Thoughts on Hannibal- Two Episodes In

hannibalmeme

This meme appeared on hannibalismforfannibals on Tumblr. Seems to be a positive reaction…

Yesterday was really kind of thrilling. I happened to be “Richarding” online when a barrage of news about his casting as Francis Dolarhyde in the NBC series Hannibal appeared suddenly on Twitter, forums and feed. It was really quite exhilarating to be a part of it! I’ve been just a little down, not really knowing when Sleepwalker, Urban and the Shed Crew, Pilgrimage, or even the digital download of The Crucible would be available, so this news of a recurring role in an ongoing television series right here in the US, expected to air in just a few months later this spring, was very welcome news, indeed. I’ll be curious to find out what the “Fannibals” (the apparently fervent Hannibal fandom) think of the casting announcement.

I almost immediately downloaded the Audible version of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon while simultaneously checking availability on either of my two streaming services for the television series. Turns out season 1 of Hannibal is available on Amazon Prime, which means I get it for free, and season 2 is available to rent or buy the episodes. I haven’t started the audiobook, but last night, after the kids were in bed, Hubby and I streamed the first two episodes of Hannibal, and after watching the first 10 minutes, Hubby got up, left the room, and returned with a Scotch for fortification.

Yeah. It was disturbing. I don’t think he was all that impressed, but he didn’t say he was going to stop watching. He merely said, “I like spending time with you.” Hubby is not against the genre of serial killer/murder/detective mysteries per se, but he opted out of True Detective, The Fall, and Fargo (three shows I love) because he doesn’t like the disturbing dreams he has when he gets invested in these type of shows. We generally do have similar taste in television, enjoying Vikings, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Strike Back, and Sherlock together, but he tends to tolerate violence better when it is presented in more of a combat or battle situation, rather than a psychological thriller.

I have long been fascinated with the psychological phenomenon of serial killers, and more drawn to fiction and film that depicts them realistically (ie, minus the gore-fest style horror genre of Freddy Krueger, etc., which is not at all my thing) so I was pretty sure, after reading the critical acclaim and scanning viewer comments, that Hannibal was going to be a show I might just grow to love, irrespective of Richard Armitage’s involvement. After viewing the first 2 episodes, the jury is still out on whether my initial impression was correct. I was most definitely uncomfortable with the imagery of the first two episodes, and from what I’ve read about the series, that was nothing in comparison to what will come later, in the second season. I did think that stylistically, the show is very different from anything I’ve seen Armitage do, and it will be fascinating to watch not only his portrayal of the sick fiend that is Francis Dolarhyde, but the incorporation of Armitage into the overall composition and feel of this series is going to be completely new and different.

Mild spoilers beyond this point.

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Dr. Hannibal Lecter sits down to dine alone.

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Will Graham, the troubled protagonist of the Hannibal series on NBC.

The cinematography and the tone are darkly sophisticated and compelling, and I was very impressed with my introduction to the characters of sinister psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), and autistic-spectrum, emotionally fragile empath Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), both of whom consult for the FBI as criminal profilers on serial murder cases early in the series. I am curious to see where their relationship leads, as it appears that Dr. Lecter is moving in the direction of becoming Will’s therapist, and will endeavor to get inside his head. The food styling is both beautiful and disturbing. Every time Dr. Lecter sat down to a beautifully plated gourmet meal prepared in his home, with the classical music in the background, I literally squirmed and shuddered. So far, the style of the murders has been- shall we say- creative in the extreme, almost to the point where it defies scientific rationalization, which in some ways makes the subject matter more palatable (excuse the pun) because it does give an impression of sadistic artwork. Not that sadistic artwork has ever been a personal interest of mine, but the imagery is truly so horrific that in some ways, it doesn’t feel real. Rather, it feels surreal, and I’m not sure why this carefully crafted version of horror works for me.

I have a knowing, inside, that this type of film might  alter me, and my perception of Richard Armitage, in ways I’m really not comfortable with. I honestly don’t know how someone who approaches his craft like Richard does is going to cope with what he has to do, become, embrace.

