Yet again I’ve gotten stuck into a television series and I feel the need to post/rant about how much I love it. I’m sure you’ve all heard of NBC’s Hannibal before – the general story is based on the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, with the character of Hannibal himself being featured in the classic film The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The very name of Hannibal may cause you to recall the image of a psychotic serial killer in a mask, making strange hissing noises in a prison cell, and perhaps even eating the faces of a prison guard or two. But Hannibal is much more than that – an atmospheric, truly creepy piece of televised art that has captured my imagination and given me some seriously strange nightmares.
The television series takes an interesting spin on the novel and original film, with flawed genius criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) being the anti-hero protagonist, who investigates horrific murders and serial killings whilst confronting his own personal fears and flaws. The good doctor Hannibal Lecter is played by the one and only Mads Mikkelsen, whose performance is amazing and undoubtedly creepy. Laurence Fishburn rounds out this trio with his performance as Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford, Will Graham’s boss. The first season’s storyline follows a specific set of serial killings which provide the structure and overall themes of the season, with numerous contained episodes where Will Graham must solve one-off killings.
I haven’t watched all of season two yet, so please no spoilers! I have a good understanding of the films and books so I can kind of guess where things are heading, but I’m loving the surprises in the show, and I definitely have a big crush on Mads Mikkelsen now.
Below are ten reasons why I love NBC’s Hannibal, in no particular order.
1. Amazing minimalist opening title sequence
It’s funny because you would think that there would be a million options for this show’s opening title sequence. I’m sure that so many creative people thought about what they could do and how they could play on the gore of the show and the iconic cannibalistic tendencies of Dr Lecter. What they have achieved instead is perfect minimalism. Blood pours onto the screen forming human faces of the cast members, in what is a simple but very creepy communication of the tone of the show and its themes of blood, guts, and murder. The music adds to this creepiness. Sometimes the more simple an opening title sequence is, the more it allows the content and the essence of the show to shine through, and this is a perfect example of that.
2. Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal
Perfect casting. I’m loving the trend of casting film actors in edgy television dramas. Mads Mikkelsen gives such a chilling performance as Dr Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist with a hidden penchant for certain activities and gourmet cooking. Mads Mikkelsen is pretty much amazing in everything, but I’m loving his take on Hannibal; hiding in plain sight, someone who is known publicly but not fully known personally.
3. Disturbing yet beautiful imagery
The image above of the deer-slash-raven is one of many beautiful and disturbing images that will haunt your imagination for a long time after watching an episode. Some of the murders are so creatively executed (no pun intended, additionally probably the weirdest sentence I’ve ever typed), such that they are simultaneously beautiful and completely repulsive. A certain face-chopping murder towards the end of season one was completely disturbing, and a certain grain silo location murder in season two is still blowing my mind in terms of its creativity and brutality. This is a strange paragraph, I promise I’m not a serial killer.
4. Psychoanalysis and case studies
I love that during each episode we get an insight into the minds of seriously strange and disturbed people. I find things like this fascinating. The fact that our protagonist, Will Graham, is gifted with the mysterious ability to fully empathise with the killers he is trying to track down, is a very convenient way of not only telling a story, but creating a tense atmosphere through providing an insight into the depraved mind of a killer. Because two main characters are psychiatrists, we’re also given an insight into the way that mental health professionals analyse these cases, which I also find fascinating.
5. Hannibal’s ostentatious suits
These amazing suits fit with what I said above in terms of Hannibal hiding in plain sight. Hannibal is a creepy dude who partakes in some strange shenanigans behind closed doors. But his wardrobe insinuates someone who is bold and confident – just look at that huge tie and pocket square. Maybe Hannibal is trying to distract people from his true character, but for me, it also looks as if he’s showing off that his deeds are going unpunished. As a side note, the costume design for all of the characters is amazing, which reminds me of Mad Men in some ways. It’s clear that so much thought is put into the symbolism of each outfit, which makes the show continuously visually compelling.
6. Storytelling and the art of the filler episode
I might be a rare television watcher in that I don’t mind a filler episode every now and then – an episode of a series where its storyline doesn’t necessarily contribute to the central story arc of the overall show. There are a number of great filler episodes in Hannibal, but my favourite so far has been this one starring Molly Shannon, called ‘Œuf’. I’m not sure if the episode was broadcast in the US but it was a cracker, and absolutely brutal. The storytelling is also generally flawless.
