The show focuses on Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a young profiler who has a certain “gift”, one that he seems to see more as a curse than anything else. In the show it’s referred to as pure empathy, giving him the ability to immerse himself completely inside someone else’s mind, sometimes at the risk of losing himself within the darkest recesses of a criminal’s mind. His imagination, greater than that of anyone else’s, allows him to “see” things unfold, the killer’s design as it was planned step by step until it led to murder. Due to his slightly autistic tendencies and dislike of social interaction, he chose a teaching position, leaving behind his life as a police officer, until agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) asks for his help with a case, starting off a chain of events that puts him in the path of Hannibal Lecter. From then, the game is on.
Hannibal does a great job at portraying the struggle someone that has to enter a murderer’s mind faces, particularly someone seemingly unable to rely on a support system when he’s in need, as well as the intricacies of the mind games a psychopath could resort to in order to achieve his or her endgame. Hannibal (played by Mads Mikkelsen) struck me as a little bland at first, his behaviour slightly odd, something that “in character” could be put down to us, the viewers, being given some breadcrumbs to realize he’s actually a bad guy, but that opinion of mine changed as I watched more episodes, his portrayal becoming more and more nuanced with each scene he played. As soon as I abandoned my tendency to compare him to Anthony Hopkins things got even better.
The two leads play of nicely off each other, Hugh Dancy bringing Will Graham to life with all of his quirks, particularly those mentioned in the book, rather than focusing on Edward Norton’s portrayal in Red Dragon. The autistic tendencies he mentions at the start of episode one are also accurately portrayed, perhaps a nod to his role in Adam where he played a young man with Asperger’s syndrome. Mads Mikkelsen, as I’ve already mentioned, manages to amp up the creepy factor, his actions sometimes seemingly unexpected and random, only for them to be revealed as carefully planed beforehand.
My one complaint about the casting is the lack of scenes with Laurence Fishburne. He seems to serve as nothing more than an extra, popping up on screen from time to time only to fall back into the shadows. I know the story isn’t focused on him as much as on the two opposing minds at work, but when you have a great actor, misusing him like that seems absurd.
On a more positive side, the show benefits from fantastic visual effects, making it an odd mix of gore and fantasy. Will’s incursions inside the minds of the killers he follows provide the perfect opportunity for the special effects team to do their best, amping up the fear factor and feeding the imagination with pictures that will be hard to erase. This is not for those with a weak stomach or faint of heart. It’s scary and gory, but beyond the blood and the guts, what’s truly frightening is the realisation that what we see is actually a map of the human mind. A mind we like to call disturbed and different than our own, but the terrifying thing is that we realise it presents the potential to do harm that we all possess, pushed into our faces without sugar coating it.
Each episode is named after French cuisine dishes, adding to the already horrific atmosphere of the show. So far only three episodes have aired – Aperitif, Amuse-Bouche, Potage – but despite that, the critics and fans alike seemingly have fallen in love with it. All in all, Hannibal is so far an entertaining show, leaving enough room for character development if allowed by NBC to survive long enough to bring it onto the screen. The cast is fantastic and the storyline, bar a few plot holes that you won’t be able to miss, will give you a lot to think about. Top grades from me and a recommendation for all of you to start watching.