HANNIBAL: All our destinies flying and swimming in blood and emptiness.
No episode of Hannibal more closely resembles the beautiful senseless carnage of a tragedy. “Mizumono" is about life and death, fire and water, flesh and blood, family and enemy, the deepest love and the most profound betrayal.
[N.B. spoilers for all episodes; gore, mentions of abuse.]
HANNIBAL: We’re maintaining our position on the event-horizon of chaos.
WILL: Your veneer of composure gives a strong sense of the surreal.
in which everything’s about to go right to hell.
[n.b. major spoilers for 2.12, minor for 2.13; blood / gore / body horror; psychological abuse. all previous meta posts here.]
WILL: Shiva is both destroyer and benefactor.
ALANA: He’s being guided… Maybe Freddie’s killer didn’t do this. Maybe his benefactor did.
ALANA: It’s a courtship.
[N.B. major spoilers for 2.11 & minor for 2.12; gore / body horror; sexual abuse, animal cruelty.]
ALANA: Will understands that Hannibal Lecter can help him.
FREDDIE: Maybe what Will understands is if you can’t beat Hannibal Lecter… join him.
“Nature versus nurture" is threaded through Hannibal’s discussion of evil from the very beginning; but it’s never been more important, more intimate, or more lethal.
[N.B: major spoilers for 2.10, minor for 2.11; blood / gore / body horror; sexual & psychological abuse; v. bizarre sex; nsfw]
no, not quite.
chilton: dammit, man, you must have some advice. you caught him. what was your trick?
will: i let him kill me.
will’s alive to speak those words; so he’s talking about another kind of “death”.
no one ever wins against hannibal. no one walks away. hannibal likes the game, yes—but he won’t play with just anyone. and if you’re his chosen adversary you can only walk away once you’ve lost. once he’s eaten his fill of you.
at the beginning of red dragon will’s been out of the game for a long time, building a small but wholesome life for himself. he’s not using his atypical mind to catch killers. and yet, chilton tells will, he’s given you a lot of thought. hannibal doesn’t accept will’s resignation from the game. hannibal keeps sending will christmas cards [will burns them]; wants to know about his dreams [will doesn’t answer]; asks will for his home phone-number [will walks away]. hannibal writes will letters—after dolarhyde sets freddy lounds on fire; after dolarhyde slices open will’s face—feasting on will’s pain and fury and guilt. the last words hannibal writes to him are, i think of you often.
everyone who crosses hannibal lecter’s chessboard is consumed, one way or another. hannibal is voracious: he’ll eat a person whole, every sliver of succulent red flesh, every part that makes them interesting & unique—and then he’ll discard the bloodless dry-picked bones.
that’s what will becomes after the end of red dragon: a hollow bone-husk of a man. years later, the keenest hound in jack crawford’s pack is a cautionary tale murmured in the halls of the fbi: a lonely bitter alcoholic working as a diesel-mechanic in florida keys, his face a wreck of flesh like a picasso painting, linoleum-knife scar looped across his belly, trailing behind him the wreckage of his marriage.
there’s no suggestion that will ever loses his deep & abiding goodness; but he’s lost everything else. some might call it a “living death”. and as will’s vitality dwindles, so does hannibal’s interest.
in silence of the lambs hannibal doesn’t think of will graham at all because there’s nothing left for hannibal to eat. hannibal has a new adversary; he’ll consume her too.
no one wins.
yes. and no. [i’d bet you fifty quid that was human meat.]
WILL: What do you think about when you think about killing?
HANNIBAL: I think about God.
One thin barrier between gods and monsters, men and beasts, love and cruelty—and between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter.
[N.B: major spoilers for 2.09 and 2.10; blood/gore, body horror, abuse]
HANNIBAL: I need to know if you’re going to try to kill me again, Will.
WILL: I don’t want to kill you anymore, Dr. Lecter. Not now that I finally find you interesting.
A new kind of intimacy.
