I love reading your metas for Hannibal! When I saw your latest, I couldn't resist asking you a question (particularly given your interest in Classics). Recently, in my Greek class, my professor brought up the etymology of the word 'Anthology' which originally meant a bouquet of flowers. Which makes sense- picking the best of a variety to make a superior whole. So my question is: Do you think that this is what Hannibal was doing in Futamono? Essentially creating a poisonous 'Greatest Hits' list?
[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.
Hello. I was wondering on why Hannibal would want to release Will. Hannibal succeeded in making Will's dark side come out but Hannibal wanted Will to work alongside him, no? But he only made Will want to kill Hannibal and Hannibal knows that when he helps Will get released that he would try to kill him again. By the way that Hannibal flinched at the gun, and other situations, we know that he doesn't want to die. if you've talked about this already, sorry.
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.
Do you think Hannibal is affected by all the people lately who've been uncovering his secret? I mean, I'm assuming for years (before Will) nobody has figured out what he is, and now it seems like everybody and their aunt (a slight exaggeration) is finding out. I would think that would be setting of alarms in his head that he's being sloppy? Unless there is backstory in the novels to explain this? What do you think?
Thoughts on Matthew Brown's bird metaphor/speech? It doesn't work for me; it feels awkward and vague. Why a hawk and not something larger? Who are the little birds? What is the irl parallel to hawks getting beaten away by little birds?? The metaphor just doesn't pan out for me. Is that more the point of it, perhaps? That Brown isn't a poet of the same caliber as those he writes to?
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.
oh, i love your last meta about christian dichotomies/parallels in the show (and all your meta, pretty much). because i can't not combine book canon with show canon in my head, i keep thinking of will as john the baptist, who preceded christ (starling; the books aren't subtle lol). his time in florida parallels john in the wilderness and the circumstances of john's beheading mirror the way will's attack by dolarhyde goes down--and just the way he sees things, as if he were a seer, a prophet.
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.
i think your view of will’s attempt to kill hannibal hinges upon whether you think will believed it would succeed.
will knows that hannibal is frighteningly, inhumanly powerful and strong and clever. hannibal has killed countless men & women, and performed astonishing feats of strength to create his murder-tableaux. hannibal killed tobias, who took out two armed police officers. hannibal killed beverly, who was also armed. hannibal forced bedelia’s violent patient to swallow his own tongue through sheer mesmeric charisma. hannibal convinced the mural-killer to let himself be killed and stitched into his own mural.
matthew brown is a crude, brazen, imprecise, imitative killer. i don’t think will believed for a moment that brown would succeed in killing hannibal lecter. will was lashing out.
ehhhhnnnn but will is first and foremost a victim, and a mouthpiece for other victims on the show, it’s hard for me to label his actions as “selfish” or “evil” when i think about how trauma/abuse and the trauma/abuse of others play into his actions.
i don’t think any act will’s committed so far comes near to “evil”. will has been subject to the most horrendous abuse and harm, and the weight of hannibal’s past and future victims rests on his shoulders; i wouldn’t deny that for a moment.
but will knew that he was putting beverly in danger. he weighed the odds, and determined that it was a fair price to pay if it led to the revelation of hannibal’s wickedness. it’s an awful decision to make, but will chose to sacrifice beverly’s safety—to expose her to trauma and abuse—for a common good. [arguably, he’s done the same to freddie & chilton, by putting them in the line of fire.] and then he sacrificed matthew brown to slake his thirst for vengeance. there’s a moral conundrum being constructed, about ends justifying means; but no one gets to “play god”.
that’s why the show, from will’s perspective, visually joins the water/blood of beverly to the water/blood of hannibal: because will’s feelings of guilt about beverly push him to “stain” himself with another guilt. he must know that matthew brown won’t succeed; and that this attempted murder can only harm his defence and strengthen hannibal’s. he does it anyway. it’s a very human thing, to be driven by grief and pain and rage, to wish such a monster of a man killed—but it was selfish.
snickering and snortling over how perfectly the whole hannibal/god/will/devil dichotomy is turning out, like DANG
hm, i’m leaning in another direction, because i think the “god” of this universe—if it has one; the miasmic nihilism of season two is deep & dark enough to choke—is an author-god.
hannibal is a pretender, a craven and illegitimate claimant to the kingdom & throne; he’s not god, he’s the devil. he’s satan, the ruined self-destroying angel, as beautiful as he is wretched, as tragic as he is cruel, as poetic as he is profane. he declares himself divine but he’s only capable of a perverse and inferior and imitative form of creation that’s spiritually void. he’s the satan of paradise lost who breeds “death” with his daughter “sin”. hannibal’s “crucifixion” is a crude poetic justice: if he’s god-made-flesh, if he has power over life and death, if he’s untroubled by mortality because he believes in his own resurrection, what does it matter if he suffers and dies? [as it turns out, hannibal really doesn’t want to suffer & die.]
to me, will is the messiah-figure. he’s all human frailty and mortality and flesh and blood and bones and heart and desire; but he’s also more than human, set apart, god-touched, a scapegoat for the sins of others, the object of satan’s temptation, betrayed and falsely condemned. the old will graham is “dead”, and now will has descended into the underworld.
but unlike the biblical jesus, he won’t get out of hell unscathed. i think will’s tragedy is that he’s a failed messiah; he doesn’t see evil coming, and he doesn’t resist its seductions—in season one, he doesn’t realise that he’s being lured by the devil. and in season two, when hannibal puts him in dire straits, will is forced to compromise his goodness, because he isn’t mightier than hannibal. will pushed beverly along the path, knowing that hannibal lecter stood smirking at the end of it. and then he tried to kill hannibal: not to avert a murder, not in defence of himself or another, but purely out of fury and grief and wrath. in that moment, will isn’t acting for goodness; he’s acting out of selfish desire for vengeance.
