Story Time, Thoughts of the Day

Love in the Time of Hannibal

*** when in doubt, aka writer’s block, write what you know. And what I know is Hannibal***

Of all the television that I’ve watched in my day, not a single show has stuck with me the way NBC’s Hannibal (2013) has. For those unfamiliar, Hannibal, based on the characters by Thomas Harris, tells the story of Hannibal Lecter, the renowned psychiatrist and his patient Will Graham, an FBI criminal profiler, who struggles with his ability to empathize with serial killers. However, this isn’t your typical “Hannibal the Cannibal” tale about a men who kills and eats people. In creator Bryan Fuller’s (American Gods, Pushing Daisies) world of Hannibal, it is so much more than that. For you may find, as time goes on, that it’s nearly impossible not to develop an ounce of affection for the one person who truly understand you, regardless of those sticky predilections.

This, instead, is a story of two men trying to make sense of a world in which they cannot redraw their hand. While one lives his life through the lens of pure ego and narcissism, the other lives his life, and is haunted by, the simple fact that his empathy overpowers him. Hannibal Lecter, the sociopath who has no empathy at all and Will Graham, the young profiler who has too much.

In the early episodes of Hannibal, the task is an uncomplicated one: to catch a killer. But in order to do so, we must bring in elements of the complicated. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), on a good day, is anything but uncomplicated. As a young man who empathizes with serial killers, his job becomes a dangerous one. For fear of getting too close to the cases he’s been brought in to solve, Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne), head of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit, sends Will to see Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson) with the hope that the good doctor can help ease Will’s stress and therefore help Jack get the job done.

And it works. For a time.

Will and Hannibal’s relationship is one that supersedes the most common notions of what it means to care for another person. Usually, when we have feelings for someone, platonic or otherwise, we find that their best interest also becomes our best interest. We want for them what they want. Happiness, success, joy, comfort, and above all, love. But what happens to a relationship when your deepest desires overpower theirs? And when you can’t help but feel as though they would be much better off doing as you do.

That’s when it happens. That’s when murder happens.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is anything but ordinary. He’s suave. He’s charismatic. He’s charming. And he’s an exceptionally good cook. But underneath the expensive suits and grandiose language is an overwrought imagination. An imagination that extends far beyond the realm of decency and hope. To Hannibal Lecter, death, is the only significant thing, life has to offer.

Hannibal is a man who feels very alone in his extracurricular activities. Yes, there are those our there who do as he does, but there is no one quite like him. And it’s in this isolated state that Hannibal finds himself a tether in one Will Graham. Will’s overwhelming empathy and Hannibal’s lack thereof, makes Will the perfect candidate for sculpting. And sculpt Will Graham, he does. Into the very man Will has always been so terrified of becoming.

If we are to think about love in the time of Hannibal, one thing comes to mind: tolerance.

As the series goes on, the eventual discovery of Hannibal’s true nature comes to light. And it is a bloody discovery. However, the empathetic man that is Will Graham comes to terms with this truth in the only way he knows how.

He tolerates it. He doesn’t sympathize with it. He doesn’t feel compassion towards it. He tolerates it because he understands it. The urges, the impulses, the desires. He sees these inclinations as what truly makes Hannibal, Hannibal. And it’s through this understanding that Hannibal, for all his faults and misdeeds, finds himself enamored. Regardless of whether or not you agree that a sociopath, devoid of all conscience, even has a capacity for love, the show Hannibal reaches out through the dark and pulls you in, making you question everything you ever thought you knew on the subject.

And then twists it into something unrecognizable. And although most relationships are built on trust, in this case, simple truth will do. When you find you can be honest with someone, you find that you can show them your true self. And Hannibal finds that in Will Graham. And by the end of the series, Will Graham, not only sees Hannibal, he finally sees himself. His true nature and what Hannibal has always believed Will has been capable of. And it’s in this discovery of their true selves that they find comfort and solace in each other.

But if love is wont to destroy Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal will not go down without taking Will Graham with him. After all, the deeming of the term “Murder Husbands” does not go without merit.

But whether or not they survive this free fall is a story for another season.

