’s first case with the FBI — Photo: Hannibal (2013)

The first season starts along the lines of a crime-of-the-week type procedural, a new killer every episode for Will to discover with the help of FBI head Jack Crawford and forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. However, towards the end of the first season there is a definite shift, a sharp focus on the characters and the overarching story itself.

We start as Will Graham is enlisted to help the FBI in a serial killer investigation. This however, comes at a price for Will, for he is, what he describes in the show as “closer to Asperger’s and autistics than narcissists and sociopaths”.

He tells Jack Crawford, “I can empathise with anybody, and it’s less to do with a personality disorder than an active imagination”. As this is often more than the mind can handle, Jack seeks the help of renowned psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. Dr Lecter will soon lure in the kind, gentle and empathetic to a fault, Will Graham.

Hannibal Lecter is perfectly elegant. He is a suave, sophisticated, serial killer. Hannibal is a high-functioning, cannibal-psychopath and he finds it absolutely delightful, taking great pleasure in planning extravagant dinner parties, feeding his unknowing guests one of their own. Lecter enjoys the finer things in life, food, wine, suits, anything from the highest of cultures. Cooking a beautiful, decadent meal, to Hannibal, is one of the finest forms of art one can accomplish. Every meal is a spectacular feast of creativity and culinary prowess. He is also an extraordinary musician, beautifully playing and composing music on the harpsichord, as well having amazing skills as a sketch artist. Lecter is the all around classy, gentleman.

Lecter is a beautiful looking man, with a smooth clean look that would make anyone forget he is really a ruthless killer. His hair, always smoothed to perfection, frames his face in a way that makes him charming and gracefully terrifying. His smirk of a smile is confidant, egotistical, yet utterly alluring. He has high, prominent cheekbones that when lit with the right light, cast a devilish shadow upon Lecter’s face causing his already deep, brown eyes to sink further into his brow.

He is everything a handsome, high-cultured man should aspire to be, as well as being a murderous, cannibal psychopath. And by far the most deadly sin one could commit in the presence of Hannibal Lecter is being unapologetically rude.

Hannibal Lecter, Played by Mads Mikkelsen — Photo: Hannibal (2013)

Hannibal immediately takes an interest in Will, finding him quite intriguing. An intrinsically good man who can use his complete empathy to truly become the killer, to see his movements, to feel how he felt. This is something Hannibal uses, he see’s the vulnerability in Will, see’s the opportunity to mould and manipulate.

As the show continues, Hannibal slowly drags Will down deeper and deeper into the darkness of his mental state, diving further into the pool of murder, death and despair. Will is soon loosing his grip on his mind, missing passages of time, having dark and disturbing hallucinations, all with the help and encouragement of his psychiatrist, Dr Lecter.

Before Will can begin to realise he was being manipulated, drugged and framed, he finds himself behind bars. Trapped in an asylum for the criminally insane. By the eyes of the law, Will Graham is a serial killer, found responsible for the real crimes of Dr Hannibal Lecter.

Will Graham locked away for the crimes of Hannibal– Photo: Hannibal (2013)

This is a turning point in the relationship between the two, Hannibal no longer has the same force of power over Will. He is now completely aware of how he was being controlled and manipulated by Hannibal; this becomes fuel for Will as new evidence surfaces that absolves Will of his charges. Will’s freedom comes with purpose, to prove the psychopath that is Hannibal Lecter and stop him for good.

Will has now become the fisherman and Hannibal the fish. It is now Will who uses Hannibal’s intrigue and fascination to lure the cannibal in, seducing Hannibal by making promises of a life between the two of them, killing people and eating them, together. Will is far too good of an actor, making us think twice, is he pretending? Or is there some part of him that want to ditch the plans to entrap Hannibal?

Hannibal, however, is not as easily fooled. For Hannibal this is the ultimate betrayal, one that must end in a complete reckoning. The season two finale ends in blood, not only Will, but everybody connected to him meets the wrath of Hannibal’s blade.

Its two years later, Will has recovered from his injuries, but will never quite be rid of the hold that Hannibal has over his mind. He must find Hannibal, all the way to Florence and back, discovering all there is he can learn about Hannibal Lecter and his past.

A scene with Will, and Hannibal’s own psychiatrist Bedelia Du Maurier, had what has been one of the most discussed and analysed pieces of dialogue throughout the entire show. Will plainly asks the question everyone was thinking, the show’s subtext had finally become full-blown text;

Will: “Is Hannibal in love with me?”

Bedelia: “Could he daily feel a stab of hunger and find nourishment at the very sight of you? Yes… But do you ache for him…?”

Will and Bedelia Du Maurier discussing Hannibal– Photo: Hannibal (2015)

The finale episode ends in an all out blood battle, with Hannibal and Will finally teaming up to bring down another psychotic serial killer known as The Red Dragon. Both are severely beaten and bashed, nearly dead. The fight atop a cliff is brutal yet beautiful, ending with the once “Great Red Dragon” alone, dead on the floor.

As it ends, Will turns to Hannibal for an embrace. Will holds Hannibal in his arms, leans in deeper, their faces touching and lips inches from each other. And in that one moment, Will pushes forward carrying the both of them, arms entwined, off of the cliff top and down into the dark depths of the water below.

Never was it explicitly stated that Hannibal was in love with Will or Will with Hannibal, but their relationship could undoubtedly be described as a deep, intimate connection, almost romantic. This fact has not been lost on the fans of Hannibal, the couple has countless blogs, art, stories and essays dedicated to them from all over the Internet, with the two even having an official couple name; ‘Hannigram’.

Hannibal and Will’s final moments together — Photo: Hannibal (2015)

In discussing the last scenes of the finale episode in an interview with HitFlix, Bryan Fuller expressed his thoughts on the more ‘romantic’ elements of the show, “I thought there was a fine line from that […] motive to give hard-core audience exactly what they want in terms of this actually being a homosexual relationship between these two men, and what is authentic for them in that final moment”.

Fuller continues, “it’s not quite dipping into the physical passions that would be the case if they were both homosexual. But I feel one is ominisexual and one is heterosexual and there’s a lot of influence going back and forth…”.

This quotes reflects the deeply complicated and fluid relationship that is Will and Hannibal. The development and connection between the two characters is not dependant on their sexuality, rather it is a deep love that does not require a concrete label.

As lead actor Mads Mikkelsen disclosed in an interview with IGN, “in my eyes there is no doubt that the second that Hannibal lays his eyes on Will’s for the first time, he fell in love. Not necessarily in a physical way, but in a bonding way”.

Mikkelsen goes on to say, “whether people interpret that as a homoerotic thing that never really gets to be lived out or whether they interpret it as simply an emotional connection between two people, that’s up to the audience”.

The bond between Will and Hannibal is completely up to interpretation, as the series is now on an indefinite hiatus, the true nature of their relationship may never be revealed. However, no matter what way you look at them, there is an undeniable love and connection that runs deep between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. Even if you don’t believe that there’s a true love between the two, most who have seen the show won’t deny it’s beautiful scenery, masterful dialogue and mouth-wateringly gruesome murders.