TV Minus the TV: Hannibal, we’ll always love you
Welcome to TV Minus the TV, a column full of thoughts about TV shows watched on laptops published on the internet for you to read on your phone.
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Mr. Robot postponed its finale… by Bryce Rudow
Hannibal #313, “The Wrath of the Lamb” by Charles Bramesco
Mr. Robot postponed its finale…
But We Still Have A Pre-Finale Podcast w/ Nate Scott and Ben Wormald!
BY BRYCE RUDOW (@brycetrudow)
The WBDJ shooting took place the same day Mr. Robot’s finale was scheduled to air, but because the finale contains a very graphic shooting scene#, USA decided to postpone it.
On the bright side, this gives you another chance to listen to my very special pre-finale podcast with Nate Scott of USA Today and Ben Wormald of Pew Research Center!
(SoundCloud hates its users, so if you have any trouble playing this podcast via the embed, try the direct MP3 version below)
Hannibal #313, “The Wrath of the Lamb”
And So It Is, And So It Shall Be
BY CHARLES BRAMESCO (@intothecrevasse)
When the time comes to tie a ribbon on a program once and for all, a showrunner faces a twofold path. Storytelling, such a complex and multifaceted process, really comes down to a binary choice when the clock strikes 11:59. A showrunner may provide closure, or not provide closure. Six Feet Under lands the farthest on the closure side of the spectrum, and The Sopranos sets the boundary on the no-closure side, but every show must necessarily err on one side or the other. Breaking Bad gave closure. Lost did not. Neither did Deadwood. But The Wire gave closure, and so did Dexter (albeit awful, uncalled-for, show-ruining closure). Mad Men, in its inimitably Mad Menish way, withheld closure.
So it’s difficult not to approach this, the final hour of network television’s finely-attired, hyper-articulate emo stepchild, as the answer to a long-held question, as old as network television itself: will they or won’t they? Of the many topics that Hannibal could conceivably be declared to be “about” — civility vs. savagery, appearance vs. actuality, the fragility of the mind’s subjective perception of the world around it — the show’s driving engine has always been the tension between Hannibal and Will. When tuning in for the grand finale# audiences demanded to know what would become of the lingering energy between Hannibal and Will, whether that means death from one side, a double-knockout, or maybe just the realization that they’re both totally gay-bones for one another.
And until that bravura final scene, “The Wrath Of The Lamb” behaves just like any other episode of Hannibal. With the uncommonly clever faked suicide, Dolarhyde sets his endgame in motion, but for the most part, Will and Hannibal’s independent movements don’t signal any great reckoning. The disparate strands of plot only begin to take shape when Will unravels Dolarhyde’s trickery, setting up Hannibal’s crackerjack escape from police custody# and culminating in the climactic showdown between the three of them.
That final confrontation between Hannibal, Will, and Dolarhyde in full dragon-mode not only finds showrunner Bryan Fuller working at the height of his powers, conjuring unspeakable terrible beauty from silence and slow-mo (the show’s two greatest aesthetic tools) before segueing into an original track from Siouxsie Sioux, which shouldn’t work, but does, and perfectly. It’s also a deeply gratifying payoff to three seasons’ worth of held breaths, a long-awaited confession of love between the demonic Ross and Rachel. Dolarhyde attacks Will and Hannibal, enabling Will to rationalize his attacks on Dolarhyde as self-defense, which is what they are. But there’s a tipping point in the scene, a juncture at which Hannibal overpowers Dolarhyde and Will joins him in subduing the man, and finally ending his life.
When Will does this, he doesn’t carefully consider whether Dolarhyde’s beyond saving, or deserving of the death penalty. He doesn’t aid Hannibal in murdering Dolarhyde because he believe Dolarhyde’s a sick puppy who needs to be put down. He joins in because to finally give of himself to the flesh feels too good to refuse. He needs to make this primal, visceral connection to Hannibal. He’s deprived himself of the pleasure for too long. And as the needlepoint pillow on the couch in my childhood home reads, “Jointly murdering somebody is the closest two people can get without actually fucking.”
Horror film has long conflated the penetration of the knife into flesh — a pivotal moment in the scene, accented with a sensuous close-up — with the penetration of sexual intercourse. Hannibal’s conclusion goes a step further, entangling the act of bloody, gory, wholehearted murder with romance and intimacy. After Hannibal and Will safely dispatch Dolarhyde, they embrace in a final killing lunge and jump off the cliff into the hazardous surf below. All of the points of reference that this blaze-of-glory exit evokes are romantic: Rose allowing Jack to slip into the icy Atlantic, Bonnie and Clyde barreling through a hailstorm of bullets, Romeo and Juliet expiring in one another’s arms. They leap from the cliff with the knowledge that death is the only capacity in which they can truly be together, forever. As Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz expertly notes in his gorgeous elegy for the program, Will had been saving his V-card for the more experienced Hannibal. The unholy consummation of their destructive relationship ends as only it could end, with total destruction.
We’ll be sad to see Hannibal go. It was like nothing else on television, which could be said of a number of other shows as well (every TV show is different!), but it really meant something when used to describe Fuller’s deformed brainchild. It wasn’t always in service of a sound plot, but no program flexed with the ravishing artistry of Hannibal, no program dared to indulge so passionately in the rush of sound and color. They tried something radically different, and what’d it get them? A tiny but passionate fanbase, and a pink slip from NBC. So it is, so it shall be.
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