SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Mr. Robot; Humans; Jonathan Strange; Sense8

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The third season of Hannibal was initially to be about Hannibal Lecter as a fugitive in Europe, mirroring the Hannibal novel. With Bryan Fuller realizing that this would probably be the final season of Hannibal on NBC, with its future after that still unknown, he reduced this to about half the season so he could move on to Red Dragon. That has probably worked out for the better as the first half of this season was the weakest in the show’s run, and I don’t know if they could have stretched this out for an entire season.

The Great Red Dragon skips ahead three years, and doesn’t have a recipe as its title. Hannibal is locked up in the  psychiatric hospital, which is seen as a sort of victory for him as, at least in the mythology of the show, Hannibal Lecter is not insane. He is a monster who operates under his own moral code. He is shown to be living in his mind-palace, continuing to share meals with those visiting him. He is even allowed to make desserts, although presumably without human ingredients. He is open about the meals he previously served, as in this exchange after Hannibal asked Alana if she still drinks beer.

Alana: “I stopped drinking been when I found out what you were putting in mine.”

Hannibal “Who.”

Hannibal “Who.”

Will now has a family, which is important as it was the manner in which the Tooth Fairy kills regular families, as Will now has, which led to Will rejoining the FBI. (And yes, I’m sure that Hannibal is right that he does not like to be called the Tooth Fairy). Once Will is back investigating the Tooth Fairy’s murders, the series feels much more like the first season, even with Hannibal having surrendered, and no longer fooling anyone.

HANNIBAL -- "The Great Red Dragon" Episode 308 -- Pictured: Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde -- (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC)

Richard Armitage was introduced as the Tooth Fairy, or Red Dragon. Unlike so many characters who were notable for their intellectual banter, the Tooth Fairy is capable of saying very little. Richard Armitage discussed the role with TV Line:

TVLINE | The first impression we get of Francis is someone who is completely tortured and conflicted. Even in the moment where he’s exiting the crime scene covered in blood, the horror in his own eyes is palpable. How did you come to play him in that way?
It was an organic process. We always had the novel to refer to, so everything that I found really came from Thomas Harris’ books, Bryan [Fuller] and my own interpretation. One of the things in my first episode that I found so interesting is that this man is so alone in the world, so isolated. There was a rejection in his childhood because of his disfigurement and because his character was orphaned; he was raised by his grandmother and abused by step-siblings.

But when we find him in this world, he works in a very isolated environment in the film-processing laboratory, and he lives alone. Thomas Harris describes him as having only set foot in two other people’s houses in his entire life — and certainly no one has ever come into his world. But for someone that is so alone, his mind is so busy and full of things. He has the subject matter of the films that he’s studying. He has voices in his head. He’s haunted by so many different things, like his mind is so far from silent, and that to me was something which was fascinating.

TVLINE | Your first episode is essentially wordless — which means much of what we learn about Dolarhyde is in the initial sequence of him doing physical exercises and contorting his body. There’s a sense he’s transforming into something else in that moment. Walk me through all that.
Yes, it’s really interesting the way it takes a long time before you hear Francis speak. He’s a man who is so uncomfortable in his skin, who is somehow at odds with his outer body and is almost outgrowing his physical form. So you see that conversation happening physically before you hear it verbally. And actually, for someone that has such trouble speaking and forming words, the first time we hear him speak is in Episode 9, and it’s a struggle. It’s really like baby steps when he speaks. And as an audience, we see him before we hear him, so we have a real sense of who he is or who he’s becoming and what it is that he’s pressing against or running away from.

TVLINE | What did you have to do to transform your own physique and your own way of moving your body to get in touch with the character?
Obviously, I read the book, and he’s described as a bodybuilder. So, before I got up to Toronto, I was in the gym doing intense workout sessions, since we needed to fill him out in the way that Harris wanted. But I also found something in the book where he’s described as moving in a very stylized way. Harris describes him as a Balinese dancer, so when he’s committing his crimes, I understood to be something of a performance for himself, that he’s trying to somehow be theatrical in his approach.

I couldn’t work out what that was, but then I stumbled on a Japanese form of a physical expression, an artistic art form called Butoh, which is sometimes called the Dance of Death. It’s a biological observation of the body in extremis, which I thought was perfect for this scenario. And so I used a lot of that. I also used some stress positions that I’d been working with previously on The Crucible, because I felt like the character was putting himself through something rather than changing himself for vanity sake. He’s wanting to torture his own body.

What you see in the opening exercise sequence, though, I put a metronome on in the room and just worked for 20 to 30 minutes, distorting my body and doing these exercises, and the crew just kept on filming.

TVLINE | In this episode, we get to see Dolarhyde after his second murder, out in the snow, covered in blood splatter. And there’s also that twisted but sort of artful scene where your character gets wrapped up in a film reel and is in this intense state of panic. How much of those moments were actually filmed organically versus post-production manipulation?
The filming in the snow was actually one of my first shots in the entire series, and it was about 17 below outside, a very cold night shoot. Very little of that is post-production. They used a sugar blood that stains black and thankfully, they heated it beforehand.

The scene with the celluloid wrapped around Dolarhyde’s head is a combination of digital work and some practical stuff. They did create a fake head. And they also wrapped celluloid around my head and we filmed it again. It was a bit of an exploration of literally, physically getting tangled up in his world of celluloid. It’s Bryan’s imagination at work in the best way, you know.

TVLINE | Looking forward to the coming weeks, how freaky-scary should we expect this arc to get? And knowing Francis is about to embark on a romance of sorts with a character played by True Blood’s Rutina Wesley, how will that work? What can you tease?
You know what, we really do honor the book, and so you see the full extent of that tragic love story. To me, really, the crimes aside — and remember, I never actually had to portray any of the crimes, so I suppose I compartmentalized them — Dolarhyde and Reba represent a tragic, romantic love story, which really doesn’t end well and escalates into a Shakespearian opera of the proportions that Thomas Harris really explores in the novel.

MR. ROBOT -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rami Malek as Elliot, Christian Slater as Mr. Robot -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

In other summer genre shows, Mr. Robot was better this week after its one-episode slide when it spent far too much time on Elliot’s drug trips last week. Remember, Mr. Robot is the show which has no robots–its entire cast is human. The other top new genre show of the summer, Humans, is about robots. This is by far has been the best of the genre shows of the summer (although Hannibal might compete now that it is moving onto the Red Dragon storyline).

Humans is highly recommended but I am not writing about the episodes to avoid any risk of spoiling the story. I am watching by downloading the episodes from the U.K. where the show is ahead of the US episodes. So much is revealed every week and I do not want to discuss episodes airing in the US with my knowledge of what is revealed in subsequent episodes.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is in the same situation as I completed the series a couple of weeks ago from downloading UK episodes. It is also recommended.

Sense8

The same issue is present for shows on Netflex, which different people watch at different times. I held off on starting Sense8 due to variable reviews of the early episodes, but I did begin to watch after reliable sources advised that the first couple of episodes start slowly to introduce the characters, but the show becomes much more interesting once you get into it. I am quite intrigued by the story, which reminds me of the early episodes of Orphan Black, when viewers initially did not know what was going on at all. As I still have several episodes to go, I still wonder if they will satisfactorily explain what is happening.

The show was created and written by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. Both have created excellent work with the first Matrix movie and Babylon 5. However after the initial setup, the two sequels to The Matrix were awful, and the explanation behind Babylon 5 was not entirely satisfactory. Complicating matters further, the show has a planned five year arc, and it is not known if Netflix will continue the show that long. At least there is a far better chance that Netflix will continue the show as long as there is interest than a network would.

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