The "Tastiest" Cannibal Serial Killer Series Ever
I think most of us will agree that the Hannibal Lector movies went on much longer than they should have. The sequels to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS were not horrible, but they were unnecessary and nowhere near as interesting as SILENCE or MANHUNTER (which, IMO, is on at least equal footing with SILENCE, but gets nowhere near the respect because it stars Brian Cox as Lector in a much more subdued performance than Anthony Hopkin's scenery-chewing but more memorable turn). So it was with much trepidation that I set the new HANNIBAL series to record on my dvr, and I am just now embarking upon episode two of the series. Perhaps it is too early to deliver any kind of opinion about the series, but I am compelled to praise what little I have seen so far in the hopes that my words might sway others to check out the series, and thus keep it from the fate that I expect (and which befalls nearly every quality show to air on NBC), which is to get the "axe" after only one season. This is NBC's Modus Operandi, and is the reason that I am so reticent to watch any new shows premiering on the network. All of the networks are guilty of pulling the plug on promising series before they have the chance to find an audience, but NBC leads the pack in this regard. I am still very bitter about the cancellation of AWAKE which featured some of the best writing that I've seen on television for a long time. ...But I digress. It should come as no surprise that HANNIBAL has made such an impression upon me with only one episode. The series sports a rather distinguished pedigree, including such notable names as Michael Rymer (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Guillermo Navarro (PAN'S LABYRINTH, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, JACKIE BROWN), David Slade (AWAKE, BREAKING BAD, HARD CANDY), and was created by the unique vision of one Mr. Bryan Fuller who made his bones writing for DEEP SPACE NINE and VOYAGER, but gained notoriety by creating the critically acclaimed series DEAD LIKE ME, WONDERFALLS, and the beautifully whimsical PUSHING DAISIES. It should also be noted that the author of the Hannibal Lector novels, Thomas Harris has written or co-written all 13 episodes this season. Add to that sensational recipe an equally amazing cast featuring the talents of Laurence Fishburne, Hugh Dancy, and Mads Mikkelson (CASINO ROYALE, A ROYAL AFFAIR, VALHALLA RISING), with supporting performances from FIREFLY and ALIAS's Gina Torres, THE X-FILES' Gillian Anderson (yes, Agent Scully!), and even Scott Thompson from KIDS IN THE HALL fame, and you have a series that demands your attention. Of course, this show is certainly not for everyone. As with FOX's THE FOLLOWING, this is an attempt by the networks to stay competitive with edgy cable shows like BREAKING BAD. Within the first few minutes of HANNIBAL's first episode, you will be exposed to extreme violence and significant amounts of blood. Those viewers with of a sensitive nature will probably want to seek out programming of a less intense nature. However, if you are a fan of MANHUNTER or SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, then you know what to expect from HANNIBAL in terms of graphic content. However, HANNIBAL is not simply seeking to shock it's viewers with it's explicit depictions of violence. There is much more at work here. In fact, one of the fist things I noticed about HANNIBAL's first episode is just how cinematic are the composition and editing. The show is downright surreal at times, specifically in the way that it portrays FBI profiler Will Graham's preternaturally keen ability to put himself in the role of the killer - which is a key component of Thomas Harris' book RED DRAGON (which became the film MANHUNTER directed by Michael Mann, and was later "remade" as the far lesser RED DRAGON directed by Brett Ratner).
The series begins at point that precedes the events that unfold in RED DRAGON, and depicts Graham's first introduction to serial killer/cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lector who is brought in to consult on a case. Whether the series will later incorporate events from the book remains to be seen, but I personally am hoping that HANNIBAL will avoid rehashing well-worn material. In any case, the storie(s) that are unfolding now are completely new material, and are infused with the possibility that anything can happen at any time.
On the flip-side, I have yet to get a handle on Mikkelson's portrayal of the infamous cannibal, so I am unable to comment on how effective of a performance that he is providing. Still - I am a fan of Mikkelson's work, and I have every confidence that he will make this role his own. Dancy and Fishburne have both established their characters very early, but not to the extent that we cannot be surprised by character developments as they come.
- HANNIBAL airs Thursdays on NBC at 9:00 PM CST