I’m going to keep watching, but I predict that there will be many an Armitage admirer who can’t watch, or won’t.

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27 comments

  1. Perry · January 14, 2015

    Thanks for this. Since yesterday, I’ve been stealing myself to start watching. Personally, I’m a little tired of serial killers, although I was a big Dexter fan – but I know that was an entirely different sort of take on the genre. I also wonder how Richard Armitage will deal with this character, based on what he’s told us about past roles. I keep telling myself, at least it’s not a zombie show. Well, and also what a great opportunity it is for him.

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    • jholland · January 14, 2015

      A year ago, I would have been totally with you on the zombie show… as in: NEVER! Then my employees challenged me to watch the first 2 episodes of The Walking Dead, and… well… I’m totally hooked. Now that I know I can enjoy a zombie show if the characters/storyline are compelling, I’d have no fear if RA did wind up in that The Last of Us film. I haven’t heard any news about that in quite awhile. And I agree, it’s a real chance for him to explore that dark side that he does so well. My biggest question today is whether the producers of Hannibal are planning to cash in on his sex appeal, or if they will make him grotesque….

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  2. Guylty · January 14, 2015

    Thanks for writing your impressions down, J – I wasn’t even able to sit through the trailer for season 2, so I think I won’t be able to handle the real thing. Which frustrates me. But I appreciate being able to understand some of the potential appeal of Hannibal through reading your descriptions and impressions.
    As for RA himself handling the horror – I trust he knows his boundaries and his capabilities in relation to his ambition. Who knows, maybe the show also employs an on-set therapist for psychological care of the artists?

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    • jholland · January 14, 2015

      See, I watched the same trailer, and it thrilled me. Made me wonder why the heck I hadn’t been watching this from the start. It was very gruesome, no doubt about it. I guess only time will tell whether your Armitage admiration will allow you to watch. I don’t worry about becoming unable to watch, but I do have a vague feeling of unease about it. It truly is disturbing, and I’m not always in the mood for those kinds of chills.

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  3. Servetus · January 14, 2015

    This was useful to read — thanks for taking the time to write it. I thought about trying to watch pieces of it last night, but as part of planned downward mobility I’ve cancelled both Netflix and Amazon Prime (and I’m surprised how little I miss either), and I didn’t look beyond that. I just can’t get personally excited about this as a project (although I think it has all kinds of great ramifications not just for him but also for the fandom), but I will try at least the first episode Armitage is in when/after it airs and make a decision about “back episodes” at this point. Even what you say here suggests to me this will not be something I want to watch more than once at the most.

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    • jholland · January 14, 2015

      The great ramifications for RA, I can see. What do you see as the great ramifications for the fandom? The more the merrier?

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      • Servetus · January 14, 2015

        Lots of new fans — and to me, what’s always great about that is the way that attitudes get expanded. The boundaries of “what’s okay” in terms of fanfic, photos, manips, discussions, etc., should be widened and that makes more space for all of us to be creative in. Also maybe / hopefully more male fans, too.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · January 14, 2015

          True. I am on pins and needles to see the makeup effects. Is he going to have the cleft lip scar? Will he show sharpened teeth? I don’t want to see sharpened teeth! lol Is he going to be presented as handsome, someone who will make for good ogling, or will they make him look as scary as he really is? That is definitely going to be an interesting era in the fandom.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. KellyDS · January 14, 2015

    your husband and I are of the same mind when it comes to psychological thrillers and the disturbing dreams that are a byproduct of watching them :/ I’ve seen the Anthony Hopkins version of this story many times but this genre is one I avoid more and more as I get older. I do find them interesting but it’s something I have to brace myself for. So I won’t be doing research on this role to get ready for it, but I will watch the episodes that Richard is in b/c I’m very curious to see what he does with the character 🙂

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    • jholland · January 14, 2015

      Exactly! That is exactly the way I feel… I want to continue watching, but I am going to have to brace myself, because it’s not my usual fare at all.

