Enchanted and Terrified

Dr. Lecter and I go way back to the sophomore year of high school. My awesome cross country friends (seriously, they were a great group of kids) were watching The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal on a Saturday night. And I really wanted to go. I was mature; I’d grown up reading Agatha Christies and Nancy Drews. And we all know those are pretty scary. So yeah, I was pretty well prepared for this movie night. False. Although, Clarice Starling does share some similarities with Nancy Drew, Nancy never had a friend/foe quite like Dr. Lecter. So…I made it through the movies, Dad picked me up, and I went home and did not shut my eyes or turn off the lights in my room for weeks. I was scarred, yet fascinated. Or two quote one the good doctor’s patients, “I am enchanted and terrified.”

Truly, I don’t do horror movies. I don’t like gore. I don’t like disposable characters. But I will suffer through a lot for well-drawn, complicated characters. My favorite books, shows, movies all tend to be character driven rather than plot driven. Action scenes in movies make me really sleepy. But two people having a quiet conversation…couldn’t be more riveting to me.

When 30 Rock ended, it left a void in my life. So naturally, I replaced a hilarious comedy with a dark drama (same network, though). So now instead of Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy solving their problems in 23 minute intervals, I get to watch Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham dance on the best friend/mortal enemy line. I can’t say that I “watch” all that much of the show. I don’t have a stomach for violence, so I end up covering the screen with my hand and muting the volume. When it feels like two characters are having a quiet conversation, I’m all in.

The writers/director/producers have been very clever thus far. In the first season, you know in the abstract that Hannibal is horrible, but for the most part you never see him doing any killing. In fact, you see him saving lives rather than ending them. He does a lot of cooking and dinner party prepping. He dresses impeccably and achieves a perfect balance between traditional architecture and mid-century modern pieces in his office/library. He supports the arts. He sketches quietly in his library. It’s easy to find him sympathetic.

The second season has amped up its philosophical and theological discussions of the nature of good and evil. There’s always a few lines that make me pause and analyze. And then I’m back to muting the volume and covering the screen, waiting desperately for another therapy session or dinner party. And then somehow, in the last few minutes of the finale, with the kitchen looking like the stage of a Shakespearean tragedy before the curtain falls (a.k.a. lots of death and blood), Hannibal walks away into the rain. And darned if you don’t feel like he’s the one who’s lost his last friend and deserves all the pity.

The show was renewed for a 3rd season. It may be the last. It’s not all that popular, despite the blood and gore. Probably because the despite the blood and gore it is, at its heart, a quiet, slow show about the nature of evil, of friendship, seeing blindly etc. At least, that’s what I’ve gleaned from the non-violent minutes I can watch.


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