Manners maketh a Cannibal


Hannibal Lecter. What’s in a name that inspires both awe and fear at the same time? If you had the power to give such a character an ending, what sort of ending would you give him? Would you wish him happiness? Death? Freedom? In the books, psychologists could not classify Hannibal-they said he was something else altogether.


The Cannibal who eats the rude for a living is a character that is as complex as they come. So complex in fact that his story has 3 different endings. No kidding. The books have one ending. The movies, another. And the TV show has yet one more. To sum it up, Hannibal’s “end” is only the beginning.

Ending #1 : A Cliff Fall is better than a Cliffhanger


TV Series Ending: Will Graham kills himself & Hannibal Lecter

MGM sold the rights to a Clarice Starling story to Lifetime which meant that Executive Producer, Bryan Fuller could not incorporate Clarice’s character into NBC’s Hannibal show. Since Clarice’s story takes place after Will’s and she goes on to become Hannibal’s love interest in the books, suddenly those subtle homosexual hints between Hannibal (played by Mads Mikkelsen)& Will (played by Hugh Dancy) occupying the overall tone of the TV show make sense since the TV character Will Graham had to assume the identities of both Will & Clarice.


Will Graham is only present in the first book Red Dragon while Silence of the Lambs & Hannibal introduces Clarice. In the book, Will is a pretty straightforward character with not much detail drawn into his personality and Red Dragon begins with a few years having passed since Will captured Hannibal.


What NBC’s Hannibal does is explore the series of events that took place before Red Dragon, essentially answering certain questions you tend to ask if you have read the books. Who was Garrett Jacob Hobbs? Why did Will kill him? Why did Will go to therapy? How did Will meet Hannibal? What sort of relationship did Will have with Lecter prior to knowing that he was a killer? How did Will catch Hannibal? Why did Hannibal mutilate Mason Verger? What went down in that therapy session with Margot and Hannibal? What is the background story of Dr. Alan Bloom?


All these questions are answered by the end of Season 3 which combines the stories of Hannibal Rising, Hannibal & Red Dragon, but with no Clarice to take the story forward, there’s only one thing that they could do. Kill them all. Yes even Hannibal. Especially Hannibal. Season 3 ends with Will Graham pulling Hannibal over a cliff with the sole intent of killing them both, since he comes to the realization that neither can live while the other survives (yes I quoted Harry Potter). Also probably tired of playing the “He loves me, He loves me not” game with Hannibal. It’s not easy being wanted by a Cannibal.


If NBC does not get Clarice, then its viewers don’t get Hannibal. Everyone’s pretty confused about the ending scene which shows Bedelia having cut off her own leg and serving it for dinner at a table set for 3.


Some people posit this means Hannibal and Will survive, while others hold that it is an ironic ending where Hannibal and Will die and Bedelia is expecting Hannibal to come back for her, so she makes a peace offering meal of her leg, which we now realize she did for nothing. I’m with the latter group. Somehow that ending has more meat.

Ending #2: What’s for dinner? You are.


Movie Ending: Hannibal is still at large and continues killing to this day.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Anthony Hopkins as an actor. But for me, he didn’t really cut it as Hannibal.  His portrayal of Hannibal is animalistic, cold and borderline creepy, which don’t get me wrong,that is what Hannibal is. However when I watch the movies, I feel Hannibal is more like a rabid dog that will bite your head off.


Hannibal is nothing if not controlled. You never see him coming. For a psychopathic killer who can’t even be classified by psychology there is a certain degree of charm and charisma under his cleverness and killer attitude that allows Hannibal to fool the human mind into thinking he is as harmless as a mouse.


When I look at Anthony Hopkins portrayal of the character, I’m like sure that guy belongs in jail. He’s got evil embedded in his voice and his manner seems a tad aggressive. Oh and don’t forget the popping eyeballs and snivelly sneer .


But when I look at Mads Mikkelsen’s character portrayal, I’m more like wait that guy’s a killer, no way! Let’s take an example. When Anthony’s Hannibal is speaking to Clarice in prison he sounds like a cat playing with a mouse. An evil, cold, aloof mentor.


Which again, don’t get me wrong he is. But when Mad’s Hannibal is talking to Will in prison you get the sense that Hannibal is wooing him while at the same time playing him. A calm mentor, lover, killer, friend.


You sense how dangerous he is more because the evil voice and physical aggression is lacking, it’s in his collected air and hushed tone.  Typically since Clarice & Hannibal are fated lovers, the wooing should have come out through Anthony’s Hannibal. But it didn’t. Neither with the young Clarice played by Jodie Foster (Jodie Foster is and always will be Clarice FTW) or the older Clarice played by Julianne Moore.


Why? Because the movie’s director Ridley Scott was unable to come to terms with the fact that someone with Clarice’s morality would fall for someone like Hannibal, since they have conflicting personalities and all. Clarice knew right from wrong. Hannibal was wrong. Hence Clarice could not land up with Hannibal.


The briefest hint of romance between Clarice & Hannibal comes off with that sloppish kiss which Anthony gives Julianne Moore in the movie, much against her will. Then since she handcuffs him and he doesn’t want to be caught by the police, he cuts off his hand. Wait what? Hannibal is one such character who is high on survival instincts, thank you very much. One thing he would definitely NOT do is let himself get caught or handcuffed much less cut off his own hand.


The TV series got it right when they showed Hannibal getting himself arrested rather than the FBI actually catching him. Will could track him and catch him but could never hold him till the FBI appeared. Not without hurting or killing himself. The last episode of Season 3 confirmed that.

