Sep 19, 2013

[TV] Hannibal: Season 1

Not many movies make the transition to television well. Some concepts are just too big either others don't have enough material to work with in order to flesh out a full series.

When I first heard that they were making Hannibal as a TV series based on the Red Dragon novel, I wasn't sure what to think about the whole venture. Let's face it, we all know that I'm not much in favor of remakes, reboots and prequels in general - they seem to limit our overall creative potential since we focus on franchises that have already proven to make money somehow. But of course the entertainment industry is still a business and we have to consider those factors nonetheless.

But the show did get produced and the end result was...surprisingly good. And maybe not just good, but downright excellent. It's hard to believe that this is actually a US network television show given the rather mature themes, complex plot ideas and of course the implied violence of the show. And maybe that's what's helping it continue on as well as it has thus far.

Synopsis: Hannibal is a thriller drama series developed for television by Bryan Fuller for NBC. The series is based around the characters and plot elements featured in the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. The show has already been confirmed for a second season.

Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has a unique gift - the ability to empathize very well with serial killers. Just by viewing a murder scene, Will is able to get into the mind of the killer and recreate the murder scene in his head with vivid detail. This gift is what brings Special Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to him in order to solicit his aid in an investigation into a series of disappearances of college girls.

This eventually brings in Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a noted psychiatrist who is there to help Will with his investigations as one to provide additional insight and to also ensure Will's empathic abilities do not overwhelm him. However Lecter's interesting in Graham is a bit more than just professional as he senses a somehow kindred spirit - especially given Lecter's own dalliances in less than savory acts.

For those keeping track, all episodes in this first season of the show are named after an element in French cuisine. This reflects Lecter's character as being quite the connoisseur, although those of us who have read the books or seen the movies based on the books will know that his appetites are most peculiar.

As someone who loved Silence of the Lambs, I have to admit that a lot of my concerns about this show had to do with my unwillingness to see anyone but Anthony Hopkins portray the iconic role of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. But as early as the first episode of this series the writers had won me over with how they had fleshed out his character and more importantly how Mikkelsen brought him to life. Yes, he is a different Hannibal than the one we know, but he is no less striking or powerful in anyway. This was a brilliant casting choice and one that truly defines this series.

But to be fair, the show is full of amazing actors who all do well in their roles. Hugh Dancy as Will Graham is equally brilliant and he can hold his own in his scenes with a character as imposing as Hannibal. He's an odd mix of the sort of doe-eyed helplessness that you just want to cuddle and take care of and yet shifts into this rather intense and at times scary version of himself whenever he plunges into the minds of the killers he's trying to profile. The interplay between the two actors certainly captures a lot of the dramatic tension you'd expect more likely from a movie or something of that nature.

Apart from our lead actors, we can't ignore the fact that the series includes the likes of Laurence Fishburne and even Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, who is Hannibal's psychotherapist. It took me a while to fully realize that it was her and she certainly knows how to provide a perfectly cold and calm experience as she tries to remain impartial in her sessions with Hannibal. The show has also had some interesting cameos with actresses like Ellen Greene and Cynthia Nixon.

More than anything, it is the writing of this show that really brings everything together. The richness of plots and the complexity of the various characters is really why this show works so well, at least for me. Yes, the direction goes on to bring the scenes to life and depict a lot of the strange practices of the various serial killers in a manner that is practically an art form in itself. But the writing is really the lifeblood of this series and I am glad that the writers have been brave enough to take on such complex source material and translate things into a narrative that still works for television.

Hannibal is a dark and complex series that is more than just the FBI trying to catch serial killers. It is a story of Will Graham trying to come to terms with his own demons and his potentially darker nature and Dr. Hannibal Lecter somehow mentoring him in this latter aspect without him realizing it. The show rates a full 5 exquisitely prepared dishes out of a possible 5.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. my only complain is Mads Mikelsen's pronunciations and enunciations.

  2. Yes, he does seem to mumble a bit, huh? LOL