Open Letters, Thoughts of the Day

An Open Letter to Bryan Fuller

I’ve been in a daze these last few days. I’m somewhere between complete serenity and a glass case of emotion.

All of which is because of you Bryan Fuller and your gut-wreching, tear-jerking, cringeworthy, nothing short of beautiful, masterpiece that is Hannibal.

I’ve come to find that most of my emotional experiences come from the books I’ve read. My imagination is given the ability to take the emotion to heart or leave it on the page. With television, you see the emotion right in front of you. That can either heighten your own emotions or it can lessen them. Words–and their ability to make us feel multiple emotions at once– tend to make me more emotional than the visual I usually see.

However, this wasn’t the case with the series finale of HannibalUnknown-1

The word spoken and their visual affect gave me one of the most visceral experiences I’ve had in a long time. I was thrown all around the emotional spectrum and I’ve just now found my way back. I experienced disgust, pain, self-realization (leading to self-actualization), fear, love and finally understanding. Understanding of the self, others, and the world around us.

The story of the Red Dragon brought out the broad range the human being (and thus its psyche) has the ability to go through. The realization of just how much a person is capable of when put in the right circumstances. Just how far you’re willing to push yourself or let yourself be pushed. How close you can come to the edge and the sudden realization that there isn’t always a way back. And finding acceptance in that inevitability.

Many of my emotions could have come from the basic knowledge that Hannibal is indeed over. Which I sure many of them did. After all, the final course has ended and the table has been cleared. But my cravings are far from subsiding.

When I first started watching Hannibal, my initial focus became about the gruesome and the grotesque. How disturbing what I was watching actually was. But that’s not what has stuck with me through these 3 short years. Instead, Bryan, you’ve given me characters that I can’t get out of my head. The relationships they acquire and develop as the series goes on is what kept me coming back for more.

Will Graham and Hannibal Lector. Two of the most real depictions of the vast range of humanity I’ve seen on tv in a long time. Their individual selves are complicated. But those complications are nothing short of human (whether morality and/or empathy is included in that depends on the individuals thought on what it means to be human). So human, in fact, that when asked to describe their relationship to someone who has never seen the show, I find it to be a massive feat. (Once I obviously stop gushing about the fact that they should immediately stop what they’re doing and watch it).

The Will-Hannibal relationship is at many times indescribable. They love each other and they hate each other. They mistrust their trust in each other. They understand what is commonly misunderstood about each other. They put up walls against each other and yet they are laid raw in front of the other. Their honestly comes in fragments but those truths come together in the end. Because the simple truth is, at the end of the day, they need each other. They need each other, like they need air to breathe. Like Will needs his dogs and Hannibal needs his cutlery. Will and Hannibal are two individuals who have managed the incredible feat of becoming one with another person on multiple levels.

Hannibal has taught me many things about the human condition in the most elegant, bloody and beautiful way possible. We all want to be needed. We all want to be understood. We all want to be accepted. Realizing you need someone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If this needing leads to self-actualization in some way, maybe it’s the best thing for you.

UnknownBut please don’t misunderstand me Bryan, I have no naive misgivings about what’s really going on here. Will and Hannibal have time and time again destroyed each other. They relationship is nothing short of destructive. Hannibal is a murderer. He’s Hannibal the Cannibal. But Hannibal is also human. A human who has crossed over to the other side and doesn’t have a way back. Although I cannot say that he necessarily wants one. Will Graham is also human and has consistently struggled with his own becoming. As we all do, I suppose.

These men aren’t the role models to seek out. But they represent a struggle that we, as human beings, go through on a daily basis. Discovering an understanding about ourselves in and of itself is difficult. But learning to accept, question, and come to terms with the things we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what we will do is a whole different beast. But this can lead us to who we really are, after it all.

We all have our own journeys to take and Hannibal has taken me on a journey. A journey that I refuse to let end. Hannibal showed us human greatness and let us know that our capabilities are endless.

Thank you, Bryan and your brilliant and effervescent team, for giving me everything I didn’t know I needed. I will continue to savor every second of it.