There’s not a lot of television shows that stick with me long after they are off the air. However, I started to think about one particular show that despite a short run and a very passionate fanbase, I can only hope that one day this show will come back in some form. A film, miniseries, back to regularly produced episodes, I am a hungry, hungry fannibal.
So we’re gonna talk about Hannibal!
Ah, Hannibal… it was on NBC from 2012 and concluded in 2015, developed by Bryan Fuller who also created Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me (a personal favorite) and American Gods. The show is based upon characters in the novels Red Dragon, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, written by Thomas Harris.
When you think of the character Hannibal Lecter, you think of the charming yet dangerous portrayal by Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. However, this version of Hannibal is a bit younger. Portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal is more of a Lucifer type (in Mikkelsen’s words) of character. He’s sophisticated, smart, charismatic, talented, a psychiatrist with a thriving practice, enjoys the finest things and is a very dangerous serial killer where his true self is hiding in plain sight. On the other end of the spectrum is Will Graham, portrayed by Hugh Dancy. Graham is an FBI profiler, uses empathy to get inside the mind of a killer. Rounding out the rest of the primary cast is Laurence Fishbourne as Jack Crawford and Caroline Dhavernas as Alana Bloom. There are other actors and characters who come in and out of the show but these four are consistent throughout all three seasons.
What makes Hannibal different from the films is a combination of a lot of things. One, it is on television, giving us enough time to get to know these “fresh” characters. How they are around each other, their interactions, what drives them, their ever evolving relationships. In particular, the relationship between Hannibal and Will is the main focus of the entire show. It is the foundation of what we are to see and what is to become. How far does their fascination with each other go? Well, I don’t want to spoil it but one is very, very interested in the other. And I don’t mean a patient to psychiatrist relationship. Besides the well written episodes and acting, it’s the visuals that make it stand out. It’s beautifully shot, showcasing this air of elegance around the show and its characters. The camera angles are swift and smooth, colorful yet there’s a bleakness present. It draws outside inspiration of color theory and different art mediums. It doesn’t feel like a drama. Yes, it incorporates drama, but it’s a solid thriller with horror elements thrown in. Or you can think of it as I do: sophisticated horror. It’s not shlocky or lazy but stunning with combining horror and gore into a setting of beauty, thriller and ease. It’s hard to define Hannibal without watching it yourself.
The attention to detail of what food dishes Hannibal is going to create. The episodes are titled after food dishes until we get to the half point in season three. The art references satisfied the art major in me. I think that’s what initially drew me into the series. I recognized a lot of artworks (and created a blog on tumblr because of it) and that is secondary to what was important: the story. The story of what life was for a young Hannibal Lecter. The foods he liked, how he obtained it, and the ongoing manipulation between the characters to Hannibal. It’s clear, to us, the audience of what he is capable of, of who is to become because of what we had witnessed in other interpretations. And yet we are captivated by how he is portraying himself to this small group of people he is letting to his life. We’re also compelled to watch Will’s rise and downfall, what makes Will Graham a fascination point into Hannibal’s life. In a way, Will has taken the place of Agent Clarice Sterling who is not present in the series.
I recently re-watched a few episodes of Hannibal and the show still surprises me. It still delights me in a way that I haven’t experienced in a series in quite some time. In particular, I was in season two and that season has some of my all time favorites. The finale, which is the equivalent of plugging a hole to only have the hole implode and we are left with the pieces is one of the best if not shocking season finales made.
Are there weaknesses within Hannibal? Of course. But the strengths overpower them and even if Hannibal was on the air for a short period of time, it has gained a cult following. Dare I say it, maybe a cultural phenomenon online. It holds up, looks like it was produced a year ago and the characters and stories are not dry. They are still just as fresh as they were when they were produced and aired. It’s been five years since the emotional series finale and I have dealt with the loss of Hannibal. It was a great outlet of what I liked to see on television. And I do have to give NBC credit for having such a show on air. I think all fannibals think the same and can agree that a show like Hannibal should not have lasted 3 seasons, let alone one. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s the idea and follow through of a show on network with this kind of content.
Talk about taking a risk.
In conclusion, Hannibal is a hidden gem when it comes to television horror. Hannibal is available through Amazon Prime and I’m going to also assume Netflix and Hulu.