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In the TV show Hannibal Will Graham has this special ability to visualize how a murder is committed by taking on the murderer's perspective.

But when Will is presented with Hannibal's first murder victim, that girl impaled by Deer Antlers, we do not see Will doing his magic.

Is there any reason why he couldn't do it? (Apart from the obvious reason that the director wants to keep us intrigued.)

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TL;DR
Will was looking for the emotional motive in the murders, but Hannibal's motive lacks emotion. Will was looking for something that doesn't exist.


Will is an empath. He is able to recreate someone's emotional state of mind.

The simpler the emotion, the easier it is for Will to define it. If we take a simple example:

A woman and man's bodies are found lying in the same bed. They were killed with a baseball bat. The dead man is the brother of the woman's husband.

Most people would immediately understand what actions have likely transpired in this room, and would immediately peg the wife's husband as the likely suspect. We know that this is plausible, because we understand that catching your wife in bed with another man (especially someone you know and trust) can enrage you.

This one was easy. Cheating enrages the cheated-on spouse. Will's ability is much more refined than this easy example. Will is able to spot subtle elements that others miss or misattribute.
However, keep in mind that Will's ability (and efficiency) highly depends on the emotional complexity of the murderer.

Most crimes come forth from simple emotions: anger, greed, ... These emotions are easy to identify as they are very one-dimensional, e.g. a murder caused by anger is likely to have used excessive force on the victim (possibly even after they died/lost consciousness).

But Hannibal is not an simple man. He's not a mindless killer, nor does he kill out of passion, revenge, or any other basic human emotion. Hannibal's motive is curiosity. Curiosity is not an emotion; it is a rational thought.

Hannibal also layered his crimes. He set up a facade (presenting her on the antlers) in order to distract from the real reason he murdered the victim: to harvest an organ so he could eat it.
This initially sets Will off on the wrong foot, he initially looks for symbolism in the antlers (the mythical restorative nature of the antlers) which would suggest a personal connection between the murderer and the victim; this leads him down the wrong path for solving the murder. This facade is Hannibal's intentional design (pun intended).

Will was looking for the emotional motive in the murders, but Hannibal's motive lacks emotion. Will was looking for something that doesn't exist.

  • well explained. it is sad to see they terminated this show after only three seasons. – Yu Zhang Feb 28 '18 at 16:45

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