not in our stars, but in ourselves
If you suspected that the reason for my nearly week-long hiatus was Hannibal, you were right. I spent the week luxuriating in it, watching every episode while occasionally flinching and flailing, and now I have to wait until 2014 for more. Absurd. Doesn’t NBC know that we Americans crave our television on a school-year schedule? It’s the Brits who get away with two episodes, eighteen months off, another two episodes, and maybe a Christmas special. We need our shows to start in September and end in May and that’s just the way it works, okay??
Based on the first season, however, I’d say it will be worth the wait.
As the season went on, I found myself wondering a bit about the monster-of-the-week format. For those of you unfamiliar with The X Files (if such people exist), episodes were usually either “mythology” or “monster-of-the-week”; in the case of the former, they were episodes that dealt specifically with the overarching themes of extraterrestrials, government conspiracies, Mulder’s insistence on what happened to his family, Scully’s struggles to reconcile her scientific training against her faith and her loyalty to Mulder, etc., etc.; and in the case of the latter, they were usually just one-offs about a particularly unusual case that our intrepid special agents were sent to investigate. My personal favorite of these “monster” episodes is “Bad Blood,” featuring Luke Wilson as a Texas vampire.
Each episode of Hannibal is, essentially, a monster-of-the-week. Will Graham is summoned by Jack Crawford to investigate a new, horrifying murder every week. I was a little skeptical when I first realized that would be the shape the season (if not the series) took: how does it all connect? Will this end up feeling like a couple of dozen small fanfics, rather than a cohesive narrative? But don’t worry. It all pays off. It’s not the best weaving together of various plot strands that I’ve ever seen on TV (that honor, obviously, goes to David Simon’s peerless The Wire) – but it’s pretty good.
I think it was series creator Bryan Fuller who summarized the show as “a love story” between Will and Hannibal. He’s not wrong. Of course it’s all pretty sick and twisted, but isn’t that just the way love is? Maybe not quite this sick and twisted, but the show builds up their relationship quite nicely. In the end, they depend on each other, and need each other, even if they are also both compelled to destroy each other.
One criticism that I will stand by: the insistence on sexual tension between Will and Dr. Alana Bloom, his colleague. I know I’ve complained before about TV’s boring, predictable tendency to force chemistry where none is necessary, or even advisable; and even though Hannibal is sterling in all other respects, it too fell into this musty old claptrap. We all get it: Will and Alana are extremely pretty people. On TV, pretty people always make out while some soft, would-be tender muzak plays under the scene. But what does it add? How does it help? Why can’t they just respect and admire each other – for the first season, at least – and eventually build up that sexual tension until it really and truly sizzles? As I mentioned above, this show owes a debt of gratitude to The X Files. Why not take another page from their playbook, and let these things develop? That way, you have two fully fleshed characters who come to realize that they need and want each other – not just two pretty people who start sucking face for ratings.
But that is, fortunately, a small problem. Overall, the show is brilliant, and I’d highly recommend it. Be ready for some surprisingly disturbing gore – but just watch it.
I promise to get back to posting movies soon. Promise, promise, promise. Considering how strongly affected I’ve been by Mads Mikkelsen’s balletic prowess, I expect I’ll be catching up on his filmography pretty soon.
I know I want to see A Royal Affair, but if any of you have any other recommendations, do let me know.