My current media obsession (which is likely obvious if you follow my Tumblr at all) is “Hannibal,” NBC’s drama about a few of the people who knew Hannibal Lecter back when he hadn’t been caught yet. It’s not really about Lecter himself — he doesn’t show up until quite a ways into the premiere, and the show isn’t really from his point of view, so we mostly get to see the mask he presents everyone to keep from being exposed as a serial killer and cannibal. His, as one character puts it so well, “very well-tailored person-suit.”
I watched the show when it first aired, have rewatched it since a couple of times since, and I keep finding new things to be impressed by. (spoilers ahead, of course)
There are so many things to love about this show that I’ve written and rewritten this post half a dozen times to focus on different ones. Instead, I will make a list.
- Hannibal (obviously). Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is understated and brilliant.
- All the performances, really.
- The various parallels and contrasts among the characters and how they relate to one another.
- The look of it. The set dressing and costumes and saturated color are incredibly lush.
- The characters are brilliantly written, especially Jack Crawford. I feel like one could easily write a long essay about Crawford as a character and his various successes and failings in season one. He’s a great boss, a great catcher-of-bad-guys, and a great husband — but he’s also the worst possible boss for Will Graham.
- The art of the various crime scenes and crimes — murder and violence become art in a very obvious way, but then…
- The show refuses to let us look away from the effects of those murders and violent episodes on the survivors.
- The relationship between Will and Hannibal is fascinating, and constantly evolving.
- The showrunner, Bryan Fuller, has arcs planned out for something like seven seasons, including the events of “Red Dragon” and maybe the other books if they can get the rights. SO COOL
It’s a peculiar show, and I’m often surprised that it runs on network TV. It’s disturbing and distressing. Even though they’re artistic, the crime scenes are full of body horror and nightmare fuel and other TV Tropes I won’t link because I want to accomplish something today. The show is so viscerally horrifying at times that it’s hard to watch.
Normally I stay away from this kind of thing — I stopped watching Battlestar Galactica because it got too dark, and I watch comedies almost exclusively.
But “Hannibal” has something about it that is compelling for me, and it’s not just Mads Mikkelsen’s cheekbones. It has a surreal, dream-like beauty to it that stuns me. Add in the astonishingly good and beautifully stylized writing and directing and I can’t look away. This isn’t just another “unsub of the week” show. The story arcs are long and complex, and woven so beautifully that after watching it through once, you can see the glimmers of their ends running through it from the beginning.
There’s one more thing I adore about Hannibal: the people (person?) who run(s) its official Tumblr are fantastic. The entries are engaging, funny, and exciting, and the contests and other interactions with fans are awesome. Its tone is perfect, fitting in with both the dark themes of the show and the silliness that has become a characteristic of the fandom online.
tl;dr: Hannibal is awesome. Everyone who can stand the gore in it should watch it so that NBC will keep renewing it.