If you have not been watching NBC’s Hannibal starring Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, do yourself a favor and get on that. The show just ended its first season—13 episodes that are brilliantly written and take place in a highly stylized and eerily believable universe, as seen through the creation of Bryan Fuller. Fuller is responsible for Pushing Daises and Dead Like Me, two shows that ended way too soon. It seems that Fuller may finally have found his way to TV survival. (And I’m not putting blame on him for those shows ending early. I blame the same people who let Arrested Development fizzle out—that’s right, the audience.).
Hannibal is beautiful and terrifying and incredibly smart. The show weaves a relationship between Graham and Lecter, one an agent asked to use his extreme powers of empathy to help track killers, and the other – well, a killer. But Lecter is so much more than that, he is a former surgeon turned psychiatrist. Oh, and he’s a really great cook. Hannibal loves throwing little dinner parties for his friends, leaving the viewer wondering if he’s serving human flesh this time, or is it really pork like he claims? The really terrifying thought is, would you not be able to tell the difference?! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Dr. Lecter is not a new character. Author Thomas Harris first introduced Lecter in his novel Red Dragon, published in 1981. The character really got attention ten years later in Jonathan Demme’s film adaptation of Harris’ second cannibal themed novel, The Silence of the Lambs. Which, if you have not seen that…I don’t know what to do with you.
After that was a terrible sequel, Hannibal, starring Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore along with Hopkins, but none of that – or Ridley Scott’s usually awesome direction – could save it from the massive train wreck that it is. Though, totally worth watching just this one scene with Ray Liotta. Epically hilariously bad.
After that came the much better Red Dragon and then the not so great Hannibal Rising. Point is, the character is not new. What Bryan Fuller has done though, is make Hannibal Lecter completely terrifying all over again.
You see, Hannibal Lecter is likable. It’s hard to watch the show and just think of him as this killer who eats people. He’s funny and smart and classy and really really likable. Kinda crush worthy and slightly flirtatious with Will in this way that makes you almost wish they would make out. But no, wait! You can’t make out with Hannibal, Will! He might eat your face off. Like, literally. Then again, he wouldn’t, because that’s not classy. He’d cut Will’a face off and cook it with some figs in a sweet vinaigrette and serve a wine to match. He’s a gentleman.
And that’s why Hannibal is more than just a fan. He, to take an idea from the show, honors the flesh. He isn’t a monster, he just has an appetite for human flesh. And you know, that’s gross. But watching him prepare elaborate meals makes even this vegetarian at least intrigued.
And the show isn’t just about Lecter and cannibalism – there is so much more going on. There are elaborate murders and characters who think they’re dead and can’t see faces and characters who aren’t Hannibal but also eat people and characters who build human totem poles. Part of the brilliance of the show is making Hannibal seem safe and comforting in comparison to these other killers. In contrast to seeing a man with he neck cut open so his vocal chords could be used as strings, Hannibal is just making a lovely meal out of tongue. And what of it?!
Watch the show. There’s lots of anatomy for those anatomy fans, and lots of good looking people and even more amazing acting and writing. It’s worth the nightmares. I promise.