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Hannibal: Season 1

What He said:

He

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a character that was created by author Thomas Harris. Most people know of him because of Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon.  Brian Cox was actually the first to play the character in an unrelated movie titled Manhunter, but it’s Hopkins’ version of the character that made him a household name.

Much like with A&E’s Bates Motel (review here) or the 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica, this show is unrelated to any of the previous works. It is a modernization of a the story and characters, usually known as a remake, but for some reason the word “reboot” has become more popular in recent years.

Hannibal: Season 1

Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is a gifted criminal profiler and teacher at the FBI Academy. He teaches aspiring federal agents the intricacies of identifying and catching serial killers. Will is so good at profiling serial killers because he is able to empathize with them. He suffers from some mental issues that allow him to, while not condoning, understand their motivations and actions.  He understands their code of ethics, warped rationale, and can put himself inside their mind.  You might be wondering why – if he’s so good at tracking and identifying serial killers – is he in a classroom instead of out in the field? It’s because his problems, while an asset, take a tremendous toll on his mental health. He empathizes with the killers, but like a normal human being, also sympathizes with the victims (possibly even more than a normal person). He is also fearful that because he shares so many symptoms with this type of person that he might become one of them.

So while gifted, he does little more than teach students. However, when eight college-aged girls go missing, Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) asks for his help. Jack is well aware of his issues, but also aware of his talent, so he grants him temporary field status, despite warnings from Dr. Alana Bloom. Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) is a friend, colleague, and fellow profiler. She is concerned for Will’s health and also thinks she is a ticking time bomb (in the field at least). Jack offers to let her be his psychiatrist, but she refuses because she feels she is too close to him to treat him objectively.

Enter Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). He is a friend and colleague of Alana’s and also consults with the FBI from time-to-time. Hannibal is extremely intelligent, one hell of a dresser, and an avid cook. No, that’s not totally accurate. This guy is more than a cook, he’s an artist. Every meal is an event to him.   He prepares his meals by the book. He always cooks his meals under the most optimum conditions. Anything less is unacceptable.

He also happens to be a very accomplished serial killer. And if you know anything about Hannibal Lecter, you know that he eats what he kills. If that isn’t disturbing enough, he enjoys cooking for other people too. Cannibalism is bad enough. There really aren’t many worse things one can do than to eat another human being. The level of insane that reaches cannot be described by words. But serving it to others? That’s a whole new level of sick. It’s not bad enough that he does it, he has to bring other people in on it as well. What kind of whackjob gets a thrill out of serving others human remains and passing it off as pork, beef, or lamb? That’s a kind of crazy I can’t even begin to wrap my head around.

So Hannibal begins to treat Will as he attempts to become reaccelerated to life as a field agent. He is thrown right into the thick of things working on the case of the Minnesota Shrike (the name given to the person responsible for the eight missing college girls). The Shrike has abducted eight girls around the same age, who also happen share a similar physical appearance.  

Hannibal: Season 1

Jack is impressed with Will’s progress in the case, so as more high profile cases come in, he’s assigned to them as well. One of the other cases he is assigned is that of a Chesapeake Ripper. The Ripper has been inactive for quite some time. Dr. Frederick Chilton, head of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, believes that is because one of the inmates at his facility is the Ripper. Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) is a surgeon who was institutionalized for killing his family. Recently, he has been claiming credit for the Ripper’s crimes.

Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) seems utterly thrilled that his facility has such a high profile prisoner. Chilton is the kind of person who somehow makes everything about him, no matter how irrelevant. He views this as an opportunity to increase is popularity in certain circles. His driving desire seems to be publicity. It makes you wonder why he didn’t choose politics or business instead of mental health. He’s really quite sleazy.

To make matters even more confusing, ever since Dr. Gideon’s announcement that he is the Ripper, new victims have been popping up with the Ripper’s M.O. So either Dr. Gideon is lying and the real Ripper is still out there – and letting people know it – or they have a copycat on their hands.

These are just two of the high profile cases Will is working on. That’s a lot for a mentally stable person, let alone one who is about “this close” to a mental breakdown.

If that isn’t enough stress, he has to deal with blogger who fancies herself a true-crime journalist; though she’s little more than a tabloid reporter with her own website. When Fredricka “Freddie” Lounds gets wind of Will’s recent promotion to field agent, she has field day with it. Knowing about his mental issues is all she needs to go after him personally as well as Jack for putting him back into active duty.

So in addition to his own legitimate mental health issues, psychopaths with an appetite for blood, he’s got to deal with this egomaniacal ball buster.  Life is not easy for Will Graham.

I’ve wanted to see this show since the second I saw the first images and trailer for it. When it first aired, it was at a timeslot that didn’t work for me and then I sort of forgot about it. It recently popped up on Amazon Prime for free, so we were all over it like flies on shit. I was stoked to see it and it didn’t disappoint.

This show is as slick as one of Hannibal’s custom made suits. It is a very visually pleasing show. Whether it’s one of Hannibal’s meals, a brutal crime scene (probably makes me sound a little disturbed), or one of Will’s delusions, this show has a very bold presentation. Even the everyday stuff looks very vivid and crisp. I can’t find the right words to describe it and I don’t even know how they are doing it – I don’t know if it’s a certain type of camera or lighting trick – but looks very polished and professional. It looks, feels, and plays out like a movie.

