Episode 1: Apéritif
By: Carlos Uribe
Hannibal is a show that focuses FBI special investigator Will Graham and his relationship with Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
I don't expect Hannibal to last.
The premise behind the show is solid. It's a prequel to the Hannibal Lecter stories that have appeared in film and print formats. Those stories have usually concentrated on various aspects of Hannibal's life but this series decides to explore a new territory: the working relationship between Hannibal and Will before the latter discovered the former was a serial killing cannibal. This provides the show with a good hook. The history of the show is unique in that it was given a straight to series order based on the strength of Bryan Fuller's script. It went into production and cast some pretty good actors in the project: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, and Laurence Fishburne. So the pilot has a solid premise, a good hook, a great cast, and a strong script. The real question is if the pilot is any good. The answer is that Hannibal is easily the best pilot to premiere this season. It's a smart show with fully developed male characters that really explores the impact of death can have on the people investigating them. All of the cast does a great job, the hook works really well, the script is excellent, and the premise is executed with near perfection. It's true that the pilot has some logical flaws and the female characters could use some fleshing out but everything else is so strong that it doesn't really matter. What ultimately makes Hannibal work so great is that it treats death with the severity that it deserves. These aren't just random names on a script being killed off but human beings with desires, fears, and loved ones. The impact of those deaths aren't just felt by the characters but it's carried over to the audience. This is not a show that's going to make people happy but that's okay-it's a beautiful poem that's all about the finality of death.
What I love about the pilot is how it sets up just how Will sees each crime at the opening scene. He doesn't just look at the clues but he imagines himself committing it. This is presented through visual and audio means. Sounds will fade away and the camera quickly gets rid of any signs that it's a crime scene. This allows Will to basically be transported to the time of the crime and he's able to act out as if he is the killer. If this series wasn't partially about Hannibal then this would be a unique way to solve crimes. It's a great technique that would be a great hook on it's own. The first actual case that he gets to solve is actually pretty strong as I found myself engaged to it. Of course, it's not just the procedural elements on why one would tune it to Hannibal. They might be strong but the real hook is the famous serial killer. To my surprise, Dr. Lecter doesn't actually appear in the series until about the halfway point. He's really just a supporting character in his own show but that's what helps make it so strong. He's the ultimate bad guy but he's not dominating the screen. This means that the series is able to have each element stand out rather than having everything be sucked up by Hannibal. It's partially what allows the show to explore the impact of death. You might come to see Hannibal but you'll stay because of all the other genius elements within the show.
The main character in Hannibal is actually Will Graham. Will is the kind of protagonist that is different enough to be special but human enough to be relatable. Will is a special investigator for the FBI with a large imagination. He can place himself in anyone's shoes which makes him highly empathic. It's a bit ironic that he's considered the most empathic person when he's also the most anti-social. He doesn't like interacting with people nor does he engage in any eye contact. He's basically a version of so many anti-social detectives out there but he's also different. He's not a jerk. His personality isn't his weakness. His weakness is actually his strength. His ability to place himself in the shoes of killers might be handy in catching crimes but it wrecks havoc on his conscience. He feels every death deeply and is capable of getting too close to a case to continue functioning. This makes him a much more interesting and compelling character than if he was just good at piecing together evidence but had problems being nice. Hugh Dancy does an amazing job in bringing the role to life. He's definably the strongest character of the pilot.
The other two really strong characters are Dr. Lecter and Jack Crawford. Hannibal Lecter is a serial killer posing as a psychiatrist who starts to help Will out with his investigations. It's heavily implied that he put Will on the right path when he kills a girl to show Will what is unique about this week's serial killer. Hannibal is an interesting character because of his serial killer tendencies but also because he has to hide who he is. Jack Crawford is another strong character who helps bring Will into the FBI. Laurence Fishburne does a great job with the role. All of the female characters could use some work. This isn't to say they're two-dimensional, far from it, just that they're not as developed as the male characters. Which makes sense since Jack, Lecter, and Will are the three core characters of Hannibal. The female lead is Dr. Alana Bloom, who largely just acts as Will's advocate in this episode. She's supposed to be her friend but sadly she doesn't actually have a scene with him. All of the characters on this show are strong.
It's really not fair to conclude Hannibal without talking about it's distinct visual style. It's very gothic and grim but it creates beautiful images that simply stick in your mind. I think I can state that just like any Bryan Fuller show that the visuals will stick out. This leads Hannibal to be one of the most beautiful shows on television. Hannibal is not going to be for everyone. You're going to need to be in the right wavelength for it. If you do happen to be on it then you'll find a beautiful and compelling show that explores the impact of investigating death. Sadly, I doubt most television viewers will be interested in this sour topic. I doubt that most viewers will be on the right wavelength. I have no idea-but I do know that this genius show is too good for it's own good. It's for this reason that I proclaim that:
I don't expect Hannibal to last.