Friday, June 21, 2013


Original caricature of Mads Mikkelsen as the title character on TV's HANNIBAL

The exquisitely dark series HANNIBAL ended its freshman year Thursday night, June 20. And the hour finale set the table for a delicious return in 2014. The show was one of the NBC’s few hits this year.  Perhaps they should try more horror, as the genre is thriving across the tube. THE WALKING DEAD, AMERICAN HORROR STORY and BATES MOTEL ( are all part of a new ‘Golden Age of Grand Guignol’ on TV. And HANNIBAL may be the most exquisite frightener ever to appear on the small screen, enhancing the genre and its network with superb acting, incredible production values, taut storytelling and discreet violence.

From its impeccable premiere on April 4 ( HANNIBAL not only built a narrative with strong ties to its movie predecessors MANHUNTER and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but it also established itself as its own unique dish, one prepared with A+ cinematography, art direction, production design and editing that would be the envy of any big budget theatrical release. Even more importantly, show runner Bryan Fuller took the exceedingly familiar character of Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter and found fresh things to say about him, even going so far as to help audiences understand why he did what he did before his incarceration.
Hugh Dancy as FBI profiler Will Graham.
Fuller shows Hannibal Lecter as both a relatable man and the terrifying monster. Yes, he’s a killer but here he is also seen as attractive, sociable, and a helpful psychiatrist to many, including the FBI. Of course, he’s also happens to be one of the serial killers they’re after, but that makes the show darkly fun. He’s both Jekyll and Hyde, a villain hiding from his FBI colleagues in plain sight.
Lecter justifies his evildoing as a way of touching God, deciding who lives and dies in the world. And he revels in it because such decisions because they make him feel powerful.  That’s a pretty heavy statement for any show, and Fuller treats this dissertation seriously. 
Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford.
As Lecter explores his passions he is also manipulating/playing God to all around him, especially sensitive FBI profiler Will Graham (the wonderfully jittery Hugh Dancy). Will’s talent is to get inside the mind of a killer and explain their crimes. Lecter is both friend and foil to Will, and their cat & mouse game was one of the consistent highlights of the season. 
Caroline Dhervanas as Dr. Alana Bloom
And in last night’s episode, Will got too close to uncovering the truth about the doctor so Lecter set up his colleague to be fingered as a murderer. Mikkelsen’s Lecter was much more stoic and cold in character than Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins was in his performances. And Mikkelsen also conveyed more sadness too. He’s displayed a vulnerability and longing that Sir Tony really didn’t. That’s not to say that Mikkelsen wasn’t exceedingly creepy too. He was, simply terrifying by merely standing still and saying nothing. It's like he was a cat, playfully contemplating a wounded mouse in its clutches, wondering whether he should eat it quickly or make it suffer for a while more.
Gillian Anderson as Dr. Du Maurier
Despite the constant threat of violence in this show, it pulled off the impossible. It chose to be incredibly discretionary when it came to showing any real violence. The murder scenes were mostly kept off camera, dwelling the lens are the aftermath. And the killings were shown in flashback, as a fantasy, as Will imagined they would be committed. That kept something that could have been horribly grisly from becoming exploitation. And it kept the detective story in the forefront instead.
Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter
The actors on this series were all first-rate, with Mikkelsen and Dancy doing career best work. Laurence Fishburne made for the show’s invaluable third star as Will’s boss who manipulated his prize pupil in similar ways as Lecter did. The show also made specific and memorable characters out of all the supporting players like Hettiene Park, Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams as FBI forensics specialists. Caroline Dhervanas did wonderful work as the show's 'ingenue', playing the FBI psychiatrist who not only recommended that colleague Lecter help with their profiling, but has also become Will’s # 1 protector and potential love interest. As Will was being arrested in last night's episode, she offered to take care of his dogs for him. Now that gal is a keeper!
The cast of NBC's HANNIBAL
And any show that finds a fun role for Eddie Izzard as another serial killer or the great Gillian Anderson ( as Hannibal's own psychiatrist gets special points in my book. Anderson is as gorgeous as ever, and she was sublime in her sly, enigmatic role. Just what will happen to her relationship with Lecter remains to be seen in the second season, but it appears that she could easily become his lover as much as his next meal. 

And as the first season came to a close, Dr. Lecter visited Will in jail, wrongfully incarcerated for Hannibal's doings. The scene recalled Jodie Foster’s first view of Hopkins’ in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. That kind of homage dotted the show throughout its run, adding even more fun to the fright. Now I doubt that Will is going to be behind bars for too much of the second series, but we shall see. And I doubt that Lecter will be sitting behind bars any time soon himself. Fuller has promised a five-season story arc so one can imagine that the not-so-good doctor will still be whipping up his unique gourmet dishes for some time to come. If the ratings hold, this show could be turn out to be quite a feast.

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