The first time I encountered Dr. Hannibal Lecter I was twelve years old. I used to be a very frequent visitor to the on-post library at Ft. Drum where I lived at the time. It was just about a mile or so from my house and I would walk it or bike it rain or shine, trudging through snow banks as needed. Unlike other kids my age I spent just as much time in the children’s library as I did the adult library. And to the credit of the librarians who knew me they never once tried to stop me. It never mattered what I wanted to read or check out on VHS. They always humored me.
I mean maybe they shouldn’t have let me check out films like Primary Colors or let me take home Red Dragon from the book exchange but, hey.
When I first picked up that book I had no idea what it was about. How could I? My parents had Silence of the Lambs on VHS but I had never had any reason to watch it. To a kid, that sounds like a terribly dumb movie. Red Dragon is way cooler. So instead of meeting Hannibal Lecter as most moviegoers did alongside Clarice Starling, I saw him through the eyes of his old friend Will Graham. That same year or maybe the year prior the Red Dragon film with Ed Norton came out (the second film based on Red Dragon, actually) and so that was again how I first experienced Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter – not as the sociopath with the awkward pseudo fetish for Starling but as Will Graham’s intellectual equal. It was Will Graham’s relationship with Lecter that defined the character for me and so I’ve always been very fond of the story as a whole.
If I had to pick a favorite character in the series, it will always be Will.
And I always wanted to know more about how Hannibal and Will were before Hannibal, you know, tried to eat him. They were friends – or so we’re told. They worked together, they got along. Tracked down a couple serial killers. Hannibal was quite taken with him because of how he thought and felt and understood the troubled minds they tracked down. Will appreciated Hannibal’s friendship and expertise.
I think in Red Dragon they mention working together on one or two cases.
In NBC’s Hannibal they seem to be making a series out of the two working together to solve multiple cases. Which I am totally okay with and which I think makes a lot of sense. Will Graham is a profiler and FBI agent; he hunts down serial killers for a living. That’s a pretty tried and true plot for a television series. We have tons of them that follow that same simple formula. The real focus of the show, then, turns to the relationship between the two men and how they work together.
It also will revolve pretty heavily around Hannibal’s own heinous murders and how he keeps that from Will. I assume that in this series Hannibal’s own murders will go beyond those that we know he committed from the books and films. If that were the case I think it’d be a bit boring after a while. Sure, we know about ‘Miss Moffet’ in the storage garage, etc. But do I really need to see all that build up for something no one will find until Starling comes around? No.
If they stick too close to the source material then they run the risk of trapping themselves in it. We need new stories and new plot lines. We don’t need to see things we’ve already seen before. It’s okay to make a few mentions of them and throw in some fan service but I hope that’s as far as they go.
Because we know what happens at the end of this story and NBC needs to really do something spectacular that makes us think that we don’t know what happens. The way this goes is Will Graham figures out who Hannibal is at the very last minute – moments before he’s shanked by this sociopath that he until just moments before considered a close personal friend. Hannibal realizes that Will has figured it out and he has to kill him. As much as he might like Will it’s really the only option and, honestly, you’re left to wonder how much a man like Hannibal can like anyone.
The show’s creators say that they’ve approached the series in a way that – if you didn’t know this was Hannibal – would shock you when you realized he was the serial killer they were chasing. I’m not entirely sure if that’s an accurate understanding of his words but I’m equally uncertain as to whether or not that’s the best way to approach the series. But maybe it is. Maybe they can effectively lull you into a sense of security so that when they make their reveal – which I assume has to happen in the first few episodes – you’ll be equally surprised and horrified. I don’t know.
But the people handling the show seem to be doing it right. They apparently have two seasons worth of material with one season already written. They are going to use a ‘cable formula’ on a ‘broadcast network’ they say. Each season will be thirteen episodes long because they have a story to tell. Thirteen episodes keeps them grounded; it keeps them from dillydallying and getting lost along the narrative way.
The most important aspect of this show is going to be the relationship between Hannibal and Will Graham and then Will’s relationships with the other people in his life. He thinks like the killers he is chasing and that weighs heavily on every aspect of his life so it will be important that wee see that. It makes me wonder, too, whether or not Will Graham’s wife and step-son (re-imagined as his actual son in the Ed Norton film) will make an appearance or if it is too soon for them in the timeline. Even if it’s not too soon in the timeline it might be for the show. Imagine seeing Will Graham attempting to date. Or imagine him introducing his soon-to-be-wife or just a girlfriend to Lecter. Getting him involved in his life. (Maybe adding an even more dramatic element if Lecter killed this girlfriend or something.)
Nothing will be more important than the Hannibal and Will bromance. The show’s forerunners have actually described the relationship as something of an actual romance. Honestly, the rest of the show could suck and the serial-killer-of-the-week plot lines could be terrible as long as Hannibal and Will’s relationship works. I really just love the dynamic those two characters have. The serial killer and the man who is hunting him. It’s such an odd friendship and yet it’s not a one-sided friendship. There is a respect that Hannibal holds for Will while Will is absolutely taken by Lecter and sees him as the only confidant and partner he has who can think on the same level as him. Both character rely on the other.
But in the end there’s only one thing that can happen and all the while one of them – Hannibal – knows it.
I’m actually really interested, too, in seeing more of Will Graham. He appears in Red Dragon but never again in the series – just a couple mentions in the Silence of the Lambs book. And there is so much you can do with him. Will is a very classic, troubled hero. We never see it in the films but the serial killers Will tracks down take a heavy toll on him. One – the case before Lecter’s – actually sees Will briefly committed after a psychological break from the trauma it wrecks on his psyche.
These are the sort of things that we could see come into the television show. Actually, think just how crazy it might be if the show started after he got out of the hospital and he first met Hannibal as part of his on-going psychotherapy. That would be a diversion from the norm but’s okay. We didn’t get to see that part of their relationship – the building of trust and friendship – in the Red Dragon book or the film adaptations because they always picked up after he caught Hannibal. There is a lot of new ground for them to cover here.
But this isn’t the only relationship like this we’ve seen. Hannibal and Will’s relationship has been the inspiration for several other agent-killer sort of bromances.
The most recent and obvious one will be the relationship between agent Ryan Hardy and serial killer Joe Carroll on Fox’s the Following which is coming up on it’s sixth episode this coming Monday. Their relationship is pretty much exactly like that of Hannibal and Will. Ryan came to Joe for help tracking down a Poe obsessed serial killer… who was, you know, actually Joe. Whereas Hannibal shanks Will and he recovers, Joe’s damage to Ryan is a bit more permanent and requires him to wear a pacemaker. But the fact is in their final show down they both severely injured one another and both nearly died. And in both cases the reader and/or viewers comes into the relationship after the beg reveal that one half of this bromance is actually quite evil.
Honestly, I like the Following a lot because I like the character dynamic between Ryan and Joe. It’s not Hannibal Lecter which I like. But will other people? Will viewers? The following will still have at least five episodes to go before it’s first season finale when Hannibal premiers on April 4th, 2013. Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy are big names – probably bigger than Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, and Laurence Fishburne. But Hannibal is the biggest name of all of them. Hannibal will carry a significant viewership all on it’s own because of that name. Sure, it’s not going to be Anthony Hopkins on the screen but that won’t matter initially and if Mads Mikkelsen can pull it off then it won’t matter at all.
It’s going to be an interesting little show down.