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Killing must feel good to God, too. He does it all the time, and are we not created in His image?
~ Lecter on murder

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is the protagonist villain and title character of the TV series Hannibal. Like the literary and film versions of the character, he is a brilliant psychiatrist and a cannibalistic serial killer.

He is portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, who also portrayed Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, Gellert Grindelwald in The Secrets of Dumbledore, and Kaecilius in Doctor Strange.

Personality

In keeping with the typical depiction of the character, Lecter is highly intelligent and cultured, with refined tastes in art, literature, music, and above all, food. He has impeccable manners, and is so offended by rudeness that he makes a point of killing people whose poor manners offend him.

Early life

In this continuity, Lecter is from an aristocratic family in Lithuania, and was traumatized as a child when a villager murdered and cannibalized his beloved younger sister, Mischa. It is also suggested that, as a young man, he was the unidentified serial killer known as the "Monster of Florence".

As an adult, he became a surgeon before deciding to go into psychiatry. He also began murdering people he considered "discourteous", and prepared gourmet cuisine from their flesh. he is nicked "The Chesapeake Ripper" by true crime journalist Freddy Lounds on her website, TattleCrime.com.

In the series

Season 1

In addition to his regular practice, Lecter performs occasional freelance work as a forensic psychiatrist for the Baltimore Police Department. It is in this capacity that he first meets Will Graham, a brilliant but deeply troubled criminal profiler. Lecter is fascinated by Graham's ability to empathize with psychopaths, and becomes obsessed with the idea of turning Graham into a killer himself.

During their first case together - a serial killer named Garret Jacob Hobbs, known as the "Minnesota Shrike" - Lecter calls Hobbs as the police are arriving at his house, and warns him, just to see what will happen. in the resulting gun battle with the police, Hobbs kills his wife and cuts his daughter Abigail's throat before Graham shoots him dead. Graham fears that he enjoyed killing Hobbs, and goes into therapy with Lecter, just as Lecter had hoped he would.

The two form a tentative friendship as Lecter pushes the bounds of Graham's fragile psyche; among other things, Lecter prevents Graham from learning that he suffers from encephalitis so he can observe how a person with the disease would function.

They do have moments of genuine emotional connection, however: they both feel a paternal affection for Abigail and cover for her upon discovering that she was her father's unwilling accomplice; and they have a common enemy in Mason Verger, whom they both despise for emotionally and sexually abusing his sister, Margot.

At the end of the first season, Lecter reluctantly frames Graham for his crimes, including the apparent murder of Abigail.

Season 2

Lecter later exonerates Graham, however, by planting evidence at the home of their mutually disliked acquaintance, Dr. Frederick Chilton. Graham re-enters therapy with Lecter as part of a plan, concocted with his boss, Jack Crawford, to entrap and arrest him. Lecter is aware of the plan, but goes along with it because he finds the situation fascinating. He also increases his rivalry with Graham by making Dr. Alana Bloom, a psychiatrist whom Graham has feelings for, his new lover.

Lecter's psychotic former patient, Randall Tier, attacks Graham at Lecter's suggestion, and Graham kills him in self-defense - as Lecter had planned all along. Lecter helps Graham mutilate the corpse to turn into a bizarre "art piece" to make the police think that the "Chesapeake Ripper" is still at large, thus exonerating Chilton. Graham also fools Lecter into believing that he killed Lounds, and the two share a meal of what Lecter believes is her flesh (it is actually pork, and Lounds is alive and secretly helping in the plan to arrest Lecter).

Meanwhile, Verger enters therapy with Lecter to find out what Margot is saying about him. He grows suspicious of Lecter and Graham, however, and has them both kidnapped, intending to feed them to his prize pigs. Lecter manages to escape, however, kidnapping Verger and taking him to Graham's house. There, he gives Verger a hallucinogenic drug cocktail and instructs him to peel off his own face and feed the pieces to Graham's dogs. With Graham's tacit approval, Mason breaks Verger's neck with his bare hands, rendering him a horribly disfigured quadriplegic.

