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I’ll be honest, I would eat a person. Before you start sub-tweeting me, I mean if the opportunity presented itself as some kind of culinary event—like the year Hokitika Wild Foods Festival really ups its game, or when I am a member of the A-list cultural elite and at some $250,000 a head restaurant with Richard Branson and Soulja Boi. In 2012 Japanese artist Mao Sugiyama had his genitals surgically removed and then cooked, and served them to a select group of paying guests. Cannibalism is not a crime under Japanese law. It is where murderer and cannibal Issei Sagawa lives, having managed to escape life imprisonment through a series of loopholes in the law, serving only two years for murdering and eating a young French woman in 1981. He has since gone on to write several books and even make films about his crime, because ultimately there is a huge fascination around cannibalism—one of civilized society’s ultimate taboos.
Dr Hannibal Lecter is one of pop culture’s iconic villains. A charming and cultured cannibalistic serial killer, created by Thomas Harris in his 1981 novel Red Dragon. Famously played by Anthony Hopkins in the film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), NBC’s 2013 series Hannibal brings a faithful but deliciously fresh interpretation of the character. Written as a prequel to Red Dragon, Hannibal is a forensic psychiatrist assigned to supervise Will Graham, a genius FBI profiler with the ability to empathise with psychopaths but with a psyche as fragile as those he investigates. Will is tracking a man known as the Chesapeake Ripper—a serial killer with a penchant for the theatrical who contorts his mutilated victims into pieces of art—unaware his psychiatrist is the very killer he is looking for. Fascinated by Will’s ability to understand who he truly is, Hannibal pursues Will’s friendship while working from within the FBI to ensure his longevity as a killer, and deal with any loose ends that may arise and lead to his capture.
Not one to waste, Hannibal keeps trophies from each of his murders in the form of organs and cuts of meat, which he then serves to his unaware guests. The best part of each episode is these dinner parties, and you can’t help but smile with Hannibal as he listens to his diners wax lyrical about his cooking. The show employs a “culinary consultant” to advise on the proper preparation of these meals. The beautiful and mouthwatering montages of Hannibal’s creations convey the twisted respect the doctor has for his victims, giving them beauty and purpose in their gruesome demise. Hannibal’s success is in the elegance it brings to its brutal content, where a television adaptation of the source material could so easily have the taste of a Saw sequel. Madds Mikkelson is incredible as the titular antagonist, basing his characterization on Lucifer, stuck amongst the living and manipulating them into being their darkest selves. You root for him constantly, even when he’s cutting off ears and stretching corpses into nightmarish angels. However this is almost at a fault to the show as it becomes difficult to sympathize with or support any of the other characters, especially Will—who is given six dogs in a desperate attempt to make him likeable at all.
Running for three seasons, Hannibal was met with critical acclaim but fell victim to poor ratings due to viewers primarily downloading and streaming it instead of tuning in each week to watch. While it’s not an end to Lecter’s story, it’s disappointing that it wasn’t allowed to truly flourish. It remains a brilliant and devilishly intelligent show that doesn’t just blow other thriller television shows out the water, it murders them. Watch with snacks.