TV Review: HANNIBAL S1E01, An Apertif That Goes Down Bloody. Bloody Good, That Is
Admittedly this one snuck up on me tonight. If it were not for the commercial promotions earlier in the evening I probably would have closed the night off gaming, reading, or heaven forbid, Spring cleaning. Thank goodness I stuck around, though, because the season premiere of NBC's new thriller Hannibal was worth checking out.
Out of the starting gate, I must declare one thing. I have no lengthy experience with serial killer dramas like Dexter. I gave The Following a shot but have fallen behind on that. So my experience may be limited, but on the plus side it will not be tainted so much by those other shows. Nor did I make the immediate connection between series creator Bryan Fuller and one of my favorite tragedies of network television, Pushing Daisies. So I had no preconceived notion of what to expect from this series opener. Dare I say it, I was fresh meat.
The premiere episode opens at night at a home during a murder investigation. Special Agent William Graham, played by Hugh Dancy, stands in the middle of the foyer and begins to replay the murders in his mind. Graham's innate ability is to empathize with his killers. The problem is, this ability haunts Graham and he would rather lecture at FBI headquarters than go out on the field. However, there have been a series of murders in Minnesota and Graham is recruited by Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). Graham reluctantly goes back into the field and when Crawford senses that the investigation is beginning to weigh heavy on Graham (cue some awesome, vivid and nightmarish visions) he introduces Graham to renowned psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by one of Twitch's favorite international actors, Mads Mikkelsen.
And so begins the relationship between the agent and the psychiatrist. Graham is skittish, emotional and sometimes frantic. Hannibal is, well, Hannibal, as we would expect him to be. Suave, meticulous, mindful of what he puts in his body as he provides a nutritious breakfast for Graham one morning. A breakfast which includes some nice sausage as Graham puts it. And that is the thing about this show. We already know who and what Hannibal Lecter becomes, but showrunner Fuller and his writing staff do not outright admit that he is that monster yet. But there are all these visual and oral cues that make you want to point at your television and cry out, "A-ha! He's eating someone there, he is!"
Hannibal doesn't feel like a network program. I would have expected to have seen something this polished, poised and vividly violent coming from one of the cable stations. We will have to wait and see what NBC does as soon as they realize they may have something special on their slate. If the remaining episodes maintain this level of quiet intensity, Hannibal could be the surprise standout from all other procedural dramas in the market this Spring season.
Thankfully, Hannibal will only play out its first season over 13 episodes. I hope they keep it that way in the event of renewal; follow the example set by cable programs that are only around for a short time and leave us wanting more after each season finale. I hope Fuller has a long term goal in mind for all the characters in the show. Looking at his writing history, Fuller is good for a couple seasons worth of work then he is onto another project. I'm not saying that to be mean to Fuller. One just cannot deny their own track record. I hope for a long-term relationship between the agent and the psychiatrist.
I also hope NBC doesn't drive this show off the proverbial cliff. They seem to do that with some shows that we like (*cough* Community! *cough*).
Random Observations and Thoughts:
- Huzzah to Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson for showing up out of the blue. Full double take when he appears at one of the murder scenes. He is part of the regular cast too. Cool.
- Fuller has admitted to being largely influenced by Kubrick's The Shining and was finally able to insert a tribute into one of his shows. Look for the red bathroom scene.
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