Everyone knows who Hannibal Lector is. And so the task of making a TV series about such a famous character, created and crafted in bestselling books by author Thomas Harris and brought to life on the cinema screen by three different actors (one of which defined the role to many) was an extremely challenging and daring feat.
Thankfully Hannibal is in the hands of the amazing talented screenwriter and television producer Bryan Fuller a man who across his career has not only produced and written for such series as Heroes and Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine and Voyager but created cult hits Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisy’s and in this humble reviewers opinion one of the greatest TV shows of all time Dead Like Me.
The mind blowing achievement of Fuller and the extremely talented crew of creative who made the series is that once you start to watch Hannibal it will utterly redefine everything you know about not only about Dr Lector but the entire world around him.
The way it achieves this is devilishly simply, by starting from the beginning of Hannibal’s story before anyone including the FBI knew the real truth behind the serial killing cannibal, anyone that is but the audience a fact that makes the experience even more absorbing and entertaining to watch.
Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) is hired in as a psychiatrist to help the gifted but troubled criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) a man who is so empathetic he can completely see into the minds of serial killers to a point where he almost becomes them.
This talent which tortures Graham is extremely useful to the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) however the more Graham helps out catching killers the more he losses of himself.
Fascinated by Graham, Lector becomes his confident and advisor on the brutal murder cases he works on all the while playing his own dark game in the background manipulating the people around him and seducing Graham into a friendship that will ultimately come apart when the terrible truth is revealed.
Across the 13 episodes of the first season, each named after an element of French cuisine, the story brilliantly builds with the many strands, plots and sub-plots all expertly weaved together in razor sharp scripts packed full of imaginative ideas and developing and revealing much more depth to the characters than any of the films have ever done.
Playing Dr Lector himself is the marvelous and menacing Mads Mikkelsen dressed to kill at all times whether out in the field hunting murderers or in his extravagant kitchen having some friends for dinner. Mikkelsen utterly owns the character making Hannibal so much his it seems that no one else should ever play the role other than him.
Looking as physically capable of murder and brutality as Brian Cox did in Manhunter he also has the youth and exotic otherness of Gaspard Ulliel in Hannibal Rising added to the gravitas and theatrical flair of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs although Mikkelsen never takes the enigmatic and charming psychopath into caricature as Hopkins did in Red Dragon.
Dancy is equally excellent as Will Graham playing him as a man almost as disturbed and unhinged as the psycho’s he stalks making for a much more interesting and sympathetic character than we have seen in other interpretations.
Added to the two leads is a raft of acting talent including Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas as Will’s only friend Dr. Alana Bloom and the gender swapped parasitic press reporter Freddie Lounds played by Lara Jean Chorostecki as well as guest spots from Eddie Izzard and Gillian Anderson among many, many others.
Oozing style Hannibal is horror at its most elegant and the stark, shocking, horrific and very real murders are beautifully blended with the more abstract and artistic styling’s of the show making it almost a televisual work of art. With an awe inspiring Season 1 ending who knows what will come in Season 2 but fingers crossed the show takes on Clarice Starling’s story and twists her all too familiar character in the way it has done with Graham.
Hannibal is not only the best horror TV series in a long time but one of the best series full stop and for Fuller and Mikkelsen to take a character so well-known in pop culture and completely reinvent him so stunningly successfully in such a stylishly and well scripted series is a truly spectacular triumph that even Hannibal Lector himself would have to be impressed by.