With last night’s finale, one of TV’s most transgressive and daring shows has come to its end.
Some will argue too soon, lamenting the loss and hoping against hope that a fourth season is still a remote possibility. For now, though, it is gone from the airwaves.
I have not come here today to bury HANNIBAL, though, but to praise it.
Now, I’m not interested in a review of the final episode. There are other mediums and pundits more suited to that (one of the best being the ongoing weekly breakdown by The A.V. Club ). Instead, I’m here to put forth the idea that maybe – just maybe – Season 3 is the most fitting of finales for HANNIBAL, as it encapsulates and summarizes perfectly the underlying theme that’s been building up since the series started: transformation or, as Francis Dolarhyde puts it, “becoming”.
Bedelia: “What have you done, Hannibal?”
Hannibal: “I’ve taken off my person suit.”
Bedelia: “You let them see you.”
Hannibal: “I let them see enough.”
This exchange in Episode 1 of this final season marked the tone. No more masks. No more illusions. Hannibal, and those whose lives he had infected and torn apart, were irreversibly transformed by the bloody and vicious events of Season 2’s finale. Alana Bloom, Jack Crawford, Will Graham – all broken, crawling from the wreckage as harder, armoured – colder, even – than they were before.
The transformation wasn’t strictly relegated to the narrative itself. The show’s aesthetics, while always stunning, became more unhinged and grandiose. Some of this season’s detractors felt that the show had veered too close to this side of “pretentious” with the visual components taking such an operatic turn. Much like Dr. Lecter, though, it didn’t give a damn for such criticisms. It, too, had taken off its “person suit”. It had changed, reflecting the madness and chaos that its characters lived in now. It’s as if Hannibal’s “coming out” had infected the show itself.
The “becoming” reached its logical apex at the midway point, with the adaptation of the “Red Dragon” storyline. While there were plot deviations from Thomas Harris’ original narative, the boldest change comes in Francis Dolarhyde’s slow and inevitable metamorphosis into “The Great Red Dragon”. There are no subtle inferences or hints of his inner turmoil. No, we SEE it. A grand, operatic growth of wings and tail. Fire. Power. We see Dolarhyde’s “becoming” as he sees it, and it’s daring and beautiful and powerful. It takes the series into the minds of its human monsters and the realm of the supernatural, and it is glorious..
Of course, any discussion of the series MUST address the dynamic between Hannibal and his “frenemy”, Will Graham. Much has been made of the homoerotic tension between the two, and rightfully so. In many ways, HANNIBAL is a love story between two unwilling adversaries. But their relationship goes beyond any kind of gender-labels or easy classifications, for theirs is one built on the notion of “otherness”. Both are outsiders, with a rarefied perspective on their “fellow human beings” (and I use that term loosely here) that prevents them from forming any real relationships with other people. Each has their own motives – Will wants to save Hannibal, Hannibal wants Will to embrace his darker natures – and each one is changed by the other’s presence in their lives.
In an exchange from this final episode, Hannibal tells Will that his attempts at living a life of normalcy are doomed to failure.
“It won’t be the same. You’ll see it’s not the same. The unspoken knowledge will live with you like unwanted company in the house. … when life becomes maddeningly polite, think about me. Think about me, Will. Don’t worry about me.”
For three seasons, Will has fought against being “other”. Hannibal has not.
In the end, Hannibal is correct. And Will knows it.
There is so much more that can be discussed about HANNIBAL, and there will come a day when this series will be analyzed, scrutinized and discussed by academics and critics alike in essays, books and psychology classes. Call that hyperbole if you want, but it really is a testament to the show’s cunning intelligence. But, to say anymore would mean delving into spoiler territory and, has Hannibal himself would attest, that would be rude. There will be no tears, no wishes for extension or renewal, from me. If this is how it is to end, than I can think of no better way to do so.
For now, let us lay down our wreaths, say a few kind words at the podium and be thankful that for three seasons over two years, we were blessed with such bold vision… if only for a little while.
Rest well, HANNIBAL.The world was a much more interesting place with you in it.