Hannibal – Season 1


Fear comes with imagination. It’s a penalty; it’s the price of imagination.

In Hannibal, two protagonists and two temperaments work symbiotically in opposition: urbane cannibal Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and the “Brueghelian beauty ” his fellow killers aim towards, and socially uncomfortable investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and the repulsion of murder during and after the act.

Showrunner Bryan Fuller brings his previous shows’ themes of death and extraordinary abilities to this adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novels. The show is an alternate universe prequel to Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, incorporating lines from the books and visuals from the movies in ways that engage franchise fans and newcomers.

The only faults are random logic jumps in speech or action, which more or less fit the show’s surreal nature. Elaborate metaphor-filled dialogue suits odd-man-out Will, but some conversations in early episodes go overboard with whiplash conclusions from other characters. By episode six, “Entrée,” the dialogue consistency stabilizes, and the overarching plot dominates and incorporates all (if any) of an episode’s killer-of-the week elements. Thus begins an outstanding run through the eleventh episode, “Rôti.” The concluding chapters are solid, but feel inevitable compared to the previous momentum.

There’s also a smart undercurrent of humor, often macabre but always rooted in character. Hannibal, for instance, is happy to share his favorite cannibal puns with unaware dinner guests. It’s amazing how this show blends emotional tones, with multiple dynamics operating in every interaction. Symbols lurk in the background before taking center stage; melding nature and humanity, savior and murderer, dreams and reality, consumer and consumed.

In a way, the show is a (part-)Korean cooking drama. Hannibal is co-produced by the DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, France’s Gaumont and South Korea’s AXN (which had some hilarious ads and more serious promotion), taking away production costs from American network NBC. The program also has a visual quality rarely matched on television, with cinematic shots of gorgeous color. Composer and music director Brian Reitzell also provides a menacing soundtrack, with insertions of vocal music for Lecter’s operatic moods.

Mads Mikkelsen is endlessly fascinating as Hannibal, “who represents privilege, power and integrity…[whose] character rests on his gender and the privilege that comes with it.” [1] Yet Hugh Dancy is equally captivating as Will Graham, an inward character who finds dogs easier to befriend than humans. Will grapples with his empath abilities in a manner more like the struggle of mind-powered female superheroes than that of humbled- then-triumphant male genius detectives. Though the show features white male leads, two canon characters are genderbent: Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and ruthless reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki). All recurring females are intelligent and independent characters; from colleague Beverly Katz (Hetienne Park), to young survivor Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) to Hannibal’s psychiatrist Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). There’s also a brief appearance by Gina Torres as Bella, the wife of FBI Behavioral Sciences boss Jack Crawford (Torres’s real-life husband Lawrence Fishburne).

There are never excuses for murderers who are aware of their actions, and there’s respect in the show’s approach to mental states and illness. Violence is stylized but not gratuitous. “Hannibal manages something that I don’t think I’ve seen in comparable crime shows: It forces the viewer to take on the weight of all that murder as surely as the characters do.” [2] Murder is such a common sight in media that the gravity of death must be reframed to truly disturb, not simply shock. Hannibal turns the viewing of horrible images into a catalyst for drama; as Will finds it increasingly tough to separate the acts of seeing, understanding, and becoming.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Diandra Rodriguez

Proudly Latinasian NorCal American.

9 Responses

  1. amy says:

    I really really REALLY dislike Freddie Lounds. LOL But that’s a personal issue. xD I find Hannibal really disturbing, so much that I quit being updated with the episodes (I haven’t watched the last episode yet, as it airs this Wednesday here), so I guess that would be good for viewership? I only made it to episode 2 before I was too tensed to actually follow the show closely. Since then, I’ve just been watching on the TV with other noise around (commercial breaks, etc).

    But tell me I’m not the only one that found Hannibal’s menu somewhat appetizing? I usually watch it on Sundays at nighttime, and it matches my dinner time. xD I think the food design is quite exquisite, and that’s usually rare for American shows.

    Also, super special mention to Ellen Muth- with a disturbing (but unmistakable) appearance on the show ;P

    • @amy, I appreciate Freddie, from a distance, for a strange reason: because she doesn’t pretend to be likeable.

      I know there’s a number people just follow the show through recaps because the visuals are too upsetting, and I find it fascinating that the show has that kind of pull even for non-viewers.

      Here’s an article about the food: http://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/hannibal-food-secrets-janice-poon
      and right, few American shows outside of cooking/food travel shows showcase really appetizing food like this. but then there’s the secret (fictional) ingredient…

      and Ellen Muth was really good in her role!

      • amy says:

        @Diandra Rodriguez, I prefer it when they make the food eatable, though. That’s why I like a lot of the food styling in Japan.

        I also loveeeee Caroline Dhavernas. xD Like, a lot of people I think are shipping Will and Bloom together, and then some others say that Will needs someone else because she’s not good enough. And I’m like WTF, man. I don’t want them together, not because she’s not good enough for him, but she just would deserve someone who’s stable.

        This shows just gives me too many encountered feels. xD

      • amy says:

        @Diandra Rodriguez, and about this quote “I don’t think anybody can be enticed into wanting to eat human parts,”

        Usually parents (at least from family and friends) always tell their kids to eat and ask later. This might be a Asian thing, since Asians eat so many weird things. So if your dad were Hannibal, he’d be all like “eat first, ask later” Maybe you’ll eat it, and be sick when finding out… or maybe it tastes so good that you wouldn’t mind having eaten what you did. LOL

        As a kid, I don’t think I was a very adventurous eater. But while living abroad, and having so many foreign friends, I guess I didn’t want to be close-minded, and I just ate without asking. If it was served in front of you, how could you deny your host the pleasure of enjoying their meal?

        • @amy, yeah, while my mom wants to be sure of what she is eating, because she doesn’t eat many foods she considers yucky because of what they are (even traditional Filiipino things like ox blood soup or chicken fetus), it would be ~rude~ if we were at a person’s house and didn’t eat a main dish. Then again, whenever I’ve eaten at another house, they had more options and named the food first. And more often, I eat food samples or other offered food without asking the food’s identity first. So I’d definitely eat what Hannibal was serving, and probably emotionally gag a little if I found out about it later.

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