The Best (And Most Disgusting) Murder Sculptures In Hannibal
NBC's Hannibal featured some of the most brutally beautiful murders on TV. Here are our favorites.
NBC's Hannibal was unlike anything on TV. Created by Bryan Fuller and running for three seasons between 2013 and 2015, it pushed boundary after boundary on mainstream network TV by being not only super experimental and borderline psychedelic, but also deeply disgusting. The gore in Hannibal came in many forms--sometimes the murders were just murders, but most of the time, they were whole art pieces that the episodes themselves centered around. Through the first and second season, the show turned the procedural formula on its ear, leading its cast through murder-of-the-week style investigations that featured blood-soaked, organ-exposed "sculptures" created by some of the most brutal murderers fiction has ever offered.
Almost every murder came with its very own meal preparation scene, care of Hannibal (Mads Mikkelson) himself. These were decadent, cooking show-worthy bits featuring Mikkelson elegantly slicing through raw meat of "indeterminate" (i.e. human) origin to prepare grand banquets for his friends and colleagues. The combined effect was both disturbing and incredibly beautiful. It also, unfortunately (or, uh, fortunately, if that's your thing) tended to make the murder sculptures themselves look almost appetizing, despite the fact that they were objectively gut-churning. Score one for visual associations.
While Hannibal has tragically been off the air for nearly five years, now is the perfect time to revisit old favorites to remind ourselves what made them so special. And, naturally, when revisiting Hannibal, the murder sculptures are the things most likely to stick in your mind. So we've picked out our favorites for a bloody but undeniably beautiful trip down memory lane.
1. Mushroom Garden
Hannibal really hits the ground running. In episode 2 of season 1, Will investigates a human mushroom garden--complete with a corpse that is mostly decayed, but still "alive" (sort of). It's not exactly art, but it's certainly memorable--and disgusting.
2. Bee People
A sort of spiritual successor to the mushroom garden, Season 2's human beehives were just awful to look at. It got even worse when one of the would-be victims, eye-less and partially lobotomized, showed up still alive.
3. Saber-Tooth Man
By Season 2, Will was really going through some hard times--hard enough that he was willing to not only kill, but get pretty artistic with it, just like Hannibal himself. Will murdered Randall Tier and then mounted his body on the skeleton of a prehistoric bear. We have to imagine that Hannibal helped.
4. Human Turducken
The Thanksgiving food abomination that puts a chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey got its own horrific, human incarnation in Season 2 in the form of a bird inside of a human inside of a horse. This one was gruesome but also tragic--the man behind the, uh, artistic aspect of the bodies wasn't actually the murderer, but a mourner trying to "honor" his lost friend.
5. Tree Man
At first, Season 2's Tree Man is actually pretty tame--or as tame as Hannibal usually gets. It's exactly what it says on the tin: a human corpse impaled on a tree. Things start to get really disgusting when the forensics team starts examining the body and realizes that the corpse wound up this way through a series of very surgical incisions that allowed the tree roots to grow through the victim's body, presumably while they were still alive, for several months. Does it make any sort of scientific or medical sense? No. But it sure does look cool.
6. Dragonfly Man
Another Will masterpiece, he transforms the corpse of the man who killed and ate Hannibal's sister into a "dragonfly" covered in snails. It's surprisingly disgusting--and weirdly complicated--but it certainly does get Hannibal's attention, which was the goal all along.
7. Human Totem Pole
In an episode all about legacy, the human totem pole was a brutal and efficient reminder that sometimes even your most painstakingly crafted plans can blow up in your face. It's gross, sure, but it's also tragic. Bonus.
8. Sacrificial Stag
Technically Hannibal's first onscreen kill of the series, the body of a young girl was skewered on the severed head of a stag in order to "show Will the negative" so that he could "see the positive" of Garret Jacob Hobbs. This represents the first instance of Hannibal's infamous stag motif and the moment that earned Hobbs the nickname the Minnesota Shrike.
9. Chilton's Torture
This one is technically a three-for-one (kind of). Chilton doesn't technically count as a murder sculpture since all three of his fantastically horrifying near-death experiences ended with him, miraculously, surviving, but we've got to give it to both Gideon and Dollerhyde in seasons 1 and 3 for creativity.
10. Blood Eagles
This is arguably one of the most famous Season 1 kills. The fact that the two nude victims had their backs flayed and hung on fish hooks was totally fine, the fact that you could see their naked butts, however, was not. To circumvent this problem, creator Bryan Fuller related an anecdote at San Diego Comic-Con's first Hannibal panel. He simply had the special effects team "censor" the corpses' behinds with rivers of blood.
11. Glasgow Smiles
Poor Georgia Madchen suffered from a bizarre psychological condition that prevented her from recognizing people's faces, which, naturally, manifested in a need for her to try and remove their "masks." To do so, she'd carve her unwitting victim's heads back starting at their jaw, resulting in a grisly "Glasgow Smile" style murder. Hannibal himself mimicked this technique on a doctor pal of his.
12. Human Cello
Sometimes cat gut strings just aren't enough to produce the right sound. Serial killer Tobias Budge transformed a member of the symphony into a "human cello" by flaying his throat and wedging an instrument neck down his esophagus. The end result provided some of the most haunting sound design in the entire show.
13. The Judge
If there's one thing Hannibal loves more than eating people it's symbolism. He murdered and strung up the judge handling Will's trial during Season 2 in his own courtroom, posing him as the scales of justice with his brain removed.
14. Dissected Beverly
Beverly Katz suffered one of the most traumatic deaths of the series when she got too close to uncovering the truth about Hannibal in Season 2. This left her cut up and displayed in slices between glass panels, kind of like you'd see in a science museum--appropriate, in a horrifying way, for a forensic scientist.
15. The Eye Mural
At first brush, the eye mural doesn't seem like the most gory tableau in the show--it's just a bunch of bodies posed in circles around one another. It becomes disgusting when one of those bodies turns out not to be entirely dead and rips--and we do mean rips--himself out, tearing giant chunks of skin away from his arms and legs.
16. Wound Man/Wound Nurse
The sagas of Miriam Lass and Abel Gideo were bizarre and complicated in their own ways. Miriam's story started with the murder that tipped her off to Hannibal's identity, a corpse skewered with different weapons echoing a piece of art Hannibal did known as "wound man." Gideon's began with a similar moment, though he replicated the "wound man" tableau on a nurse at a psychiatric facility while he believed himself to be the Chesapeake Ripper.
17. "Heart" Man
There aren't quite as many proper murder sculptures in Season 3 while Hannibal is well and truly on the run, but he still makes time for a handful, including the smug, arrogant professor Dimmond, who he "transforms" into the shape of a giant, sword-skewered heart as a gift for Will. How romantic.