As a fervent fan of both the films based on the character Hannibal Lecter and the source material written by Thomas Harris, I found myself very excited at the prospect of a television series based on the relationship between the titular cannibalistic sadist and the man who would eventually catch him hiding in plain sight, the highly intuitive Will Graham.
When I heard that actors like Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, and Gillian Anderson had signed up to be a part of it, my anticipation became palpable, tempered only by the fear that this would be a short-lived cash-in on a mostly dead franchise. In that regard, I was happy to be mostly wrong.
Mostly, you ask? Well, unfortunately yes, for Hannibal may indeed be short-lived, I fear, due to its low ratings. I guess a graphically violent, intensely disturbing show about the most gruesome murders imaginable is a bit of a hard sell for the majority of NBC’s audience, but it is precisely this ugly subject matter and its unflinching portrayal that make Hannibal such an engaging weekly experience.
Although the writing can be clunky at times, and every so often you can almost hear the typewriter clicking in the background, Hannibal has slowly grown into one of the strongest, most exciting hours of television today. The first season’s “killer of the week” format has transitioned into a more serialized arc in its second season, and the addition of one of television’s finest cold opens, a knock down, drag out, all-or-nothing brawl between Hannibal Lecter and Jack Crawford, hints at amazing things to come.
In terms of visuals, you won’t find a single show on the air that beats Hannibal. This show looks fantastic at every conceivable moment, from its grimly horrifying crime scenes, to its recurring fancy meal preparation montages, to its gorgeous dream and fantasy sequences. The audioscape created by the show’s glorious use of music is only further icing on the cake.
Finally, however, the real reason to watch is the dynamic and demonic intensity of the Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter relationship. This is a meeting of minds with such depth and power that it carries the show to the upper echelons of greatness, even through its most debilitating moments of suspended disbelief. Theirs is a dichotomy which has grown from a tense, homoerotic fascination to a grueling chess match of intense psychological warfare. Watching these characters, portrayed expertly by British heartthrob Hugh Dancy and brilliant Danish performer, Mads Mikkelsen, interact with each other, even while buttering toast, would be a treat. Luckily for us, they get up to much more than that.
With a mere two seasons to catch up on, if you’re looking for something to fill the coming summer lull of quality television, you could do a lot worse than Hannibal. In fact, I venture, you could hardly do better.