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  5. Esther · January 14, 2015

    Thank you so much for your impressions! I am getting ready to watch this as well and am a bit iffy about it. I am fine with certain murder mystery shows and can handle a bit of gore but I do not like horror stuff very much, and this sounds like something in between… I did like “The Silence of the Lambs” at the time, despite having to watch through my fingers at some points, so maybe this will be alright for me as well? I’ll give it a go and if it really is too much I’ll just stick with Richard’s episodes when they air… 🙂

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    • jholland · January 14, 2015

      It’s been a very long time since I watched Silence of the Lambs, but that movie, along with The Blair Witch Project, freaked me out completely. I enjoyed them, but they scared me. As in, I didn’t want to sleep alone that night. I would think that if you did ok with SOTL, you’d be ok with Hannibal, but like Kelly said… brace yourself. Definitely a lot of grotesque imagery, albeit artfully presented.

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      • Esther · January 14, 2015

        Thanks for the heads up! 🙂

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      • KellyDS · January 14, 2015

        OMG! The Blair Witch Project had me in tears, I was so scared! and yet the whole time I was thinking, “get over yourself, you’re being ridiculous!” I felt so silly. bumps in the night are far scarier than the monster who makes them.

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        • jholland · January 14, 2015

          I know! I was in vet school at the time, and I lived in a mobile home. My lot was on the edge of a large field, and beyond that, nothing but woods. I always loved having that lot, right up until The Blair Witch Project… then the wind rustling through the trees late at night gave me the heebie jeebies! lol

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  6. Mezz · January 14, 2015

    Thank you for this. Your impressions and those of others I have read are confirming what I already felt – not only is this show something I couldnt watch, but it looks like it’s going to be a role of Richard’s that I will miss seeing. And an ongoing one too. 😦
    Just knowing what Hannibal is sitting down to eat and how it got there makes me feel squeamish, before I’m even confronted with any visuals and the disturbing psychology of the whole thing. I read somewhere that the sound is confronting too. I think screencaps and gifs, and hopefully, clips of the milder scenes (if there are any such things) will have to suffice. It’s a fantastic career step for Richard, I’m rapt for him, but feel sad that I probably won’t get to see him knock everyone’s socks off.

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    • jholland · January 14, 2015

      Welcome, Mezz. I think the food scenes, as delicious-looking and elegantly prepared as they were, bothered me the most. I was completely squeamish during every meal. And yes, I certainly believe RA will knock our socks off. He hasn’t failed to impress me yet. =)

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  7. sparkhouse1 · January 14, 2015

    Thanks, your thoughts on the show were very interesting. I’m am excited to see the show with RA’s episodes…I don’t know how I will be able to watch this show but I am really interested in his portrayal of his character so I am going to give it a go. He is really delving into the darkness with this one…he is really challenging himself and I’m along for the ride. I’ll be squeamish for sure and will probably watch through hands over eyes and ears for some of it (I watched one Nightmare on Elm Street many years ago and I had horrible nightmares for five years straight and never watched a movie like that again) but, I will follow ‘one last time’ ….well, for six episodes, anyways!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. sparkhouse1 · January 14, 2015

    Ooooh, and I just read this character has “elaborate body art” oh, yeah, I’ll be there

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    • jholland · January 14, 2015

      I know! I can’t wait to see his body. Character is a body builder, and has at least one elaborate tattoo in the original book… Wonder if RA is spending more time at the gym….. =) After seeing BOFA again, with my new knowledge that he’s going to play a twisted, cold man… I was reallly focusing on the more chilling moments watching Thorin in the throes of the Dragon Sickness. I don’t know if RA will draw on any of that, or if he will play it as more of a stone-cold, dead-eyed type of madness. I can hardly wait to see.