[N.B. major spoilers for 2.08; gore / blood / body horror; sexual abuse, gaslighting.]
[for me what’s strange is the absence of mourning. that montage in “mukozuke” showed the grief that radiated out from beverly’s death; but since that time there’s been scarcely any mention of her. not from will, not from jimmy or brian, not from jack—just a passing aside that the abandoned house contained pints of beverly’s blood, i.e. another dislocated “fragment” of her corpse left by “the ripper” for the fbi to find. i can’t work out if it’s deliberate—hannibal consuming and absorbing his victims so completely that it’s as though they never were, like a black hole crushing matter to nothingness—or narrative economy.]
in any case the disappearance of beverly’s voice—frank, rational, honest, observant and as objective as it’s possible to be—stands out stark because it coincides with a seismic change in how hannibal uses genre. hannibal was never much of a murder-procedural [it’s gothic horror above all else]; but throughout season one it still paid lipservice to the pursuit of scientific truth and rational explanation and objectivity. bryan fuller insisted that they’d stretch the boundaries of possibility, but not crack them.
now, the murder-procedural’s been almost completely abandoned. the two-man forensics team still appear at crimescenes to offer up exposition and macabre humour—but they’re even more irrelevant to solving the murder. they’re there to alleviate the perpetual dread [grief for beverly is incompatible with that, i suppose].
and without beverly, the short exchanges of grotesque comedy shared by the forensics team have given way to the greater lurches of sick macabre humour which pervade the show from top to bottom. s2 feels deranged and fantastic and absurdist in a way that s1 never did, even when will’s brain-fever was most extreme. there’s no facade of verisimilitude or proportion or common sense; we’re knee-deep in nightmare: humans performing impossible feats, time & space utterly out of joint, science a very small voice in a gothic feverland of gods and monsters. it seems like beverly was the show’s last bastion of realism and logic; and now she’s gone all hell’s broken loose.
[bear with me my ancient greek is creaky & lapsing]
yes—ἄνθος [anthos], “flower” + λέγειν [legein], “to say/speak” or “to choose/gather/collect/pick together” [complicated verb, heidegger has a field-day with those two senses of it in his lecture “geschichte”] = anthologia, ἀνθολογία, “a flower-gathering/collection”
we’ve seen hannibal at his most derivative [the antler-impaled corpse of cassie boyle, the glasgow smile of dr. sutcliffe] and at his most creative [the “blind”, “mindless and heartless” judge]. this tableau, of a human corpse intertwined with and systemically penetrated by a tree, feels like the latter: the idea of “blooming” isn’t simply hannibal’s burgeoning affair with alana; it’s hannibal himself, growing more daring and ambitious and egotistic.
i think it is a sort of “greatest hits”. the ripper removes organs from bodies which he already considers empty vessels, wasted flesh, and transforms them into things of beauty—exquisite morsels of food. but, beautiful as hannibal’s food appears, the meat is defiled, polluted with murder, it’s taboo, it’s toxic, it breeds corruption.
jack names three flowers specifically; hannibal has three victims he’s presently “poisoning”: will, alana, jack. and the flowers correspond to the way that he poisoned them: “belladonna for the heart” is jack, and his love for bella; the “chain of white oleander for the intestines” is will, and the ear he was forced to ingest; “ragwort for the liver” is alana, and the poisoned wine [ragwort was once used as an aphrodisiac]. all three of these victims have eaten human flesh at hannibal’s table.
this is hannibal’s power: to invade his victim, slice out with precise scalpel-cuts those raw parts which are most vital and human, and fill that void with his own baneful beauty. furthermore, every work of art hannibal creates is a seduction, a token of affection for will; and hannibal’s love is the love that kills.
alright, there’s some discussion of this in the meta, but it needs developing.
for all his talk of death as cure and liberation, hannibal certainly doesn’t want to die. he has powerful survival instincts. and death at someone else’s hand is a kind of defeat, which hannibal couldn’t bear. but hannibal’s irresistibly driven by curiosity and the pursuit of pleasure. will is both a curiosity and a compelling pleasure for hannibal. hannibal relished their half-intimate half-combative conversations; he misses his “friend”. he wants to continue their grand experiment, free of interference.
