“Hannibal — A Bloody Romp Through Murder and Romance” by Amber Thomas

Picture it — a gritty, violent horror opera to the tune of lilting violins, wherein men can metamorphosize into anything from the feed for a mushroom farm, to the dining fare for an unknowing high society. This is the grisly world of NBC’s “Hannibal,” tragically canceled in the wake of its third season. Watching it feels as though you’re plunging into a blood soaked gore fest, conducted with perhaps a more tender hand than other such carnage filled media, like “Saw” and “Hostel.” But, beneath the wild, fantastical murders and indulgent displays of opulence hides a complete mastery of subtext, which expertly navigates the various nuances of mental illness, gentle homoeroticism, and at times, comedy.

“Hannibal” follows the tragic tale of intelligent empath Will Graham, who, while working for the F.B.I., unfortunately falls into the favor of extravagant serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. The show is not only made by the phenomenal writing, but also by the extraordinary characterization as portrayed by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen. As they further tumble into each other’s clutches, they play psychological games with one another, such as manipulating each other’s lovers, framing each other for murder, and inevitably falling in love, all in a way that appears entirely logical and conducive to their story. The nonsensical becomes reality, the macabre whimsical.

Viewers must thoroughly suspend disbelief to truly revel in the show’s genius — a cannibal named Hannibal making puns about eating people with the Director of Behavioral Psychology at the F.B.I.? Commonplace. A totem pole composed of numerous human remains? A regular Tuesday evening for Hannibal and Co. To quote Mikkelsen, “[Hannibal] finds the beauty of life right on the threshold of death.” The show serves as an exploration of the darkest facets of human nature, examined with a lens of normalcy, and almost reverence. Morbidity serves as an expression of love, or otherwise emotion for the characters, often composed with excruciating care, creating a chillingly addictive experience.

As humorous and witty as, “Hannibal” can be, it predominantly functions as a heart-rending examination of psychology, love, ethics, and humanity at large. Finding basis in Carl Jung’s dream theory and the unconscious desires of man, one’s understanding of themselves and others will be thoroughly enriched by the show, although through somewhat odd means. The concept of empathy is explored in the most painful of ways, and discussions of shattered teacups and time reversal will leave viewers dewy eyed, with a solemn reminder of the fragility of human relationships.

For those with strong stomachs, and who can handle some graphic imagery, “Hannibal” is an extraordinarily worthwhile endeavor to pursue. It is consistently shocking and ever beautiful, forever shifting my aesthetic tastes toward melodramatic opera and gourmet cooking.