I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch NBC’s new serial killer drama Hannibal until I watched NBC’s new serial killer drama Hannibal and realized I wanted to watch it. Talk about Comedy Night Done Right. The series, something of a prequel to the Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter films (Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal) follows whacky dog-lover Will Graham and his cooking friend Hannibal Lecter on a series of hapless, slapstick misadventures helping the FBI solve murders that are really gross. It’s a simple enough premise but the execution is phenomenal. A dizzying attention to detail is paid to the cinematography, the score and the performances of the three main characters; Hugh Dancy’s Graham, Mads “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mads Mikkelson World” Mikkelson’s Hannibal and Laurence “Morpheus” Fishburne’s Jack Crawford.
Even before a pilot was filmed the show was allotted a 13-episode first season, a call NBC should be happy it made. Unfortunately, only 12 of those season one episodes will actually air. The series’ fourth episode, “Œuf” (pronounced “huh”) was pulled by NBC at the suggestion of creator Bryan Fuller due to what Fuller described in a statement to Variety as “the social climate.”
The unaired episode revolved around kidnapped children being brainwashed, then returned to their homes and killing their own families. You know, fluff. A sentence-long synopsis sounds pretty messed so theoretically the 44-minute episode probably wasn’t a walk in the park on a sunny day. In the wake of national tragedies like the Newton shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing the decision to pull the episode, which would have been a bit much under regular circumstances, is understandable for a major network, but it’s also illustrative of the timely nature of taboo in entertainment.
Early last summer amongst heaps of trailers preceding The Avengers and Prometheus I clearly recall being quite impressed with the trailer for the mash up of Scott Snyder and noir aesthetics that is Gangster Squad. It had Sean Penn, and I loved Mystic River. It had Ryan Gosling, and I loved Drive. It had suits and hats and I love Men’s Warehouse and Lids. It also had all kinds of badass tough guy shenanigans, including a clip in which the titular Gangster Squad fires a handful of tommy guns into a movie theater presumably filled with squads of gangsters.
After the events in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises the trailer was pulled and the film went into reshooting in the wake of the real life movie theater shooting. The scene had clearly been thought up and shot months before the events in Colorado and in no way served as a commentary to it. That being said, changing the scene was probably the right call given what Fuller aptly refers to as “the social climate.”
Let’s go back to 2009 and Quentin Tarantino’s Nazi-bashing epic Inglorious Basterds. Spoiler alert – the movie reaches its epic climax with a movie theater full of Nazi’s being lit on fire while two Jewish-America soldier’s turn Hitler and his best bros into Swiss cheese with machine guns. And it is awesome. But the level of vengeful justice is also turned up to 11 and the film came out in August of 2009, not September 2012 (Gangster Squad’s pre-reshoot release date).
But timing is funny like that. One year something is mild and entertaining and the next it’s wildly inappropriate. One year something is flat and droll and the next it’s cathartic and invigorating.
Just look at Zero Dark Thirty. Had Osama bin Laden not been killed in a discrete compound in Pakistan by Seal Team Six just under two years before that movie came out it sure would have been stupid. Don’t get me wrong, Kathryn Bigelow directed a tense tale of the globetrotting bureaucracy that is the war on terror, but the whole movie kind of sort of hinges on Osama bin Laden being taken out by American Special Forces in a spooky house. Luckily for Kathryn Bigelow and her movie that is exactly how that shit went down and Zero Dark Thirty is all the better for it.
Can you image if Zero Dark Thirty had come out and Osama Bin Laden wasn’t dead? He’d be all “I’m not dead, so yeah, two thumbs down.” But Bigelow got the timing just right and as a result her movie definitely received all of the accolades it deserved and wasn’t snubbed at all in anyway by anyone.
When you think of an artist or entertainer you admire it’s easy to imagine them tirelessly nitpicking ever scene, every track or every sentence of their work until it’s just perfect but in reality no matter how much attention to detail is paid to a piece of entertainment so much of how it is perceived by the world at large is entirely out of the hands of the creator, or even the consumer.
What it all comes down to is, I feel like I was gipped out of an episode of NBC’s Hannibal and I really want to see another episode of NBC’s Hannibal. So if we as a society, climate and all, could just pull together as one and find a way for me to watch that episode of NBC’s Hannibal I think we will all have learned something about ourselves and the fickle, powerful, timeless nature of time. And I will have learned about what happened in that episode of NBC’s Hannibal.