Hello, Internet. As promised, we are back! Monthly posts shall resume!
Today I will present some reflections on a recently finished TV show.
TV shows are such a satisfying format in comparison to a movie. There is physically more time to dwell delve on the characters, more breath to develop and to show their quirks and ambivalences, more time to focus on details.
As the quality of the TV show and possible subject matter have rapidly increased in the last five to seven years, the twisted and complex features of a protagonist are explored in a more fearless way. Violence and predatory notions, trauma and shame are dealt with in a way that magnifies it without gloryfing it. I find these topics greatly fascinating.
One premium example for this sort of brilliance? The terryfing, fascinating dynamic of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham, ingenious psychopaths, utterly and completely addicted to eath other’s destruction. Or are they?
Twisted love stories, showing two people behaving caringly and tenderly towards each other while annihilating other people and taking pleasure in violence, are nothing new. To list some murdering movie couples: Mickey and Mallory in “Natural Born Killers” or Clarence and Alabama in “True Romance” are portrayed in an admiring light, showing their toxicity towards one another but still romanticising their togetherness as two wounded birds warming each other in one nest. The contrast of this supposedly nurturing love and the violent chaos it creates to sustain itself makes for a great movie, though.
To look at other newer TV shows, the easiest for my generation would be Chuck and Blair from “Gossip Girl” – those two privileged self-obsessed teens don’t murder people but certainly rip apart their self esteem and reputation, and the ability to overcome their core characteristic of hurting everybody close to them ties them together in the end. However, as soon as the cycle of abuse and scheming ends, those two become boring to watch.
One of the most interesting dynamics of twisted romance has to be Lana Lang and Lex Luthor in “Smallville” – Lex being the more powerful, richer, older, egomaniacal, conniving person he is, has an obsession or rather a compulsion to win against Clark, but also an obsession with Lana, but at one point she schemes back and takes advantage of him as well. Now the story between Lana and Lex, as well as Blair and Chuck was always to be the climactic dynamic, since it inspires ambivalence and understanding of the darker part of human nature: one of the two being more drawn to “evil” and drawing the other towards that dimension, thus creating conflict.
What makes “Hannibal” even better than all of the abovementioned combined is the fact that both parties are already in possession of rather ambivalent moral compasses, killing others rather early on in the series. Will appears to be suffering from ‘accidentally’ killing another man, more and more emotionally unstable and subjected to Hannibals false therapy, losing his mind. Hannibal plays with people like that, since he is “curious to see what happens”.
However, taken from the first conversation between these two and neatly tied together after Wills declaration in season 1 – not finding Hannibal to be “that interesting”, but after the beginning of Wills becoming, revising his feelings towards the end of season 2:
“I don’t want to kill you, Dr. Lecter. Not now that I finally find you interesting.”
Those two men are equals and although Hannibal’s mission in life is to awaken the beast in others like him, to guide the Becoming of his monstrous Designs – he surrenders a part of himself to Will, treating him as an equal, not eating him, not killing him, but accepting him as a partner in crime. Quite literally, regarding that beautiful end scene.
In what world is this fascinating? In an imaginary world, obviously – the pathology and the reverse therapy that is happening here is thanks to the cunning and brilliance of Hannibal, not regarding the oftentimes unrealistically stupid actions of Jack Crawford (how in the hell did he get named The Guru by at no time whatsoever making a witty deduction on his own?) – the darker side is much more interesting, so the obvious choice is to root for it.
Since Hannibal is an aesthetically orgasmically pleasing creature and creates beautiful art, the viewer tries to emphatize with him. This is no task for the lighthearted but where Hannibals twisted love for Will comes to play, a glimpse of what the normal viewer considers as humanity shines through and we reach for it.
Besides, it’s not like they killed an innocent, so it’s all good right?
The likening of Hannibal to a Wendigo, a mythical maneating demon from the beginning of the series, and thus transcending the story above empirical possibility; Will being the one person Hannibal allows to see his true self, Wills Becoming, and the final conclusion and glorious release of both monstrous selves in perfect unison whilst slashing the Great Red Dragon; finally leaning on each other in a metaphorical, and after the act, literal way – it is all so intense, so aesthetically beautiful,
it is perfect.
A perfect romance. A perfect ending in itself.
How can one not glorify it? Romance is most interesting when bound to destruction and sacrifice. Once the conflict vanishes, the fascination is lost.
Such is the symbiosis of romance and destruction.
What are your favourite shows right now?