Twenty years after The Silence Of The Lambs won acting Oscars for Jody Foster and Anthony Hopkins, Best Director for Jonathan Demme, Best Adapted Screenplay for Ted Tally and the Oscar for Best Picture and made Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter a household name, Bryan Fuller decided to make a TV series starring the good doctor.
Spoiler Level: Minor
Rated MA for Mature Audiences. Some images in this article may be too graphic for some readers.
The first episode “Aperitif”–all the episodes are names of French cuisine–opens in the midst of a crime scene with blood splattered walls and a massacred family. Standing amidst the fray is a plain bespectacled man, our protagonist, Will Graham. He is a profiler for the FBI. In his mind’s eye a metronome swings, erasing time and suddenly Will Graham is standing there observing the horror through the killer’s eyes. He is the killer. Carefully he begins to dissect what happened down to the smallest detail. “This is my design” he speaks. We cut to a college class room where Will is recounting the murders. When the class ends he is approached by FBI Special Agent Jack Crawford (a well cast Laurence Fishburne) from the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Division. He wants to borrow Will’s imagination. Will isn’t sent into the field very often due to a condition “…closer to aspergers and autism than to narcissists and sociopaths”. Jack is aware of this but he needs Will’s special kind of help to find who is murdering girls all of the same type–same hair and eye color, same height, same weight.
In order to make sure he isn’t making a mistake, Jack turns to Dr. Alana Bloom for psychological advice but she turns him down telling Jack not to put Will in the field. Not satisfied, Jack Crawford turns to another renowned psychiatrist for a psychological profile on Will Graham…Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
When Mads Mikkelsen appears as Hannibal Lecter it’s somewhat disconcerting. Anthony Hopkins made an indelible impression of who Hannibal Lecter is and Mads Mikkelsen is not that person. He doesn’t talk in a charming southern drawl but with a European accent. He is impeccably dressed in the finest of suits and exudes an aura of being refined. He is a person whose heart rate and blood pressure never fluctuates, conveyed through a cold, even monotonous speech pattern. He is the epitome of calm, cool and collected. But within just the first two episodes Mads Mikkelsen shows he owns the role. His best take away line is “Whenever possible we must always eat the rude”. Will Graham’s meetings (ie sessions) with Dr. Lecter in Hannibal’s beautiful library/study are the highlight of the series.
While cooking exotic dinners at night for Jack Crawford…food you just know inside contains some amount of human meat…Will and Hannibal by day are bonding in something of a “homoerotic bromance” (sans sex). Afterwards, Will returns home to the house he shares with literally a pack of stray dogs he has rescued. He finds no respite in sleep as he is tortured by his nightmares of the murders and of a huge black stag that wanders Will’s dreams. In later visions the stag and Hannibal seem to merge into one beast…the Wendigo.
Those familiar with Marvel Comic’s Wendigo will recall that if a man eats human flesh he will be cursed to become the Wendigo with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Yeah, that more or less fits Will’s deranged dreams! There is also a pervasive theme throughout the season of antlers. One of the murdered girls Will and Jack and the team discover is impaled on antlers in room of wall to wall antlers. Then they find another girl, naked, and impaled on antlers out in the open. This Will quickly deduces is not the work of the man they are looking for but rather a copycat killer who the media dubs The Chesapeake Shrike after crime scene photos hit the internet on Freddy Lound’s website Tattle Crime.
Bryan Fuller secured the rights to all the characters and stories except for Silence Of The Lambs. But he has taken pieces and parts and rearranged many of them, sometimes in a totally different order than they appeared before in print and on screen. The is also a lot of race and gender swapping so that Dr. Bloom–referred to as a “he” in one of the movies–is recast as a female played by Caroline Davernhas from Wonderfalls. Likewise, Freddy Lounds is now a woman and Jack Crawford is now black. And all of them. some who had minor parts, are all the better for it. It’s a perfect cast.
Bryan Fuller creates his show using a paint brush to a canvas. His palette is infinite and he always manages to deliver a masterpiece. Hannibal takes its visceral gore and disgust and elevates it to artistry. Bryan Fuller also does something I don’t recall any other TV series ever doing. He runs composer Brian Reizzel’s haunting score through the entire episode. Sometimes it dips to an almost undescernable level but it’s there, ready to hit awkward punctuation points for a murder…murders which stretch the imagination to its breaking point. My favorite murder scene is when some boys come across a mushroom garden. At first they think it’s marijuana till they see the arm sticking out of the ground with an I.V. attached.
When all is said and done though, it’s the relationship between Hannibal and Will in those quiet scenes as the two spar as chessman with Will Graham…for all his “love” of Hannibal, coming to realize that he’s been dining with The Chesapeake Shrike himself. Will Graham, who for all his being a “pure empath”, has allowed himself to be served up as Hannibal’s latest dish. Bon appetit!
While Hannibal may be the greatest horror television show ever, it's also quite surely one of the best television series period. Since its debut on Netflix there has been a renewed interest in continuing the series through to the conclusion Bryan Fuller had in mind. Legions of Fannibals would most assuredly bite into that.
Bone Appetit! Hannibal Season 1: Eat The Rude
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Acting - 10/1010/10
Music - 10/1010/10
Production - 11/1010/10
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