at the end of season one, hannibal smiled as will levelled a gun at him, and he asked will, “would it feel good to kill me now?” he wanted will to viscerally experience the sense of pleasure and power that hannibal feels when he kills. but that situation was loaded in hannibal’s favour; jack intervened. in season two, it’s again a difference of emphasis. it isn’t that will tried to kill hannibal; it’s that will tried to kill hannibal. not in self-defence, not in defence of another. but because hannibal “deserves” to die. because killing hannibal would feel “righteous”.
and if will’s begun to make those sorts of absolute and biblical judgements, begun to believe that he himself possesses the righteous vision to sort the damned from the saved, and the authority to carry out those mortal punishments—he’s moved perilously near to the uninhibited death-dealing creature hannibal wants him to be. and hannibal’s confident he can complete that metamorphosis before will either harms or incriminates hannibal. but now, as then, hannibal has weighted the game in his own favour.
"i wonder how many more people are going to get hurt by what you do. […] i’ll give alana bloom your best."
that’s a threat. hannibal is holding alana “hostage”, and if will makes any further dangerous moves toward hannibal, he’ll kill her. hannibal’s also chosen this moment to put miriam lass back into play, now one of his pawns. two lines of defence, should will turn on him again. this is stalemate—for now.
WILL: If the Ripper is killing, you can bet Hannibal Lecter is planning a dinner party.
[N.B: major spoilers for all episodes to 2.06, minor spoilers for 2.07; blood / gore, ambiguous consent, body horror, nsfw.]
[minor spoilers for future episodes]
In Hannibal murder is the performance of self. It’s the imposition of an image of self upon a chosen flesh-canvas. Killers verbally enact the same qualities exhibited in their murders, e.g. Abel Gideon speaks in repetitive structures, prone to digression, often mimicking or distorting his interlocutor’s words.
Hannibal speaks in elaborate and figurative language which is incarnational—it “embodies” the abstract and intangible [e.g. telling Bella that Jack will “feel your silence like a draught”]. There’s an internal coherence to the “body” of his speech: he favours chiastic and mirroring structures, and ideas & constructions uttered in early episodes often return later, transformed. Will’s speech tends in the other direction—concrete to abstract—but in conversation he perfectly mimics Hannibal’s elaborate diction and metaphorical turns of phrase.
i wanted to cram thoughts about alternative biblical archetypes for will into this meta but the thing was already so long & unwieldy; but yes, i think there’s something in that—and if will & clarice ever meet in hannibal, there might well be a sense of will as spiritual precursor to clarice.
what i appreciate about hannibal is that the subtextual layers of symbol and archetype and myth are fused and melded, so that at any given moment there’s this dense mythos weighing on the narrative, pulling in many different directions. no character can be assigned a single archetype, because each is a complex person as well as a multifaceted symbolic entity.
i think that the show is arguing for will as jesus/messiah: will’s affinity with “strays” and pariahs like abigail & georgia; the theme of fishing; baptismal waters; hannibal’s temptation of will while he’s “burning alive” [desert parallels?]; will’s persecution and arrest; his betrayal by hannibal; the severed ear as a call back to peter cutting off the ear of the soldier malthus when jesus is arrested in the garden of gethsemane; hannibal compares himself to st. peter for denying will three times; matthew brown names hannibal “judas” for his betrayal of will, &c.
but i don’t want to overplay the biblical parallel because it’s just one of the narratives being invoked, and it’s being simultaneously contorted and subverted; c.f. will’s imagined transformation into the wendigo in “takiawase" belongs to another mythological "text", an outward manifestation of an inward metamorphosis that’s unholy and profane and bestial [x]; and all of that abstracting mythology interacts with the more realist narrative of victimhood and trauma and resistance and survival.