Review: Hannibal – Yes, Another AWESOME Serial Killer Drama


I agree with you:  Television has enough dramas that feature a serial killer as their main character.  Dexter, of course, perfected the art, although it wore over time and it is good that he is finally retiring from our screens.  The iconic Norman Bates is now captivating us and earning deserved critical raves on Bates Motel, even though it’s a little weird the kid from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is playing him.  And of course The Following is giving us a more logically upright take on the genre, with the serial-killer there actually play an unsympathetic bad guy.  I couldn’t blame you if you thought there wasn’t enough room on your palate for another series, but trust me… there is.

NBC’s Hannibal premieres tonight at 10pm and is a series that features Silence of the Lambs’ Hannibal Lecter, as close to a modern serial-killer icon you will get, in the years before even Red Dragon, way back before he was even suspected of being a serial killer.  Where Hannibal breaks from the crowd is that it makes no attempt to portray Dr. Lecter in a charismatic light.  There are no attempts to make you sympathetic towards him.  Instead,  Hannibal focuses on the writhing invisible membrane that separates Hannibal’s gruesome passions from what he sees as an opportunity to hide in the open serving as, wait for it, an FBI consultant.

I’ve seen a lot of kudos going out to Mads Mikkelsen for his portrayal of Lecter, deservedly so, but he is matched beat for beat by the series’ real main character, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).  Dancy’s Will Graham is an gifted agent haunted by the very attributes that make him so effective.  Graham has a knock for putting himself into the head of the killer, so far in, in fact, that he has questions about whether he himself would be capable of.  Dancy’s portrayal of this is nearly electrical.  Graham is a character covered in thorns, and wound for the attack.  He always appears to be ‘containing’ something, and when it comes out it does so in ways that really resonate beyond each scene.

Mikkelsen’s game is composure and stillness.  Sometimes the most graphic performances come from still characters, and Mikkelsen’s Lecter is the perfect example.  He seems to exist in a fixed state, unshakable, but we are reminded frequently that this is just a facade, leaving us to wonder how much effort it takes to keep that composure.

Mikkelsen’s Lecter plays beautifully off this moral ambiguity of Graham’s, possibly being the only person outside of Graham that knows it even exists, and the show quickly becomes a game of psychological cat and mouse between two men who are trying desperately to appear cooperative on the outside; each harboring nothing but ill will.

Hannibal blossoms where it absolutely must, with verbose and nearly poetic discussions of the dark drives of the sociopath, and it does so in a way that well exceeds the pop-psychology of Dexter, and feels disturbingly real.  The mood of Hannibal is something that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere on television, and I’m hard pressed to think of anything that is even comparable.


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