Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hannibal - - Aperitif

Aperitif - - FBI criminal profiler Will Graham is asked to consult on a case.

This show is insane.

My first impressions of Hannibal comes down to it being a bit of a "thinker" with a lot of different folks all psychologically trying to manipulate each other - - like "The Mentalist" but with four Patrick Janes, each with their own psychopathic tendencies. Of course, while Hannibal is new to television, Patrick Jane and Red John are of course homages to the Hannibal character himself. Right down to the memory palace Jane keeps talking about (that's outlined in eerie detail in the novel "Hannibal.")

The show is cool and the characters are twisted, damaged and fascinating. The monster that lies just beneath is only merely beneath the surface in the faces of William Graham, Hannibal Lecter and Jack Crawford. Pretty cool.

SPOILERS for Aperitif - -

Meeting Will Graham 

We meet Will Graham, a special agent who was denied entry to the FBI due to its strict screening procedures, which detect instability. He's highly regarded for writing the "Standard Monograph on the Time of Death by Insect Activity."

We learn right off the hop that he is anti-social by preference, and has "hitched his horse" to a post closer to Asperger's and autistics than narcissists and sociopaths. He can empathize with anyone, avoids eye contact whenever possible and can feel how others feel, no matter how much their perspective conflicts with his world view.

The most defining and believable insights we receive from Doctor Lecter, who says: I imagine what you see and learn touches everything else in life, your values and decency are present yet shocked at your associations - - appalled by your dreams."

Will says he puts up "forts" to separate and protect himself from the fearful insights he divines from the psychopaths he empathizes with, however, Lecter says these forts inhibit his ability to find joy in life.

"No forts in the bone arena of your skull for things you love," says Lecter. This probably makes an interesting comparative allusion between Hannibal's "mind palace" that we'll certainly hear about in the future. Will has built "forts," rick-shack bastions of values and decency which render him incapable of loving.

Certainly, Hannibal will see this as an opportunity to mentor Will into compartmentalizing his feelings - - which of course will only lead to complete sociopathic indifference, if done to an extreme. We can almost feel in this early scene Lecter savoring the game he's already planning for Will, and Will is too defensive about the sudden psychoanalization to realize it.

The nod to Bruce Banner's inner demons suggests the psychotic fragility we may expect from Graham - - and the monstrous snapping points that might be lurking just below the surface.

Otherwise, we learn he lives in Wolf Trap, Virginia - - where he takes in stray and run-away dogs, and takes great care of them. Bathing, naming and obviously connecting with them as an alternative to complicated psyches of the people in his life - whom he fervently avoids.

I'm still not entirely sure what wrapping himself in towels rather than bedsheets in the night means, perhaps other than his nightmares are so continuous and prevalent that he sweats through his clothes when he dreams, no doubt out of fear from what his mind relentlessly shows him.

Will's Psyche the Plot Device

Will Graham is a mystery - - and he prefers to stay that way. But I have a feeling Jack Crawford is hellbent on opening up Graham's mind and putting it on display for the academic world to see. Crawford's spastic outbursts and single-minded focus on identifying what Graham is could be disastrous for everyone involved. And I think Crawford might be very much like Hannibal in the early goings, where they're both manipulating and provoking Will, trying to let loose the Hulk.

For Hannibal, it's a game, amusement, it's the pleasure of creating a monster. For Crawford, it's another academic and professional accomplishment, dissecting, identifying and displaying just another psychopath in his ghoulishly titled Evil Minds Research Museum. 

Special Agent Jack Crawford who leads the Behavioral Science Unit makes a career of psychologically profiling disturbed people. It's his passion, and perhaps even his flaw. After asking for Dr. Alana Bloom from Georgetown to perform a psych profile on Graham, she reveals how delicate and challenging the task will be for Crawford.

"Anything scholarly on Will Graham will have to be published posthumously," Bloom says. Graham deals with huge amounts of fear, which is the price of his imagination.

How seriously might Crawford take this advice? Might he intentionally put Graham in harms way, to gain his posthumous psych profile?

Crawford's Critical Flaw?

Crawford shows his commanding and threatening nature when Graham is uninterested in taking on the Elise Nichols case - - specifically because working a case means he's got to work with people, the primary obstacle in Will's sensitive life. 

From dismissively agreeing he enjoys urinal cakes to flipping his lid at some dude who was already seconds away from wetting his pants, Crawford is demonstrating he's hellbent on adding complicated psyches to his Evil Minds Museum.
Bloom says she won't perform the psych eval because she admires and respects Graham too much. So much so that she has respected his anti-social behavior to the point of never having been alone in a room with him before, despite them being friends - - I think we can infer that they're friends? Perhaps as friendly as Graham can be with anyone.

So Bloom refers Crawford to Hannibal Lecter, who was Bloom's mentor while she was an intern at the highly prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital. Lecter says he learned just as much from her as she learned from him, and we have to wonder if he's being sincere. I don't know that we've seen Hannibal lie at all to anyone, and certainly he seems precise and intentional about what he says - - I think we have to believe that Bloom has in fact taught Hannibal a great deal - though we can't imagine what just yet.

