While it has only aired ten episodes, Hannibal (pictured) has quickly cemented itself as one of the finest shows on television. In the countless years that I’ve been watching television, I can count on one hand the amount of times that I’ve been so instantly engrossed by a series, and not since Community’s first season has that happened.
While it was on the bubble for the longest of any of the network TV shows, its renewal came as a joyous announcement for those watching the series as it aired. Those who have been watching it know of its problems in the ratings department, and with such an already devoted fanbase, they didn’t want to have another early cancellation on their hands, only to see it become a massive hit that somehow only produced a handful of episodes, ala Firefly, after the fact.
The cinematography in Hannibal is largely touted as it’s single greatest aspect, at least aesthetically wise, and while there’s no arguing against that, it’s much more than a pretty picture. Though, while were on the subject, the way the show is filmed makes it, without a doubt, the most most beautiful series on the air.
It’s odd to say that a series that focuses on something that we’ve seen many times on TV before, that being a police procedural focusing on serial killers, is somehow gorgeous, but it really is. When the show isn’t focusing on crime scenes, what could be looked upon as rather mundane and dreary sets, such as Hannibal’s office, are often some of the most interesting of the sets that are in the show.
While shows like Game of Thrones might have the better scenic locales, the way rather normal scenarios are presented in Hannibal are so impressive that you’ll often forget you’re watching a TV series and not a movie.
It’s a vicious series that will have you questioning how showrunner Bryan Fuller was able to get Hannibal on network television. When the first episode premiered, and even months before it aired, skepticism was high.
Another show focusing on a serial killer had already aired earlier in the year (The Following), and to disastrous reviews. While it got those bad reviews it had monster ratings. And what do you know, the complete opposite is happening with Hannibal.
Regarding the network television aspect, the worry wasn’t so much on the content as was the ability to correctly do it right on one of the major four channels. Truth is, it’s actually working perfectly fine on NBC. I don’t really see how different it would be, outside of a few longer, lingering shots (according to Fuller) on certain crime scenes, but outside of that, I doubt much would probably have been changed.
What might be my favorite aspect about the show is the way it has balanced Will’s (Hugh Dancy) perception of reality while intertwining vivid hallucinations. It’s a truly amazing thing to watch. It reminds me of an equally ambitious series and one that, in a way, mirrors a lot of what Hannibal is doing. Awake, which was in a very similar situation as Hannibal last year, saw its main character having a problem in that same vein.
It’s in those scenes, which can often dominate an episode due to how visceral they are in nature, where everything is firing on all cylinders. The most previous episode, for example, entitled “Buffet Froid”, was a Will-heavy episode, and in turn, featured a lot of him struggling with lapses in time, as well as perceiving what was real and what wasn’t.
The greatest example of these lapses in time, as well as hallucinations, came in last week’s episode. The most effective involved Will gutting a fish, only to find himself transported to a crime scene where he’s holding down a bloodied girl. After figuring out where he is he struggles to get up and finally comes to his senses.
This scene, along with the another scene in that episode, where Will finds himself in the woods after heading back to the previous crime scene is simply entrancing. He begins to repeat a phrase that Hannibal had taught him in hopes of grounding him in reality, yet he still tries to grasp how he even got there.
Dancy’s performance is strong, and he brings a new dimension to what might be considered a cliched archetype, that being the struggling, flawed outsider that’s looked upon as being an unstable liability. As good as Dancy might be, the entire cast is just as strong. Mads Mikkelsen will be appearing to many Americans for the first time, and is diving in head first in what many consider a role that has already produced one of the best performances ever.
He’s brilliant in his own way, and makes it completely separate from what Anthony Hopkins did in The Silence of the Lambs. He’s much more calm and laid back, and it’s not nearly as theatrical. You often forget that he’s the center of the show simply due to how strong his performance is, and one that will no doubt get him an Emmy nomination.
Fuller has mentioned how he has a seven season plan for Hannibal, and hopefully it will come to be fully realized. I can also say that I’m happy that it got a thirteen episode pickup, and not a full 20-plus episode order. Not only will it most likely be able to maintain a higher quality due to this, thanks to tighter storytelling and less room for filler, but it also provides a bit of a nod to those who wish it were on cable, mimicking the amount of episodes that’s most common for shows on cable.
It’s stunning to see a show that I had virtually no interest in hit me so hard right from the start. It’s a series that has certain qualities that are unmatched by other television shows, and oftentimes, even movies. Fuller and his crew are providing massive amounts of detail to everything going on behind the scenes, and it shows in the end result.
Hannibal is a stunning piece of television and a truly audacious and challenging psychological thriller that has been able to avoid various pitfalls and cliches that tend to plague so many other series currently on the air.