Thursday, June 27, 2013

(TV) Serial Killers On The Loose

This season networks launched the prequels to two well known serial killer movies. Both A&E and NBC launched the prequels to Silent of the Lambs ‘HANNIBAL’ and Hitchcock’s Psycho ‘BATES MOTEL’. So which one killed it?!

To start it is known that both series Bates Motel and Hannibal were picked up for a second season. Both shows achieved high ratings. For A&E Bates Motel was the most successful launch to date. After the success of Dexter, series about serial killers have become more popular than ever. It is smart to use a franchise like the Hannibal movies and build on that already existing viewership.

In Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter supposedly helps FBI profiler Will Graham. Early on the viewer sees how Hannibal manipulates Graham and instead of helping him causes his downfall. 

In Bates Motel Norman has moved to an isolated town with his mother to start a new life. His mother bought a rundown hotel. Even though the series is set in our time, the old hotel and Norman’s clothes gives a seventies feeling to the series. 

Visually Hannibal looks more sophisticated than Bates Motel. The conflicted mind of protagonist Will Graham is presented by nightmare visions and gruesome hallucinations. The writers use Graham’s hallucinations to portray his inner thoughts and the minds of the killers he steps into. 

Both series shine with a great cast. Hannibal is played by Mads Mikkelsen. Without question no one will be able to fill Hopkins’s shoes. But Mikkelsen gives a great performance nonetheless. His portrayal and challenging dialogues easily give you the chills.

In Bates Motel the main characters are well cast. Vera Farmiga gives a great performance as the neurotic mother.

The series writer aim for mind game dialogues between Hannibal and Will Graham .
In Bates Motel it is the mother, who is the main cause for young Norman’s conflicted mind. Putting him constantly under pressure and wanting more from him than a normal mother should.

Bates Motel explores the role the family plays in Norman becoming a serial killer. Clearly his conflicted mother is the main point of conflict, causing his psychological problems. Yet she herself is portrayed as a victim of domestic violence. It seems like an endless circle of family drama, ending in Norman the killer. 

Hannibal on the contrary focusses on mind games. Understanding different serial killers and their motives.

I question if both series rely on the famous movies that they are based on. Both stories would work without it and would give the writers more freedom to develop their own characters and endings. 

Without question for marketing it helps to use established and beloved, or shall I say feared, characters. Yet for a long running series, this leaves the writers with little freedom. 

Both shows don’t have the appeal a series like Dexter has. Both shows make you question how long the writers can come up with a believable storyline. Norman can’t continue killing without people getting suspicious. Or are both stories too predictable to keep the viewer hooked? The viewer knows where both characters are headed. It is no secret that Norman will eventually kill his mother and turn into a complete killer. We also know that Hannibal will be caught in the end. So is it the how the characters turn into those killers that has the most appeal?

No doubt both shows are great and have the potential to run for more than two seasons, if the writers come up with a way that will make the storyline not too predictable. Yet Hannibal shows more potential. Bates Motel is too much of a family drama. Will we really want to see a crazy mother for more than two seasons? Hannibal is more murder cased based and it is the character of Hannibal Lecter, which a series of successful movies have proven, offers enough material to keep viewers wanting more. 

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