Editorial Note: Welcome to Hannibal theme week! Our appreciation of Hannibal highlights a variety of 'aspects of the demon' that we feel have made the program so unique and valuable to us, including its dark themes, stylistic choices, generic risks, and fandom activity and resonance. Many of our curators have prepared original videos to highlight their viewpoints (if you haven't seen the spectacular finale, you will here). To begin, Lori Morimoto contextualizes Hannibal within the larger television "Fullerverse". --Allison McCracken, Theme Week Coordinator
What binds Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller’s body of work is an acceptance of death as an inextricable part of life. If this seems to lack a certain profundity, consider Fuller’s take on the world of the Munsters in Mockingbird Lane (2012). Mockingbird Lane is imbued with darkly comical Sonnenfeldian irony; yet death here is no punch line, but a grim reality irrevocably caught up in love and nature in such a way that to feel the one is to necessarily succumb to the other. Herman Munster (Jerry O’Connell) is dying of a failing heart overtaxed with aching love for his family, and the only way for him to survive is by taking the healthy heart of another. But where the family is squeamish, as we see in this clip (a whimsically macabre inversion of one of Hannibal Lecter’s infamous dinner parties), Grandpa Munster (Eddie Izzard) is coolly matter-of-fact: kill or die – eat or be eaten. That a scoutmaster ends up dead in the basement in short order speaks both to Fuller’s inability to back down when the stakes are high, and to his unwillingness to let his viewers off the hook for their sympathy with the recently resurrected.
Death is equally intractable in Fuller’s Dead Like Me (2003-4) and Pushing Daisies (2007-9), in which it comes as a sometimes perfunctory touch, as when newly deceased George (Ellen Muth) reaches out to reap a soul as part of her workaday world, or when necromantic pie-maker Ned (Lee Pace) temporarily resurrects the dead. At other times, this lethal touch can be the fullest expression of love, coaxing its recipient into ‘easeful death’, or a constant reminder of the deadly price we pay for allowing ourselves to love another. It’s this nexus of love and desire, touch and death that sees its fullest expression in Hannibal (2013-15). Throughout Hannibal’s (Mads Mikkelsen) darkly desirous courtship of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), he touches with the same ease that he kills, the one being part and parcel of the other. Having embraced and even owned the inevitability of death, Hannibal lives and loves past the point of propriety, reveling in his senses. In contrast, Will lives a half-life of repressed want and bottled passion, apart from others and afraid of himself. Only when he embraces his own death-drenched desires does he awaken to love and the black beauty of moonlit blood.