The first season of Hannibal was one of the most interesting to hit the small screen last year. It is, and remains, unapologetically intellectual… sometimes to the edge of absurdism. It is complex to the point of almost becoming its own Escher drawing. And, it is easily the most consistently beautifully designed and beautifully filmed series to ever hit television. That the series lenses the horrors, in part, through the sensibility of the title character is part of its brilliance; it makes the carnage not sexy, but sensual. Finally, despite showing you at the start of season 2 where it would end, it still managed to take an interesting path to get there and to surprise you when you arrived.
While not adhering strictly to the Harris mythos, and casting well but not as expected, the world still feels familiar to readers of the books and even viewers of the movies. Mikkelson’s (The Hunt) new vision of Hannibal feels real and respectful of the character Hopkins stamped as his own in Silence of the Lambs, even if it isn’t of the same flavor. And flavor is everything with Hannibal.
The rest of the characters, drawn from Red Dragon, and the whole of the cycle, are equally different, and yet derived from, and capable of, the same results as the original characters. Dancy (Hysteria), Fishburne (Man of Steel), and Dhavernas (Wonderfalls) fill out the intense ensemble. Dancy, in particular, is wound so tightly you’re afraid he’ll shatter at any moment. Perfect for the role and exhausting and fascinating to observe.
Creator, and main writer Fuller (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies) has a weird and wonderful imagination. He loves his characters, however flawed and however deranged. And he is loyal to his actors… they return in his projects as projects allow.
Despite consistent critical acclaim for his shows, Hannibal is his first show to survive more than 2 seasons. That this is his first series without a strong female lead is probably more telling about the TV watching public than the material itself. It is the only ding I’d give the show. It isn’t that there aren’t strong women, but they are definitely less central to the stories, and are often, despite their strength, at the mercy of the decisions of the men around them.
Finding unique voices in television, especially broadcast television, is difficult. Fuller is one of them… and his highs are so much above his few falters that I’ll happily forgive those trespasses. If you’ve avoided this show till now, give it a chance and remain open to the new vision. It will fascinate you, and it will certainly surprise you often.