Daniel Granville dives into the weird science of Hannibal, with Season 3 just released this past September. 


 

Bryan Fuller, executive producer of Hannibal, is a dictator and like every dictator he gains the most pleasure from exercising his terrible power over the audience. We see what he makes us see and hear what he makes us hear, but we do not think what he might want us to think. His lines, like all great art, are transcendent. They bring us out of ourselves and force us to confront truths, moral and aesthetic, we hold as self-evident. They make us think, but not in specific ways, they open up a world of unobstructed possibility, a world without morality where we must make decisions for ourselves, on our own terms.

His visual style is mercurial and acerbic, and in its own way, witty; it is a welcome change from the turbid landscape of network TV. It is gruesome, erotically beautiful, and forever and always artistic. The character of Dr. Bedelia du Maurier for example is without doubt Hannibal’s equal, but also his lesser, and she knows this, the other characters know this, and Gillian Anderson portrays her with a wonderful equilibrium between damsel in distress under her captor’s thrall, and a magic mirror to the monstrous Lecter. But the dichotomies that usually inform network TV have here been done away with; we have moved past them, beyond into a world without right without wrong. We are led into a miasmic space where everyone is a little bit good and a little bit evil, it is the world of Hannibal’s own mind, and Fuller takes us through this, not by holding our hands, but by pointing us to markers here and there: symbols, images, sounds. We must struggle blindly through the dark to arrive at an imperfect understanding of these characters, these creatures of nightmare and cartoonish villainy. Hannibal is the greatest show that no one ever watched.

Murderers and psychopaths have held a particularly dark glamour within our collective cultural consciousness, perhaps because these pathological liars, these deceivers and seducers and corrupters of all that is good in a person are not, as we would like to call them, demons, but ourselves undressed. They are reflections of us that, through the voyeuristic acts of watching them on screen, allow us to see the ugliness within all of our hearts from safe behind the zoo’s glass of a TV screen or laptop. At its true core, that is what TV, and film, and literature are: reflections of our own humanity in all its dazzling and monstrous forms.

 

Daniel Granville