Hannibal Season 1: Review

August 22, 2014 9:09 am

There’s very few TV shows that dare to push the boundaries of their content. There’s even fewer that push the boundaries to the extent that viewers are left literally cringing and gasping with revulsion in their seats. Hannibal flips the bird to all forms of conformity and proves that mixing psychology, horror and cannibalism is a recipe for one of the best and understated shows in recent memory.

hannibalBryan Fuller helms this dark and gloomy series expertly, working with actors Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy and Lawrence Fishburne. Dancy is Will Graham, an investigator with a knack for tracking down serial killers due to the fact he can empathise completely with them. However, every time he does, a little piece of him is destroyed to make way for the psychopathic thoughts of said serial killers. Concerned agent Jack Crawford (Fishburne) sends him to a psychiatrist for evaluation: Dr Hannibal Lector, portrayed by Mikkelsen.

Fuller must have suffered some form of psychological trauma when he was younger because some of the things he dreams up for this programme are truly chilling. What’s even more impressive (or unsettling) is that with each new episode things get more and more disturbing. There are thirteen episodes – by the finale you feel like you’ve gone insane yourself, which is the point. As Will Graham loses his mind, Bryan Fuller ensures you do too – the various visions Will experiences come across as genuine symptoms of someone who’s losing it. While the visions are horrific, there isn’t that dreary horror-movie sense of putting gory and gratuitous images to screen for the sake of shock value. In fact, every deranged vision and gruesome murder scene is (in the most twisted way possible) beautiful. They hold symbolism and imagery which make you recoil in disgust, just so you can appreciate it from afar. As you watch Will reconstruct the murders in his head while narrating the killer’s motives and design as he re-commits them, you can truly appreciate how a man such as this can fall so deep down the spiral of madness. Will’s visions are sometimes so casually interwoven to what’s going on, you have to question whether you even saw them, just as he questions.

Whatever impression of Hannibal Lector Anthony Hopkins left with you as he sawed open the head of Ray Liotta and force fed him his brain, I can guarantee you that this version will chill you even more. Hannibal is refined, he is cultured, he is well spoken and he eats people – it’s such a trivial part of this series that you would probably forget if you didn’t see him roasting a lung or such every now and again. When he sits opposite Will, barley saying a word, we get the sense there is pure darkness in the heart of this man, and that he could break your neck and eat you without feeling a touch of remorse (if you don’t believe me, watch episode eight.) Just the knowledge of the capabilities of Hannibal is enough to make every scene with him a tense and stressful experience which is sure to leave nail marks in your palms.

The acting from every cast member is worryingly perfect. I could almost believe Hugh Dancy is a genuinely unstable man a film crew have just followed around during the day. Similarly I could believe Mads Mikkelsen is a genuine cannibalistic psychopath being followed by the same crew. Lawrence Fishburne does a solid and sincere job of portraying the FBI agent weighed down with his choices. The cinematography is exquisite, giving a sense of true desolation and the darkly atmospheric soundtrack accompanies more or less every scene, covering the whole thing in a sheet of melancholy beauty. My only comment is that some storylines do seem rushed in the short space of time each episode has to tell it. Having said this, Hannibal is a brooding masterpiece which will gain cult status if allowed to continue.

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