TV Recap: Hannibal, Series Premiere

justin matchick enjoys a nice bottle of chianti …

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Bryan Fuller has never exactly had the best luck with finding an audience. His past three shows have all been critical darlings but struggled to find any significant audience. Dead Like Me, Wonder Falls, and Pushing Daisies are all among some of the most underrated and under-watched shows of the past decade. Last year’s Munsters reimagining Mockingbird Lane got kicked around by NBC before they finally decided to only air the pilot as a one off special. Fuller needs a hit and he needs one badly. Everything seems to be on the line for Fuller with his newest series, NBC’s Hannibal.

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Hannibal follows the exploits of FBI criminal profiler Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy. Graham is incredibly adept at thinking like a serial killer and predicting their next move, yet the increasingly disturbing nature of his cases leads the FBI to bring in Dr. Hannibal Lecter to help with the cases and help with Graham. The series takes place before the events of the films Manhunter and Red Dragon, so we are able to see the beginnings of the twisted relationship between Graham and Lecter. Similar to Bates Motel, this is a prequel to an incredibly popular horror franchise, yet it’s able to capture the look and feel of the film series much better than Bates does.

Despite the title of the show, Graham is the real main character here with Lecter acting as an intimidating specter on the periphery. Dancy must fill the shoes of two actors who have played Graham before, William Petersen in Manhunter and Edward Norton in Red Dragon. Here Darcy plays up the Asperger’s and socially stunted aspects of Graham, portraying him as a man disturbed by the fact he can more closely empathize with serial killers than anyone else. He seems to hate how good he is at his job, as he is able to enter the mind of a killer with incredible ease. One of his first big cases is investigating the disappearances of eight college girls in and around Minnesota. The disturbing nature of the case is ramped up once he comes to the realization that the killer is eating parts of his victims, which greatly disturbs Graham. This causes his superior, Special Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), to seek out a forensic profiler and psychologist to assist with the case, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

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Dr. Hannibal Lecter is arguably one of the most iconic movie villains of the past 25 years, and Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar winning performance as him in Silence of the Lambs is one of cinema’s most disturbing. Mikkelsen isn’t able to give a performance as commanding as Hopkins’ (in all honesty nobody could ever hope to match Hopkins’ intensity as Lecter), but he is still able to send a chill up my spine as he calmly slices up and cooks a woman’s lungs. He has a steely gaze that compliments his relaxed and confident demeanor as he attempts to befriend Graham while he assists with the investigation. Even though he isn’t exactly the main focus of the plot of the series, Lecter gives off such a terrifyingly hypnotic vibe that even a reduced screen time cannot reduce his presence which is felt even in scenes where he does not appear.

The visual style of the show is full of stark contrasts and bold colors that give it a dark tone while still making it appealing to the eye. This is no doubt thanks to the direction of Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night director David Slade. The show features some very bloody and gory scenes of murders and autopsies, yet it never feels exploitative in the way shows like The Following seem to revel in gory murders. The disturbing tone of the investigations is offset by some pitch-black humor and surprisingly heartfelt scenes showing Graham trying to slowly become a more social person by picking up and looking after stray dogs.

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Dark, bloody, and boasting some terrific performances, Hannibal is arguably one of the best new series to premiere so far this year. There is still a lot of potential in this show that I hope will come to fruition over the next few episodes (and hopefully few seasons). Bryan Fuller has already said he would at least like the show to last until season four so they can incorporate the actual plot of Manhunter/Red Dragon, and personally I hope they reach that point. Although we may never see Hopkins in the role that made him world famous ever again, it’s nice to know that there is a worthy addition to the Lecter saga in Hannibal.

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