Eulogizing ‘Hannibal’: Smart, Beautiful, Bloody And Destined To Die

“God can’t save any of us because it’s… inelegant. Elegance is more important than suffering. That’s his design.” – Will Graham, Hannibal

It’s one thing to eat someone’s liver with fava beans. It’s quite another to cut off someone’s leg, wrap the meat in string, roll it in flour, sear it on both sides, braise it in stock with a dry white wine and some vegetables, put it in the oven, and present it as veal osso bucco.

NBC’s Hannibal, helmed by showrunner Bryan Fuller, presented Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon material in an entirely new light. It gave Dr. Hannibal Lecter completely new dimensions, transforming him from an extreme psychopath into an almost empathetic character. It defined Will Graham as never before, and reimagined Jack Crawford. It was beautiful, a work of art unlike anything network television has produced in many years. Naturally, it was doomed from the start.

A Thing Is Not Beautiful Because It Lasts Forever

To paraphrase a line from Age of Ultron and Joss Whedon (whose shows likewise have faced untimely ends), a thing is not beautiful because it lasts forever. Hannibal was beautiful because it was doomed, and because of what it did in full knowledge of that fact. And while there’s still a glimmer of hope that this is not the true end of the series  – Fuller has said they’re seeking financing for a feature film – that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.

In the hands of another auteur, Hannibal could have been just another bland, lifeless procedural prioritizing violence over depth and story; another adaptation that went for the cheap thrill. But with Fuller at the helm, we were gifted a series that did away with the simple dichotomy of good versus evil and instead looked into the very nature and meaning of those words.

Hannibal And Will

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Hannibal Lecter was a murdering, sadistic, deranged cannibal, yet he genuinely cared for Will Graham in his own way. Everything he did to Will, he did because, in his mind, it was the best thing for his friend. The character of Hannibal Lecter has always been intriguing and interesting, but this was the first time he was an empathetic character. No matter how many times he tortured and twisted Will’s mind, Will was still drawn to him, and so were we. When he discovers Will’s betrayal and gives him one last chance to confess, only for Will to continue the charade, we feel a tinge of genuine sadness for Hannibal.

To the very end, Hannibal was dedicated to his vision of Will’s well-being, which to him meant embracing his darker side. When Francis Dolarhyde is lying on the ground, blood seeping from wounds produced by the hands (and teeth) of Will and Hannibal, the two share what proves to be a fateful embrace, with Hannibal telling Will “You see, this is all I ever wanted for you.”

Jack Crawford was the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, which would, in any other series or iteration, cast him firmly as a “good guy.” But Jack used Will, and continued to do so even as it drove him to, and over, the edge of insanity. When Will finally got away from that life, it was Jack — knowing full well what would happen — who dragged him back.

Will, meanwhile, was caught between wanting to catch Hannibal and wanting to be with him. He conspired with Jack in a long con to capture Hannibal, but even on the night of the plan’s culmination, he warns Hannibal in a moment that harkens back to the series’ first episode. When Will wakes up, miraculously surviving Hannibal’s gutting, his first thought is not to build a new life, but to find the good doctor.