Hannibal: Season 1

The acting is fantastic. There is not a weak link as far as I am concerned. Everyone pulls their own weight. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen are phenomenal as Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter respectively. The way Dancy portrays Special Agent Will Graham’s very troubled life is completely and totally believable. Will is not a bad guy. He is quite the opposite in fact. He cares about catching the individuals who commit these heinous crimes.  But he is extremely troubled. He’s every bit as disturbed as the people he’s trying to catch, he just doesn’t act on it. Yet he suffers from guilt that he could very easily be one of them. He also has a lot of trouble with the actual crime scenes. I can’t say that I fault him there, because some of the things the killers put their victims through are beyond words. I don’t even know where start with Mads Mikkelsen. I could probably write an entire review on his portrayal of Hannibal. It’s hard to imagine anyone else as the character outside of Anthony Hopkins, but Mikkelsen totally owns the role. At the most basic level, the guy simply looks evil. He’s got a face that was made for playing the bad guy. His calm and cold demeanor doesn’t’ hurt either. This guy was born to play a villain. Laurence Fishburne is a veteran actor who has given many solid performances. You know the acting on the show is good if he’s the third person I mention when talking about the quality of the acting. His Jack Crawford is definitely one of the good guys, but is willing to push his own men and women to the brink of breaking if it means they take some bad guys down in the process. He is very immersed in his work and that wreaks havoc on his personal life.

This show has a very high quality production value. Aside from the fact that Mads Mikkelsen is a little hard to understand at times, I can’t find a single flaw with this show. If you are a fan of stories that explore the inner workings of the deepest and darkest parts of the human psyche, and don't mind being grossed out in the process, this is right up your alley. It is an excellent crime drama, with a dash of psychological thriller, and a just a touch of comedy. This show is the real deal.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 17, 2014.

Hannibal: Season 1

What She said:

She

Have you ever felt bad about liking a show?  Not so much embarrassed, as I would be if I were into something like, say, Teen Wolf, but more guilty about the fact that you derive pleasure from what you’re seeing on the TV screen.  That’s how I felt, at times, about Dexter and Breaking Bad, and that’s definitely how I feel about Hannibal.  This show is so graphic and twisted that I actually begin to question my own mental stability.

Hannibal: Season 1

Hannibal follows sort-of FBI staffer Will Graham.  Will is a criminal profiler who doesn’t technically work for the FBI, because he’s been deemed too mentally unstable, but who head of the Department Jack Crawford has decided is a key asset.  As Jack states over and over throughout the 13 episode season run, “Will is helping to save lives.”  Even though the guy is slightly unhinged.  Scratch that, he’s pretty far unhinged.  In order to keep Will’s feet on the ground, Jack has brought in renowned psychiatrist Hannibal Lector to work with him.  Of course, anyone familiar with the name Hannibal Lector—and that’s probably most people on this planet—knows that he’s a cannibalistic serial killer.  As Will helps investigate various gruesome murders, some of which seem to be related, Hannibal counsels and manipulates the man into and out of personal madness.  There’s a whole lot of blood, guts, and crazy, and Will and Hannibal are right in the middle of it.

This show is so graphic that I am amazed that it is on network TV.  We see so much gore and mangled bodies.  And then there’s just the general creep out factor.  Every time that Hannibal has people over for a gourmet dinner, I get chills.  I mean, I know what those people are eating; they’re just clueless to it.  It’s stomach turning.  And that might turn a lot of people off to this show.

But here is what I love.  It plays out like a long, thrilling, and smartly written movie.  Against all odds, NBC has decided to bring the series back for another season, but have also stated that they’re going to keep it limited to 13 episode runs.  I actually think this is a great idea, as the plot of this show works best in brief bursts, not drawn out over 24 episodes.  Although the story here is quite gloomy, there are moments of witty dark humor.  A lot of it is situational, but an observant viewer will relish it all.

Hannibal: Season 1

I never found this show to be boring.  Seriously, how could you when there is so much dying?  But, what also helps in that department is the wonderful cinematography.  Like I said before, this feels like a long movie rather than a TV series.  The quality of the camera work is really top notch, and that adds to the moodiness of the plot.  It’s definitely not a show that you can watch in the bright of day.  Hannibal is best viewed at night, when you can really make out what’s happening in the depths of the shadows. 

Another fabulous thing about this show—quite possibly the best thing in fact—is the fantastic acting.  We’ve got an all-star cast with Hugh Dancy playing Will, Laurence Fishburne playing Jack, and the ever-so-creepy Mads Mikkelsen playing Hannibal.  Now, I admit there are times where it is difficult to decipher what Hannibal is saying through Mikkelsen’s distinct accent, BUT you’ll start to get used to it and will pick up more and more as you watch the show.  Also, don’t try to tell me that Mikkelsen wasn’t born for the role of Hannibal Lecter.  Dude just looks like a people-eater.  That guy will seriously be typecast as a mad killer the rest of his life. 

The outstanding performances of all of the actors—even the not mentioned supporting cast—gives life to the saga.  You can tell they love the show and their roles, and embrace them fully.  I have to say, I was hooked on Hannibal after the first episode, and the first season went by without a snag.  I’m very much looking forward to Season Two, which begins later this month.  Even if NBC has relegated it to Friday night, where I am sure it will ultimately meet its demise.  Let’s cross our fingers and hope this one sticks around.  At least long enough for us to have some plot resolution.

Thumbs way up.

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