June 24, 2013 by Kira Lyn Blue
I was going to cover several various books and shows that I’ve been feeding the Muse lately, but I started writing this post and it turns out there’s a lot of ground to cover in just one show: Hannibal.
Before The Red Dragon
I recently finished watching the entire first season of NBC’s Hannibal. It’s basically the prequel to The Red Dragon, and follows FBI profiler Will Graham as he tracks serial killers through his ability to empathize with and understand their motivations and actions and his relationship with his therapist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter who is supposed to be helping him cope with the psychological impacts of his job duties.
Lecter Movie? What Lecter movies?
This show wasn’t at all what I expected it would be, but in a good way. Mads Mikkelsen as everyone’s favorite cannibal is very different from how Dr. Lecter is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. At first I found it a bit disorienting, but then realized it made sense. This is Dr. Lecter before anyone knows what he really is, before the mask of civility has been ripped away and he is oh so very carefully presenting only that which he chooses to the world around him.
Suspense, Tone, and Internalization
It’s psychological suspense done very, very well. I absolutely loved how almost nothing is explained outright. It’s all subtly implied and forces the viewer to watch carefully to see how each character acts and reacts to each given scenario. Even better, every aspect of the production is carefully crafted to create and amplify suspense and leave the viewer slightly disturbed at all times. The predominant colors in every scene are greys and blues, making things feel very stark, dark, and depressing. The splashes or color they do use come across as garish rather than cheerful or comforting. I even noted a lack of background music in most scenes or just some vague noise that ratcheted up my tension.
The producers are so very careful to only show beauty and elegance in close relationship with the killers or Hannibal himself, which is just so psychologically brilliant I both admire them and hate them for making “good things” in the show triggers for terror. The most obvious example is Hannibal serving gorgeous culinary delights to his colleagues in just about every episode and every time it happened I was cringing and hiding behind a couch cushion to prevent myself from thinking about how tasty it looked.
Another very interesting thing they did was the sets and costuming. It’s all designed to be very ambiguous as to what time period the show is set in. At first glance, I thought it might be set in late 70s or early 80s, but then a random cell phone or laptop appears. Modern technology is sparingly used, though, which almost makes me think the creators wanted a series that could be watched decades from now without it appearing dated. Which was a brilliant choice, because this show is so well done I hate to see it forgotten.
It’s not what you might expect. This show is about Will Graham and his mental state more than anything else. There’s nothing more I can say without spoilers and I wouldn’t do that to you. What I can say is that Hannibal is so very different from anything else on TV right now. I’d highly recommend it for any writer just because it does “Show, don’t tell,” better than anything I’ve seen or read in months.
Kira’s Rating: 5 Freaked Out Squirrels