With The Mentalist as background TV, I briefly considered the idea of a crime-solver that were a sort of anti-Holmes, solving crimes not because of their analytical skills, specialized knowledge, and/or capacity for assholery, but rather because of their empathy.
Then I realized I had just described Will Graham (yes, he's competent and knowledgeable, and during, like, five minutes in the first episode they set him up as a sort of CSI, but that didn't last long; he's pure, borderline supernatural empathy, righteous violence driven not by his being superior to others but by his feeling exactly the same).
Season 3 Will Graham is in many senses a post-Act V Hamlet, an active passivity born to a large degree of having seen (although in Hamlet the what is less clear ). Will even has a If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not now, yet it will come talk with the ghost of Abigail.
Of course, while Hamlet is the paradigmatic Self-as-point-of-view, Will is defined by his empathy; he's a Hamlet who knows, understands, and loves Claudius. He cannot let him be any more than he cannot have him not be, and the providential (and elegant in William Shakespeare and God's eyes) mutual killing at the end of the Hamlet's play is something that Will, with Hannibal's acquiescence, chooses and enacts as the only possible solution. Neither blindness nor cruelty: that's his design.
And speaking of the haunted, except when partnering with Hannibal, we never see Will as comfortable with another person as when he's in Palermo with the ghost of Abigail profiling the shit out of both God and Hannibal. He's always sassy, but with her he's warm (again, we know he can be, there's all the dogs for example, but rarely with humans, and rarely in a way that's so much about *himself* enjoying the interaction). In another world, one where the butterfly impossibly evaded the falling boot, the ghost of Abigail and him let Hannibal fuck off to Italy to be somebody else's nightmare, and stayed on the other side of the Atlantic as the spookiest, sassiest, most effective pair of crime-fighters in the continent.
There's a very sad degree to which ghost Abigail differs from Abigail alive — she's more open to him, more the way he wanted her to be than what she could or wanted to be — but, at least a bit, Will's many-edged gift makes his imagos of people closer to the real ones than most people's memories (e.g, Jacob Hobbs), so ghost Abigail is at least somewhat herself, if not purely so (and isn't that a commentary on the problematic limits allowed to female agency, even post-freaking-mortem — limits that Abigail fought against her entire life, against the various monsters in her life, against would-be saviors, and, one suspects, against the narrative of Hannibal, the show, itself).
PS: While Hamlet’s theology is basically a mixture of Gordon Ramsay and Simon Cowell, Will talks about God the same way he talks about [the other] insane murderers it has been his lot in life to have to get close to in one way or another. Elsewhen, Will Graham, Theological Profiler and Bona Fide Saint, would’ve have had an spectacular, if short, career.
(Which, if you put together alone in the dark and Hannibal, wouldn't be that long.)
I'm about mid-Season 2 in my slow rewatch, and one thing I've noticed is that part of what makes the series' meta-aesthetics so thematically coherent is that murder, cooking, art on biological media (taxidermia, flower arrangements, etc), as well as psychiatry (in any combination of ethical/unethical and clinical/interpersonal), are all versions of the same activity of re-arranging a living being, be it is flesh or its mind, in the way *you* find it more agreeable; this can be done consensually and with the best of intentions, or very much not, but it's still doing something *to* the living, and even the human, in a way we associate with how we deal with inanimate matter.
Those activities are all violent, and the meta-aesthetical points of Hannibal's unique mixture of interests is that it makes that violence utterly explicit, by blurring the lines between all of them.
At the operational level of what he does, Lecter's ability with forensic countermeasures is one of his key skills. Doylean and Watsonian reasons abound — the whole premise of his character is otherwise untenable — but at a more generic level I just realized how much his training as a chef and as a physician inform and support his ability to avoid leaving clues behind (as, at another level, does his psychiatric skill and, almost as importantly, the social privilege of his status as a highly respected one).
This is kind of obvious (from his point of view, there isn't much difference in methods, just in intended goals), but I think it's also congruent with how much those activities involve, functionally, forensic countermeasures.
I mean: a surgeon that leaves on her or his patient any "clue" except the planned effects of the operation (any sort of contamination, any uncontrolled side effects, any errors in timing or process) is a bad one. Food preparation is even more so: we want the food, but we don't want to know where it comes from, how its source was killed, how it was processed, what happened to what was left of it, nor, most of the time, who did it. We don't even want to know what's made of, or are more than willing to take other people/organizations' word for it, which is the source of about half of the jokes in the show.
