With NBC’s Hannibal recently having finished its (way-better-than-anyone-had-any-right-to-expect) first season, now is the time to look toward the future. The brains behind the show Mr Bryan Fuller has made no secret that he wants this show to get seven seasons in order to tell a complete Hannibal story: seasons 1-3 being original material/setup, season 4 being Red Dragon, season 5 Silence of the Lambs, season 6 Hannibal and a final season of original material to wrap up Hannibal’s story. This would leave a notable omission in terms of a modernised version of Hannibal Rising but given the fact that Bowie (!) has been approached to play Hannibal’s uncle and that the first episode of Season 2 already has a title which intentionally references Japanese cuisine, it would seem safe to assume we’re going to be getting that story sooner than we thought. Suffice to say, this would be nothing short of amazing if the show can indeed manage to last seven seasons. And if they can maintain the quality of season one going forward. And if they can somehow convince MGM to share. And if the rival show MGM have sold the rights for Lambs to, sinks. Oh yes, we’re facing another Sherlock/Elementary situation here but this one is a bit more muddled.
Here’s the skinny, the suits behind Hannibal are in charge of the rights to Red Dragon, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising and any characters which originate/are unique to those stories BUT Silence of the Lambs is in MGM’s hands and this will prove problematic if/when the show reaches a fifth season. Because they can’t use Clarice or Buffalo Bill. This means that the Hannibal version of Silence of Lambs can’t be called that and none of the characters can be used. So we can all look forward to Lilence of the Sambs featuring Slarice Ctarling (Fhtagn?) and Buffalo B-… Ok that one may require some creativity. Came Jumb? (Ew)
While we can hope that four years from now the situation might have changed, we’re already seeing the effects and being given a glimpse of what a copyrights-less version of Silence of the Lambs would look like. Recall if you will two characters from this first season, Tobias and Franklin. Interesting characters, neat little mid-season arc, all good. Although one little thing stood out, didn’t Will’s pursuit of Tobias through his basement seem a bit… familiar? Well, it was supposed to because originally Fuller wanted Tobias to be Jame Gumb and Franklin, Benjamin Raspail (aka, that head in the jar Clarice finds early in Lambs). That’s right; we were supposed to have had a Buffalo, motherfucking, Bill cameo in Season 1. Why were the names changed? Well both those characters are from Silence of the Lambs and MGM refused to give Fuller permission. He even tried to bargain and offered MGM permission to use Hannibal’s letters to Clarice… Wait, what? Why would MGM want permission to use those? Oh yeah, they’re trying to make a Clarice TV show.
Now before we break out the angry rage we have saved from when Elementary was announced (but then turned out to be surprisingly good), this situation is a bit different. Apparently this Clarice series has been in development and redevelopment hell for a few years now so it’s not quite the straight case of bandwagon-hopping that Elementary was. However now that Hannibal has proven so successful, Clarice being picked up properly (and soon) seems worryingly likely.
Now if this Clarice show had been announced before Hannibal had come along and turned out to be so damn good, it probably would have been met with a certain amount of applause (I know I would have been excited). And much as I love Clarice as a character and would quite enjoy seeing her exploits in a full series, battling serial killers and the office-place sexism of the FBI, it would never feel right. Despite how interesting she is, she’s only at her most interesting when contrasted with Hannibal and vice versa. Her attempts to be this upstanding, virtuous character only get truly interesting when we see Lecter get inside her head, when he shows us there is a darker, angrier Clarice in there and of the course the ending of the original Hannibal novel explores this idea to its logical conclusion. But Hannibal himself is elevated by her. Sure, he’s this ridiculously posh, calculated and merciless killer but that can only get you so far character-wise. It’s his strange infatuation with Clarice (is it paternal? romantic? a mentor-student dynamic?) that makes Silence of the Lambs so interesting.
These are the issues being explored in the current series between Hannibal and Will, just minus the heavily implied romantic undertones that exist between him and Clarice. Yes I know there’s undoubtedly pages of disturbing fan-fic, that I never want to see, reading far too much into every time Hannibal so much as places a hand on Will’s shoulder but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. This is why a Clarice show is a terrible idea on its own. By isolating it from the rest of the Hannibal-verse it will just end up as oddly hollow or (more likely) will end up bringing in a cheap knock-off of Hannibal (… I’ll not use the letter switch gag again, promise.) While Clarice is still interesting, she needs Lecter as her foil and this problem only gets worse in the reverse. Clarice will be a fresh series, if Hannibal makes it to season 5 these will be long established characters by then and Will will likely be gone. There will be a certain expectation that probably the second most recognisable character in the entire Hannibal canon is going to appear and be the true counterpart to Lecter. The one that, unlike Will, has the ability to be truly moulded by him and it will be… just some chick who makes a name for herself hunting some guy who probably won’t even be making a woman-suit because MGM probably have the rights to the skin-suit too.
Here we are in the golden age of television with two of the most memorable and interesting cinematic characters of that genre (yes, they’re literary characters first but they’re not quite as high up on that list, that field is a bit wider), both capable of carrying their own television shows and being given the chance to do so. And yet, they’ll likely end up separated, always on one side of the screen but never together at the same time and likely flanked by crude, differentiated-for-copyright-reasons, imitations of the other. Both characters deserve better than that. Such treatment, as Hannibal himself might see it; it can only be considered rude.