The movie ending is slightly better than the TV series or worse depending on how you take it. Hannibal is shown feeding a small boy on an aeroplane the leftovers of Paul Krendler’s brain.

hannibal x4

This means his escape is successful, he is very much alive and if you aren’t eating a part of someone else’s human anatomy at his next dinner party, hosted under his new secret identity, you may well be his next meal.

Ending #3: And the Lion fell in love with the Lamb


Book Ending- Hannibal and Clarice heal each other and become lovers. They hide from the world together. Hannibal is alive and still at large, but does not kill anymore.

It was brave of the author, Thomas Harris to come up with an ending like this.The one question Hannibal keeps asking Clarice like a broken record player in Silence of the Lambs & Hannibal is if she can still hear the lambs screaming.


After rescuing Clarice from Mason Verger and his monstrous pigs, Hannibal keeps Clarice drugged and begins practising hypnotic therapy on her. Many readers cite that this is inhuman, since it’s against Clarice’s will but what does Hannibal really do? He practically helps her overcome every anger/ daddy issue she has- he makes her come to peace with whatever brutal deal life has met out to her. Probably because he knows better than anyone what it’s like to have your past haunt you and to let yourself be controlled by it. What’s more, he opens up to her about Mischa which I don’t think he has ever done before with anyone.


Yes, his game plan was to replace her personality with his sister’s Mischa, so that Mischa could exist in the world once more in Clarice’s body, but when Clarice asks him why he couldn’t house Mischa in his own body in place of his own personality, since his would be the more ideal host, Hannibal realises that at some point the drugs weren’t working on her anymore and that her personality was too strong to ever imbibe Mischa’s. And while Clarice couldn’t give him Mischa she gave him herself. Her love.


The bottom-line is however evil his intentions were he DID NOT go through with it. Could not go through with it. Because the part of him that loved his baby sister, found that he had it in himself to love Clarice. From the time he met her in Silence of the Lambs, he was already protective of her. He got Miggs to kill himself and murdered Paul Krendler because he saw them as threats to her. Indirectly he was also responsible for killing Mason and didn’t leave Clarice to die at the hands of Verger’s pigs. The fraternal love he felt for Mischa was already translating into a different type of attachment to Clarice.


Even in the TV series, Hannibal forms an attachment to Will, because he senses that like him, Will is different. Will’s condition allows him to walk in the shoes of killers and understand them. Throughout the series, Hannibal is trying to get Will to become like him and join him, he is looking for companionship. In his own way, he is looking for love & understanding and the only one who can understand him is Will. Hannibal’s motives in the TV series is darker because he is trying to make Will a killer, whereas in the books, Hannibal is looking for a Mischa replacement not a protege.


Coming back to the books, both Hannibal and Clarice are central characters who seek justice. While Clarice exercises this justice through the law, Hannibal exercises his brand of justice outside the law. Hannibal kills the way he does in honour of his sister.


As a child during WW2, a group of Nazi deserters force him to unknowingly eat his sister whom they kill to avoid starvation. When he matures he takes revenge for his sister, murders her killers and eats them in the same way they ate his sister. It’s his way of getting due vengeance. He keeps to this tradition even later on in his life because he has not truly let go of his sister. His main victims are oppressors who prey on the weak- these he places in the rude category. The other times he has killed or maimed others is when he is trying to avoid capture or preventing people from revealing his identity. Rapists, serials killers, thieves, sadists, sex offenders, pedophiles etc. are the main items on his menu. This is why his fandom loves him. Because the area of your brain that plays judge & jury agrees that most of the people Hannibal makes a meal of actually deserve it. Oh! Hannibal decided to “pick” your brain? You must have really been a bad bad boy!


Ultimately Hannibal accepts Clarice’s offer of love. Three years later when Barney spots Clarice and Hannibal at the Opera, the reader learns that they are still together. Everyone assumes that the only reason Clarice was still with Hannibal was because he was still drugging her but this isn’t true, because it is clearly mentioned that Hannibal had stopped drugging her and that when she came to herself there were some parts she chose to remember and parts she chose to forget regarding what Hannibal had done to her under the influence of drugs & hypnotism.

lick_by_quotidia-d4ppcdl (1)

We take this to mean that she forgave him and more importantly she chose to stay, which meant she acknowledged the fact that on some level she had always been attracted to him. The filial love she sought from her father who had been taken away from her too soon translated into the protective love she got from Hannibal as her lover. Although their middle ground is sex, we are given to understand that both of them share similar interests and passions. Clarice’s lambs are finally silenced and Hannibal does not see Mischa in his dreams anymore.


The book series ending strikes a greater chord with me than the movies or the TV series. With the movie or TV series ending, Hannibal either lives or dies a killer. But with the book ending, he finds healing and redemption in Clarice. It’s heartening because it goes to show that even a man like Hannibal who has committed atrocities in his past is capable of change and that with a little love, even lambs can tame lions.


To end in a manner that I think Hannibal would approve of, I hope this article had you eating your heart out!

Picture credits

Cover picture-Eat the rude

No name

Will & Hannibal

Hannibal Stag

Will kills Hannibal

Bloody Hannibal

Evil Hannibal

Smiling Mads

Anthony versus Mads

Anthony and Jodie

As long as you’re mine

Clarice young & old

Hannibal stop scene

Hannibal handcuff scene

Hannibal surrendering

Hannibal movie ending scene

Hannibal and Clarice in love

Screaming of the lambs


Happy Birthday Clarice

Hannibal & Mischa

This is my design

Hannibal the Rising

Shut up Dr. Lecter

Hannibal, Clarice & the lamb

I heart Hannibal


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