Creator: Bryan Fuller
Stars: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne
Year Released: 2013
Based on the characters and story created by Thomas Harris, Hannibal takes the viewer to a time before the good doctor was a known serial killer and consumer of human flesh, we see Hannibal Lecter as a practicing psychiatrist and master of the culinary arts. He is perhaps a slight bit off-putting, his arrogance seems to radiate from him so that those around him sense it even if they do not know what it is, but surely that is just what one expects from someone at the top of their field, someone that oozes high society and class to the degree that they can tell the scent of high dollar perfume or cheap aftershave from a simple whiff.
Before I begin, I have only seen the first season of this show despite the second one still running strong. So, I can only comment on what has happened through the end of season one.
While the show is obviously meant to revolve around the character of Doctor Hannibal Lecter played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, we quickly realize that Hugh Dancy’s character, Will Graham (formerly played by Edward Norton), is the focus of the show (for this season at least). Graham is a special investigator for the FBI, but that is secondary, what is really remarkable about this character is his ability to empathize with murder victims to the point where he can actually “sense” the events of their death and by being at the scene and looking at what the result of the encounter was, recreate the events through a combination of deductive reasoning and this innate ability that he has.
This ability is the thing that makes this show pure magic, Graham’s recreation of the murders in his head are presented to the viewers on the television screen and we get to see what he sees, in all its awesome and bloody glory. These scenes are generally presented in a darker picture with colors appearing more vivid than usual, blood in particular seems to draw the eyes as it splashes and pools. It is here, in these moments, that we feel most involved in the show, these glimpses of the work of a serial killer bring us into the mind of both Graham and the killers he is hunting.
Which brings me to the directing and filming of this show, absolutely amazing! The cinematography is so well done, each scene perfectly framed to keep the viewer aware of what they need to be aware of without allowing the eyes to get distracted. The use of color is very well done, most of the palate is dark and pale but when color is called for it is there. The use of light in particular creates a very Gothic aura of suspense, the shadows seem deeper than possible and motes of dust in beams of light suggest rooms untouched for decades, secrets within free to run loose.
For me, AFTER the visual beauty comes the actors themselves. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen both astound with the portrayal of the respective characters. As I said before, Hannibal wears arrogance as a second suit and Mikkelsen makes the reactions of those around him believable, so much so that you have a hard time believing he is a serial killer, possibly serving his victims to his guests at dinner parties, but then you look in his eyes and there is no doubt, it can chill the bones. Hugh Dancy on the other hand makes you feel like you are on the verge of loosing your sanity, that with every crime scene you visit you are one step closer to walking into traffic, but his convictions are so strong, his desire to see justice for the victims so apparent that you want to see him wearing a suit of armor and riding a white horse, because you see it in the acting, this is Hannibal’s polar opposite because we never doubted his heart of gold or his fallibility.
As for the rest of the cast; everyone fills their roles nicely but no one really stands for me, with two exceptions: Laurence Fishburne, I feel this casting choice was more for the name than anything. His character is important to the story (essentially Graham’s supervisor) and I enjoy that presence, but Fishburne over acts and everything so damn dramatic coming from him that I cannot tell if he is being serious or not because no one can be so theatrical all the time, tone it down man. Then there is Gillian Anderson, an eternal beauty and fantastic performer. She plays the role of Lecter’s own psychologist and friend as well. I have enjoyed every scene with her, from the times that she pokes into the mind of Lecter to the times that she reminds him that when he is seeing her in her office, SHE is the one in control.
I am really enjoying this show, I am actually amazed this is an NBC series, I would have guessed HBO or Showtime. Every episode has given me something to think about as I wait for the next one to be ready to play, every episode has given me a moment where I doubted my own idea for how the story plays out. So far my favorite would be “Amuse-Bouche”, where we find a killer that buries his victims alive so that they might feed the mushrooms, fungi that he feels are more meaningful than the people around him, excellently creepy and well done.
The low point for me so far would be when Hannibal first spots Tobias in “Sorbet”, the moment their eye lock you can tell they identify each other as a killer. This should have been cut or re-shot to be FAR more subtle. Personally, I was so annoyed at that scene that even the excellent way in which Tobias is further handled left me less impressed.