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Marina Antunes [Cathode Ray Mission 09.25.13] horror thriller crime

The TV landscape is very crowded at the moment. Thrown in amongst reality TV, the perennial crime and procedurals, comedies and the occasional bit of good sci-fi, there's a lot to choose from and the last few years seem to have been filled with a surprisingly large number of better than average shows. Most never make it past their first season (some not even getting there) while others fight to stay alive. Hannibal is one of the fighters.

The events of the show take place between a few lines of text in Thomas Harris' "Red Dragon," extrapolating the events that unfolded when Dr. Hannibal Lecter was still a practicing psychologist and treating Will Graham, an FBI special investigator suffering from a cocktail of psychoses which make him particularly adept at his job. Graham is brilliant but his approach to field work, which takes him into the mind of the killer, leaves him vulnerable and broken and it is Dr. Lecter's job to help the troubled Will deal with the mental anguish. Lecter finds himself far more attached to Will than just doctorly duty and the two become sort of friends – at least as close as Lecter comes to friends.

On the surface, Hannibal is your typical procedural; Graham and a crew of specialists spend each episode wading through murders and trying to track down a vicious serial killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper. What's great about the show is that it is far more interested in the emotion of the characters and the overarching story arch which deals with Will and Hannibal's relationship than it does about the episodic murders.

That's not to say that those aren't interesting in their own right. The murders are gruesome but there's also a morbid beauty to them. From the human mushroom garden in "Amuse-Bouche" to the human totem in "Trou Normand," the cases are fascinatingly creepy and distressing but also beautiful, the kind of images that leave you unsettled and uncomfortable for a long while after seeing them. Hannibal is perfect episodic television - you need a break between episodes to allow the mind a reprieve from the emotional rollercoaster. The show ties the weekly deaths to the emotional drive of the story which is what makes the show far more compelling but also that much more challenging to watch.

Show runner Bryan Fuller (of Star Trek: Voyager, Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies fame) and his team of creatives both behind and in front of the camera, have put together one of the best looking shows on TV. There's a very particular color palette and visual style, likely not accidental considering David Slade is both executive producer and director on a number of episodes including the pilot. The performances from both leads, Hugh Dancy as Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter, are outstanding (particularly Mikkelsen who has brought a new dimension to the character that has, for decades, been synonymous with Anthony Hopkins) but there's also a fantastic supporting cast including Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, Lara Jean Chorostecki as the sleuthy crime blogger Freddie Lounds and Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier - Lecter's own shrink.

Hannibal is must watch TV, the kind of envelope pushing network show that we're more used to seeing on cable but it's far more sophisticated than that and deserves a look beyond the "Did you see what they put on TV?" knee jerk reaction. There's real emotion and depth here along with intricately weaved themes that mark this as better than average television.

Hannibal season one is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Blu-ray Extras: There's no skimping on the extras and the season one package comes loaded with goodies to keep fans occupied for a couple of hours. Spread over the three disks are a number of featurettes covering the music (an 11 minute feature about the music and sound design of the show including interviews with Fuller and composer Brian Reitzell), the food ("A Taste for Killing" includes interviews with food stylist Janice Poon and culinary consultant José Andrés, 14 minutes), the effects ("The FX of Murder," 14 minutes) and how the show came to be ("Hannibal Reborn," 11 minutes).

Other extras include detailed (complete with script, episode stills and sketches) storyboards for "Apéritif," one deleted scene, the fantastic gag reel and episode commentaries for "Apéritif" and "Savoureux" with Bryan Fuller, David Slade and Hugh Dancy. I had hoped for a few more of these but having the audio commentary on the first and last episodes is a nice way to cap the season. There may be only two but those two commentary tracks are chalk full of insight.

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Missphitts (8 years ago) Reply

Yep, great stuff! Looking forward to S2.

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