As Amy Mackelden laments the demise of Hannibal, it seems all too obvious to Clarissa: It didn’t get cancelled because the TV network had no vision. It got cancelled because it was shit. Plain and simple.
*SPOILER ALERT* Before the Fannibals come for me, know this. Being disappointed with Season 3 of Hannibal has broken my heart. I’ve been a Fannibal since the start, and even before, in reading the books, and re-watching Manhunter. I love Lecter and all he stands for.
But Season 3 has been a disaster, and here at Clarissa we can’t help feeling that had they taken the show in a different direction, it might not have got cancelled. Sure, we don’t know the ins and outs, the budget realities and the network’s commitment to keeping it on air. But we do know this: the show’s approach to canon was basically like putting a masterpiece in a blender, and any new diversion the show added in Season 3 felt a heady mix of ham-fisted and slow and meandering junk. And I promise you, no-one is more upset than I am that Will and Hannibal are over. But there’s a part of me that wishes it had gone down very very differently.
WHAT WAS GOOD?
- Casting Richard Armitage as Dolarhyde. Easily the most true to book casting of D (and way more desperate and crazy than Ralph Fiennes. Kudos).
- Hannibal and Will being in total love. Like actual L-O-V-E. Whenever they were on screen together it is was GOLD.
- Alana’s evolution. I wasn’t sold at first, but as Hannibal’s key holder she was an absolute queen. And she carried a Verger baby, y’all!
- Rutina Wesley as Reba McClane. An amazing role to follow up True Blood with. Well done all concerned.
- Violence. The show didn’t shy away from uber-violence in the form of the Tooth Fairy. That lip-biting scene was spectacular horror.
- Glenn Fleshler. He of True Detective creepiness truly owned his role as Cordell, Mason Verger’s assistant and personal physician.
THE CRAP COLUMN (the things we’re calling out as bullshit):
- Those first six episodes. Aside from episode 1 which felt semi-purposeful, looked beautiful, and gave us an insight into the mind of our anti-hero, the first six episodes weren’t great. As bloggers, including Alexandria Szeman, have noted, the pace of the third season is off. A meandering start followed by a six-episode Red Dragon mini-series. Such a shame they didn’t time jump straight to the Tooth Fairy, and cut out the mostly meaningless history revelation and chase of Hannibal. It seemed an excuse to jam in random story lines from the books in completely strange and irritating ways.
- Throwing away the Mason Verger storyline NOW. Why tell this story, which is meant to take place wayyyyyy after Red Dragon, now? There’s playing with canon to make something new, then there’s playing with canon for the sake of it, to cut and paste at will to save you from writing any new material.
- So much fucking slow-mo. We get it. This is a show as concerned with its aesthetics. We even kinda like that. Until the aesthetics undermine the story or make it seem like the budget was spent on making things look pretty at the expense of an actual plot.
- Too many flashbacks. Much of those six episodes, and even the episodes after, heavily relied on flashback, on filling in missing moments we’d not yet seen. Sometimes this was appreciated, but mostly it was a waste of our time. We got the gist of what happened, and taking up screen time with lengthy flashbacks to things we could garner anyway, was pointless.
- Abigail. Why are the makers of this show so obsessed with Abigail? Does the actress have some dirt on one of them so they keep writing her back in? It didn’t help her cause that all of her scenes were flashbacks (see above) or, worse still, when she appeared as a hallucination or ghost. Jeez. Just move on already!
- Will and Hannibal not sharing enough screen time. Making the first half of the season a hunt for Hannibal/exposition of unnecessarily laborious backstory meant that Hannibal and Will shared hardly any screen time together. The show doesn’t work when they’re not in the same room (and not just because we all want them to have sex).
- Losing the psycho of the week format. Although this can wear thin, we can’t help feeling that Hannibal might have had more longevity as a show had it stuck to the detective drama premise it started with. I would’ve happily spent more time with the characters this way, and it’d given the show a chance to break out on its own, away from the shackles of its source material, which it only seemed intent on mushing like baby food anyway.
- Gillian Anderson. I love GA. She’s a queen. There is no disputing that. But the growing obsession with Bedelia and her elevation to super series regular didn’t always fit, and kept our lovers, Hannigram, apart.
- The music. The soundtrack is masterful, there’s no denying. But with the slow-mo aesthetics ramping up, the music followed suit and got downright distracting at times.
- That fucking finale. The Red Dragon storyline almost had me back on board. So much of it was done awesomely. Dolarhyde was on form. Will had the opportunity to use his super-power detective skills. Hannibal was up to no good and loving it. But in a mash-up even Glee would be embarrassed by, the show felt the need to construct a completely unrealistic finale, unlike the book in every way. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the murder husbands moment as much as the next person. I was super excited when it looked like they might kiss. But defeating Dolarhyde in tandem, letting a large police escort get murdered in the process, luring a criminal who would surely know it’s a trap to a cliff top retreat was all ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it was.
And if all that wasn’t misery enough, the insistence to take the source material and whip it up CONSTANTLY was irritating. I’m not always such a purist. I actually think Manhunter is better than Red Dragon, even though the latter is closer to the source material. But Hannibal feels like such a missed opportunity to create something standalone and new, which people totally love (Fannibals unite!). Mads made the titular character his own, and I’m truly sad I won’t see his menace anymore. Rest in peace, Fannibals. You deserved better. We all did. But I, for one, can’t take another slow-mo snail motif that goes on for more than a minute. Can someone explain the point of that to me please?
I’ll leave you with my friend’s Facebook review, which is brutal but ultimately true. It didn’t get cancelled because the TV network had no vision. It got cancelled because it was shit. Plain and simple.
Amy Mackelden (a.k.a. July 2061) is a writer based on the Isle of Wight. Her writing has featured in places such as heat magazine, New Statesman online, anthologies from Cinnamon Press, Leaf Books and the Emma Press. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and a New Buds Award from New Writing South in 2015. She’s one of the co-founders of poetry magazine Butcher’s Dog, and has made two spoken word/theatre shows, The 8 Fatal Mistakes of Online Dating (& How To Avoid Them), & Retail, which is set in a closed-down Blockbuster & about a shared love of Woody Allen. Her blog, July 2061, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. She is totally, 100%, are you fucking kidding me, Team Krakow.