I’ve seen the first four episodes of Hannibal [G-rated assessment]

Hannibal_key_artFinally. Below is an assessment that I hope to have formulated in ways that avoid specific triggers for violence or gore. I know there are readers here who are concerned about those things and I intend to do the best I can to keep this blog safe for them.

I think we can take Richard Armitage off the hook for the charge that he said he would never do horror. This series is not horror, at least as I understand horror to be, or then it’s at least not conventional or traditional horror. One doesn’t spend all of every episode coiled up, worrying about what horrible, frightening thing will happen next. It’s nothing like The Silence of the Lambs (thank heavens). It definitely cops to the charge of aestheticizing violence, but we knew that already. It does so in what seems to be such a warped way that at times it seems to be offering a satirical comment on horror films (I would give examples, but see my promise to stay away from triggering comments) and maybe if I watched horror films, I’d see some clearer parallels.

This television show is way more intriguing than I would have guessed, and it was immediately apparent to me that there could be artistic (non-practical) considerations for wanting to be cast in it. The whole question of identity is front and center, with a protagonist, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) who feels such extraordinary empathy with other humans that he can solve a crime from the inside by taking on the viewpoint of the killer. Graham is an actual real character with an inside in this adaptation, not the cardboard cutout from Harris’ novel. The questions about identity get repeated in every single episode — the person vs their family being another central theme, as well as the question of how exactly one responds to a life-changing trauma. There also are interesting questions raised about creativity that get addressed via the repeated questions Graham asks himself (and is asked by others) about what it is that he spends most of his time doing, whether he enjoys it, and why he does it. There’s a piece of me that cheers for Graham’s self-defense of himself; he feels free to tell people when they are uncomfortably in his space — and I’m jealous he could do this as a professor. And I’ve always found myself intrigued by the “I see myself in the thing I despise” discussion in art. How do you protect yourself from your own imagination? Do you need to?

Up till now, however, my identification has been with Graham, not with any of the villains. It seems the killers get much less interesting opportunities — they don’t have real story arcs. I can see Armitage’s physical skill playing really well into this series, with his penchant for creating impressions in seconds via postures and walks and gestures and so on leading to an unforgettable Dolarhyde, but so far the criminals are not getting much screen time or really any interesting lines. From the advance publicity it sounds like they are spending more time on Dolarhyde than they have on (so far Garrett Hobbs); I hope that is true. I also wonder, with a female Freddie Lounds — is Armitage’s Dolarhyde going to have to kill her? I can see him sinking his teeth into that possibility.

I never would have watched this show but for Richard Armitage. It never would have occurred to me. I admit that I am worried about how episode 4 ended, with the apparent “blame the woman” motif as an aspect of serial killing threatening rather large. The fact that each episode is only forty-two minutes long — I hate US TV — means that the plotting is often either flat or not credible from a rhetorical (or forensic) standpoint. A lot of “science and computers as deux ex machina” controlled developments in the episodes I saw — the same kind of thing we used to say about Spooks. And there are some big things that I am just not sold on, one of which (unfortunately, given how much screen time he gets) is Mads Mikkelsen. A lot of the ideas are better conceptually than they end up being in execution (I’m already getting tired of Will Graham’s apparently mystical connection to killers — this piece could have been achieved better with better scripts, or even five minutes more per episode.) However, I am intrigued enough (and able to tolerate the violence and gore by looking away from the screen when it gets to be too much, which is at least once or twice an episode) that I plan to watch all of the rest of them and have ordered the second season DVDs. I’ve usually been able to separate my analytical reactions from my emotional reactions to things, and although I’ve tried to cut down on that tendency in the last five years, it seems like it could be worth it again in this case.

The blood is also definitely better than whatever they were using on Spooks.

I hope we can still be friends.

~ by Servetus on March 8, 2015.

39 Responses to “I’ve seen the first four episodes of Hannibal [G-rated assessment]”

  1. Lol….the blood is definitely better than Spooks’ ketchup! Now, those are the things inquiring minds need to know! And yes, we can definitely still be friends. ..you watch away and enjoy – that’s totally fine with me!

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  2. I’m going to give it a go…….It is Richard Armitage, he is my reason for watching…. 🙂

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  3. Awesome.

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  4. I have now seen both seasons. It took me to about where you are before I liked the show, and it continued to improve. I found most of the second season riveting, while I had more of the kind of mixed reaction you speak of here during at least the first half of the first season. I found Will Graham too neurotic at the beginning, but he becomes completely believable as things progress. I personally like the understated way Mads plays Hannibal although I often find myself angry with him.

