In NBC's new drama, Hannibal, everything old is new again, and we return to a time prior to The Silence of the Lambs to learn about Hannibal's first interactions with the FBI and the criminal profiler, Will Graham.
Hannibal's Cooking Tip #45: always take pride in a well-prepared meal.
If all this is sounding familiar, it should. The basic plot of the tv show Hannibal is drawn from Thomas Harris' first Hannibal Lecter novel, Red Dragon. It was initially adapted into a 1986 film, Manhunter, which starred William Peterson of CSI fame and Brian Cox. After the success of movie version of The Silence of the Lambs (the sequel to the novel Red Dragon), Red Dragon the book was remade as Red Dragon the movie in 2002 with Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, Edward Norton as Graham, and Ralph Fiennes (he's so dreamy!).
Got all that?
The point is that Hannibal the tv show is covering ground that is very familiar to fans of Harris' novels and movie adaptions. And yet there were enough new touches to the material that it watching it didn't make me feel bored or tired, in fact, I found the pilot fascinating, harrowing, and as grisly as any of the other versions of the story.
First, let's get to the basics: (from the NBC website)
One of the most fascinating literary characters comes to life on television for the first time: psychiatrist-turned-serial-killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In this new drama based on the characters from Thomas Harris' classic novels, we see where this incredible story began. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, "The Big C") is a gifted criminal profiler who is on the hunt for a serial killer with the FBI. Graham's unique way of thinking gives him the astonishing ability to empathize with anyone - even psychopaths. He seems to know what makes them tick. But when the mind of the twisted killer he's pursuing is too complicated for even Will to comprehend, he enlists the help of Dr. Lecter, one of the premier psychiatric minds in the country. Armed with the uncanny expertise of the brilliant doctor, Will and Hannibal (known as a serial killer only to the audience) form a brilliant partnership and it seems there's no villain they can't catch. If Will only knew...Despite the title of the show, Hannibal Lecter doesn't make an appearance in the pilot episode until half way through. Instead, the audience spends time with Will Graham, the FBI criminal profiler who is asked by Jack Crawford, the head of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit (played by Laurence Fishbourne!) to help track down the most elusive and most batshit insane of serial killers. Graham is an interesting creature--he is most definitely not a people person and rates his social skills on the Asperger and autistic side of the spectrum. But he has an uncanny ability to see think like a killer. He's portrayed by Hugh Dancy, who I always found to be overrated, but I admit that I was completely won over by his performance. Despite being one of society's "others," I found myself able to connect with Will as a character. It also doesn't hurt that he has a penchant for rescuing stray dogs. Nothing like some well-placed doggies to win over the lady viewers.
Wearing glasses makes me look smart and bookish! Now watch my awkward social interactions...hold on to your panties, ladies.
And then we have Hannibal. You might recognize the actor, Mads Mikkelsen, as the Bond villain in Casino Royale, and the Denmark-born actor certainly has a gift for appearing sinister. The audience is clued in from the very start of Hannibal's cannibalistic ways (just in case you missed that memo), but none of the other characters know....yet.
The most interesting part about the tv version of Hannibal is the character's mysterious motivation. Sure, Hannibal loves a good puzzle, but it seems clear he is more interested in understanding Will Graham than understanding the killers he hunts. Other than that we aren't really told why Hannibal would spend time hunting down other killers--unless he is hoping to pick up some new tricks. I'm VERY curious to see where the relationship between Hannibal and Graham leads and how long the show will continue before Graham learns of Hannibal's....shall we say, hobbies.
This might be my favorite promo photo for a show EVER.
Network tv now has to compete with cable channels that are offering more mature and well-funded fare (example: Game of Thrones, Mad Mem). I've noticed that we are seeing similar ambitious stories on network television and Hannibal follows this trend. The show looks beautiful and has a very cinematic quality. It's also fairly gory and disturbing for typical prime time network fare--but I find that kind of adult storytelling compelling, as long as it isn't violence for violence sake (looking at you, Criminal Minds). You can go pretty much anywhere for a standard crime procedural these days, but Hannibal doesn't follow the same old formula. It's more about the mind than the body, and exploring the way a sick mind works. It's intriguing, mysterious, and left me guessing. In short: I'm hooked.
Some more points:
--you might want to use closed captioning when watching. Hannibal's accent is occasionally incomprehensible.
--keep your Pillow of Fear (trademark Caroline) handy to hide behind during some of the scarier parts. The finale of the pilot episode was particularly heart-pounding.
--the second episode has OMG GILLIAN ANDERSON!
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm on NBC.