When Crawford finally has enough evidence to arrest Lecter, Graham calls and warns him. Lecter and Crawford engage in brutal hand-to-hand combat in which Crawford is severely injured. At that moment, Graham and Bloom come to Crawford's aid, and a very much alive Abigail - whom Lecter has been holding prisoner at his house for months - attacks Bloom, pushing her out of the window before Lecter slits her throat, killing her. He then stabs Graham in the stomach and leaves him to die as he escapes on a flight to Paris with his psychiatrist and lover, Bedelia Du Maurier.

Season 3

Months later, Lecter and Du Maurier are living in Florence, Italy, as "Dr. and Mrs. Fell", as Lecter had murdered the previous curator of the Caponi Library and taken his identity and job. Verger bribes an Italian police detective, Rinaldo Pazzi, to capture Lecter and bring him back to the U.S., but Lecter gets the better of him and kills him. He tries to leave Florence, but he is intercepted by Crawford, who engages him in another brutal fight, this time inflicting a thorough beating on Lecter, who nevertheless escapes.

Meanwhile, Graham, who survived being gored by Lecter, goes to Lecter's ancestral home in Lithuania and, with help from Lecter's family servant Chiyoh, kills the peasant who murdered Mischa years earlier, whom Lecter had held prisoner at the estate ever since. They both follow Lecter to Florence, where graham tries to capture Lecter, only for Chiyoh to knock him unconscious. Lecter attempts to perform a craniotomy on Graham, but is interrupted by corrupt police working for Verger, who bring them to Muskrat Farms, Verger's estate. Verger tells Lecter and Graham his plans for them: he intends to slowly torture Lecter to death and eat his flesh, and then graft Graham's face onto his own.

Lecter manages to escape his bonds, however, killing Verger's right hand man Cordell Doemling and freeing Graham. He persuades Bloom and Margot, who have become lovers, to "milk" the unconscious Verger's prostate for the sperm needed for Alana to conceive a child and inherit the estate left to Verger's heir by their late father. After Margot kills her brother, Lecter escapes with a wounded Graham, nursing him back to health. Graham allows Lecter to evade the police, but Lecter turns himself in so Graham will always know where he is. Lecter is found insane by a jury and institutionalized under Chilton and Bloom's care.

Three years later, Graham comes out of retirement to help the FBI catch a serial killer dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" who murders entire families, and asks Lecter for help creating a psychological profile. Lecter, who has been secretly corresponding with the killer, Francis Dolarhyde, sends him Graham's address in code, allowing the killer to attack Graham's wife and stepson. Lecter allows Bloom and Chilton to listen in on a phone call between him and Dolarhyde, but at the last minute tells him the police are on to him. Bloom punishes him by taking away his books and toilet seat, and confining him in a straitjacket and muzzle.

Lecter and Graham plan to draw Dolarhyde out by using the former as bait. Lecter is transferred to another facility and, as they had anticipated, Dolarhyde attacks the police convoy transporting him. Lecter and Graham escape, however, and go to a secluded cliffside cabin Lecter owns to wait for Dolarhyde. Sure enough, Dolarhyde attacks them that night, shooting Lecter in the back and stabbing Graham in the face. While they are both badly wounded, Lecter and Graham manage to overpower and kill Dolarhyde, with Graham cutting open Dolarhyde's chest and Lecter tearing out his throat with his teeth. Lecter and Graham then embrace and throw themselves off a cliff; it is left ambiguous whether they survive, although the final scene in the series portrays a bound Du Maurier dining on her own leg at a table set for three, suggesting that they are the other two.

Trivia

  • Mikkelsen and showrunner Bryan Fuller planned to subtextually portray Lecter as Lucifer himself in a human guise.
  • In a departure from other portrayals of the character, in Hannibal it is suggested that Lecter and Graham's mutual obsession is at least somewhat romantic in nature, albeit not necessarily sexual.

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