There was much pre-hate towards Hannibal before it was even released. I was amongst those people. The films were so loved, especially Silence of the Lambs, that hearing it was a prequel made me groan. Prequel’s are what Hollywood usually turns to when there is no possible way to make a sequel to the original source material, so I was hesitant. Also, they made a prequel called Hannibal Rising and that wasn’t any good either. To my amazement, Hannibal did not only turn out to be a good show but a great one. Easily becoming one of the best new dramas of the year.
It had to be a daunting task for creator Bryan Fuller, whose previous works on Wonderfalls and Pushing Daises was the light at the end of this tunnel. I began to have faith in the project because this man has one of the most distinctive voices on TV and his projects are always worth checking out. I should also add that he worked on season one of Heroes, you know the one season that was good and didn’t suck. As Hannibal went on you could feel his passion for this project.
Another obstacle the show would have to overcome was its casting of Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins’s performance of Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs is one of the most iconic performances in the history of cinema and the actor who would take on that role would have big shoes to fill. Luckily, Mads Mikkelsen turned out to be a great choice. Though his accent made it difficult to understand what he was saying at times, he brought this calmness to the character, showing the character’s intelligence and his danger. At first he never came across as the obvious villain. Hannibal’s villainy was slowly introduced and not immediately dumped on the viewer. You always knew Hannibal was a monster but you never saw him commit any act of horror until you were deep into the show.
The real protagonist of the show is Will Graham. Hugh Dancy is absolute perfection in the role. He takes Will beyond the role of the eccentric yet skilled investigator you have seen before. This is a man who has a gift of being able to step into the minds of killers but that same gift has traumatic effects on him. Dancy is able to convey the goodness of Will Graham and how his special skills set could drive him to be a possible killer. Dancy’s portrayal of Will’s delusions and his slow eradicating hand on reality is what sells you on this character and allows for the audience to feel for Will Graham.
The rest of the supporting cast is also fantastic. Lawrence Fishburne is great as Jack Crawford, giving an incredibly engaged performance. Showing aspects of Crawford’s personal and work life. But the best bit of backstory was about Crawford using FBI trainee Miriam Lass to help find a dangerous serial killer. It wasn’t just a one off backstory but a story that showed the character’s true motivation and drive and was touched upon in later episodes. Another great addition to the supporting cast was Kacey Rohl as Abigail Hobbs. Abigail is the daughter of serial killer Garett Jacob Hobbs. On most procedural shows she would have only been in the one episode and then forgotten about but on Hannibal we see the entire psychological drama of what her father put her through when he was alive and the day he died, unfold as the season progressed. Her story was a huge part of season playing out in a satisfying manner. Abigail had secrets and her bond with both Hannibal and Will turned her into this mystery that you never knew whether she would become a killer or not.
The rest of the overall cast is strong. You have Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), playing the hard role of being Hannibal’s protege and Will’s colleague, making it hard for her to suspect the wrong doings of either men. Tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) is amusing and frustrating to watch. She weaved in and out of the story, witnessing some truly horrific things along the way. Hannibal’s own psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), is a mysterious character. She is able to give us an insight into Hannibal’s psyche.
Hannibal could have ended up unfolding as a traditional killer of the week style story, where Hannibal manages to keep his secret from Will for seasons but Bryan Fuller could sense my cynicism and completely proved me wrong. Granted there are several cases that Will and his team will solve through the course of the season but they aren’t unimportant. Many of the cases have serious repercussions in later episodes and many of the killers make a return. All the events in Hannibal aren’t self-contained to the episode they happened in, every event has an effect, either psychologically or story wise. Hannibal is a well constructed story with every detail meticulously thought out by the writers.
Along with, having great story and characters, Hannibal is one of the most visually stunning shows on network television. David Slade established the tone and artistry that would be the visual template for the rest of the season. Whether it is the way Will’s POV of crime scenes unfolding or his hallucinations or dreams. Also the food that Hannibal Lecter himself cooks looks delicious. It almost makes you forget that he’s eating people. On top of that, many of kills on the show are absolutely brutal and horrific but also brilliantly macabre. The crime scenes are shot as if they were pieces of art, but it never celebrates any of the violence onscreen. It is shocking that Bryan Fuller and his crew were able to show this much graphic content on NBC during primetime because I for one never thought they could.
The problems with Hannibal are really minor. The killings seen on Hannibal can be over the top causing us to question whether any of the kills can actually be pulled off. Granted it added great theatricality to the show but some kills are impossible to believe that a single individual caused them. Last one was how underused Jimmy (Scott Thompson) & Brian (Aaron Abrams) were. Besides some funny one-liners, they weren’t given much. Like I said minor flaws on a season that was practically perfect in every way.
Hannibal is one of TVs best new dramas. If you can handle the blood and gore, this show is a necessity to watch. Superb characters, a masterfully crafted story and great visual details. If you loved the films, you will definitely love this series. You can see Bryan Fuller’s respect for the films and the books in the many nods and references to them. What more can I say about Hannibal other than it’s perfect: the imagery, the story, the characters, the ending, all perfection. Hannibal shows that network TV can still produce programs of high caliber.
Score: 9.5 out of 10