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Hannibal, NBC's delicious killer show

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2014-02-24


The NBC TV series Hannibal is somewhat like other modern cop TV series but where Hannibal differs from other forensics shows like CSI is that it's also an examination of the nature of human reality specifically within the character of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).

A prequel series of sorts to author Thomas Harris Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal book series, the TV series Hannibal follows a group of FBI agents tasked at tracking down serial killers across the US. Lead by Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), the team's secret weapon is profiler Will Graham who has the ability to strip reality away from what's in front of him in order to virtually enter the minds of the killers to learn their motivations.

Which admittedly sounds like a lot of other shows out there from Sherlock to The Mentalist.

Except in Hannibal everytime Graham sees through the eyes of serial killers he begins to lose bits and pieces of himself along the way. To the point that Graham's reality begins going askew as he starts seeing waking visions of weird things like a feathered stag and finds himself sleepwalking and awakening in weird places. At one point Graham says to someone questioning if what he is experiencing is real or not, "This isnít a delusion. Iím not hallucinating. I havenít lost time. I am awake and this is real."

Crawford, concerned with Graham's downward spiral, asks noted and respected psychologist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to both help Graham with these mental issues he's begun developing and also to help with the team's investigations. Except that what no one can know is that this "noted and respected" psychologist is actually a serial killer himself; the "Chesapeake Ripper" and Lector doesn't want to help Graham, he wants to push him over the edge to either destroy him or to turn him into a killer too.

Hannibal is also an interesting look at the Lecter character before we first met him in films with The Silence of the Lambs. There, as played by Anthony Hopkins, Lecter is a known killer/cannibal who is one of the most dangerous people in the world. In the Hannibal TV series, he's well respected, if a bit eccentric who likes to throw dinner parties for his friends and is a person everyone goes to for advice.

As the Hannibal series progresses and Lecter works with Graham, Graham goes from quirky professor/profiler to a sad and lonely man and finally scary as his mental state deteriorates and Lecter pushes him more and more towards the blackness Graham so wants to keep out of his head but is so alluring.
Even more disturbing are Graham's visions from the above mentioned stag to the "ghost" of a serial killer Graham shot and killed in the first episode. Nothing really stays dead in Hannibal which adds to the series' overall tone of doom.

If Hannibal stretches believability a bit it's that the show tends to use "case of the week" stories that are a staple of most procedural cop shows. In Hannibal, each week the FBI team investigates a killing from another serial killer; be it a killer who buries his victims alive in order to grow mushrooms on their slowly decaying bodies or another who murders and poses his victims in prayer as angels to watch over him while he sleeps. And each of these cases are opened and solved in a single episode.

While the cases are interesting with loads of visual "ick," if true it would mean that the country would be overrun with serial killers all trying to top one and other for creative ways to kill their next victims which just isn't realistic.

What's really interesting about Hannibal is everything else that's going on in between these kinds of stories from Graham's breakdown to Lecter haunting Crawford with recordings of an agent Crawford lost and Lecter killed to Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) the daughter of a serial killer who is torn between the evil Hannibal and the good Graham.
It's all this complex stuff that made the first season of Hannibal one of the great series of 2013.

The second season of Hannibal begins February 28 on NBC. The first season of Hannibal is available on Blu-ray, Amazon and iTunes.
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