Mads Mikkelsen: Why ‘Hannibal”s Hannigram is the truest romance on TV
It’s 80 degrees out, but that’s not going to stop us as we officially enter the annual thaw. Weary widow winter has melted into spooky spinster spring, and we could not be more excited. In honor of this transition, it’s only fitting that we say goodbye to the depressive homebodies of the cold season to fixate on our favorite tortured, gothic heroes.
Our fixations include pale, overdressed men who likely have a wife trapped in the attic. The theme for April is romantic heroes with poor decision-making skills, and we thought we’d kick off the season by describing the most messed-up Byronic hero in pop culture: Hannibal Lecter from NBC’s Hannibal.
Enter the tragic hero
There is something very Byron-esque about Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen).
Admittedly, they have nothing in common. Lord Byron was a real person who died a hero’s death in the Greek War of Independence, while Hannibal is a fictional character who threatens FBI agents and makes meals out of human livers.
However, there is connective tissue between the two: a chaotic, sexual energy linking their exploits that we can’t entirely explain or justify. Lord Byron was very dramatic and had sex with everyone; Hannibal is very dramatic and eats everyone. They would have managed to find something in common is all we’re suggesting.
The Byronic hero is a solitary individual resigned to suffering. He’s rich, smart, arrogant, sophisticated, and sexually tortured. He doesn’t have to play a piano, but he can. And no doubt when he does so, he is surrounded by candles. Zillions of lit candles next to a large, flammable wooden musical instrument.
He’s also a monster.
The Byronic hero is an antihero, the term used to justify the actions of villains with great hair. He’s someone society sees as a villain because he fits all of the hallmarks of one.
He uses his intelligence as justification for treating others as beneath him, and it’s left to the love interest to see that one small spark of humanity buried deep within him and use it to save him.
Enter the love interest with animal friends
The Byronic hero is only as good as his tortured love interest, and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) fits the role completely.
Will Graham is a sensitive soul living in a house, filled with animal friends. He possesses Bambi eyes that puts Disney princesses and anime characters to shame.
Graham’s greatest gift is his deep empathy. While he refers to it with nonsense phrases like “interpreting the evidence”, it is empathy that allows him to inhabit the mind of serial killers to process how they think and catch them in the act. It is his empathy that allows him to sympathize with and form a relationship with depraved cannibal murderer Hannibal Lecter.
Hannigram are perfect foils for each other. The Hannibal we were gifted with in the NBC version turns the Byronic hero on its head. This is a solitary hero able to wear a mask and fit in comfortably with the rest of society – while Graham, the one who can empathize with everyone, would prefer to be left alone.
Love stories don’t always need a Nora Ephron ending
Some of the best love stories don’t waste their time with happy endings, and gothic romances typically end in chaos & misery.
Graham and Hannibal were never going to end up in a snug cottage in Virginia, raising dogs and eating rude people. Graham at his core is a good person who could put on the mask of a monster. Hannibal at his core is a cannibal who eats the rude. There was never going to be a happy white wedding for the pair.
What Hannibal gives us instead is a slow-burn love story of two people on opposite sides of the law. It’s engrossing to see them twist themselves into versions they thought each other would accept, and it’s fitting for Hannibal to end with Graham pushing Hannibal off a cliff, before following suit. This was never going to be a happy murder husbands love story ending – but it’s still a love story worth watching.
This spring, revisit the gothic horror of Hannibal. We promise you won’t regret it, or dinner’s on us. Mwahahahaaa.