I'm just grasping at symbolic straws here (bear with me, I'm distracting myself from some leftover anxiety), but, at least in my head, it's not a coincidence that Lecter's medical and culinary skills are not just useful during his murders, but also to cover them up. We all spend a lot of time, energy, and resources cleaning up after our killings — deploying forensic countermeasures against ourselves, in other words.
One aspect of the series that becomes plainer on a rewatch is how often we see characters think. They don't necessarily speak aloud, but you can follow in their expressions, and even things like brief glances, how they are reacting to and processing what they are seeing and hearing. There's a great degree of viewer projection, I grant you, and you can't really know what they are thinking, but while watching things a second time you can often pick up when somebody decided or figured out something, even if it was impossible to know at the moment. (One exception: there's one moment in S01E03, the one I just watched, when Abigail shifts her eyes away for about half a second, and you know why, and they show Hannibal's expression for another second, and you know that he knows why she did that, and although the episode makes sense if you don't notice that, if you do it changes the way you look at what happens during the rest of it. It's a lot to put in about two seconds of facial expressions, and it's very neat.)
Another thing that becomes more obvious the second time around: Jack was always a bit of a piece of shit. Loving husband, devoted law enforcement officer, doesn't give a rat's ass about the psychological or physical safety of the people that work for him, or anybody else's, actually, as long as they are potentially useful to catch a killer. In a show without a Hannibal, and with killers perhaps just a little bit less horrendous, it wouldn't take much to make Jack the villain, the abusive boss who knowingly pushes somebody beyond their breaking point just to further his own goals.
As a placeholder for further thought (or not): The series began with the Devil as chess master, then the Devil as corrupter, and now ended up with... I'm not sure Hannibal is the Devil any more, biblical references aside. Something broke in Hannibal Lecter at the end of season two, and season three felt less like the desperate battle of wits and imagination that were the first two seasons, than as a beautifully shot mess of insane people bouncing against each other, intermittently orchestrated by a(n also participating) Hannibal Lecter who seemed to be almost going through the motions.
Season 3 was almost languid, that's what I'm saying. Frequent, horrifying murders notwithstanding. I think that was a deliberate thematic choice, a gradual deepening of the emotional components over the logical (I didn't say sane) ones. After all, the series began with the aria from the Goldberg Variations, and ended with Love Crime. That's the series' arc in a nutshell.
Hannibal S03E05: It's been a long while since I last gesticulated and yelled at a TV quite so enthusiastically.
Secret Wars #this week: I don't think I've ever been so embarrassed for Doom as I feel reading this series. It's like that time (Pre-Crisis, I think) when Lex was in this other planet and he saved that world and made everything better by sciencing the shit out of everything at hand, and everybody loved him and made statues of thing, and they renamed the planet Lexia (I think? that sounds weird even by Pre-Crisis standards, but could be right, and I'm too amused by the idea to google and risk disappointment). Anyway, Lex was basically *it*, and yet he felt unfulfilled (gee, I wonder why), and when he found a cache of old, even-more-advanced technology, he used it to build a supersuit (the one made by Darkseid in post-crisis Superman/Batman, when he went crazy in a different way) that he field-tested by destroying things he had built/saved himself (again, I might be wrong, but that's how I remember it), just to be able to kill Superman.
And when they fought, he ended up destroying the planet, because of course.
ETA: See astolat's comment below for more (and more accurate) details on that wonderful bit of Silver Age crack.
Title: The work of his hands Rating: PG13 Fandom: Hannibal Warnings: Spoilers for S03E01 and before. Author notes: I'm not very happy with this fic, and I suspect it'll be very hard for me to get to the point where I write Hannibal fic I'm satisfied with. Technical difficulties with textually rendering the damnably unavoidable way in which the show uses imagery and music aside, I'm used to, and favor, the sort of ultimately direct insanity of a Bruce Wayne or a Lex Luthor. Hannibal is as smart as them, but he's baroque, bordering on the fractal. I'm not used to smart characters doing things with their left hand that might undo what they have been building with their right one, just because they want to see what would happen.