Last night was the premiere of NBC’s eagerly awaited series “Hannibal,” which is a prequel of sorts to the classic film “Silence of the Lambs.” I know, it’s a little confusing – the sequel to “Silence” was called “Hannibal,” while the prequels were called “Red Dragon” and “Manhunter” (same story, different casts, not technically called a remake). I’ll help clarify.
The show is about some of the characters that were in “Red Dragon” and “Manhunter.” There’s Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy, who’s a nervous, wiry, Aspergers-y FBI criminal profiler. He’s very good at placing himself in the mind of a killer, and figuring out what happened as the murders were taking place. Unlike the movies, it seems there is no wife or girlfriend for Will this time. There’s his boss, Jack Crawford, played by Laurence Fishburne. And of course there’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the forensic psychiatrist/insane cannibal we all know and fear, played by “Casino Royale” villain Mads Mikkelsen.
The first episode has Will working on a case about a murdered girl, and because he’s having trouble coming up with a profile, Crawford hires Dr. Lecter to help Will. Throughout Will’s journey of finding this week’s killer, we see shots of Hannibal cooking dinner. In one creepy scene, he’s cooking meat that looks just like a person’s lungs, after Will discovers the body of a girl who has been pierced by deer antlers and had her lungs removed. The show is definitely bloody and twisted, which is a good thing for NBC.
I want to keep watching, because I like the idea of a weekly version of “Red Dragon,” which I thought was a great, scary movie. Wonder if they’ll do an episode, or a couple, about Francis Dolarhyde? But this show is honestly kind of boring. I had to fight to stay awake when there weren’t blood and guts on my TV. The end is definitely creepy, when Will and Hannibal find the killer of one of the girls, just as he murders his own wife and almost murders his daughter. So there are good, shocking moments, but not enough good pacing throughout the entire episode. Maybe it lagged because this was the pilot and we needed to be introduced to the characters?
One of the strongest things about this show is its look. It’s shot beautifully. Tons of colors and images that evoke uneasiness. In the picture above from Entertainment Weekly, you’ll see that the art director made the bathroom look A LOT like the hotel bathroom in “The Shining.” If the show continues to do these little nods to horror classics, I’ll definitely keep watching. Besides the production design, the lighting is effective in showing us what haunts Will’s mind – he’s constantly thinking of these dead bodies with nothing around them but black. The slow motion is effective when showing us how Will thinks the murders went down. And of course the blood is perfect – they’re not afraid to show some splatter, which is only appropriate for a show about Hannibal Lecter.
My only wish is for it to be a bit more lively. Maybe some bits of (dark) humor? More characters will be established as the show moves on, like tabloid reporter (or in this case, blogger) Freddie Lounds (they turned the role into a female, so you won’t see a Philip Seymour Hoffman lookalike here). Plus, in the “this season on Hannibal” montage at the end of the episode, we see two familiar female faces that immediately piqued my interest: Gillian Anderson, playing Hannibal’s psychiatrist, and Anna Chlumsky, playing what looks like to be one of Hannibal’s victims. There are also scenes in that preview of what’s going on in Will’s mind as he gets closer and closer to these sick cases… and it doesn’t look normal.