Shrewsbury, Massachusetts-The mythology of Hannibal Lector runs deep. Anthony Hopkins has been serving us liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti for over twenty years. So when a Hannibal television series was announced, it seemed like a bad idea. It seemed like nothing but a cheap gimmick to try and get viewers back into another crime procedural with a well-known literary character (looking at you, Elementary). However, when the first season premiered last year it was met with critical acclaim and garnered a small (yet furiously devoted) fanbase. Now the show has returned to us with more adventures of the cannibal psychiatrist.
Framed as the serial killer “The Chesapeake Ripper,” FBI special investigator Will Graham is imprisoned and soon to be on trial. All while the man who framed him, Hannibal Lector, remains free. Jack Crawford, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI, recruits Hannibal to assist FBI investigations. Meanwhile, Will struggles with his sanity and a way to clear his name and reveal the truth about Hannibal.
I will admit that I too was skeptical of Hannibal series being good and I am glad to see myself eat my words. Hannibal is one hell of series, run excellently by Bryan Fuller, creator of the brilliant (but unfortunately short-lived) Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me. Hannibal does something no network show is doing at the moment: it is trying to challenge the quality and stamina of cable shows. Thanks to stellar writing and a talented cast, it’s succeeding.
The cast is filled with a dedicated pedigree of actors who really delve into the characters. Laurence Fishburne is perhaps the most famous of the lot and his performance as Jack Crawford is grand. However, the real grandiosity lies in the show’s two leads. Hugh Dancy is incredible as Will Graham and plays the tortured investigator with grace. Mads Mikkelsen, who I am very glad is getting more and more well known, is doing terrific as the titular character. He portrays Hannibal Lector as menacing, yet charming, and makes you think, “Anthony Who?”
What I love most about this series is the deep sense of mythology the show taps into and expands. There is so much that happened between Graham and Lector before the events of Red Dragon and someone finally decided it was time to fill in the blanks. It serves not as a reboot, but as a continuation of a series that has intrigued audiences for years. Even the move to NBC has no stilted the gritty details of the original stories, the show can be just as graphic as anything on AMC or FX (sometimes even more so). It maintains the spirit of the books, while offering something new.
Hannibal is the best network drama on television. Fuller and co. have offered audiences a unique perspective on one of cinema’s most beloved villains and brought him into an expanded universe. The show is so much fun to watch because you can tell the show is challenging itself to expand its world and never get into the same routine. The show has a plan and it intends to get there. I pray that you try it out and watch it live, so that these very talented and passionate people can continue to make one of the best shows on television.
Hannibal is on Friday Nights at 10 pm on NBC and Season One is available to stream on Amazon Prime