Developed by Bryan Fuller
For reference, I’m talking about Hannibal the TV show, not the books. The books are good but not great.
I love this show. Chantel knows it. Most people know it who have talked to me in depth. It was canceled in 2016 after, somehow, lasting for three seasons. It’s gory. It’s gay. It’s graphic. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s a smart show that you have to pay attention to so you can understand it.
And it’s fantastic.
If someone asks for a show recommendation, I always give this show. It’s three seasons long, 13 episodes per season, and (for the moment) complete. There are discussions about doing a fourth season.
Obviously, based on the title, it involves Hannibal Lecter. The three seasons weave together Red Dragon, Hannibal (the book), and Hannibal Rising. The characters from the show are pulled from those three books, but mainly Red Dragon. Yet it’s not until the final few episodes of the third season where they actually deal with the plot from Red Dragon.
The show focuses on how Hannibal was caught, yet it even takes the heart of the story and blows it up to something new. Like, I can’t even describe it. The first season sets the story up. The second is about trying to nab Hannibal. The third season deals with that and the plot from Red Dragon.
What is at the heart of the story are two men, Hannibal and Will Graham. How they are separate people who, somehow, weave into one. I remember telling Chantel that the story that matters is Will Graham’s character arc. When we watched the final episode together, she understood it.
So, why do I love it?
First reason: Female rep
The books are very male. The only female characters in the whole book series were Clarice Starling, Margot Verger, and Beverly Katz. Yet, this series doesn’t have Clarice Starling. So, what did they do? They made traditionally male characters women, played up the role of the one female character they kept, and added new characters.
Dr. Alan Bloom becomes Dr. Alana Bloom.
Alana is just a fantastic character. She’s strong and emotional and loving and hateful. She is like any other woman that you might meet. I think that she’s a fantastic character because her femininity was never shied away from and yet she’s not stereotypical. They made her a true woman, full of conflictions and problems.
Freddie Lounds keeps the name, but changes gender.
In the books, Freddie was a male tabloid author who only talks about true crime. Fuller made a very wise choice to change the character to another female role that is always in the background. And, you know what? She’s ten times better than in the books. I absolutely loved to hate her and yet found ways to be afraid for her and root for her.
Margot Verger gets a far larger role than in the books, beginning in the second season.
I’m going to spend more time talking about her later, but she is not a stereotypical victim of an abusive older brother. She is strong and survives. And, her sexuality does not define her and, I mean, if you didn’t pay attention you’d miss the drop that she’s lesbian. If you read the books, you know that, but it’s barely mentioned in the show. Why? Because it’s not a huge deal. Her sexuality does not define her.
Beverly Katz has a large role for the first and second seasons.
BAMF. That’s all I can say about Beverly. But, really, she’s fucking amazing. She shows a more masculine, law enforcement (all while being a technician with the FBI) side of womanhood. I absolutely adored her.
Bella Crawford is the wife of Jack Crawford and she’s fantastic.
In the books, by the time Bella was mentioned, it was in past tense because the character has cancer and it’s a big thing that Jack’s dealing well with the death of his wife. The show? Doesn’t shy away from cancer and develops her so you can actually know her, see her relationship with her husband, and, by God, feel when it inevitably happens.
Bedelia du Maurier is an additional role, played by Gillian Anderson.
Du Maurier is Hannibal’s psychiatrist… who needs one of her own. I mean, she’s a character that is amazing and has been a part of Hannibal’s world. She is the prelude to what everyone else will become, yet she is still amazingly fun and interesting to watch on screen. And it’s not just because she’s Gillian Anderson.
Abigail Hobbs is another addition.
Abigail is very hard to describe since talking about her just gives away spoilers. However, she’s introduced from the first episode and is a recurring character throughout the series. She’s, again, a very real character. A victim who stubbornly refuses to be a victim.
Miriam Lass is yet another addition.
While Miriam is a very minor character, she takes the book role of Will and of Clarice (in a way). She didn’t have too much screen time in the show, yet I was always very impressed by how they handled her character.
Chiyoh (very minor role in Hannibal Rising), Molly Graham (minor role who gets slightly expanded on in the show), Reba McClane (who they changed from a white woman to a black woman), and as I sit here I keep generating more and more women that held some sort of role in the show that was integral at some point.
DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN. LOOK AT ALL THE GLORIOUS WOMEN WHO ARE IMPORTANT TO THIS. LOOK AT THEM.
It’s probably one of the best shows I’ve seen with rep of diverse women.
Second reason: Gay relationships all the way
Yes. You heard me say it. I’d say spoilers since the relationships don’t develop until the end, but from the first episode there’s gayness. Lots.
The first I’ll go over is Will and Hannibal. From the first episode, it was so fucking gay and it just got gayer. I mean, I’m going to link the finale to the show here BECAUSE IT IS SO GAY, but do not watch it unless you want to be spoiled for the finishing things.
What really made this show even better with LGBT+ characters was the fandom. This fandom, besides for Orphan Black, was one of the best I have been in. I mean, they made such gems for gifs about Hannigram (which is the ship name).
Next, Margot Verger.
That gif is literally the most the show states about her sexuality. That one little statement is about it, then they move on from there. The book basically made her this insane body builder who is supposed to be male and, well, terrible rep. Just plain awful.
And, also, Margot has a relationship with one of the women in the show towards the end. I loved it.
Third reason: So. Fucking. Literary.
This show is a literary show. There’s so much symbolism scattered throughout it. It’s also quiet and somewhat slow so you have to pay attention. Some of my favorite symbols are:
Fourth reason: All available to stream RIGHT. NOW.
If you have Amazon Prime, you should have access to all three seasons. Need I say more?
Fifth reason: Amazingly developed characters
I talked a lot how there are gay characters done well and tons of female characters that were purposefully inserted. However, the characters are so well developed outside of that and you can’t help but like all of them.
Will Graham, for me, is where the show lies. His character arc is, for me, the point of the series and it comes to a brilliant close at the series finale. Hugh Dancy is Will Graham. He captures him perfectly, showing you all the sides of that character from his love of dogs to his dark side that you want him to go with yet desperately don’t.
The same goes for Mads Mikkelsen’s performance as Hannibal. Instead of going with the Anthony Hopkins version of an American Hannibal that you can’t connect with, he goes with the Eastern European Hannibal who you like yet are afraid of. He makes a cannibalistic, psychopathic (and I genuinely mean that when I say psychopathic, not just bandying the term for fun) man likable and you want him to win even in the back of your mind.
Laurence Fishburne adds a level to a very aloof and nonexistent authority figure from the books. Despite Freddie Lounds being horrible, you still like her and, at least for me, come to see that she really saw things for what they were. Dr. Alana Bloom turns from sweet and emotional to aloof. Abigail Hobbs can easily go from victim to survivor and back to victim.
Sixth reason: Took a popular series and turned it into so much more.
There are constant homages to the original series and, if you’re familiar with the books or movies, you’ll realize them. You’ll catch most, if not all, of them. There’s a constant line of remembrance to the books.
Not only that, but they never forgot the fans of the show. They remembered original fans by having a constant remembrance to the books. Then, this show has a fantastic fandom. We fought hard to get it picked up, yet that never happened. And, there are always lines that are directed towards current fans, yet they never took it as far as BBC Sherlock by writing for the fans and trying to keep them happy while, sadly, failing to do so. There are running jokes, such as with Dr. Frederick Chilton or everyone seeing how gay Hannibal is for Will.
This show is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Even if I’ve watched it, like, five times, it feels brand new every time because I catch more and more of it.
I sincerely hope you watch this.