Hannibal, featuring the latest and possibly one of the better incarnations of the infamous cannibalistic serial killer, is also the latest in some very gruesome TV. But at the hands of Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies), who wrote the first episode and David Slade (Awake) who directed it, it becomes haunting and dreamlike, and not the schlocky bloodbath of, say, Fox’s The Following. In its first episode, Hannibal sets up all of the major familiar players of the Hannibal Lecter series, but like A&E’s Bates Motel, even though we know where things will end up, the journey getting there seems worth following. Hit the jump for more on the series’ inaugural episode, as well as a really tasty recipe for cooked lung. If you missed the pilot, watch it online right here.
NBC is in need of a hit, and it hitched its wagon to Hannibal‘s star last year, when it gave financial backing and ordered the series before the scripts had even been finished. Fuller collected a great store of actors for the series, too, starting with British actor Hugh Dancy (with a very nice American accent) as Will Graham, a criminal profiler and hunter of serial killers with whom he empathizes with too much for his own good. Opposite him, Mads Mikkelsen, a Danish actor who keeps his perfectly clipped Scandinavian speech patterns, is a great choice for the cold but oddly compelling Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Slade opens this first episode with a horrifically but lyrically filmed murder scene, showing Will’s talents in profiling the crimes and their killers. That kind of illustration of a supreme mental process is something that the BBC’s Sherlock has always done exceptionally well, giving us a glimpse into the mind of a man who, simply by staring at something long enough, can uncover all of its secrets.
Will is absolutely in the Sherlock mold, as almost all contemporary master sleuths are, and the show also shares a few tricks with The Mentalist and Criminal Minds. While Hannibal has the possibility of becoming just a procedural (with a Case or Killer of the Week which Will will solve under great personal duress), the series was given a limited episode order (13) in order for it to tell its story in a cable arc, not a network one (which can last for 22 or more episodes a season). Without the need to kill time or fill it up with useless, unconnected plots, Hannibal may flourish. It helps that Fuller has spoken about his vision for the series many seasons in (which may or may not come to fruition), a luxury most showrunners on networks don’t have.
There have been a lot of comments about Hannibal‘s violence, and its entry as just another excessively gruesome show in a sea of blood that is current TV. I’m not going to refute that in the least, but at least in this first episode, the nastiness was largely intimated (though there was still a lot of blood, I think I’m honestly just desensitized to it now). It wasn’t as graphic as some other series whose violence careens into the cartoonish (Sons of Anarchy springs to mind, as does Boardwalk Empire). Yet.
I liked this pilot, and I like where the series is going. For a drama pilot, this was good stuff — we already have a good sense of our two main characters and where they fit in things. It’s not a long, drawn-out process for Will and Lecter to meet, and we’ve already seen (more or less) Lecter commit a crime and shield another criminal while then attending the bedside of the intended victim. He’s toying with everyone, which is classic Lecter, and that paired with Will’s mental stability issues is an engaging watch. Let’s see where this goes.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I usually give pilots a B+ on default to give it room to grow, but I thought this really was a great start. The supporting cast is pretty rote in their roles for now, but that’s the way of a first episode.
— Look, when Morpheus tells you to go use the ladies room, you go use the ladies room!
— Glad to see Lauernce Fishburne on board.
— Will loves dogs!
— So something is up with Lecter and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas, from Wonderfalls).
— “Don’t psychoanalyze me, you won’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed. I’m off to give a lecture now … on psycho-analyzation.”
— “Fear is the price of imagination” – Alana
If you missed any of our previous Hannibal coverage, click here or peruse the recent links below: