Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Female Characters of Hannibal, and their Previous Incarnations

NBC's show Hannibal, now in it's second season, is doing a lot of things right. In my opinion, it has constructed a highly intriguing a prequel to the Hannibal Lecter movie franchise. It has also given us some kick-ass female characters, partly due to the fact that this show has gender swapped TWO of it's characters who were male in the original books and movies.

The Hannibal franchise has never been shy of tough female characters. Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster in the 1991 movie Silence of the Lambs, is an immensely powerful female role model. Now in the form of a TV series, Hannibal Lecter once more deals with challenging female characters.

Anyone who's seen the movie Manhunter, or it's remake Red Dragon, knows the name Freddy LoundsBoth in the original novel, and it's film version, Freddy is a sleazy reporter for the national tabloid The Tattler. He's offensive, he's morally bankrupt, and he weasels his way into police business, all in the name of his trashy publication. Played by the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Red Dragon, Freddy Lounds may be the most obnoxious character ever to grace the Hannibal universe. In Bryan Fuller's show, we get female Freddie Lounds, a Tabloid blogger for This incarnation is just as weasel-like, but much more likable. I see Bryan Fuller's Freddie as an ambitious journalist who genuinely believes she is reporting important news. She is not greedy like her former version, but she still obstructs police business and has it out for Will Graham. I don't hate her, but knowing what happens to Freddy Lounds, traditionally, I almost wish I did. I'm interested to see where Bryan Fuller takes Freddie.

Alana Bloom is another character who was originally a male. This one took me longer to realize because male psychiatrist Alan Bloom is not a major character, but merely mentioned in more than one Thomas Harris book. He is a colleague of Will Graham and Jack Crawford, and they ask for his expertise on at least two high-profile cases. In the TV series, Alana fills the same role, but proves to be a supportive friend to Crawford with a complex relationship to Will Graham. She is a female character I relish on-screen; she's real. Her walk is a confident swagger, verging on masculine. She refuses all wine Hannibal offers, asking instead for beer. Though she and Will Graham have feelings for each other, her role is far beyond that of "love-interest".

Beverly Katz, first seen in Red Dragon, is a crime scene investigator who, in the TV series, proves to be somewhat of a friend to Will Graham. She's pretty snarky, but keeps it professional. She ends up getting more screen time than the rest of the forensics team, and is called upon by Will more than once when he needs support. She's not warm and comforting like Alana, but she's definitely got Will's back. 

Bella Crawford is Jack Crawford's wife, played by Gina Torres. Bella is mentioned in the book Silence of the Lambs, as being the reason Crawford is distracted during the Buffalo Bill case. In the Hannibal series, she struggles with how much Jack puts into his work vs. how much time he focuses on her. She deals with her personal issues with a quiet strength, refusing to involve her husband, and letting him devote his energy to catching killers. Gina Torres is also known for playing another kind of strong woman as ex-soldier Zoe Washburne in the series Firefly. 

Bedelia Du Maurier is Hannibal Lecter's psychiatrist. Their relationship is professional, but highly complex. After a patient he referred to her attacked her, she has retired from practice. She now only treats Hannibal, who remains her patient because he feels responsible for her.
She is the only character I believe to be more intelligent than Hannibal himself. 
Dr. Maurier is played by Gillian Anderson who played FBI agent Dana Scully in The X-Files. This is extremely significant because X-Files creator Chris Carter based FBI woman Dana Scully on another fictional FBI woman; Clarice Starling. Full circle. Gillian Anderson is a powerful actress, and during her decade-long stint on The X-Files, Dana Scully became what is considered by many to be one of the best female television characters of all time.

The show is about serial killers, so it's likely that we may lose some of these awesome characters to less-than-savory ends. 
You better start watching Hannibal, if you haven't already, and enjoy them before they're gone.