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12 Reasons Why Mads Mikkelsen Is The Best Hannibal Lecter

July 8, 2020 3.6k votes 470 voters 27.1k views12 items

List RulesVote up the reasons that make Mikkelsen such a great 'Hannibal.'

Brian Cox, Anthony Hopkins, and Mads Mikkelsen have all taken up the elegant, poised, and devilishly charming mantle of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Though Cox and Hopkins are immeasurable in their respective roles as the greatest villain fiction has ever seen, Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal gives us far more than we bargained for. Mikkelsen told Hannibal series creator Bryan Fuller he "didn't want to play Anthony Hopkins or Brian Cox. He wanted to play Satan," redefining a character horror audiences were already so familiar with.

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter lives up to the challenge of revitalizing a role most would argue had already been played to perfection. Over the course of three seasons on NBC's Hannibal, he gives us a glimpse into the operatic, gothic romance that is his life in Baltimore surrounded by elite and powerful figures.

For his style, his recipes, and his relationship with Will Graham alone, Mikkelsen is the best Hannibal Lecter we never expected.

  • Photo: NBC

    Mikkelsen's Hannibal Can Conceal His Evil

    Dr. Lecter demonstrates empathy to gain insight into his prey. In order to best manipulate them, or truly devastate them, he has to learn what it is they're afraid of and what their desires are. Most people will only reveal such insights to someone they trust - someone they are close to. Someone like their therapist. In this case, it's essential that Hannibal is able to conceal his darkness. In Will's own words, "You have no traceable motive... which is why you were so hard to see. You were just curious what I would do."

    Abigail Hobbs is the first character to show us exactly how skilled Dr. Lecter is at hiding. He uses her trauma to control her, making sure he is the only person she can trust, and even convincing her to fake her own demise. 

    Hannibal is so confident in his disguise, in fact, that he throws a carnivorous dinner party at the beginning of Season 2. With Will pointing the finger at him, he still isn't afraid to feed the FBI those they are seeking justice for.

  • Photo: NBC

    Mikkelsen Modeled His Character On The Devil Himself

    In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mikkelsen said his character is "as close as you can come to the devil, to Satan." When we're first introduced to Hannibal in Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon, his criminal past is a mystery, and his personality is revealed in how he handles the case from behind bars. Mikkelsen's Hannibal, however, is free, allowing him room to explore how the character would operate without restriction.

    Mikkelsen drew his inspiration from a more fascinating, more unstoppable force than a generic psychopath:

    He's the fallen angel. His motives are not banal reasons, like childhood abuse or junkie parents. It's in his genes. He finds life is most beautiful on the threshold to death, and that is something that is much closer to the fallen angel than it is to a psychopath.

  • Photo: NBC

    Mikkelsen's Hannibal Exerts Total Emotional And Intellectual Control Over His Prey

    Abigail Hobbs is one of the most unlucky characters in NBC’s Hannibal. Not only was she born to a criminally psychotic father, but her adoptive dads, Hannibal and Will, only add to her trauma. Will unloads the guilt of taking Garrett Jacob Hobbs's life onto Abigail by trying to take his place, and Hannibal uses her toxic devotion to her father to convince her she had no other option but to follow in his homicidal footsteps.

    Abigail's tragic story provides the most direct evidence of Hannibal's skillful manipulation of his victims' emotional state of mind. He uses her trauma to convince her to cut off her own ear, run away with him, take hallucinogens, and push Dr. Alana Bloom out of a window. Ultimately, her downfall is her choice, but it's Hannibal who makes her believe she's making the right decisions.

  • Photo: NBC

    Viewers Can Sympathize With Mikkelsen's Hannibal

    Mikkelsen understands the central character must be someone audiences can sympathize with, even if he is holistically evil, an incarnation of the devil himself. He says

    If we are spending that much time with a character, we cannot just hate him... We have to have something that intrigues us. Even though he is the fallen angel, he is the devil, people have always been fascinated with that. 

    Viewers can relate to Hannibal's love of elegance and appreciation for "beautiful music, beautiful wines," and a good butcher.

    It's also clear he cares for Will Graham even in the face of his betrayal, as evidenced by the knife he drives into Will's stomach - an act of both punishment and mercy - and the fact that he later willingly sacrifices his freedom to be close to him. He might express his love differently than the rest of us, but his genuine affection for, and interest in, Will is an emotion most viewers are familiar with.