Hannibal: A Season in Review and Contemplation

Hannibal - Season 1NBC’s crime drama Hannibal breaks the mold of crime shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds, building throughout the first season a far more consistent plot than such shows generally do. This makes Hannibal not only a show that dwells on crime (and its dark psychology) but also a drama about the participants: what are the effects of constantly looking at horrific scenes and imagining the lives of serial killers?

For Will Graham, the result turns out to be tragic. He slowly loses his senses, hallucinating and imagining vile, trippy experiences, to the point Will causes his superiors and friends to question whether he, like the men he catches, is a psychopath. Will has a form of empathy that allows him to “feel” and “understand” serial killers, due to his condition (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/hannibal-will_n_3366085.html). During the first few episodes of the season, this helps him assume the role of the serial killer and ultimately catch them, before he goes crazy.

At first, I did not particularly like this feature of his personality, not because the idea was not good but because of its execution. I understand his empathy aiding him to understand psychopaths, but show pushes the boundaries of believability. By viewing a simple murder scene, he not only knows how the killer killed his victims, but why. Often, the why is so very complex that it is implausible he could so rapidly construct a motive (i.e. the angel people).

As the show progresses, however, the show-runners and Hugh Dancy do a better job of showing how the illness


is affecting him negatively. Not only does it destroy his relationship with his coworkers and possible lover, but it also corrupts his sanity. He becomes conflicted because though he wants to continue to help people (he adopts a fatherly role for Abigail, the daughter of the Minnesota Shreik), he also realizes he might be traumatized by the gory sights he sees.

The level of gore and violence in Hannibal is at times over-the-top, like when the FBI find a tower of putrefying bodies stacked and strapped atop each other at the beach. Or when girls are found impaled on elk antlers. Or… any other death in the entire series. The writers are seriously, but impressively demented for creating some of this material, and the “disgusting way to die with psychologically unique killer” a week schtick, while intriguing, may be difficult to keep up. By season’s end, the show-runner’s give up, giving instead screen time for the characters to ultimately come to terms with their fates.

Whose fate I find most interesting is that of Hannibal (which I’ll discuss later on below). Mad Mikkelson portrays Hannibal in an amusing, cool way, a departure from Anthony Hopkin’s unhinged menace. While I have always loved Silence of the Lambs, Mikkelson convinced me Hannibal Lector could be far more menacing when not slurping at Clarice Starling or carving off men’s faces—he could be just as menacing having dinner with Laurence Fishbourne or making sexy eyes at his therapist (Gillian Anderson).

images (16)                He often waxes poetically about psychologically and coldly manipulates the other players in this drama. He strikes a compelling relationship with Will, which he claims is a friendship, but each step he takes to “aid” Will ultimately leads to Graham’s demise. In fact, Hannibal takes  a curious pleasure in manipulation, and when confronted about his actions (several murders and cover-ups), he simply states he was “curious to see what would happen.” But Mikkelson’s Lector, unlike Hopkin’s, is someone capable of receiving sympathy.

At some point, he know Lector will betray Will, which makes their relationship nefarious. In the books, Will confronts Lector and ends up with his face cut to shreds. This creates a palpable tension for the entire season. When next will Lector kill and when will Will Graham, a man capable of understanding serial killers, finally realize his friend and psychologist is the serial killer he’s been looking for. [SPOILER] Furthermore, Lector sets up Will to take the ultimate fall for his murders in a genius, long-term plan that convinces Will, at first, he might be guilty, until Will then realizes the truth about Lector. “I see you,” he says in the finale when they return to the murder scene of Abigail Hobbes. [END SPOILER].

But Hannibal wants Will to become the Chesapeake Ripper (Hannibal’s media moniker) because he wants to be understood. The show is entirely about the need to be understood. Garret Jacob Hobbes, the first murderer, longs to share his passion for skinning and eating girls with his impressionable daughter. Another killer, a doctor, uses living human bodies as fertilizer because he felt a better connection to his victims as mushrooms.

Will Graham possesses the ability to empathize with and understand these people, and in the end that’s what Lector wants to—to be understood. Unlike Hopkin’s Lector, who would eat a census taker with chianti and fava beans, Mikkelson’s Hannibal Lector begs to be explicated, to be sympathized with, to be explained. He may not understand his own psychopathic tendencies, and he may not even understand why he manipulates the only man he might care about into a terrible position and madness.