Crawford's interactions with Lecter prove that he is willing to concede to flattery to help get his own way - - and perhaps this will prove to be one of Lecter's character flaws (that he succumbs to flattery, though we all know that flattery should get you nowhere, right?). Not to drag too much mythos from the other movies and books, but Hannibal's "intellectual vanity" is open for manipulation, sometimes.

So we see Crawford engaging once again in manipulative tricks to gain the psych profile he wants so badly.

Through their brief encounters, Lecter observes (correctly I'm sure) that "Uncle Jack" Crawford views Will Graham as a "fragile little teacup" and as the "fine china useful only for special guests."

Dr. Lecter Peeking Behind the Curtain

The secret to a great show is a great antagonist that people really love. Our latest version of Lecter is unlike any that we've ever seen before. He's not a known criminal, he's not on the lamb escaping, hiding from the FBI, hired assassins, deranged past-victims or Nazi turncoats - he's a prestigious and honored contributor to his field and delights in the precision and exactitude that gives him free reign in the world.

He's utterly uninhibited from doing anything he'd like to do - - we're getting a peek at a pure representation of Hannibal Lecter. 

Attention to detail, precision and artistry have been carefully honed; these are skills that earned him an internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He even finds ways to make his instruments more poignant and effective, like using a scalpel to sharpen his pencils, because traditional sharpeners can't provide the accurate tip necessary to express himself.

Beautiful, lavish meals and classical music with a careful attention to what he puts in his body - - he prepares all his meals himself, of course.

My favourite Lecter moments are always his riddles and metaphors. They are filled with beauty, mortality and insight - - and it's thrilling to think we'll get a taste of that every week now that this is a serialized television show.

You have to convince yourself the lion is not in the room. When it is, I assure you, you will know.
Lecter's interest in Graham is an interseting one, and I think we're only getting a taste of the game he's ready to play with this unique and mysterious special agent of the FBI. Lecter is immediately credited as the author of the paper "Evolutionary Origins of Social Exclusion," by Crawford - - which suggests that Hannibal believes people have perfected the mechanisms to socially organize themselves with the purpose of excluding others - - another type of "fort" if you will - - to protect ourselves from the strange and unknown.

Graham presents a new case for Lecter. Graham is an one-man wolf pack (from Wolf Trap, VA, remember) who's perhaps proving he's doomed to extinction because he resists the social organization that's propagated the human race.

Lecter, let's be certain, has not been manipulated by Crawford to take this case on - - he's taken it on because Will is a fascinating new opportunity for Lecter on several different levels. First is this new game he's playing with Will - - and let's be clear, by being "close" to the case, he was able commit a copy-cat murder that was instrumental in leading Graham to the real killer. Then, just as they identified their killer, Hannibal tips him off putting Will in harm's way. 

"I see you as the snake I want under the house when the snakes slither by," Lecter says to Will Graham. He sees that Will has all the capacity necessary to lash out - - even if others believe he's too fragile or unstable. It's an empowering and mysterious observation, but revealing of Lecter's motivations. 

Lecter and Graham have only met twice to this point - once at the FBI and then again to explore Minnesota looking for clues - - and Lecter immediately is able to wield Graham like a weapon, pumping an entire clip of ammo into their suspect.

I have to think Will Graham had never killed anyone before - and after one full day of being Lecter's plaything, Graham is covered in blood, blowing bad guys away.

It's the exact situation that Alana Bloom feared for Will - - the forts and compartments in his mind, the madness he empathizes with, she fears, is a slippery slope. He is fully capable of blowing a man away by separating his values and decency with the other things he feels.

Bloom may very rightly fear that with the proper provocation, Will might bury his values and decency too deep to be retrieved, leaving who knows what type of monster on the loose.

And no doubt, this is Lecter's interest in this whole situation - - but there are some valuable fringe benefits to working alongside Will Graham and the FBI: the opportunity to peek behind the curtain, as he puts it.

"I'm curious how the FBI conducts business when it's not kicking in doors," he says. No doubt, he's getting an inside view of how they operate, which will be priceless considering he's an unflinching cannibalistic serial killer, right.

He'll know what the FBI knows, he'll know their procedures, he'll know their investigators - perhaps all information that will make him more bold in committing his own crimes.

After Lecter commits the copycat murder, Graham can read the crime scene and makes an insightful observation about Lecter, though they'll never know it.  The second killer was the complete opposite of "the Shrike." The copycat felt no love or mercy for the victim - - he felt the girl was a pig.

Graham called the copycat an intelligent psychopath, a sadist. "He'll be hard to catch with no traceable motive, no patterns."

Lecter probably committed the crime to inspire Graham. Will called the copycat a "negative" or relief of the other crimes which helped him see the original case more clearly.

The Battle for Will Graham's Soul has Begun

He's scared, fragile, unstable, antisocial and compartmentalizes his decency and values so he can completely understand how someone could murder eight college girls, eat them, and leave no trace of their abductions behind because of anxiety stemming from impending empty-nest syndrome.

Graham is the battleground, his soul is what's at stake - - Lecter and Crawford are chomping at the bit to open him up and see what Will is capable of. Bloom seems to be his guardian, hoping to protect him from the dangerous and probing fingers of those who would want to "study" him.

And it's only going to get worse for Graham, I'm certain, as Dr. Frederick Chilton will emerge on the scene, as well as the antagonizing Freddy Lounds.

Obviously, this show is going to be insane.

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