In a 1981 novel by Thomas Harris, The Red Dragon has a moment when Dr. Hannibal Lecter lies on the bed shortly after his first meeting with Will Graham, while the light in the cell is off, thinking about the smells. Harris compares the earthly reality of Lecktor’s life (the smell of Clorox in the sewers; the guards serving the chili’s) with the smells he associates with Graham. The first is sperm.
When I first read the novel, as a teenager who hadn’t gotten to her own whims, I remember thinking it was pretty gay. And it was. Throughout the novel, Lecter – nothing but a former student from hell, who plunges into anger when Graham doesn’t give him his phone number, who tries to keep his new partner out of the picture, and who generally refuses to let another person move on.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Three decades later, Brian Fuller, the openly gay creator, seemed to give me a canonical blue adjustment I didn’t know I needed in the form of Hannibal, a series that stays true to its horror roots while keeping the promise in the way it develops that LGBTQ+ fans rarely get to see. Now, just in time for the pride, the three seasons of Hannibal Fuller in the U.S. and Canada have arrived at Netflix (they did it long ago in the UK and South Korea), and you may have heard the rumbling of the fans saying that another season will be really good now. If you’re still not sure if you can bite into this twisted romance of terror, let me whet your appetite and make you hungry for this legendary fourth season, because the strange past, present and future of the show is something you might need in your life.
First, a new one. Hannibal made his NBC debut in 2013 and imagined the relationship Graham (Hugh Dansy) and Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) had before his catch. Of course, with Hannibal Cannibal on the loose (not to mention the alarming number of active serial killers per capita), the corpses quickly fall into heaps, and Fuller and his creative team are pushing every facet of the TV-approved mountain network, bending human origami, setting a totem pole of corpses, dropping their backs and filling the torso with flowers. But between all the blood and the deformed bodies, between two important male actors of the series, something interesting starts to happen.
They’re starting to fall in love.
I think it’s important to stop here and say it’s not just a matter of interpretation. While countless shows shamelessly ridicule their fans for what they read in the subtext, Hannibal pulls out his subtext in such a way that in the third season it’s just a text. Soon most hosts adopted the baby together, and Lecter reminds Graham that he loves him. A love ballad plays together on their last scene.
I don’t think Fuller wanted to do a gay story. Based on the various interviews he has given over the years, some of them seem to have been carried out organically (perhaps fed by this undercurrent of homoeroticism, subtle but undeniable, which runs through the original novel, but also by the strange coding of Lecktor’s character to make it more aberrant in Jonathan Demme’s 1991 film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs). The rest may have been inspired by the passion of the fans who immediately noticed the romantic and sexual tension between Lecter and Graham that Fuller was too close to the material to see it. And while the show may have doubled its heterosexuality to sweep the issue of whims under the carpet, Hannibal has done something unusual. This allowed the more sexually liberal Lecter to long for the object of his desire, and at the same time Graham confronted his feelings for Lecter with something he had always clearly believed in – something he was basically honest about.
The fascinating scene of the third season ends when Graham sits down with Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), Lecter’s psychiatrist, and asks her something he has clearly been carrying around with him for some time: whether Lecter is in love with him. Can he feel hungry every day and find food in your eyes? Yes, – you answer to Maurier. But are you hurt by him?
So Graham has no answer to give, but when the season reaches its final erotic act, he seems to have resigned himself to certain things about himself (even though during his imprisonment, Lecter became an elder from hell who the gay readers of the novel always knew he was). It is an incredibly nuanced and beautiful arch that we rarely see in the media, let alone on television of bloody horror. The fact that Fuller is still the great defender of the fantasy content created by the fans of Hannibal (aka Fannibala) – is the icing on the cake. Where other creators quietly pretend the weird corners of their fandoms don’t exist (or in the worst case, their eyes roll), Fuller has always given us a place at the table.
Now that the show has found a new home on Netflix, I’m here to extend the invitation. To all the horror fans, gay and straight, that Hannibal hasn’t tried yet: We left you somewhere warm. And for those who may have initially dismissed it as another remake of the popularity of horror, I once suggested the same thing, and I can assure you that it is not so. Hannibal sets the bar so high for horror television that since the last episode in 2015 every dish I’ve tasted since then is delicious compared to the others. It begins as a seemingly simple police procedure with a strange fixation on physical horror and turns into a psychological nightmare told through the lens of a European feature film.
And all this happens in the process of weaving a bizarre, intimate and infinitely fascinating love story, in which a small seed of prehistory is drawn from an original Harris novel and develops into something unique, bold and beautiful. So understand the complicated picture of murder, but I promise you, for sexual tension, you’ll stay thick enough to cut with a knife. Just trust me. Just trust me. Lecter and Graham are both trying.
As for you, Netflix, it’s your turn to cook. The Fannibals have been waiting a long time for their fourth season, and this delicacy of strange and friendly media horror deserves to find a new life on your platform. Although the programme received a lot of praise during the first broadcast, the station’s audience was not yet ready for it. Your audience. The author-managed horror and the strange horror have a moment and you could be in the front line of both. It’s a good time for Hannibal.
I suggest you go through the door that keeps Brian Fuller open. On the other hand, it’s dark and waiting madness, but it’s the kind of sight you never lose sight of and will keep long after the credits. After all, even five years after the broadcast we, the fans, still feel the hunger of Hannibal every day.
And yes, we aim for more.