Hannibal - Review
When Hannibal Rising was released in 2007 to general public apathy, you’d be forgiven for assuming that we wouldn’t be seeing Dr Hannibal Lecter on our screens again anytime soon. Bryan Fuller, however, had other ideas. Fuller was the brains behind the criminally underrated TV show Pushing Daises and a writer on Heroes and he thought there was a space to fill in the Dr Lecter chronology. Lecter has, of course, been played by three actors over the years: Brian Cox was cold, calculating and chilling (and probably closest to Thomas Harris’s original creation) in Manhunter, Anthony Hopkins was more a pantomime villain with a penchant for the theatrical in Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon, while Gaspard Ulliel brought out Lecter’s inner surly child to show his teenage years in the disappointing Hannibal Rising. In Hannibal Lecter is played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelson and that could be the stroke of genius that makes this new show a winner.
Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is an FBI profiler with the uncanny ability to empathize with serial killers and get into their minds. He sees things that others can’t, which is demonstrated in a bravura opening sequence in which he deconstructs a bloody crime scene. Because of his awkward social skills, he has taken to teaching (“I talk, I don’t have to listen”) until the FBI come knocking in the shape of Laurence Fishburne’s Jack Crawford. A serial killer has abducted eight women, the FBI is at a loss and need his help. Hedging their bets, and on a recommendation, they also seek the help of Dr Hannibal Lecter to profile their killer. The two men must, reluctantly, work together to help solve the case.
Because we know how this all ends a little of the tension is removed. The two men are two sides of the same coin and in an original story we would be left to figure out which is which, but Fuller knows that and uses our knowledge to great advantage and to wrong foot us at every opportunity. For the first half of this opening episode Lecter doesn’t even appear, and when we discover that the serial killer is removing his victims’ livers to eat, the audience is allowed to jump to obvious conclusions. When he does make his grand (guignol) entrance the show really kicks into gear.
Directed by Brit David Slade, who scared us in very different ways with Hard Candy and 30 Days Of Night, the show has a slick and very cinematic feel. A comparable show would be The Following, but next to Hannibal that looks dated and unimaginative. The script also deserves praise. It delights in our prior knowledge of the characters and plays with our expectations. There’s a nod to The Incredible Hulk in one of Graham’s outbursts, and a scene in a public toilet is obviously a homage to the scene in The Shining. Like the characters in those films, Graham and Lecter are both trying to control demons that could eventually destroy them.
Hannibal is a show that deserves to do well. It’s head and shoulders above most of the new shows coming out of the U.S. at the moment, it just depends if the public want to go to the dark places that this show will hopefully take us
Hannibal is on Mondays at 10pm on SKY Living. Check out the SKY Living, or watch episodes on SKY GO.