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Friday, 28 August 2015

Hannibal Series 3.

Series 3

This has been an odd last series of Hannibal, and by 'odd' I mean 'far and away the least engaging and interesting'. 

Picking up some months after the murdertastic second series finale, series three sees Will and Jack chasing Hannibal down in Italy, where he has set himself up as Doctor Roman Fell, a museum curator. They aren't the only ones after Hannibal, however, as Mason Verger, left disfigured by Hannibal previously, has diverted his vast wealth towards capturing both Will and the cannibalistic serial killer for himself, and has enlisted the help of Alana to do so.

At the moment, the internet is buzzing with claims that Hannibal has changed television forever, that it was a new breed of TV show unlike anything else that came before - and after seeing it limp to its finish with a lacklustre and dry final series, after two series which often relied more on shock moments than on good writing, I find myself utterly unable to agree. In the end, Hannibal was not special, was not remarkable. 

I can't say entirely whether my dissatisfaction with this third series stems from this series being less worthwhile than those before it, or from the realisation that none of Hannibal was ever that good. There was the dawning realisation, this series, that you could take any character's dialogue and give it to anybody else, and it would fit. The pretentious, purple dialogue does not vary by character, only by what spins the individual actors put on it - and nowhere was that more obvious than this series, in which everybody, bar none, philosophises on the nature of man, each one's monologues written with the same cadence, the same use of language, the same quirks. It gets boring after a while.

What a pretty cast photo.

That's a good way, in fact, of describing most of this series: Boring. Drab. Uninspiring and, it seems, uninspired. The hunt for Hannibal feels less like a game of cat and mouse and more like a holding pattern, and I felt absolutely no tension watching it. The entire Italy arc - from the plot to the characters to, surprisingly, the setting (how do you make Florence, one of the most opulent cities around, boring?) felt lifeless. It's just all so bland and colourless.

It's got an exhaustion to it, one that seems to be afflicting not just the writers, but also the actors, who heave and sigh out their lines with growing amounts of disinterest as the series goes on. It's understandable: Most of this series' plotlines are rehashes of stories from the last two series, and I would be tired if I had to play out the same character arcs that I'd already played, again, inevitably winding towards the same conclusion.

Which is, perhaps, why the Red Dragon arc, taking up the last third to half of the series, feels a bit more engaging, a bit more like a breath of fresh air. It shuffles in new characters with new actors - chief among them Francis Dolarhyde, played by Richard Armitage (casting rumours way, way back when the first series was airing tipped David Tennant for playing him, but Armitage, with his growly voice and imposing aura, arguably works better). Armitage breathes life into a dying show, but even he can't seem to save it - after a few episodes of him growling and stomping around, he loses his novelty and stops being remotely scary, just in time for the final episode. 

This looks like a promotional picture, but I'm pretty sure it's actually not.

It's not that any of the cast are bad, either. I've said before that Hannibal has an excellent cast, and that's still true: It's just that they're not being given anything to work with. The only character who seems to have changed and grown is Caroline Dhavernas' Alana Bloom, who has grown into an extremely cliche villain. Great work, Hannibal writers, you took a female character - one of only two female regular characters, you killed off all the rest - and turned her into a tired cliche. Great. Great job. 

(Gillian Anderson's Bedelia du Maurier is still excellent, and gets the final scene of the whole show, although it's a very odd scene that I profess not to understand.) 

I watched that final episode just before writing this review, incidentally, and it made no impression. If you asked me to tell you what happened in it, I would struggle, let me tell you. 


So, that's Hannibal. Enjoyable at its prime, but ultimately just kind of - sub-par. It survived less because it was original, daring, thought-provoking, or any of the other qualities people ascribe to it, and more because of a combination of gore, good casting choices, and some particularly fierce queerbaiting - which is not a charge I level at television shows very often, but is one that seems very apt here.

Overall, I'm just very disappointed, and I'm not hoping for some kind of miracle to save the show. Better to let it die now. 

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