Of course, in the end, this presumption is flipped. Perhaps Lector only took the case because he recognized Graham’s unstable condition, understood the opportunity to exploit it. By becoming his psychiatrist, he could manipulate Will into taking the fall for all of his murders and then make Will believe so deeply he was mad, that perhaps Will would adopt the shrine of Chesapeake Ripper. Instead, Will outsmarts Hannibal and sees through his plan.

By then, though, Hannibal has already convinced Graham’s friends and colleagues of his guilt, even Jack Crawford who before did not question Graham’s loyalty. The ending sets up an interesting dynamic for next season. Will Graham in prison while Hannibal Lector remains free. Though Will understands Lector now as a monster, he is powerless to stop his further killings. Also, the feud has become personal after Lector’s betrayal. Next season will likely see Will attempting to prove his innocence and Hannibal’s guilt while Hannibal continues to cover his tracks. By season’s end, however, let’s hope the two end up on each others’ side of the prison bars.


Overall, the series is dark and somber, taking itself incredibly serious with an armada of symbols and overwrought motifs (that elk). It’s twisted, gory, and horrific, much like the human mind, and as far as drama goes, it is better and more subtle than many other shows on television. I hope the show-runners can continue the intense tension into following seasons, because above all, Hannibal is different.


1.) Didn’t all of the food look absolutely delicious? It makes one ALMOST want to become a cannibal. Almost. If you’d like the non-human recipes for the food cooked on the show, you can find them here: http://janicepoonart.blogspot.com/

2.) The elk motif did not actually make me annoyed. I thought it was a useful way of showing Graham’s madness and darkness, which we in the end see was a direct result of Hannibal Lector. Lector IS the dark and mad part of Will’s brain, and he does not go insane until Lector begins toying with his fragile state of mind.

3.) Seriously, the cinematography.

4.) My favorite non-main character was Abigail Hobbes, played with a mix of startled innocence and haughty malice by Kacey Rohl.

images (17)

5.) When Will Graham first started hallucinating, I rolled my eyes, but the direction they took this plot thread by season end made all the sweating and time loss and strange dreams worth it.

6.) Laurence Fishbourne was alright. Mostly annoying, to be honest, but he was alright.


The Importance of Sleep

Seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended for adults to function properly during the day. We complain sometimes that we haven’t slept or have slept for only an hour. We do not, however, complain that we barely got enough sleep. No one says, I only slept for seven and a half hours last night. Another thirty minutes, that would have turned my day around. Especially for college-aged adults, even six hours of sleep can seem like a blessing.

Lack of sleep, I suspect, is the reason housewives wake their husbands at midnight, clutching a kitchen knife or a paring knife or a butcher’s knife, depending one’s individual preference for knives. Lack of sleep is likely the reason they proceed to stab those men in the center of the ribcage, cut them into pieces, stuff them into the meat grinder, and spend till morning rubbing the floor with a bleach-soaked sponge.

So when we arise from perpetual slumber, a seven hour nap, our faces sagging with exhaustion, we should close our eyes again. We perhaps then we can know the importance of those two hours: the difference between “Good Morning” and a blade to the chest.

Incoherent Madness: Writing about and within Insanity

Not that kind of madness

There’s something alluring about reading or writing about a character going insane or under the influence of drugs. Someone so lost inside their own minds that hippos prance across their dreams, leaves of fall graceful as ballerina marsupials in the stream of never going home.

Wait, what?

I honestly have been considering the adventures of protagonists who are less with us mentally than physically. Sometimes, because the POV characters are snorting some serious stuff or injecting bee venom into their veins, their sentences come out uneven with the universe like gut-flavored Jell-O. Stories written in stream-of-conscious style are difficult enough to read without the character being so overwhelmingly addled.

Take for example Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (spoilers ahead). When not describing what shampoo he uses and criticizing business card fonts, Patrick Bateman likes to violently murder people. Mostly hobos and prostitutes, though, so it’s okay. Toward the end of the novel, Patrick discovers he may not have killed anyone, simply having hallucinated the murders. Of course in the film this is hinted at far more heavily. In the book, reality is up in the air. Do you believe Bateman has murdered people or simply suffering gory delusions?

