TV Review: 'Hannibal'



hannibalAfter seeing the first couple episodes of Hannibal, I grew nervous. I don’t think the show will last more than a few episodes. And not because it is bad - but because it is good. Too good.

Cliches aside, I think it is safe to say that Hannibal is my favorite midseason show of the year. Following the Hannibal Lecter of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, Hannibal is set before anyone knew the good Dr. Lecter was a cannibalizing sociopath. But the series is at least as much Will Graham’s show as it is Hannibal’s. 

Will Graham (played by a nearly unrecognizable Hugh Dancy) is the FBI agent who chooses an academic career over field work due to a number of troubling personality disorders. Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) lures Graham, a brilliant profiler, back into the field. Graham puts himself in the headspace of perpetrators a little bit too easily, which prompts the agency to send him to a shrink - Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen, in a role that will make you say “Anthony who?”)

From the beautifully warped mind of Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Mockingbird Lane) Hannibal embraces Fuller’s stylized aesthetic and saturated color palettes. But Hannibal does not offer the quirkiness and levity that his other projects provide, giving it a distinctly darker hue. Add in the cannibalism - society’s last true taboo and a subject that is not danced around - and Hannibal is a true horror show. 

The ostensible anti-hero of the show, Will Graham, comes across as more “anti” than “hero” on the surface. Suffering from a number of personality disorders ranging from echopraxia to Aspergers syndrome to borderline personality disorder, Will is not the kind of lead character you generally find on a network drama. He is disheveled, not dreamy; he is awkward, not suave; and he identifies a little too easily with the psychopaths he is chasing. I find him a fascinating character - far more interesting than the typical leading man - but I worry that he will alienate viewers.

I certainly hope I am dead wrong about Hannibal lasting only a few episodes. And honestly, I think that television audiences have become infinitely more sophisticated in the last few years, so I don’t think the uncomfortable and intelligent subject matter will drive off audiences. I just hope that NBC, who has been treading water the last few years, will have the guts to stand behind it. 

Hannibal is an intelligent, fascinating, immersive, and stylish show. It is horrifying for all the obvious reasons - and for some less obvious reasons. I cannot recommend Hannibal enough.

Hannibal premieres April 4th at 10pm on NBC.