Spearheaded by Bryan Fuller of Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies fame, this procedural serial killer thriller with dark wit stars Hugh Dancy (as special agent and criminal profiler Will Graham), Mads Mikkelsen (psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter before he was caught and imprisoned) and Laurence Fishburne as Graham’s boss Jack Crawford. With guest appearances by Gillian Anderson, Lance Henriksen and Eddie Izzard.
The series format begins to lull you under the impression that it will be a ‘serial killer of the week’ adventure, whereby Graham uses his spidey sense to envision how a killing was brought about. His deductive reasoning is portrayed in a very creative visual fashion, imagining himself literally as the killer. But the series format soon morphs into a surreal nightmarish horror that thrusts Graham into Hannibal’s sights. Hannibal sees Graham as both friend and foe, toying with him like a puppet on a string.
The series kicks off with Graham catching a killer with Hannibal’s assistance, which brings them closer together. Hannibal features heavily in Graham’s life like a dark cloud. As psychiatrist, he helps treat Graham’s fragile mental state, which is constantly under a barrage of stress caused by his ability to get into the mind of disturbed individuals. Hannibal eventually becomes a friend to Graham due to the man’s ability to understand killers, of which Hannibal most certainly is. Hannibal is under no allusions though, the moment anybody becomes a hindrance they are dealt with economically, and served up on a plate.
Every single scene featuring Hannibal cooking or serving a meal is deliciously horrible, causing me to almost look away while cringing at where the meat was sourced. The show has such a black humour about it, along with the level of violence, you will be amazed at just how far it goes. Never mind the fact that you would probably not see this kind of material on any channel in the rest of the world, I’m still shocked that American TV allows what this series does. It is by far the most darkest material I’ve ever seen in a TV series. From grisly messed up gore to David Lynch-like fuel for your nightmares, the directors of every episode make good use of every cinematic tool at their disposal to creep the hell out of you. Do not watch this before bedtime folks.
Cinematic is the operative word here, the show has amazing production design. You will forget you’re watching TV, it is that good. It has the best wardrobe I’ve ever seen, everyone looks stylish as hell. The soundtrack is abrasive ambient droning away like murderous mosquitoes buzzing into your brain. The performances all across the board are stellar, with Dancy and Mikkelsen giving themselves major career-boosts. Even Fishburne shows he’s still got life left in him.
Hannibal’s first season is bravura film-making. There are a few clunky scenes in a few episodes, but it’s mostly great acting and ambience. A high-level crime procedural with very dark humour that is essential viewing. It makes Dexter look like a daytime cartoon.
The season culminates in such a brilliant fashion, you will applaud at how they get to where they do. The last image and line is a crowd pleasing moment for fans of the franchise, and as long as the quality of writing and production continues into next season, we’re looking at a killer classic.