Hugh Dancy, as Will Graham, has gone from helping convicted serial killers to being behind bars himself. Talk about a curve ball in the ingeniously scripted crime thriller Hannibal. Executive producer and creator Bryan Fuller sheds light on what fans can expect of Will’s frustrating voyage in season two as he attempts to prove his innocence while retaining his sanity in a “cat-and-cat” chase, writes Debashine Thangevelo.
With Thomas Harris’ novels translating well onto the big screen – The Silence of the Lambs cleaned up at the Oscars in 1992 – turning them into TV series made good sense.
The potential to flesh out the legendary Hannibal Lecter into a series of episodes was enough to entice Bryan Fuller to step up to the plate. And he has done a commendable job – especially with his cat-and-mouse play between a psychopathic Lecter and social pariah Will Graham who, by stepping into the shoes of the serial killer (albeit visually), is able to shed light on their modus operandi and personal flaws.
In season one, viewers were introduced to a very polished and brilliant Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) – not to mention his cannibalistic culinary prowess – as he took a very keen interest in Special Agent Will, a criminal profiler who matched his brilliance.
The new season picks up from the aftermath of Will’s arrest for murder, one which he believes was committed by Hannibal.
On giving Will certain vices, especially when he slips into his illusionary world with a very surreal feel, Fuller says: “Because we wanted to have a different vocabulary for the show and there is so much psychological horror in the programme, it was really about how do we communicate that most effectively?
“We have Will Graham, who is a guy who is a victim of his own imagination, so we wanted to make sure we were really personifying that imagination gone bad in a way where the images are so horrible, but they’re beautiful at the same time. So you can’t be turned away because they demand that you pay attention to them.
“I think there’s something very powerful about the heightened quality of this show because it does make it a little poetic and a little operatic, which are things we have seen in the past, the previous incarnations of Hannibal Lecter. And the films have been very grounded in a reality so I thought surrealism is a path nobody has taken yet with this show or with these characters; I thought, ‘this is a great way to distinguish ourselves’.
“Also, for me, it’s very exciting because I think visually and when I think about a scene, I see it first and then try to understand the psychology to it. So it really was about what is a unique way into this world nobody has taken yet. Because we had to make it our own, otherwise there was no point in doing it.”
With Fuller’s dexterous exploits the first time around, the challenge was on for him to surpass his former glory with season two, more so after he stupefied viewers with the twist between the good and bad guy.
He nods: “It really was about subverting expectations at the end of season one because I think the audience’s anticipation would either be this is going to go several seasons where Hannibal is just there doing FBI work, and we didn’t want to get caught in that trap. So there is an acceleration to the storyline where we have to have certain peaks to it.
“So one of the peaks was subverting the audience’s expectations of seeing Hannibal go to the institution by making Will go to the institution. Then, really, the launching point for season two is that we have a guy who knows who Hannibal is and nobody believes him. So there’s a great Hitchcockian principle of The Man Who Knew Too Much.
“And also, for those who haven’t seen it, the first episode begins with the last episode and the fun there is that there is danger wrought in all of these characters’ lives. And once again, a Hitchcockian principle of suspense is to show the audience the bomb and that it’s going to go off and then go back to a time where they have to sweat, is this going to be where it goes off? And it creates a tension that kind of elevates the story to a more anxiety-ridden place, and actually, it’s an old, hoary device for storytelling but one that I love.”
Interestingly, he wanted Guillermo del Toro to direct some of the episodes but, although he was keen, he wasn’t available.
On Gillian Anderson’s return as Dr Du Maurier, Fuller shares: “There were different interpretations of her character, with some people saying she might not even be a real; she could be a figment of Hannibal’s imagination. I was like ‘no’, because it’s Gillian Anderson and you want her to be real, and as a fan of The X Files and a fan of her acting outside of The X Files (did you see her interpretation of Mrs Haversham?), she is amazing; she’s an amazing actress. I love working with Mads, I love working with Laurence.
“She has an icy sexiness to her and Mads has an icy sexiness to him, so having these two icy, sexy people in a scene, you’re like, when is it going to melt?”
With fun guest appearances by Amanda Plummer and Jonathan Tucker, other familiar faces are also returning like Raul Esparza (Dr Chilton) and Eddie Izzard (Dr Gideon).
Hannibal aficionados need to brace themselves for a number of other surprises with some key players being killed off this season.
Fuller hints: “Three characters meet very terrible fates over the course of – and even in – the first half. Four, five, six and seven is a bit of a bloodbath for characters, but it was also kind of the need to just show stakes, that we’re not just going to be trying to stretch us out for 100 episodes and reinvent the crime procedural.
“With Hannibal working at the FBI, we wanted to be able to hit benchmarks. The first season, Hannibal is exposed; the second season, how does Will combat that?”
So where does this leave Will?
He teases: “There’s plenty of game-playing. Instead of the cat-and-mouse angle, from the first season, the second season is more a cat-and-cat chase.”
Phew, I guess you could cut the tension with a knife this season – then again, that must have been Fuller’s plan all along. Cunningly clever!
The second season of Hannibal is back on our screens on Sony Entertainment Television (DStv channel 127) tomorrow night at 9.50pm.