First Impressions – Hannibal: Apéritif, Amuse-Bouche, Potage, Oeuf, Coquilles, Entrée


Hannibal follows the relationship between FBI special investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) as Will helps Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) solve some of the most gruesome cases.

Out of all the serial killer shows this season, this one had to walk into my DVR.  I wasn’t interested in the concept of the show as much as the others because when I think Hannibal Lecter, I think Anthony Hopkins.  However after my extreme disappointment with The Following, I just had to give this Bryan Fuller series a try.  After all, I loved all of his previous series and while they all dealt with a touch of the dark side, they were all more whimsical in nature.

Hannibal is a darker series but I can’t help smiling at the titles of all the episodes, as they are named after elements in French cuisine.  The show is about murder, delves into psyche of mentally disturbed people and at times gruesome.  The show is not appropriate for younger viewers but it is on broadcast television so there are limits to what the series can show.

They producers know that and push the envelope just far enough.  I think it’s what they don’t show that makes this a truly fascinating series.

First, the title character: Hannibal.  Like I said before, Hannibal Lecter is almost synonymous with Anthony Hopkins.  So the question was how can Mads Mikkelsen make the character his own?  Most American audiences will be familiar with him as the villain in Casino Royale.  In many of his Dutch films, he’s usually not playing the villain.  For alternative view of this actor, I’d recommend the foreign film After the Wedding.

As for Hannibal Lecter, I simply love how methodical this character is.  The problem with the The Following’s Joe Carroll is he goes from charismatic cult leader/killer to a whiny, tantrum-throwing, insecure weakling.  He doesn’t come across as foreboding anymore, instead he’s pretty pathetic.

The Following had a good start but there’s a wide berth from what the series was to what it is now, which is why I waited a few episodes in to figure out the direction this series was going to go in.  Fortunately, Mikkelsen’s Lecter doesn’t lose his cool so easily even when there are characters who are able to peel back some of his layers.

To add to that, he worms his way into people’s head without them ever suspecting anything.  Saying one thing to Jack and another thing to Will.  He just kinda lurks in the background letting them doing most of the talking.

Will can suss out the fact that Lecter may be trying to influence him but so far he doesn’t detect anything sinister underneath it all.  Beyond Lecter’s intelligence, he is a master at playing both sides and so I can easily understand how he’s able to get away with his crimes for so long.  I think that’s what makes him enthralling.  Lecter is in the lion’s den considering that he’s working so closely with the FBI and yet he’s got the upper hand.

The series departs from the original stories so that Lecter is able to foster his relationship with Will Graham.  Will uses his ability to imagine himself in the role of the killer and he struggles with his overly empathetic nature because of the guilt of feeling what the killer feels.

While his ability to methodically recreate the crimes resembles Lecter’s mental capabilities, Will’s pure empathetic nature does not and I almost think that’s the thing that makes Lecter interested in Will.  Here’s an individual who is on the same intellectual level as him but the emotional aspect is so far from what he knows and I think that Lecter believes (or used to believe) that being incredibly smart and being acutely emotional are mutually exclusive things.  Will is a fascinating oddity to Hannibal.

I also love the flow of the episodes.  The show is patient and Lecter’s influence is slowly paying off.  I had read about the news to not air Oeuf in the US and I have to admit that I forgot about that when I watched Coquilles.  Because these episodes are so tightly written, I immediately felt something off about Coquilles.  There was a strange emotional rift in the pacing.

I completely understand the reason for pulling the episode though.  The episode was shot before the Sandy Hook massacre and it dealt with children killing their family members.  Also the reason why I didn’t want to make it this week’s Banana’s post.  I think after knowing that synopsis, if you are able to deal with the subject matter of the episode, the episode does deserved to be looked at.  The whole episode and not the US re-edited webisode version as it is a gripping episode.  Molly Shannon has a great, albeit disturbing role and Lecter has some key scenes with Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) whom he is beginning to treat as his protégé.

To add to the story, the show has a definitive, stylistic look to it.  Bryan Fuller has always been great with creating incredible sets and a cinematic look to his shows and this one is no different.  From The Shining bathroom set in the first episode to the angles in which the location establishing shots are filmed, there is an eerie tone throughout the series.  There are a lot of things that goes on mentally so we are privy to Will’s disconcerting dreams and snippets of Hannibal’s past.  Fuller nods to Hitchcock, Kubrick and other suspense masters that make the series thrilling without having to be swiftly paced.

Not to mention the way food appears on the show.  It looks so deceptively appetizing meaning good enough to be on the cover of a magazine but looks a bit fake.  The show is pretty much visually suggestive.

Out of all the serial killer dramas that debuted this season, I have to admit this is by far my favorite and it’s mainly due to the way Mads Mikkelsen plays the title role.  He doesn’t do it with a wink to the camera telling the viewer that we’re privy to his concealed nature.  Instead, even to the viewer, Lecter is a big mystery.  I keep looking for clues as to when Will is going to pick up vital things about his shrink and we get a sprinkle here and there.  But Will is a long way from putting everything together.  To add to my wicked zeal for this show, next week Gillian Anderson makes her guest star appearance as Hannibal’s shrink.  Eeeee.  Happy dance.



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