Dinner is served

Hannibal Season 1

 

Tea: A nice Chianti (just kidding, it was ginger tea)

 

After having the first season of Hannibal on my watch list for ages, I finally finished it recently. Being a fan of the movies with Anthony Hopkins around the same character, I was sceptical whether a revision of this story could work and especially whether another actor could ever portray Hannibal Lecter. Yet since I will not compare the two interpretations of the source material, the question has to be whether Hannibal is a good series on its own and not whether it can carry the heavy legacy the name Lecter bears. Take a seat, grab a glass of wine (tea, of course), s dinner is ready to be served.

The main plot of the series follows Will Graham a teacher for the FBI pulled back into active duty. Will has the capacity to assume anyone’s point of view, even that of potential psychopath. His gift of pure empathy is what Jack Crawford, head of the bureau, values and needs. A case has been haunting the institute for long: the Chesapeake Ripper, a notorious serial killer with a taste for the theatrical. Will seemingly kills the Ripper, but soon they discover this may not be the case and the Ripper could still be at large. Will came out of the experience of killing another human being with noticeable changes. He appears unstable and Crawford hands him over to the capable hands of Dr Hannibal Lecter to have him checked out. Thus starts a clever game of cat and mouse with Will discussing his psyche and cases directly with the man he is hunting in his dreams as well as reality. All the while new killers show up every now and again and demand to be dealt with. But Hannibal will not sit still, even with a top investigator next to him. The Ripper is hungry for more and does not like to be imitated.

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– I’ll stick to the vegetarian portion, thank you. –

At first it was very hard for me to pin down the exact style this show is going for. While there are elements of a character focused show, the crime-of-the-week also was a likely candidate. In the end, the show settles for both, which at first sounds like a terrible idea, but I have to say the two are mixed rather well. The cases are never just stand-alone cases and are neatly tied into the larger plot or serve to expose another clue relating to the main case. The show never loses focus of Will and Hannibal, but can still bring something fresh and exciting to the table every episode. Both those lusting for blood and murder, as well as character study fans will be pleased. I, for one, liked both sides of the sword. This is mainly the result of the very aesthetic choice of portraying murder, which sounds odd at first. All psychopaths must have an art degree seeing as the killings have a high level of symbolism. The murders range from grotesque, to ritual-like, to flat out disturbing, but never feeling like cheap gore for the sake of spilling some blood. As an example I will point to the “angels” which are both eerily fascinating as well as shockingly morbid.

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– The visible strings are just icing on the cake. –

The strength of the show lies in the central pairing of Will and Hannibal, both actors doing an amazing job of their roles. Mads Mikkelsen does an especially outstanding job portraying a character in a new light. His Hannibal is graceful and yet also very emotional. He is a joy to watch as one can only struggle between affection and horror towards the doctor. Hugh Dancy is an excellent Will Graham and convinces most strongly during the numerous nightmarish hallucinations poor Will has to suffer through. The image quality becomes especially noticeable during these as the scenes become metaphors and turn reality onto its head. They are loaded with symbolism and an eye candy every time.

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– The scenes in Dr Lecter’s office are my highlight of every episode. –

Sadly, the show is not made up of high points and I have some criticism I must voice. The most glaring one is the fact that Baltimore seem to be psychopath capital. Every major killer with a messed-up way of killing lives in the neighbourhood. It’s surprising there are even normal people left and Aunt Jane isn’t sitting on the porch knitting a blanket of human intestines while George rides by on his meat bicycle wishing her a pleasant day. This can rob the show of its otherwise strong tone, as it appears laughably to not only have such a density in killers, but all seemingly striving to outdo one another in terms of graphic content. Most crime of the week shows can get away with this by having the cast travel to another city every third episode, but to my understanding Will and Hannibal never have cases outside of driving range, except for the first one.

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– Welcome to Baltimore, Psychopath Capital of America. Everything you can think of making out of flesh, we have it. –

Then I need to talk about Jack Crawford. His character is anything but believable. He is constantly in a back and forth between wanting to save Will’s psyche and potentially damaging Will and thus saving lives. The dilemma is obvious, but it is portrayed in such a way as he seems to have decided a long time ago and is now taking a stance that one option is right. The only problem is the constant switching. He is seen defending both options with such fervour you’d think there is no question about it. The character feels inconsistent and it does not help that he often acts or theorises in an unintelligent way, leaving me to think how he managed to get his job in the first place. One killer scrambled the brains of his victim and Jack cannot make to the past of the murderer who had psychiatrists constantly mess around in his head. Come on Jack, never heard of metaphors?

The best thing the show did and could do is veer away from both the book and movies and simply be its own work. The characters are lifted from the source material, sure, but that is about it. There are some noticeable nods and references, but for the most part the show is a fresh and exciting re-interpretation of a classic, both in book and movie format. While the show has ended after its third season (at the point of writing this at least), it is worth noting that even the finale of the first season can stand as the finale of the series if necessary. The ending sequence especially should please all fans of Hannibal, no matter which group they belong to.

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– As a side-note: this show makes human meat look waaaay to tasty. –

Hannibal is an experiment that worked out. It took the risk of creating something different and it paid off due to the excellent dialogue and intriguing cases. While some factors such as the killer density may irk me a bit, the aesthetically appealing murders and the acting of the main duo quickly alleviate this pain. The show is graphic, no doubt, but do not be misled into thinking this is mere splatter. Hannibal is tightly crafted and has no room for unnecessary scenes. I’d recommend this to both fans of the books and movies, thriller fans, crime fans, and of course those looking for an intelligent mind game between two brilliant geniuses in their own regards.

 

 

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