This is what happens when you shake the ketchup bottle too fiercely.

The unreliable narrator lends a beautiful obscurity to events in a story. Once you realize he is a liar, you question everything you’ve told him up to this point. A lot of writers use this vagueness– this unreliable because of insanity as a plot device that can either seem awesome or like a joke. A good example of how the unreliable narrator can completely change the outcome of the novel is in Fight Club, but I won’t talk about that because I’m not supposed to.

When the character is not insane, he may simply be on drugs while writing it. Imagine Alan Ginsberg’s poetry in prose form. Imagine Naked Lunch. If not the character himself, then perhaps the author is on drugs or drowning in alcohol. And while many writers swear by their personal “muses,” I find much of this incoherent and pointless.

Sometimes, an author can be utterly sober and make no sense. I’m not a huge fan of Joyce and find him overrated, so I’m not afraid to say I quickly gave up on Ulysses.

I’m not saying this cannot be enjoyable, only that by writing it, an author is taking a huge risk. How Anthony Burgess ever published A Clockwork Orange I will never know. On a first reading, this thin book brimming with made-up language, drooges, and psychosis makes very little sense. You need a lot of patience to dismantle and understand such books.

There are good and there are bad, but the question: Are they worth writing? Are they worth reading?

Can we learn anything from writing straight from the mind of a drug-addled lunatic? Perhaps. Though written in harsh grammar and strange language, Requiem for a Dream proved quite readable and interesting, dealing in how addiction takes over

lives. Then again, I would contest that the film does almost just as good a job, so there may not be a purpose in reading the book. Yeah, I said it: sometimes movies are better than the books they’re based on. *Cough, cough, Jurassic Park*

One such book I read nearly a year ago was published by a dark, edgy, experimental publisher Two Dollar Radio. The book was The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich. Reading it is like being doped up while tied to the roof of a train car as it races down the track at a hundred miles an hour. The plot is a mix of local lore, mythic teenagers, hedonistic helplessness, and strange hallucinations. Despite the fact that I still don’t know what happened, the book affected me. I enjoyed at leas the experience of delving into the protagonist’s mind to see things through her warped eyes.

What do you think about reading novels that sometimes don’t make sense or with such unreliable narrators that you question their sanity?

Also, check out this comprehensive list on Litreactor of books about addicts. 


Modern Day Horror An Impossibility?

I watched The Woman in Black for the second time last night and came under the impression that every horror movie ever made should take place in the 1800s, perhaps the early 1900s. Once the characters get technology, all the mystery is gone.

So you think there might be a poltergeist in your house? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that. The wonderful new spectral locator app on your IPhone will indicate whether or not paranormal activity is going on within your home. When you find out a ghost is haunting your attic, sell your house and move away!

How lame would that be, though, if through some technology we could trace ghosts, kill vampires, and reverse every killer zombie plague? Thanks a lot, Richard Matheson!

Would  The Ring not lose a lot of its scare value if someone received a tweet, “U will die in 7 days #Evilcurse.” Then, Samara comes climbing through your IPad as you’re trying to watch 30 Rock on Hulu.

My point is, with as many technological advances as we have today, the things that once were scary have been demystified. We’re no

longer superstitious of demons possessing people with epileptic seizures. Not every crow means death. But back in better, less complicated times, true horror existed in uncertainty. These days, we are too certain that we know everything. Not that we can ever truly know anything.

Think of Plato’s wall, and what doubt it casts on the shadow of reality being truly reality, a real world and not one of shadows. Maybe this idea itself, the sheer notion that perhaps we paragons of technology don’t know EVERYTHING, perhaps that is today’s new horror. No more ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. Only uncertainty. Only a true ignorance where once we presumed was vast, concrete knowledge. Every day, we learn that things we absolutely knew without a doubt were never in fact true.

Is this merely more reason to lament the days when we were certain about our own uncertainty, not so mixed up about it?

What we need is more ghosts and haunted houses. Call me cliche, but I love those stories. In fact, check out this Litreactor article on Haunted Houses.

What are your thoughts? What’s the last good horror movie you’ve seen/horror book you’ve read set in modern day? Or do you prefer to kick it old school?