    It is true that Garrett Jacob Hobbs, while showing up in a lot of episodes, doesn’t develop much of a personality. And other killers in Season 1 are only on one episode. But in Season 2, Michael Pitt plays Mason Verger, and gets a fair amount of character development over multiple episodes (and the character but not Pitt will return in Season 3). I have a sense that Richard will get even more development, especially since they have cast a young Francis and a Reba.

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    • I feel like people who have that kind of “gift” –essentially a heightened intuition — see things other people don’t notice. If you don’t show how he makes the connections (which they often don’t bother to put in the script), then he just looks like a psychic, and it seems to me the point of the show is that he isn’t that.

      I know that Mikkelsen is a primary draw to the show for many of its viewers, and I don’t want to start my interest in this show by picking a fight with fans who have been nothing but nice to us — (in contrast to the Hobbit fans, years ago) — so I will simply leave it at that. Perhaps the thing that bugs me will change in the course of the series.

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  5. I’m glad you’re finding it watchable! I became increasingly immersed as the story progresses and it moves away from the “case of the week” format. I think it would be difficult for me to appreciate Season 3 fully without all the background that is developed as the character arcs play out.

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  6. Thank you, again, for braving this and reporting on it for the team. 😉

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    • we do our best. Seriously, for anyone who has any blood, violence, or gore-related triggers, it is probably best to just skip this. Eventually there will be “g-rated” clip collections available to watch Armitage in, just like there were for a lot of his early tv roles.

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  7. I haven’t watched the series yet, but I have friends who think it’s great. Thank you for taking the time to check it out for all of us. If you ever need someone to watch a horror movie for you, I cheerfully volunteer. I like them, but I haven’t seen a really good one in a long time. Too many rely on the sound track to scare you, rather than the action on the screen.

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    • interesting. I do think the sound track plays a role in this, but it’s definitely not what shocks / bothers me when I have those reactions.

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  8. This was intriguing and wonderful to read! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I’m really happy you find it interesting enough to keep going! I think the series feels kind of slow and dry for the first few eps, but there’s one specific episode in Series 1 that really got the ball rolling for me (I think it might have been 8). My friend started really getting into things at 6. We read your analysis together, and she said she gets how the villain-of-the-day thing feels incredibly uninteresting, but things start picking up when certain characters start getting multi-ep arcs (and Richard gets half a season, woohoo!).

    Can’t wait to read what you think of future episodes! 😀

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    • yeah, I feel like we see the same shots of Hobbs over and over again — and I don’t need to be reminded of that, they were nasty enough the first time 🙂 but it’s interesting to read you and others says that the series gets better after the point I am at.

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  9. I find Mads fascinating as Hannibal. His calm madness is enhanced by the darkness of the set, the costuming, and the beautiful food. This show has a distinct vibe, and is more psychological thriller than horror. While not a huge hit stateside, it has a large international audience. I think Richard is having fun playing another complex character. It will be interesting to see how far Bryan Fuller goes with facial distortion and how Richard displays the speech impediment. But the eyes will always tell the story.

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    • Thanks for the comment and welcome. I’m aware that the general reactio to him, and I have no issue with his anything you specify. What bugs me is something else. Perhaps it will change, however.

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  10. Danke für die tolle Zusammenfassung und Analyse! Da ich mir diese Staffel(n) definitiv nicht ansehen werde, aber wahrscheinlich die Folgen bei denen RA mitspielen wird, bin ich über jede Info dankbar, die mir den Einstieg dann erleichtern wird. 🙂

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    • You probably could read a plot summary, I am guessing at this point. If the villains get character arcs, that will be essential, but I’m guessing the main background that is going to be important to know concerns the status of the relationship between Graham and Lecter.

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  11. Thanks Servetus for your thoughts. They reflect most of the impressions I get from watching the first 6 episodes so far. I don’t coil up and while I don’t avoid my eyes from the screen, I turn off the sound when things become too hard to stomach for my taste (poor tactic, I know, since the visuals are pretty impressive by themselves). And I make sure not to watch it before going to bed.
    I’m rather unimpressed too by Lecter, both the written character (mostly because I can’t get around the fact that it is obvious he isn’t what he appears to be) and MM’s take on him. On the other hand I like Will Graham, though I find too the mystical aspect of his personnality tedious, and I’m happy to read in csprof comment he becomes more believable (less vulnerable?) as the series go on. I would say, all in all, the interpretation is very strong and enjoyable.
    The “blame the woman” aspect in ep. 4 didn’t actually bother me. I’m more troubled by the choice of Freddie Lounds as a woman in that series, I mean the character (in the novel too I presume but I haven’t read it) is depicted as exasperating to say the least and it seems a grating cliché for me.

