By Andrew Williams
August 20, 2014
Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and the rest).
Now, this is a story all about how… Deeply troubled criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) works with the FBI to investigate the most brutal murders in America. He’s teamed with brilliant psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), who just happens to be the most notorious serial killer of all.
Happy days? Not happy, no. Hannibal is a dark show. This show is a series of tragedies and horrors in slow motion that will grip you by the soul and never let go. This is a show where the funny stuff takes place in the morgue, where the most visually striking tableaus are corpses, and where death is constantly a presence and occasionally a happy ending. This is a show about a cannibal where the episode titles are all food-related.
It’s sick. It’s deranged. And it’s completely brilliant.
An adaptation of the Thomas Harris novels rather than the various Anthony Hopkins movies, Hannibal is completely different to anything that’s come before, particularly when it comes to Mads Mikkelsen’s Lecter. For Hannibal Lecter to exist in the real world as a free man, he needs to be more of a lit fuse than an out-and-out explosion, and Mikkelsen plays him perfectly. It’s also the most aesthetically beautiful show on television; even a garroting has a balletic quality on Hannibal.
The final frontier: Hannibal is a nightmare you’ll enjoy having.
Top three episodes: 11) Roti. Hannibal does very well with supporting or occasional characters, and Eddie Izzard’s Dr. Abel Gideon is right at the top of the tree. A serial killer more in the mould of Hopkins’ take on Lecter, his escape from custody results in the season’s most weird, thrilling episode. 13) Savoureux. The season finale ends with one of the most haunting moments of TV I’ve seen in a long time. 5) Coquilles. For a series that produces more than its fair share of beautifully grisly images, the angel tableau in this episode is one of its finest (and most disconcerting) moments
Worst episode: 4) Oeuf. Show-runner Bryan Fuller chose to pull Oeuf from the schedule due to real-life shootings that took place around the time it was supposed to air; it was a smart and well-explained decision from a thoughtful creator and no great loss to the series as a whole, as Oeuf is probably the series’ weakest episode, despite a strong performance from Molly Shannon and some interesting moments in the series’ overall arc. It’s the one episode that feels inessential.
Season MVP: When it came time to cast the dark, anti-social tortured genius at the centre of their show, the producers of Hannibal naturally went straight to the male lead of Confessions of a Shopaholic. Those who might only know (otherwise excellent dramatic actor) Hugh Dancy from his rom-com work might be surprised to find him a completely riveting presence here. Will Graham could easily be a bland counterpoint to the ever-colourful character of Hannibal Lecter but not in Dancy’s hands: I would happily watch a show about this incarnation of Will Graham without Hannibal Lecter in it, and that’s some achievement on Dancy’s part.
Hannibal is available on Quickflix.