The human race makes me SMH sometimes. (SHAKE MY HEAD, for those of you not familiar with text-speak vernacular). When you get down to brass tacks, our race does a lot more harm than, say, sharks. And sharks are feared a lot. Sharks get blamed for a whole lot of stuff, mainly eating people’s limbs. But the human race killed more people with the atom bomb in a single day than the entire shark population has killed in… a century. That’s a lot of people.

It’s makes us pretty easy to hate. But since we’re the only animals who speak English, we don’t catch any flack about it from dogs or giraffes or, more tellingly, sharks. Who is anti-humanity? Humans.

And I realize we probably don’t deserve the gold medal for “Best Animals Ever.” (That would probably be panda bears or sea otters, both very cute). We do a lot worse for the environment than any other animal, even worse than kudzu or mangrove trees. When you reach that level of destruction, something bad is going on? It is more likely you will be killed by a human than a shark, though not all humans think you’re tasty. For the record, I bet you’re delicious.

Despite all this, I don’t agree with hating on humanity. I know I just laid out a lot of very bad things we’ve done, but since I’m human, I’m on Team Humanity. I’ve heard a lot of fellow humans (I’m supposing most of you reading this are human- Sorry 1% sentinel cyborgs) do not think humanity is “good.” In fact, a lot of people believe that humanity is innately evil. We are savages driven to kill and destroy and a few systems of government and religion are all that keep us from tearing into each other’s throats.

Sure, you could lock yourself in a closet and never have to deal with humanity ever again, but how fun would that be? You’d miss out on so much.

For example, board games. Playing Monopoly alone would be less fun and less violent. Without other people, not only Monopoly is given up.

We can kiss, sumo-wrestle, or do both at the same time. We can hold intense philosophical conversations and learn from each other. We can help each other survive. We can’t play freeze tag alone without dying of starvation. Face it, we need each other and cannot turn away from humanity. The human race is all we’ve got, so why give that up? We need each other for the purpose of, for example, love.

Without getting too gooey and cliche, I’ll admit we need love. Maybe you’ve been broken up with, divorced, and chopped up into tiny pieces by a serial killer, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never need another person to be with you. To love you. Unless you’ve been chopped up into tiny pieces by a serial killer. Then, you’re dead.

If human beings were meant to live alone and hate each other, we may never have invented salsa dancing or sports games or parties or sex. All these things are what we get in return for being part of a somewhat horrid race. But perhaps that is the point of humanity. In a way, we’re despicable. But that wickedness is bred from the same race that brought you Super Mario Bros. and hang gliders. Do you realize how cool hang gliders are? Very much so.

We have this incredible duality: we have free will and so can commit either atrocities or great acts of love.

So, before condemning your own race to the bowels of Hell, think about what horror it would be if we were any different. Imagine us as clean robots. Sure, we may never spill ketchup on the floor of restaurants so waitresses are forced to clean it up. But we also would be unable to love.

That is more than can be said for sharks.

Excerpt: The Inquiry into the Death of Fred Jones

The Inquiry into the Death of Fred Jones

                (As transcribed from the complied interviews of several witnesses.)

The Testimony of Mrs. Barbra Halcott: How was I supposed to know they’d find a dead body? They only told me they were going fishing. Down in some dingy pond in the sticks. Ten minutes later the two boys, my son and little Tommy Burlson, come bolting up to the house screaming about, they found a man in the water.

The Testimony of Dillon Halcott: It were just me and Tommy goin’ down to the fishin’ hole. And I knews that something was wrong. Something was different. And there in the water was a body. All wrinkly and white, just like my grandpappy looked at his funeral. It was just a’floatin’ along with the snakes and the fish and the crickets.

Mrs. Halcott: After I ran down to the see the truth with my own eyes, I rang the police and they sent down Millord Cotton. I used to remember he’d sit behind the town sign and run his radar. After he got to my house, near half the FBI shows up. I think they thinks it’s murder.

The Testimony of Tommy Burlson: Jumbo was leaning over all that green water, poking the corpse with an alligator pole. We called him “Jumbo” course, cause our parents called him Jumbo, and they called him that cause he’d been near three hundred pounds since infancy.

Dillon Halcott: Leanin’ over like that, I thought he’d woulda fellen in. And soon as he flipped that man over, I knew who it was. Jumbo too. I knew it was Fred Jones, the guy who always offered to buy cigs for all the kids in my grade. And boy, he was dressed sharp. Except although he was for the most part recognizable, there was something really wrong with him. His face.

