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Fear Comes with Imagination: Book Readers' 'Hannibal' Discussion

By Cindy Davis | TV | May 8, 2014 |

By Cindy Davis | TV | May 8, 2014 |

Warning: As the title indicates, this is a book spoiler filled piece. If you haven’t read Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal, you should either leave now or happily accept your spoiling. Spoilering? Thou shalt be spoiled.

It’s been a long time since I read Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter book trio, in fact so long (before you start screaming), I didn’t even realize he’d written a fourth novel, 2006’s Hannibal Rising. In Pajiba’s weekly recaps, I’ve tried to throw in a few details (though whether from book or film often seems sketchy); there are many characters whose names and general storylines most book readers already know and are excited to see play out. Some people may have started watching the television series simply because of Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, but clearly there are plenty of us who started out as addicted readers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences and similarities between Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal and Thomas Harris’ books.

In the pilot episode “Apéritif,” we were introduced to Will Graham as an unmarried FBI instructor brought in to help Jack Crawford investigate a series of murders. While the character Garret Jacob Hobbs aka “Minnesota Shrike” remains pretty much the same as described in Red Dragon, the circumstances under which Hannibal is brought into Graham’s FBI circle are different. Hannibal is introduced to Crawford by Alana Bloom (Will’s colleague; in the book, a male forensic psychiatrist), and instead of Graham consulting with the already imprisoned Lecter, Bloom’s warnings to Crawford about Will’s fragility serve as the impetus for Hannibal and Will’s relationship. Hobbs temporarily serves as the first big bad, while Francis Dolarhyde (aka “Tooth Fairy”) is being saved for our later, uh…consumption. Having four novels to play around with gives Fuller great creative license — he doesn’t have to start or stay within Red Dragon, and can rearrange timelines — so for readers, nothing seems like regurgitation or direct adaptation. As part of his seven season plan, Fuller has promised Dolarhyde will make his grand appearance in season four; the character is yet uncast (Burn Gorman, anyone?). An early scene in Harris’ Dragon tells of Graham following a hunch about Lecter; he pays Hannibal a visit, spies a Wound Man drawing and realizing Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper, steps outside to call for backup. Hannibal takes off his shoes, quietly sneaks up behind Will, reaches around and guts him. Sound familiar? Fuller gave us the twisted up version in “Entrée,” with Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) as victim instead of Will.

If you saw the 2002 film version of Red Dragon you’re probably still haunted by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Freddy Lounds. The great actor’s greasy, creepy take was closer to Harris’ descriptions (although not quite small and ugly with buck teeth and rat eyes), but Lara Jean Chorostecki’s fresh-faced, modern Freddie is more in keeping with Fuller’s vision. What we’re all waiting to see is how long she’ll stick around. The previews for this week’s “Ko No Mono” include a familiar burning wheelchair scene, but something tells me it’s not Freddie taking that hot ride. As you can see below, the first screencap has a vaguely feminine silhouette, whereas the second looks much more like a male body. (My guess is that it’s Margot, killed by her brother for her attempts at heir-procreating.)



I noted in last week’s “Naka-Choko” recap that I don’t believe Will did anything bad to Freddie, she’s likely under FBI protection. Unless Fuller sends Hannibal to finish what he was lying in wait to start, I’d like to see Lounds around to meet Dolarhyde, even though I wonder whether anyone wants to see this version of Freddie tortured as Harris described (Dolarhyde bites off Freddy’s lips). The episode also featured Hannibal’s first mention of his sister (Mischa), who was killed and cannibalized by soldiers (Hannibal and Hannibal Rising). The trauma of her murder and consumption was the catalyst that set Hannibal on his cannibalistic path.

Hannibal’s nemesis Dr. Frederick Chilton as played by Rául Esparza was (is?) perfectly interpreted, and not dissimilar to Anthony Heald’s The Silence of the Lambs take. Again Fuller has played with timeline and relationships; instead of lording his position over Hannibal, Chilton heads up the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane while Will is temporarily committed. Chilton’s relationship with Hannibal starts out with a warped respect — he seems full of admiration for Lecter’s alternative methods — until Chilton figures out he himself might be Hannibal’s next meal. Fuller carries over novel Chilton’s habit of secretly recording patient conversations, and repeatedly teases Chilton’s death, which for now remains slightly uncertain. It would be a thrill to see Chilton return to play mind games with an incarcerated Hannibal, but if Frederick is truly dead (much as I like the idea of Hannibal tracking down and eating him), the way Lecter set up his foe was truly fitting and grand.

Katharine Isabelle’s Margot Verger veers wildly from Harris’ descriptions; her book alter ego is a broad shouldered, blonde body-builder with massive shoulders and arms. She’s still a lesbian, but instead of asking pal (former Baltimore orderly) Barney to help impregnate her girlfriend with Mason’s semen, television Margot wants to create an heir herself — with Will. (An aside, Fuller has specifically said the series does not have rights to the Barney character.) As for her brother Mason (Michael Pitt), his important characteristics are well-represented thus far: his sadistic cruelty and abusive nature, sense of entitlement, and he brought Carlo (Orphan Black’s Daniel Kash) along to train those nasty, man-eating pigs. Personally, I don’t mind that the series isn’t delving into Mason’s pedophilia or directly addressing his raping Margot. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s Mason we’ll see burning alive, another twist perhaps? Or will Fuller be able to somehow incorporate Lecter’s manipulation of Mason to self-mutilate, Mason’s piggy revenge plan, and Margot’s sibling murder? If he can follow Harris’ Hannibal, that would likely mean the Vergers hanging around through season 3, but I’ll venture to guess *both* brother nor sister won’t make it that long.

Finally, as for Hannibal himself, though Anthony Hopkins’ version more physically resembled Harris’ descriptions (small, lithe, maroon eyes) , including this photo of Dr. Bali, upon whom Lecter was partially based…


Mads Mikkelsen’s accent is closer to Hannibal’s Lithuanian origins, and his dance background and subtle acting help to convey the character’s elegance and intelligence.

In a new interview, Bryan Fuller says he’s hopeful we’ll see Hannibal Rising’s Lady Murasaki and Uncle Robert(us) in season 3; he’s also made it known he’d love to have David Bowie play Hannibal’s uncle.

All in all I’m pretty thrilled by Fuller’s reinterpretation. He dances in and around canon, including enough book references for readers to froth over, and adds in new twists or elements so that nothing feels old or dull.

Special thanks to Jenn TheYellowDart

Cindy Davis, (Twitter)

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