Entree Hannibal (NBC)
*Author’s note* I’m going to do a review of episode 1 and then bookend it with a review of episode 13 which is out on Thursday. I only got into Hannibal about a week ago, hence the late catch up with the review. Once again there will be the odd spoiler but I will try to keep it to an absolute minimum. However if you know literally nothing about the Hannibal world or in fact who Dr Lecter is I suggest you read no further because I will make a point about him that gives something fairly major away if you have never encountered the books or any of the films. But I think I will probably be safe because it’s a pretty well known Hannibal fact.
Prior to discovering NBC’s Hannibal last week all I had ever known about the character of Dr Hannibal Lecter was that he wore a scary mask and liked Chianti. Of course I also knew that his preferred dinner time treat was people and that was enough to put me off for an awfully long time. However, drawn in by the buzz surrounding it and the wonderful cast I thought that I might give Hannibal a shot, a decision that I am extremely pleased I took. If you are squeamish about blood in any way I wouldn’t touch this one with a barge pole. The red stuff is slopped around liberally and graphically but if you can get over the gore you are in for a treat.
This first episode serves as an introduction to several of the key plot lines that will drive the rest of the series and of course, introduces our central pair of misfits, FBI Special Agent Will Graham and psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter, played by Hugh Dancy (who I last saw in the beautifully rubbish Ella Enchanted in which he played a prince named Char. Will Graham is rather a long way from that.) and Mads Mikkelsen (the super creepy blood weeping Le Chiffre from Casino Royale) respectively. Will Graham has a rather special gift that allows him to empathise fully with murderers, meaning he can reconstruct everything that occurred at a crime scene. The first thing we see of this new series is one such reconstruction, a clever move on the part of the show creators as it tricks an audience into thinking that Will Graham is a cold blooded killer and confuses us when his dirty work all of a sudden seems to disappear. The two central performances of Dancy and Mikkelsen are the highlights of this show and the two have a remarkable chemistry. Mikkelsen succeeds in creating a character that we are aware is not quite right and yet we feel that we can trust him, a trait that becomes more and more apparent as the series moves forward. He is just the right blend of sinister and extremely charming in his magnificent three piece suits. I don’t want to say a whole lot more about his performance as I don’t want to give things away from later down the line but Mikkelsen has, in my mind at least, become one of the most watchable and beautifully portrayed villains on television for a very long time.
Hugh Dancy as Will Graham is just as watchable as Mikkelsen but for entirely different reasons. Will Graham is a very damaged man who struggles to interact with other people, hence the fact that he is put in the care of psychiatrist Hannibal in order to continue his work with the FBI under the watchful gaze of big man in charge Jack Crawford, played by Laurence Fishburne. Through Dancy Will Graham becomes a character for whom we as an audience have a great deal of sympathy for. Dancy is a masterful actor and it is a shame that I had only ever seen him in Ella Enchanted because he is remarkable. He does gnarled and broken incredibly well, especially in the dramatic climax of the episode, an event which launches the rest of the series into its gory, bloody gloriousness. Again, I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoilers but if you don’t feel for Will Graham in some shape or form by the end of this episode then I am pretty sure you have no soul.
Aesthetically this show is stunning, especially the scenes in which Hannibal cooks. I think this is one of the show’s highest achievements as an audience will most likely bring with them a certain knowledge of what goes into Dr Lecter’s dinner which colours these scenes. However, what I think is remarkably clever is the fact that although we all know that when Hannibal serves up what he says is rump steak when we all know that it is probably roast arm or something the food is so exquisitely and lovingly created that we almost forget that it is people. Even more powerful is the fact that the true contents of such dinners is never explicitly mentioned as Hannibal serves up his creations to unsuspecting members of the FBI agency, causing a great deal of uneasiness amongst the viewers who all know the truth. It is incredibly sinister and yet incredibly beautiful and, unfortunately, the kind of food that I would probably pay a lot of money for if it wasn’t people. Also brilliant is the insertion of the most amazingly cheesy puns by Doctor Lecter for his own satisfaction as he feeds his guests the finest off cuts of murdered teenager. My favourite is ‘I would love to have you and your wife for dinner’ followed by a smug little smirk. You can just see the thoughts “HA HA HA I AM SO FUNNY It’s just a shame you don’t know how witty I am because you don’t know that I eat people” going round and round his head. It is quite a thing to see.
Hannibal is addictive, there is no two ways about it. I devoured (ha ha see what I did there. Man I am so funny) 11 episodes worth in a week, which is pretty hardcore, even for me. It is nightmarish (literally in my case, I watched four episodes back to back before going to bed and spent the rest of the night thinking I was being brutally murdered) sinister, stylishly put together and clever television. This first episode provides a brilliant spring board for the terrible events that seems to be spirally out of control as we reach the finale this week. I could talk about Hannibal until the cows come home, I haven’t even touched on all the marvellous lady characters but I am aware this pushing 1000 words so I will leave it here. But I am pleased to say that I have found a new love in television once again.