TV Review: Hannibal S01E1, “An Aperitif”

By April 5, 2013
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For a while now, NBC has been killing my dreams and swallowing any hope I had within that they will bring me something new to thoroughly enjoy and relish. Well, my friends, I am going on record right this second to say that I believe Hannibal will be the show that slowly digs the network out of the 6 foot deep ditch it’s found itself in. In other words, the network’s new thriller is bloody good. Bloody AND good.

To give you all a bit of a back story, I came into the premiere of Bryan Fuller’s new TV outing with low expectations. I’m a huge fan of the Thomas Harris books, I feel that Michael Mann’s Manhunter did a better job with the source material than what Brett Ratner did with 2002’s Red Dragon. When I first heard there was a television series in development that was set to bring Hannibal Lecter to the small screen, my eye roll was massive. But, a few weeks ago Bates Motel premiered and I began to eat my words with the notion and hope that Fuller may indeed know what he’s doing. With the convenient and sometimes laughable story twists of The Following, my thirst for a delecatable thriller on TV was huge. Ok, enough with the food puns…

The premiere episode opens at night during a home invasion murder investigation. We see Special Agent William Graham (Hugh Dancy) standing in the living room and startlingly, starts replaying the murders in his mind for us to view as if he was the one doing the killing. We learn very quickly, Graham’s frightening gift at empathizing with psychopaths. This gift, however, is also a curse and pushes Graham to give lectures at FBI headquarters instead of going out into the field. Unfortunately for him, a recent series of gruesome murders provokes Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to recruit Graham. Obliging, with great neurotic reluctance, Graham goes back into the field. Soon, the tolls of the investigation start messing with Graham’s mental well being. So, to hopefully help the situation, Crawford introduces Will to renowned psychiatrist (cue evil music here) Dr. Hannibal Lecter! And I have to give massive credit to NBC for putting the brilliant Mads Mikkelsen in the iconic role.

This is where the dance begins between these two. I should point out that the opening credits state Hannibal is based on characters and situations from Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. The differences between the two characters are highlighted quite quickly and the dynamic is very engaging. Graham is neurotic and highly emotional, even admitting to Crawford that his personality swings closer to Asperger’s than psychopathic. Hannibal Lecter, on the other hand, well…he’s Hannibal Lecter. He’s what we all expect him to be. The genius here is that the writers don’t give you an overall picture to acknowledge the monster that Lecter becomes. Yet, there are many signs that come up throughout the episode that had me laughing and applauding the show. I mean, he tenderizes, slices and cooks a delicious set of human lungs as if he were a Michelin star chef. So, there’s that!

I haven’t mentioned the blood yet, have I? For a network show, Hannibal took me off guard. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m a fan of horror films and love a good amount of blood on screen. BUT this is NBC! My defenses were down and suddenly I’m bombarded with some rather gory throat cutting. I still am surprised as I write this and I thoroughly applaud The Peacock for finally having a new show worth my time. Also, I’d be remiss not to mention Bryan Fuller’s homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. If you pay close attention, you’ll see a scene between Graham and Crawford in a red bathroom. This is a nod, obviously to the Grady/Torrance scene in the red bathroom at The Overlook. Ok, Mr. Fuller…you got my full attention!

With the likes of FX and AMC leading the pack with cutting edge programming, maybe NBC is finally throwing their hat into the ring. And why shouldn’t they? Hannibal is beautifully shot and seems to take the reference material seriously. The polished delivery and visceral violence was surprising, but in the best way possible. I know it’s too early to tell, but if NBC stays on track with the promise this pilot has shown, Hannibal could simply surprise everyone and be a standout from all the other procedurals on right now. Hell, they may even have an amazing program that can rival the likes of American Horror Story and Dexter.

As I alluded to above, this first season has a total of 13 episodes as will a second season if renewed. This is another sign that NBC is coming around by following the example of those other cable programs that only stick around for three months and then make us wait a long 9 for their return (ahem Justified!). My other hope is that there is an endgame in sight. I’d prefer three amazing seasons to six drawn out ones. With Fuller’s experience on the small screen, I hope we’re in good hands. It would be nice to see the relationship between Graham and Lecter come to its rightful television conclusion, which would hopefully lead in quite nicely to Manhunter or Red Dragon.

 

And now, I’d like to thank NBC by licking them right in the face!

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.