Hannibal is full-on Bryan Fuller at his deepest and darkest
You would think the story of Hannibal Lecter would not make for compelling television, especially since we’ve seen it in five separate movies. But Bryan Fuller, the mad genius that he is, has taken that familiar story and twisted it , turning it into something darker than we have previously seen. How is that even possible? Who knows, but he’s done it.
Hannibal starts out with the character of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), an FBI profiler. Here, though, he’s neurotic to the point of a nervous breakdown, a guy who can empathize with killers in a way that no one else can. It’s both his strong suit and downfall, as he is haunted by visions of dead girls throughout the night and the day. When Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) comes to him with help on a case, it leads Graham down a dark path that you’re not entirely sure he’s going to be able to escape.
Enter a little bit of psychiatric profiling help, in the form of one Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Now we, the audience, know the character very well, so when he’s braising his favorite piece of meat (a liver or lungs or someone’s heart), we gag a little bit knowing exactly what’s going on. When he serves “sausage” and eggs to Will Graham, that gagging turns into outright nausea. Anyone who knows the character would be screaming “Dude, don’t eat that!”
In Hannibal, the story is a familiar one. However, in this new television series, it has been twisted just enough that it’s completely different. This new Hannibal Lecter doesn’t have Sir Anthony Hopkins’ wit, but you know he’s completely off-kilter just by looking at him. This is Bryan Fuller at his finest and he somehow has created a pilot episode that feels more creepy than any of the films that have preceded it.
Some of the creepiness in Hannibal can be attributed to its two lead actors: Dancy and Mikkelson. Dancy gives Will a believable neurosis – the kind of guy who is always sweating from anxiety with shaky hands. He is haunted by his gift of empathy and it is clear in every syllable he speaks and movement from his body. Mikkelsen’s Lecter is beautifully frightening. He has the elegance that Hopkins brought to the film roles, but adds in an extra amount of disturbing features to the character – let’s just say that you would not want to sit in a room with him for any given amount of time. But what makes the entire pilot episode work so well is the c hemistry between the two actors – when they are eating that previously mentioned “sausage” (it’s not sausage) and eggs, you realize that the two characters are nearly one in the same.
With that being said, I’m feeling oddly ambivalent about Hannibal. Maybe it’s because it made me so utterly uncomfortable in its subject matter (and the movies never had that effect on me). Maybe it’s because there really aren’t any likable or relatable characters in the pilot episode. Maybe it was the gross factor of seeing characters eating human flesh.
Still, I plan on watching Hannibal again next week. There is one thing that this series really has going for it – it is compelling. You can’t NOT watch it.
If you missed the first episode, you can watch it right now on Hulu. And don’t miss the next Thursday night on NBC at 10/9c.
Did you watch Hannibal? What did you think?