Hannibal Season 1 Catch-up
Dramatising Thomas Harris' famous killer has sometimes been a traumatic experience. Michael Mann was first to try and he opted for a calculating, urbane killer who would get you, even from his jail cell. In a film of greys and murk, Brian Cox's Lecter stood out as a certain point of evil. Next up was the pantomime killer who happened to eat you if you were impolite or in his way, Anthony Hopkins is obviously the man we all see as Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins performance has been copied and parodied ever since but it is curious how much the films he acted in differed in the ways they brought him to life.For Jonathan Demme, it was a procedural journey into a dark underbelly - all fetishised prisons and masks. For Ridley Scott, it was a grand guignol romance, and for Michael Mann it was about the beast within. Now we have a small screen Hannibal, it is surprising to say that this filmic, cinematic Lecters have an equally rich counterpart in Bryan Fuller's serial and Mads Mikkelsen's performance. Every bit as baroque as Scott's treatment, Hannibal gives us the origins of our monster.
Beginning before the events of Manhunter, the first season introduces us to a quite different Will Graham in the shape of the shambling mess of Hugh Dancy. Like William Petersen in the film, Dancy has insights into killers that cause him pain, but unlike the movie those dreams of death are consuming him, and by extension us. Throughout the show, Graham is deteriorating into an obvious subject for investigation himself.And here is the cunning place that we are introduced to Lecter. Lecter is assigned to be Will's therapist, the man who'll help him keep the demons inside, and unfortunately the man who realises the true nature of Will's gift. From his very first case, Lecter effectively becomes Will's partner and the two are befriended. Hannibal both manipulates events to hide his own part in them, but also to see the harvest he will reap in Will's reaction and that of others.
Supposedly keeping Will healthy and safe is Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford. He though is a non-psychopathic version of Lecter, exploiting Will and enjoying the results in solved cases. Lecter finds his way into the cases by Crawford's invitation and into Will's trust by his careful exposure of Crawford's manipulations. the showrunners introduce a nice touch in Crawford's backstory by casting real-life Mrs Fishburne, Gina Torres, as his unhappy spouse and a subject for Hannibal's marriage therapy.An initial template of a killer a week gives us some nice florid touches - human beings used as growbags, a corpse pile statue - and the show retains a sense of visual flair that is consistent to the cinematic best of this killer's legacy. Similarly, sound design is eerily detailed for a network show and much attention is given to creeping the viewer out before striking them with shocks and transgression aplenty. For those that worried that the small screen would limit the violence or the terror, worry no more as Hannibal pushed boundaries and hit its horror mark.
The first season arced to the point of cleverly turned tables with recurring guest stars and the nuanced performances of Dancy and Mikkelsen. When the world is finally turned on its head at the series conclusion there is brilliant use of the iconography of Lecter to reinforce the irony and get us all intrigued at how following seasons will develop. Fuller has talked of five seasons covering the time up to the the events of Silence of the Lambs, and the network has swallowed the lowish ratings because of low costs and great critical feedback, so perhaps we may see his plan unfurl.
Season 2 begins at the end of February and the first season is available on Blu-ray and DVD now. Sky Living showed the first season which you can catch here. We advise you to do so if you like well made horror and have the stomach for it!