So, now that we’re all doing the flapjack because, thank God, Hannibal was renewed for a second season by NBC, I wanted to put something out there. This morning, I woke up to a lovely message that had come in via the blog, asking me to start reviewing Hannibal on here; and, damn, I want to. I’ve been asked by friends before, and now that I’ve been nudged again, Hannibal is trying to edge his way from the Enjoyment Only section of my mind into the dark corners and cupboards in which I do my analytical thinking. (Sly bastard.)
The trouble is, when Hannibal premiered, I made the conscious decision to stay out of it. Not only was I busy with three different shows at the time, but I’m also in my last semester of university; my BA thesis is advancing, and it’s demanding all my attention.
Now, I did a bit of calculating while I was making second breakfast, and I found that, if I were to try and review Hannibal the way I want to and the way it deserves, it would take me five to six hours at a time. It’s just not feasible.
This week’s episode, for instance, Buffet Froid. I’d have to research the clock test, I’d end up reading up on encephalitis, I’d dig through Bryan Fuller’s twitter timeline for additional info. And then, because I’m doing my BA thesis on Sherlock and narratology in film and television, it just so happens that my tool shed has grown about three sizes. The way I work is changing, has changed, and it’s always influencing my review blogging as well. Hannibal is so rich, so full of choices; and I’m seeing all of that even though I’m scarcely familiar with the adapted work (the novels) or the other Hannibal film adaptations.
This week’s ep was an exercise in notions of visuality and practices of looking; it played wonderfully on the idea of the simulacra, the representations of reality that come to supplant that reality. For Will, his hallucinations are more real than what’s actually happening. The image becomes more real than reality, hyperreal; and in the medium of television this can result in a kind of self-reflexivity that’s being very subtly employed on Hannibal as well. We’re not seeing the ceiling of the studio, but we know that what we see, what the camera shows us, is not what the camera would show if it weren’t stuck inside Will Graham’s head most of the time. It’s the kind of play that points towards the notion of Will Graham as not only the focaliser, but the subject; even though the camera is still employing over-the-shoulder shots rather than point-of-view shots. Will’s hallucinations look as “real” as the rest of the visual track does; we have no more way of knowing than he does, up until he loses time. We are as disoriented as he is, while knowing that, strictly speaking, nothing of what we see is real because it’s a goddamn television show. Everything on Hannibal is hyperreal in its aesthetic, its vivacity, its viscosity. Just look at the banner I made from the promo images that NBC put out:
The colours, the opulence… that’s what this show is, it’s opulent, and it’s completely unapologetic not only with the gore, but with the audacious beauty that it portrays at the exact same time. Just look at Hannibal’s dinners, they’re sublime, they appeal to our aesthetic sense, and we delight in the visuality, while being horrified because we know that, well, dinner is people.
And, see: this is why I can’t review this show on a weekly basis, at least not at the moment. Everything’s happening so much. The most appealing thing about this show is, of course, the relationship between Will and Hannibal, and I’d have a ball picking it apart; but there are so many aspects to consider. Any analysis of this relationship would have to run on two constantly parallel tracks: on one side, the Hannibal that really does care about Will. On the other, the Hannibal that is grooming Will and isolating him from everyone who might help him. Both Hannibals want Will to himself/themselves, and telling them apart is nearly impossible. I’d have to watch each episode at least twice to catch all I need to know; and that’s not even taking into account the cinematography, the set building (especially Hannibal’s office), the way the directors work with space in- and outside of Will’s mind. There’s the truth behind Hannibal and his motives for copycatting all over the place. And then, there’s the supporting cast, who shall not be ignored.
You see, I don’t have the time. I might begin reviewing in earnest when the second season rolls around; and leading up to it, I might start with a series of Favourite Scenes from Each Episode to get into the swing of things. Then again, with a show like this, in which I have to get to know everyone involved from scratch, I’d prefer not to review in retrospect (even though that can be interesting, too).