[Review] Hannibal – Season 1


And so our session with the infamous serial killer doctor comes to an end for the season.  Out of all the serial killer dramas that have been trending this season, this is my favorite and I’m not alone in thinking that.  I’m done with The Following and I have yet to finish Bates Motel.

Bryan Fuller has taken the popular story and carefully created a delectable seasonal arc of the friendship between a serial killer psychiatrist and an FBI investigator who specializes in catching serial killers.  Of course, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has been under Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s (Mads Mikkelsen) spell for most of the season due to his “psychic driving”.  It was tantalizing to watch the final scene of the season which foreshadows Lecter’s future.

Just as much as Will is psychically driven by Lecter, I found myself being psychically driven by the show.  As the season progressed, I found myself  having a hard time figuring out what was real, what was not which was further enhanced by Fuller’s homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  Fuller makes references to other horror movies but none is more evident than The Shining.

It’s the mind games the series plays that makes it all the more thrilling.  Did that kiss with Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) really happen?  Why aren’t other people aware much sooner that Will is losing time?  For example, how is Will Graham able to finish a class without appearing “out of it”.  I’d really like to know so I can apply that skill during my workday.

And most importantly, I’m curious by the games Hannibal seems to want to play with the people around him.  He seems to put so much time and energy into manipulating them that I want to believe that he get something more out of it than mere amusement.

While Hannibal is the show’s main antagonist, Mikkelsen plays him in a personable way.  That may be strange considering most American audiences visualize Casino Royale’s disfigured Le Chiffre when they think of him but here it’s easy to see how Hannibal comes off as warm and friendly at first.  He flies under the radar by not saying anything too shocking but he draws out people’s darker natures without them realizing it.  Everyone has those things that we think about but don’t feel comfortable saying it out loud.  Hannibal creates a safe space for them to talk about it without being judged and so it is easy to see why people are drawn to him.

And lest you think Hannibal is just busy working Will, he’s not.  He works everyone in this series from Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to Alana and most significantly, Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl).  It’s just that he has a sheer delight in psychically driving Will because the Will he’s creating makes him feel less alone.

I could easily see Mads Mikkelsen getting an Emmy nomination just because he plays the titular role of this great series.  Hannibal is certainly a picture of measured calm.  However, I also really enjoyed watching Hugh Dancy as he went from being detached to losing his mind.  It’s an interesting balance to watch Will visibly shake with fear while Hannibal coldly looks on.  I’d love to see him win an Emmy nom as well.  (As for the actual Emmy, let me hold off on that for now.)

In addition, this season of Hannibal was a bevy of Bryan Fuller alums, actors who have appears in previous Bryan Fuller projects: Caroline Dhavernas (Wonderfalls), Ellen Greene (Pushing Daisies), Raúl Esparza (Pushing Daisies) and Ellen Muth (Dead Like Me).

Plus, add in a mix of notable guest stars like: Gillian Anderson, Lance Henrikson, Molly Shannon and Eddie Izzard (Two words: Columbian necktie).  That’s the power of Bryan Fuller and the work he creates and it’s enough to bring these big (and unexpected) names together.

Kacey Rohl is fairly a new face for me but I think she played Abigail Hobbs exceedingly well.  Despite her suspected role in her dad’s killings, she was the face of innocence.  Everyone else had a different perspective on Abigail.  Hannibal preyed on her naiveté and Will wanted to keep her safe.  Jack refused to believe in the possibility of her innocence while Alana sensed Abigail’s cunningness.  Abigail had quite the rollercoaster ride this season and Rohl does a great job with every plot development.

While the show’s violence may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is a limit to what is shown on a network.  Still I’m surprised at what they got away with and found the stuff left to our imaginations to be even more terrifying than what they did show.  If you’re going to watch the show, definitely watch from beginning to end, including Oeuf (Episode 4) which was not broadcast on television in the US.  Bryan Fuller felt it was insensitive to the cultural mood of the time (the episode was filmed before the Boston Marathon Bombings and the Newtown School shootings) but I didn’t feel the story had a strong connection to those real-life events.  Plus, it really disrupts the emotional flow of the series without watching that episode.

The show is a visual feast.  Even I find myself salivating over Hannibal culinary creations (immediately followed by oh gawd, oh gawd, that’s people meat disgust).  Scully, put down the fork!

However the show’s dark beauty doesn’t end there.  It’s seen in the vivid imagery of Will’s dreams or the creativity of the crime scenes.  And for those who are familiar with Bryan Fuller’s work, you know that he pays just as much attention to detail in the visuals as he does with the script.

The ending was a great cliffhanger but I’m just not ready for Will and Hannibal to end their friendship yet.  Their conversations are so intriguing and reveal so much.  So I just can’t quite believe that Fuller is going to break this bond so soon.  I initially thought that Will’s belief about Hannibal would be attributed to his illness but I think that may be too easy.

It may be moving things a little too fast but I think I’d rather see Will try and mess with Hannibal’s head in the same way he’s messed with Will’s.  It’s not going to be easy as Hannibal picks up on things very quickly.  But that’s what makes the strategic play of cat and mouse so intriguing to watch.  Until the next season starts, I’ll keep replaying all of Season 1.



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