Hannibal Lecter’s Monstrous Return: The Horror of Seriality in Bryan Fuller’s ‘Hannibal’

Chapter co-authored by Jessica Balanzategui, Naja Later, and Tara Lomax.

In Becoming: Genre, Queerness, and Transformation in NBC’s Hannibal, edited by Kavita Mudan Finn and EJ Nielsen. Published by Syracuse University Press (July 2019).

Available at Amazon

An interdisciplinary collection of essays analyzing and dissecting the NBC series Hannibal (2013-2015), focusing on its manipulation of genre, its emphasis on queerness — in terms of sexuality and narrative —and transformation not just of source material but also as a major thematic arc.

The NBC series Hannibal has garnered both critical and fan acclaim for its cinematic qualities, its complex characters, and its innovative reworking of Thomas Harris’s mythology so well-known from Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs (1991) and its variants. The series concluded late in 2015 after three seasons, despite widespread fan support for its continuation. While there is a healthy body of scholarship on Harris’s novels and Demme’s film adaptation, little critical attention has been paid to this newest iteration of the character and narrative.

Hannibal builds on the serial killer narratives of popular procedurals, while taking them in a drastically different direction. Like critically acclaimed series such as Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, it makes its viewers complicit in the actions of a deeply problematic individual and, in the case of Hannibal, forces them to confront that complicity through the character of Will Graham. The essays in Becoming explore these questions of authorship and audience response as well as the show’s themes of horror, gore, cannibalism, queerness, and transformation. Contributors also address Hannibal’s distinctive visual, auditory, and narrative style. Concluding with a compelling interview with series writer Nick Antosca, this volume will both entertain and educate scholars and fans of Hannibal and its many iterations.

Chapter 3: “Hannibal Lecter’s Monstrous Return: The Horror of Seriality in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal,” by Jessica Balanzategui, Naja Later, and Tara Lomax.


Hannibal Lecter’s propensity for serial murder has always been central to the horrors of the numerous Hannibal texts, from Thomas Harris’s novels to film adaptations and more recently Bryan Fuller’s television series Hannibal (NBC, 2013–15). In the latter, seriality is foregrounded and embellished in ways that render the characteristics of serial form, such as repetition, liminality, and return, significant components of Lecter’s monstrosity. Hannibal embeds the uncontainable seriality of Lecter’s monstrous violence into the text’s form and themes in a way that torments the viewer in tandem with Lecter’s murder and cannibalism. This analysis examines the relationship between serial murder and serial narrative as it pertains to questions of monstrosity, cultural anxieties about repetition, and the aesthetic devaluing of seriality.

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