and i think that’s the underlying thread beneath all this: not that will is the devil, but that everyone compromises. no one is allowed to remain pure and unblemished and uncorrupted in a world which contains hannibal lecter.
just to be clear: the reason that this feels sort of like a slap in the face is because i love & admire bryan’s fictions, because i’ve deeply appreciated his writing and tireless work and creative vision for hannibal, and because he’s spoken so intelligently & sensitively about the representational issues within the source text and the horror genre more broadly, and the demographics of hannibal's audience.
i don’t for a moment think that the decision to kill beverly was malevolent, or intended to offend; it was a misstep, revealing that this show—like most shows—has blind spots when it comes to race and gender, and sometimes lapses into the well-worn narrative paths of its genre.
hannibal has given me pleasure and nightmares and food for thought [sorry]. art isn’t a zero-sum game: one major error doesn’t erase the show’s many wonderful and strange and idiosyncratic qualities. but you have to talk about both.
First a disclaimer: if you’re really upset about Beverly’s death, I understand completely. I was a mess for three days because of it—I just had the (mis)fortune of going through those emotions a while back instead of this weekend, so I’ve had time to get used to the idea by now. In this post, I’m not going to tell anyone how they should feel about it, just talk about what I think and feel about it.
I’ve been asked several times to discuss Beverly’s death, in both asks and in responses to posts, so I’m compiling that all into one discussion here.
I have so many issues with this, I don’t know where to start.
Beverly’s actions make no sense. She isn’t rash or impulsive. She’s clever and canny and pragmatic. She would also know that this evidence wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law. And she’s certainly not suicidal: she’s examined and catalogued firsthand and in excruciating detail what “the Ripper” does to his victims. She would not go to Hannibal’s house without telling someone where she was. She wouldn’t go into his basement. Her death was contrived and illogical.
Therefore, you can only explain Beverly’s decision in terms of the consequences it will have on the male characters—doesn’t that seem backward to you? Shouldn’t Beverly have motivations and desires and behaviours organic to her character, apart from being a plot device? Ironically, you yourself have erased Beverly’s motivations from your argument, and focused solely on Will and Hannibal. Those two characters are the centre of the piece, yes—but that doesn’t mean throwing characterisation out of the window to serve their narrative, which is the real definition of using a character as a “plot device”.
So this… is the first defence of “fridging” I’ve ever read. As the discussion of that trope highlights, the TVTrope “Stuffed Into The Fridge” isn’t the same as the “Women in Refrigerators" trope, which is the killing, maiming, or depowering of a female character solely as personal motivating tragedy for the hero. Which is what you’ve [inadvertently] argued for here, and is always bad writing, regardless of how significant the hero’s reaction is.
There is no such thing as race-blindness. I will say this a million times if I have to. There is no such thing as “race-blindness”: as manystudieshaveshown, “ignoring” race is still racist and harmful. The writers can’t ignore the racial and gender politics of this decision. To say otherwise is naive, and an expression of privilege.
Hannibal has a gender problem, even if you look beyond the basic sexism written into its premise. Its female characters are under-used and under-written. Hell, some people thought Bedelia was a figment of Hannibal’s imagination for much of S1, because she had no reality beyond him. Alana had very little to do in S1, and has had even less thus far in S2. Abigail was empowered, only to have that power stripped from her. And the horror genre itself has a long history of objectifying, fridging and disempowering female and poc characters. Claiming “gender-blindness” regarding the fates of victims is just as intellectually dishonest as claiming race-blindness.
You’ve also carefully chosen to ignore what many fans are so upset about: Bryan Fuller’s gleeful description of Beverly’s horrifically mutilated, deconstructed, abjected body that’s still to come [interestingly, this has now been removed from the AV Club interview]. Not even the white female characters got that sort of treatment.
I love Hannibal, have written extensively of my love for it, but trying to explain away its mistakes is not what an engaged and critically-minded and culturally-conscious audience does.
no, i don’t intend to quit the show—although i do feel significantly more disillusioned with it than i did twentyfour hours ago.
alright, there’s one part of this i want to draw out: “I logically understand the reason behind it”.
i think this is where the divide in the fandom about beverly’s death lies, so i’ll try to parse out why this creative decision bothers me.
to me it doesn’t seem logical or necessary or comprehensible. narratively and psychologically speaking, it seems clumsy: beverly is too clever and savvy and self-aware to knowingly venture into the home of someone she strongly suspects to be a vicious and powerful serial killer, without notifying someone else. characters—particularly female characters—exhibiting a sudden lack of rationale and self-preservation instinct is a horror-film cliche and hannibal should be better than that.
to me, it was plainly reverse engineered: the writers decided that beverly had to die, and devised a situation in which that would occur. [the relevant quote from this interview is: “we can’t kill her yet because we haven’t done anything with her.” they intended to kill her in season one, but killed abigail instead, and developed beverly so that her death would “sting” more than it would have in season one.]
and the only other rationale i can see for beverly’s death is to galvanise will to new levels of desperation—i.e. a textbook example of “fridging" a female character, subordinating her to a male character’s narrative.
i mean, if hannibal knew that beverly would go to his house, why would he leave samples of human meat within easy reach? why not have beverly steal one of the samples from his kitchen, take it back to the lab, and discover it to be animal meat? beverly would suspect that hannibal had anticipated her, which would make her more suspicious—but still leave her without proof. which means that she could continue to be the agent of will’s investigation, while always glancing back over her shoulder for hannibal. that would’ve been fascinating and tense and creepy as hell.
the idea that a character “must” die—particularly a female character—is a fallacious one, i think. a strong theme within hannibal is that those who write the stories have the power. When you’re a storyteller, there is no “must”—there’s always a choice.