Holy cow! I have let my TV reviews slip in a big way. I got so preoccupied with my blog series, premiere episodes, and movie stuff that I haven’t done a review of a whole show since September…Whoopsie. But I’m back to it now, and I’m actually hoping to knock out several reviews of my favorite TV shows over the next few weeks. As loyal readers may or may not know, I like putting my TV reviews into neat little themes like British Invasion and Grown-Up Fantasy. For crime/scary shows, I’m introducing a new theme: Chills and Thrills. And what better chilling and thrilling show to start with than NBC’s Hannibal?
I decided to review this show for a few reasons: 1) I’m apparently on a Mads Mikkelsen kick (I just reviewed The Hunt for Alex Raphael’s Foreign Favorites series, and you can view that write-up here), 2) season two of this show premieres on Friday (Feb. 28), and 3) it’s just awesome. I’ll admit that I had doubts about Hannibal when I initially heard about it—how the original stories would work as a TV series, how the main protagonist would stand out against the million protagonists in the million other murder shows out there, how anyone could possibly attempt to equal Sir Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, etc.—but after watching the first season last year, my fears were assuaged. It has become a must-watch.
Synopsis: “Explores the early relationship between the renowned psychiatrist and his patient, a young FBI criminal profiler, who is haunted by his ability to empathize with serial killers.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.
The Good: Saying “everything” would be gushing a little too much, yeah? Right from the get-go, this show has style—a very macabre, twisted style, but style no less. Much like Hannibal himself, the show as a whole is both gruesome and sophisticated, which is an absolutely fascinating combination. Speaking of Dr. Lecter, have I mentioned how awesome Mads Mikkelsen is at portraying him? He oozes cool, clever, and menacing. It’s a very different interpretation than Hopkins in that his class is played up more than his creepiness, but it’s no less effective as the show does a great job of implying (and occasionally showing) what Hannibal has been up to. This is done particularly well through his cooking, which looks quite mouth-watering until you remember what’s in it. I could go on forever about Hannibal, but honestly the character who really took me by surprise in season one was profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). It’s hard to make a character as interesting as Hannibal Lecter, but Will measures up quite well. He can see crime scenes in a way no one else can (which is shown in a really cool way), but he suffers from it. Spending too much time in serial killers’ heads gets him all kinds of messed up, and you feel for him as his over-active imagination takes a toll on his well-being. Dancy makes oddball Will downright lovable throughout the season. Mikkelsen and Dancy are undoubtedly the stars, but the whole cast is fantastic, particularly Laurence Fishburne as Will’s boss, Jack Crawford, and Caroline Dhavernas as Will’s colleague, Dr. Alana Bloom. My compliments to the writers as well. The dialogue is crisp, each episode is engaging, and the murders are really unique (and severely twisted). The whole look and feel of the show is dark and disturbing, yet weirdly beautiful. To me, it’s unlike any other crime drama on television.
Favorite moment: The very last moment of season one. It presents an interesting role reversal that makes you eager for more.
The Bad: In regards to violence, this show is dangerously close to being HBO-esque. The murder scenes are…well, pretty messed up. I don’t want to ruin the gruesome surprises for anyone planning to watch the show, but let’s just say the writers come up with some very creative ways for serial killers to kill. It’s done in a tasteful enough way that I could still watch (I’m a wuss when it comes to gross-out gore), but be wary, ye faint of heart. After the first few episodes—particularly the second one—you’ll probably know how you feel about it. Other than that, it’s probably worth mentioning that I’ve seen some reviewers describe this show as taking itself too seriously and/or coming off as slightly farcical. Given the show’s style and subject matter, I can see how they feel that way, but I very rarely (if ever) felt that way about season one. Right now, my biggest concern involves how next season will be handled. Though it has an awesome finale, season one covers a lot of ground and leaves you wondering how the heck they’re going to handle certain aspects of the plot in the future. But I trust the writers, so I’m anxious to see what they do.
Least favorite moment: There’s a very random moment in season one when Hannibal gives a certain character hallucinogenic tea, and it’s not really clear why. Does he genuinely think it will help this person? Is he doing it for his own amusement? Either way, it seems somewhat out of character.
To Sum It Up: In my opinion, this show is incredibly well-done. The story, the performances, the design—all of it is great. It might be a little too heavy for younger viewers and/or the faint of heart, but if you like your murder shows with an air of sophistication (and cannibalism), then I whole-heartedly recommend Hannibal.
My Grade: A