The Testimony of Millord “Jumbo” Cotton: I don’t know why he was dressed so nice, cause usually he was a bum. Like he was goin’ to a wedding or funeral or something. More likely, a funeral. But his face was mutilated beyond imagining, as if scraped off with a field knife or burned off with boiling water. It was a sickening sight.

Tommy: They carted us off to the local police station and stuck us in these windowless rooms. A guy come in, introduced himself as Detective Salinger, and questioned me. He asked how I knew Fred Jones; how me and Dillon found him killed dead; how he looked; if I ever seen this man? The detective had held up this photo of some old guy, all ugly and scarred. Nope, never seen him.

Jumbo: Fred Jones was a peculiar guy. He used to make amateur horror flicks in high school. And with such a low budget, he sure was creative. Mix corn syrup with red food coloring, maybe add chocolate syrup for thickness, you got fake blood. Mix cooked macaroni noodles and red gelatin and you got fake, mutilated brains. He was a peculiar guy, but awfully creative.

Mrs. Halcott: I waited for some time in this white little room before a suited man entered. In some frenzy, he asked if I knew Fred Jones. I told him Fred was the lowest of low you could get. Got stuck here after high school and grew up to be one of those infamous, legendary hobos.

The Testimony of Bill Green: I seen the guy who done it, the guy the detective kept asking about. I work at the quick stop, see, where ole Fred Jones hangs out. Sleeps on a bench in the back and offers to pump peoples’ gas for dimes and nickels. So one day last week, comes up this sleek, black Porsche. A real beauty it was. And Fred’s a’runnin’to it, clambering over that car. And the window rolls down and Fred begins to pump. When he’s done, I see ‘em shouting at each other. Maybe Fred was ripped. So’s not to be nosy, I go into the back and smoke a stick. When I come back, that nice car was gone. Fred too.

The Testimony of Detective Gene Salinger: From the interviews, I deduced that this has just the right amount of sickness and twisted mess to be Martinelli’s work. Now that he’s back he’s just cruising over the countryside in a stolen sports car. Fred Jones isn’t the first one to end dead on account of Martinelli. Won’t be last neither if we don’t stop him. He’s still the same monster.

Jumbo: I never seen so many cops before, not even in the movies. Don’t tell nobody, but I heard Fred was just the first of many. Salinger goes on about, that the guy who done it is Martinelli. Remember him? ‘The Gentleman of Gore,’ they called him in the Gazette. A man near myth. Escaped a few years back before he was supposed to be sent off to some prison no one’s heard of. Like, a mad house or something. More secret than Quantico or Guantanamo. With more concrete and iron bars than Alcatraz. Just Martinelli and a bunch of crazies in some cell in the mountain. But before they got him, after they accused him, he done escaped. And now he comes here, looking to kill. And he strangles Fred Jones, he does. And dumps the body after stealing his clothes. And dressing him up in some tuxedo. Salinger says this is Matinelli’s killing. He says, no one can duplicate his madness.

Dillon Halcott: No one did know what was about to happen. One day after they find that body, they wrench him out of the brackish and load him in an ambulance to take him to the morgue. A couple of the FBI in the ambulance, Jumbo says, began to take off the tuxedo. Buttoning down the shirt, they sees a blinking light. And then, boom.

Detective Salinger: A detonative device where his heart should have been. Bastard.

Bill Green: They say, Martinelli cut out his heart and wired a bomb to the inside of his shirt. When the fourth button was undone, boom.

Jumbo: Just imagine the carnage. The back of an ambulance explodes, slivers of crumpled metal shattering the glass of a Civic as it passes, the upholstery then splattered with paramedic guts. Imagine that ambulance, an inferno on wheels, and the siren still working, flyin’ down the highway and slamming into another car, flattening it. Ended up a six automobile wreck, all these vehicles strewn with body parts and cotton fluffs from a scattered, shredded cummerbund.

Bill Green: This guy was a real sicko. Like this guy who come into the quick stop. Took a piss and then ran the faucet. When he came out the bathroom, though, I seen his hands were dry. The guy pretended to wash his damn hands and then he purposely touches my hand as he checks out. This guy got off by spreading germs.


End of Transcript