Not too long ago, it would have been absolutely unthinkable for a broadcast television network – required by law to operate “in the public interest,” and terrified of alienating viewers and advertisers – to propose a prime-time series making a hero out of a serial killer.
Yet today, TV is home to some half-dozen or more serial killer dramas. For shoving yet another depraved murderer into every living room in America, the May 23rd episode of NBC’s Hannibal (Thursdays,10:00 p.m. ET) is the Worst TV Show of the Week.
In this sick episode, Will investigates a killer who created a totem pole of dismembered body parts from earlier victims. At the crime scene, Will and his boss Jack Crawford approach a gruesome tower of mutilated corpses tied together. Headpiece is the only new victim, the other bodies are composed of skeletal remains and rotting corpses which Crawford says are “years, even decades old.” “I guess it wasn’t enough to kill them once. He had to come back and defile his victims,” Crawford says.
As he does in every episode, detective/psychologist Will imagines himself as the killer. “I planned this moment – this monument – with precision. Collected all my raw materials in advance,” Will says, as a close-up shows severed legs and arms in a heap. “I position the bodies carefully, according each its rightful place,” as he ties together severed limbs, arms and legs, with bone exposed. “Piece by piece, with the pieces disassembled,” he says, and he lifts a severed arm and ties it to the pile of body parts.
“My latest victim, I save for last,” Will notes calmly as a living man, bound and tied on the beach, watches in horror as Will ties together the body parts. “I want him to watch me work. I want him to know my design.” Will slowly approaches the man, gleaming knife in his hand. He kicks the man in the chest, knocking him to his back. Will plunges a knife into the man’s chest, then watches him twitch and slowly die. Blood pools beneath the man. A heartbeat throbs on the soundtrack, then stops. The camera pans over the full height of the tower, constructed from decapitated, dismembered corpses and body parts, with the head of the latest victim at the top.”This is my body of work. This is my legacy,” Will gloats.
Later in the episode, Crawford’s suspicion settles on young woman Abigail, when he finds the body of Abigail’s stalker. Crawford is convinced that Abigail knows more about the murder. Meanwhile, Abigail has confessed to Hannibal that she helped her father, a serial killer named Hobbs, find other victims in order to protect herself. In flashback. Abigail sees the dead body of her girlfriend impaled on deer antlers, Then imagines the victims of her father, various young women sitting around her. Abigail imagines herself with huge with stab wounds, blood gushing out of her chest. Investigating Abigail, Will looks over the corpse of the latest victim. He imagines himself stabbing the man in the stomach. Then her imagines Abigail doing it. Ultimately, Hannibal convinces Will to keep Abigail’s guilty secret.
Before he was appointed to his current position as Chairman of NBC, Robert Greenblatt was the organizing force behind Dexter, Showtime’s series about a “charming” serial killer. Even though Dexter draws only a small number of viewers, Greenblatt apparently thought its sick, twisted, and grotesque imagery was worth shoving into every home in America. Or maybe it’s the only kind of program Greenblatt knows how to do. Regardless, serial killers should not be allowed to dominate television. For doing its part to be certain they do, NBC’s Hannibal is the Worst TV Show of the Week.
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