Alternate title: PLEASE DON’T KILL FREDERICK CHILTON
You know what, when Hannibal began I hated Frederick Chilton.
I hated Chilton in the novel Red Dragon, I hated Chilton in the movies, I just hated the guy because he was a sleaze bag who used psychology inappropriately to get what he wanted out of people. Yes, Hannibal Lecter is a cannibalistic serial killer who hurts people without remorse, but even so Frederick Chilton managed to be overly dickish about the whole thing in every other representation of canon. When he looked at Lecter, or in Bryan Fuller’s series, Will Graham, he saw glitz and glory and the chance to be revered by his peers for getting into the mind of the infamous Chesapeake Ripper.
Somehow, though, toward the end of season one and into season two I began to love and appreciate Frederick Chilton.
First, Bryan Fuller and the team couldn’t have picked a better actor. Raul Esparza is flawless in his representation of Frederick Chilton. There is something about stage actors, I think, which brings a different kind of magic to the television screen. I’m no theatre expert, so I’m not going to pretend I understand the nuances of what Raul does, but whatever he is doing makes him a joy to watch every single week. I see in him the same things I appreciate in Jonny Lee Miller’s version of Sherlock Holmes. There is something to be said for an actor who can make a character completely divergent from themselves.
Let me explain that.
When I see Raul Esparza in interviews and in situations where he is himself, I don’t really see the characteristics of Frederick Chilton. Other than the fact it is the same face and same body, everything else is different. That is what impresses me about an actor. He slips perfectly into the role of the lonely, dysfunctional, and morally corrupt psychiatrist on Hannibal and performs beautifully down to the simplest details. His body language, facial expressions, and cadence all reflect the character he is playing. I appreciate Chilton because the actor who plays him does so wholeheartedly and in such a way that makes the character captivating. In Hannibal there is a life that has been breathed into Frederick Chilton that doesn’t really exist in the other adaptations of Thomas Harris’ work where Chilton is concerned.
So I appreciate Frederick Chilton because I appreciate Raul Esparza’s dedication to and execution of the role.
Second, Chilton has been written to be a dynamic character. This was not something I anticipated when I came into this series. In Red Dragon the novel, Chilton is an annoying presence who creeps on Will Graham more than I’d like him to. In the movie adaptations he is a sleaze who looks for any excuse to get something out of the people around him. When it comes to both of these portrayals, Chilton remains essentially the same throughout. After all, the stories aren’t about him. He is just a means to an end and someone else the reader or the audience can choose to dislike.
However, in Hannibal, he is more than a thorn in everyone’s side. In what could possibly be one of the most brilliant moves on television, Bryan Fuller has managed to make Chilton into a character worth rooting for. Yes, we see him in season one as someone who is creepy toward Will Graham, who idolizes Hannibal Lecter, and who has no qualms with questionable psychiatric practices, but as the dynamics between the characters shift so does he. I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew Chilton was going to be something more than the half-assed villain he appeared to be in the other adaptations: Beverly’s death.
Now to be fair I still appreciated Chilton before Agent Katz became Will’s champion and set out to prove his innocence, but I became wrought with excitement when I realized he was going to have a bigger part to play. The funny thing is, he gets to play this bigger part because he is a sleaze who listens in on Will Graham’s conversations. You see, while I will happily admit that Chilton is a self-serving asshat, it is his asshatery that is going to make him into a hero.
Or get him dead.
I’m really hoping for the hero bit, though.
In a lot of ways I feel like Chilton is the audience’s representative in this show. He is the one who has records of all of Will Graham’s conversations (as do we). He knows that Beverly Katz set out to prove Will was innocent, that they both came to the conclusion that Hannibal kills and eats people, and he should at least have suspicions regarding Katz’s whereabouts around the time of her death. It doesn’t take a genius to put these things together and find that all the arrows point to a certain cannibalistic serial killer that everyone knows and loves.
So this brings me to the third reason I appreciate Frederick Chilton: He is us.
He is fascinated by Will Graham. He is interested in Hannibal Lecter. He’s constantly poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong to figure out what is happening between all of the characters. Now in the middle of season two he has begun to understand who Hannibal is and the audience has latched onto him as their ambassador. He’s finally figured out what we’ve known all along and everything the audience has been shouting at their television sets is coming out of his mouth.
Case in point: IT FUCKING RHYMES.
“Hannibal the cannibal, that’s what they’ll call him.”
Not to mention he also pointed out the cannibal puns to Jack in last week’s episode. Chilton knows now what we’ve known all along and finally the pieces are beginning to fall into place. Frederick Goddamn Chilton is going to be the catalyst and even if he dies, he will go down in history as Will Graham’s new champion.
Those are the three big things I appreciate about Frederick Chilton. I love what Raul Esparza brings to the character, I appreciate the dynamic nature Bryan Fuller has instilled in Chilton, and I enjoy the fact that Chilton has become the audience’s representative at this point in the series.
Here are some other things I appreciate about Frederick Chilton:
His pimp cane
His facial hair from season one
That gave way to his beautifully smooth face in season two
I appreciate his suspicious facial expressions
And the fact he inspires beautiful things
I appreciate the way he trips when fleeing from someone
And finally, how well he wears a plain black t-shirt
Since Chilton has become such a fan favorite over the past couple of weeks, I decided to take to social media to see what other fans appreciate about him. A lot of people sounded off on Twitter (thanks to everyone who responded!):
— Martha De Laurentiis (@neoprod) April 9, 2014
— DeLaurentiis Co (@DeLaurentiisCo) April 9, 2014
— Freddie Lounds (@Tattle_Crime) April 9, 2014
— katie23 (@katie23) April 9, 2014
And he received some love from Tumblr, too:
I know the outlook may look grim for the wonderful Dr. Frederick Chilton, but I know I’m hoping that Bryan Fuller takes mercy on the poor guy and lets him live.
WHAT DO YOU GUYS APPRECIATE ABOUT FREDERICK CHILTON?
SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!