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    • The sound makes the visual worse / more impactful.

      I think one thing that bothers me is that someone who is that vulnerable would not last 5 days as a professor, let alone an instructor at Quantico. However, it’s fun to watch Hugh Dancy vibrate 🙂

      Good point about Freddie. She just isn’t credible, the way she is played.

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  12. We are still friends. I enjoy reading about your perception of the show. Thank you! You touch on some of the aspects, i.e. the gore/violence and WG’s other-worldly mental connection to the killers, which triggered my apprehension initially. I’m glad(!?) that I wasn’t completely off the mark.

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  13. I actually love Mads in this role and find him fascinating to watch. The whole cast is pretty well chosen, I think. On a purely superficial level, it doesn’t hurt that Hugh Dancy is very nice to look at. 🙂

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    • This is the only thing I’ve ever seen Mikkelsen in.

      Dancy is attractive. I remembered him from Daniel Deronda. And now, I see, he was in Cold Feet (in a series before Armitage), although I don’t remember him.

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      • Mikkelsen is considered one of Denmark’s finest (youngish) actors along with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), Lars Mikkelsen (Mads’ older brother and now in House of Cards), and many more.
        Interestingly, MM has a similar past to RA. He was also a dancer 🙂

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      • Try A Royals Affair in a spare time,Serv..if you have any 😉 Mikkelsen is really grat in it .

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        • Oh, yes. Do! It’s based on the true romantic story between the Queen (of British (German) descent) and the King’s physician. It doesn’t have a happy ending – sad really – but it’s a fantastic story.
          I can also recommend ‘Blinkende lygter’ (Flickering Lights). I don’t know if you have to be Danish to enjoy it, because of the humour (Mads shoots a cow). You’ve got to see it to find that funny. Anyway, if you’re up for something different. I enjoyed it very much – it’s a good laugh.

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        • Forgot to mention that it’s not a real cow 😉

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  14. Of course we are!:) but I will be avoiding it as long as I can 😉
    Thank you,Servetus! I’m glad you found it interesting and worthy of Richard and Mads Mikkelsen talent.

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  15. Still friends. I appreciate that you are making an effort to make it easier for some of us.

    I have been seriously thinking of taking an RA hiatus until October or later. There are already many manips on Tumblr from previous roles to create bloody pictures created to fit the Tooth Fairyl. I have been unfollowing people every day.

    I admit I am far too sensitive about this whole thing. I have tears in my eyes just writing this. Spooks and Strike Back were at the extreme end of violence that I would consider watching.

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    • I think a lot of people feel that way, and I remember when SB premiered at the BFI (they did a preview night), a lot of the fans who came back from that were stunned at how violent it is.

      I’m going to have to think about this a lot, I guess. I mostly don’t post fan art here anymore anyway, unless it’s someone I know, and I know I have permission, because the aggravation factor is too great if I accidentally mislabel or misattribute something. I can’t take the venom that is directed my way — or, I can, but it’s not worth it to me, given that I have certainly never intended to steal or harm anyone.

      I may eventually want to post screencaps. I’m not sure how to deal with that. I will definitely take it under advisement that people don’t want to see blood / violence.

      I have a few more months to think about it, anyway. For now, you are definitely safe here.

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      • Servetus, there may be many people who will want to see screencaps. I feel I am in the minority but I don’t know for sure. Like you said we’ve got some time to figure it out. I don’t want to have to stay off the internet for four months 😉

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  16. Hi Servetus! Yes, I’m still your friend. I’m really intrigued with how Richard will play this particular character. I haven’t watched any of the episodes yet (minor disadvantage of NOT having cable or satelite tv in my house). But I’m a big fan of the books and the movie adaptations (including the one with Edward Norton & Ralph Fiennes). I guess I’m an odd-duck — I grew up reading Stephen King so it takes a lot to unnerve me (Friday the 13th bores me to tears) or make me go “Ewww – did they really just show that?” I’ll watch it, if only to see Richard.

    Regarding Mads — he played “Le Chiffre” in “Casino Royale” with Daniel Craig. First time I ever saw him. Enjoyed him in that.

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  17. Casting a woman to play Freddy Lounds does not make any sense, considering his role in the novel and Dolarhyde’s attitude towards females. I am reading it just now, and knowing it will be a female messes is all up for me.

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  18. […] might be a little bullet pointy, but I’ll start where I remember my reactions here left off. On the whole, I didn’t find that Hannibal Lecter the character became any more […]

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  19. […] appreciate the show itself in way that I haven’t since some time in the first season, when I was interested in how the show treats identity issues and had provisionally concluded it wasn’t horror. It helped a lot, in short, that this […]

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