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  9. suzy · January 15, 2015

    I remember, I read the book 15 years ago…… and I didn´t like it, too much cruelty for me, and now these scenes on TV – frightening 😦

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    • jholland · January 15, 2015

      I feel you. I purchased the audiobook right away, but can’t bring myself to listen. I think there’s only so much horror I can take at one time. So for now, watching the TV version is MORE than enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariclea · January 15, 2015

        audio-b-b-b-b-book???? nonononono, i couldn’t stand somebody reading this to me in a creepy voice, that would freak me out beyond any limit of what i can stand! somehow me reading the books isn’t half as bad, the mere thought of just hearing it read scares me.

        I am largely in complete agreement with your description of S1 having watched it completely. We like the same series 🙂 BUT, this is indeed different.I have to say the aesthetic beauty of the imagery and cinematography sickens me as much as the evil deeds themselves. And i really got to like Will and feel for him, i just couldn’t stand the way the relationship evolves, it’s one of the things that stopped my watching at the end of S1.
        While i don’t really want to go back to it and see more of it, i delved into secondary information, articles and videos. Here is a good interview about S3
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjdmZ0ItBA0 giving you a feel for the thinking behind it.
        Yes, they will totally use his attractive physique to the maximum possible. I strongly suspect they will expand on that and use that chemistry in very evil ways against us. The scar from the cleft palate is something small and will not detract from the whole and the eyes will still be the focus on the face (it’s not something that tends to make people less attractive anyway, think Joaquin Phoenix 🙂 ). I suspect they will also make more of the tattoos. The interview above indicates to me that the director is totally into exploring other sides of the character too, particularly his attractiveness to women and that he loves to push those buttons.
        As to the teeth.. well his own are pretty big and shiny :-p and the extra ones the character only uses when he kills, doesn’t he? I just hope for everyone who watches they won’t go into too much graphic detail in the biting bits and necrophilia…

        But the show is totally into playing with the minds of the audiences and trying to make you feel attracted to stuff that would normally horrify you, deeply unsettling,

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        • jholland · January 15, 2015

          Yes, that is interesting and I thought about it when I was reading your blog the other day. It seems that the very thing that makes it somehow work for me… the aesthetic presentation, if you will… is at least part of what ultimately made you reject it. I don’t know what that says about me. I do know that I have a remarkably strong stomach- it’s impossible to practice veterinary medicine without a high tolerance for things that many find impossible to deal with. I have the happy ability to look at a grotesquely disfiguring wound, for example, and chart out exactly what tissue I need to debride and how I am to put it back together in a way that works mechanically and will be as aesthetically normal-looking as possible. I see blood and internal organs when I’m in surgery and don’t find it at all disturbing (unless there is a smell of decay… that bothers me but I soldier on!) So the sadistically artistic visuals on Hannibal are disturbing more in the sense that they are psychologically scary. But really, as I commented above in response to Mezz, the plates that Dr. Lecter prepares are just as psychologically scary to me as the murder displays, if not more so.
          On a different note, I’ve been noticing another thing that I really do like to look at on the show, and that is the wardrobe. These women are just dressed in such a way that really compliments their beauty, and Hannibal himself is no shabby dresser! I can’t wait to see what tie he’s wearing next! I truly hope you’re right, and the design team will make Francis Dolarhyde as visually appealing as some of these other characters… talk about a feast for the senses! I think you’re right- surely they will take advantage of RA’s incredible sex appeal and run with it. Heaven help me if I fall in lust with such a one. =)

          Liked by 2 people

        • Hariclea · January 16, 2015

          ah you’re a doc 🙂 how niiiiicee! and yes that would make you look at certain aspects differently 🙂
          yes on the clothes, they do dress nicely, it’s all about making them appear on the outside so very different than how they are on the inside, isn’t it?
          And yes i’m willing to bet my money that we’ll see the full turned on charm and physical attraction of RA in this as never before and we’ll be fighting against our instincts. I won’t deny that that aspect in itself should be fun 😉 if i can tell my brain it is all fiction and entertainment 😉

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        • jholland · January 17, 2015

          Charm and physical attraction as never before? I don’t know if I can handle it! lol

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: On All The Ways I Loved The Red Dragon Trailer… | preoccupiedwitharmitage

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