I review the first season of NBC’s psychological horror series, Hannibal, starring Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy and Laurence Fishburne. The first two seasons are currently available to buy on DVD, and the third premieres early 2015.
As a general rule, I tend to avoid horror. Or at least, I did tend to avoid horror, and whilst that rule applies to a certain extent to movies still, I’ve really increased watching the genre when it comes to television. Supernatural, Sleepy Hollow, Constantine, The Originals (all to a certain extent, as they rely more on action), American Horror Story, The Strain and Penny Dreadful have all been horror shows that I’ve been watching and I suppose you could probably include Buffy in there as well. One of the strongest of the shows that I’ve recently branched out towards has been Hannibal, which serves as proof that US network television can produce masterpieces once in a while (I also point people who have lost faith in US network TV to Person Of Interest as another example), and if you end up watching this show, you’ll be surprised to see that it’s come from NBC, a network that has given us The Blacklist, Chicago Fire/PD, and the like in the past and continues to do so. It’s clearly more at home on a network like FX or Cinemax, but that doesn’t stop Hannibal from being able to pull off all the stops when it comes to gore and horror, with it being one of the most gruesome shows on television (along with The Knick).
The show is essentially a prequel to Silence of the Lambs, a movie which sadly to this day I still have not seen all of, and frankly, I don’t want to until this show finishes in order to have the ending unspoiled. I’m going in dark, and not knowing who will survive,(apart from a select few characters) and now that I’m caught up I can avoid spoilers altogether, making the experience a lot more awesome and unpredictable, because damn if this show isn’t one of the most unpredictable series on network television right now, with it not being afraid to kill off major characters.
Our main protagonist in the series is Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a gifted criminal profiler who has a unique way of breaking down crime scenes, and can emphasize with anybody including serial killers. He’s recruited by Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to aid him in cases, which are often gruesome and gory in nature. Whilst yes, this is technically a case-of-the-week show, at least in its first season, there is a main ongoing narrative arc that runs over the course of the series, making each episode unmissable. In fact, each episode is too good to be unmissable, with a spectacularly high level of quality.
After the introduction of Will and Jack, it doesn’t take us long to meet our third major character, Hannibal Lecter himself. Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen), most people will know even if they haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs is a cannibal who eats human flesh and constantly leads the FBI on a wild goose chase as they hunt for the main, mysterious villain of the series, the enigmatic Chesapeake Ripper, who remains elusive and uncaught for most of the series. Hannibal himself sees an opportunity in manipulating both Will and Jack to suit his own needs, and as we progress through the course of the series we get to see the extent of Hannibal’s methods and tactics unravel before our eyes. It’s great to watch, and the characters really do grow and develop over the course of the season, and by the end, it’ll be easy to see how they’ve changed from episode one.
The cast is fantastic and the acting talent on display is one of the finest I’ve seen on TV. Combining a veteran cast of movie and TV actors, the likes of Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), Hugh Dancy and Laurence Fishburne (Black-ish) all put on a fantastic performance and there’s some very good acting on display here. The chemistry between the lead cast is great, and there’s also some great interplay with the rest of the characters as well. We meet a variety of characters over the course of the series, including the likes of Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavemas), Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park) and Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) who all play pretty good roles in the series. There’s no weak link in the show, which is fantastic when you consider how common that is on most shows nowadays.
The visuals and effects are superb. The gore and blood effect never feels cheap and everything is handled spectacularly well. The series creator, Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me) gives Hannibal lots of room to grow and continues to make it one of the best shows on television with some great creative work in play. The various murders that Jack and Will chase after never feel repeated and there’s always something new to uncover.
The repercussions of the ‘cases of the week’ always feel relevant and as a result there’s never anything that feels like a filler episode. They’re always exciting and always of good quality as well, as the series continues to build to a fantastic ending that really is one of the strongest cliffhangers that I’ve seen. I know how it is resolved as I have seen Season 2 whilst typing this (in fact, I finished it only recently) but I won’t spoil it here for you. It’s darkly compelling and incredibly well executed.
Hannibal then, is probably one of my favourite shows on television and certainly in the Top 10. If you don’t mind gore and violence (that really works, trust me), then this show comes with a high recommendation. At only thirteen episodes long, each roughly 45 minutes, it shouldn’t take you too long to get caught up before the start of Season 3 next year.