Why We Love to Hate Mads Mikkelsen’s “Hannibal Lecter”

There is no denying that one of the reasons NBC’s Hannibal has garnered such a huge fan following is the performance given by the show’s behind-the-scenes antagonist, Hannibal Lecter, played expertly by actor Mads Mikkelsen. The Hannibal portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen is an enigma who is cold, cruel and infinitely curious—particularly about Will Graham. But what is it about Hannibal that has fans constantly calling for more? Let’s look at some of the top reasons that Mads Mikkelsen’s excellent performance as Hannibal is so memorable and easy to love (to hate!):

Reason #1: His carefree cruelty

It can be hard to write truly cruel characters without making them too over the top or ridiculous or laughable—especially in a modern TV age where violence on TV is not only commonplace, but somewhat overdone. Yet Mads Mikkelsen embodies his Hannibal with cruelty that is realistic and, at times, even down-to-earth in its simplicity. When Hannibal flips a coin to decide whether or not to save the life of someone who has overdosed in his office, we get a long, slow glimpse of one of the more horrifying aspects of Hannibal’s cruelty: he truly doesn’t care about human life and will save it or take it on a whim.

Reason #2: His (calculated) charm

Hannibal is cruel and undoubtedly viscous, yet there is usually something very charming behind the eyes of Mads Mikkelsen’s version of Hannibal. He is polite, he understands, he is intelligent, and he is able to make a positive impression on people—provided he isn’t trying to eat them, of course. This calculated, practiced charm gives Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal an edge above the rest. He is cruel—but he can certainly be charming about it!

Reason #3: His strange obsession with Will Graham

What are Hannibal’s real feelings about Will Graham? Does he truly regret setting him up for murder? Does he honestly believe that they are “friends” in any sense? From the beginning of the series, Hannibal’s growing obsession with Will Graham has helped pushed the story into deeper and more tragic and even depraved deaths. Yet this obsession is also part of the viewer’s love-hate relationship with Hannibal: even when Hannibal is deliberately setting Will up for murder, viewers can’t help but be fascinated by the myriad of reasons why Hannibal behaves this way towards Will. Check out the creepy show if you have a wireless internet connection at home.


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