7. Mirror imagery
Once I notice a certain visual motif, I can’t forget it. One visual motif used a lot in Hannibal is that of mirrors and balance. A mirrored or symmetrical looking scene often shows a balance of power, or a meeting of the minds, as we see above during one of Hannibal’s therapy sessions. Mirroring is used in a therapeutic capacity with clients to build rapport and to assist the client to feel understood, and I think it’s great that this theoretical tidbit has been extended out to the visuals of the show. Maybe this is also another symbol for Hannibal hiding behind a neatly groomed exterior, with a conscious mimicking of his clients to fool them into trusting him.
8. Sidekick characters with depth
I initially didn’t like this little gang of forensic investigators but over time I’ve really grown to love the sidekick characters who work at the FBI. At the beginning I thought that Hettienne Park’s character was going to be a secret villain because of the shade she was throwing on Will Graham, but I was completely wrong. I’ve grown to love this wisecracking trio because whilst they make cute jokes when they’re working on gruesome murders, the three also have a surprisingly good amount of depth and characterisation. Bonus points also go to Gillian Anderson’s sidekick character of Hannibal’s own psychotherapist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier. Love her.
9. Stunning visuals
Surprise! I’ve mentioned approximately twenty times in each of the points above that the visuals are amazing in this show, so I feel the need to restate it – Hannibal is a work of cinematographic art, the direction is flawless and the production design is perfect. Visually, as aforementioned, Hannibal is beautiful yet brutal, and every episode I seem to find something new to love.
This is one of those shows where once you finish an episode, you have to watch the next one straight away. You would think that after all the murdering and psychoanalysis I would need a bit of a rest, but no dice. With that in mind, I’m off to watch the next episode.
Have you seen Hannibal yet? If so, what do you think? No spoilers though!
Yay, another adept/addict, welcome to the club! Enjoy the ride while it lasts because after you will be stuck waiting for this summer to get more like the rest of us.
I’ve almost finished season two now, so it looks like I’ll be stuck waiting pretty soon! Season two has been absolutely amazing though.
wait for the finale, it will blow your mind 😉
Hannibal is FANTASTIC!!!!!! I got into it late but now I’m hooked!! Excellent post, Anna!
Thanks heaps EI! I’m loving it. It grosses me out on a regular basis but it’s also amazing in equal measure.
I really enjoyed it too. Its a bit silly but lots of fun mainly due to Mikkleson. I agree, the visuals are fantastic.
Yeah, there have been a couple of moments where the silliness and extreme perfectionism of some of the murders has thrown me right out of the show. But Mikkelsen and the amazing visuals have brought me back in. Such an awesome series.
The first season didn’t really get me as much as I would have liked. That all changed with the second one though. Nice post!
Thanks Dan! So far the second season is much better than the first. It’s much more gripping, I think. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out!
Nice post! I keep meaning to watch this show, but I haven’t started it yet. Some day!
Thanks Brittani, you definitely have to check it out one day!
The suits! My favorite thing is always seeing what Hannibal is wearing this episode. And Mads is brilliant! This is truly a horrifying, scary show, it gets under your skin. I love it!
Oh yeah, I watched an episode recently where he was wearing a white and red checkered suit with what looked like a huge black and red tie underneath. So devilsome, I love it!
This is such a brilliant series, Mikkleson is great at Hannibal and I was surprised at how good Hugh Dancy is as Will Graham. The two actors play off each other so well. The show also manages to look amazing and disturbing at the same time. I love it. I can’t wait for the new season.
I think number eleven on my list would have been the dynamic between Hannibal and Will Graham. So interesting to see how it changes over the seasons. I haven’t even finished season two yet and I already can’t wait for season three!
Great piece. You summed it up perfectly. I started off unsure, but it completely sucked me in. Mads is incredible. Simply cannot wait for series 3.
Thanks heaps Gareth! I’ve almost finished season two yet. I don’t want it to end, it’s amazing.
I LOVE this show too!!!! Mads is probably the best thing and the aesthetic of the show.
Absolutely agreed! I’m getting up to the pig stuff at the end of season two. Freaking amazing, and creepy, and gross.
Best show on TV right now, in my opinion. That season two finale was a masterpiece. As much as I like to make fun of NBC for its choices, this is one thing they got right. I’m surprised this is on network TV.
I watched the final episode of season two the other night and I’m still not over it, so many questions yet to be answered! What a masterpiece. I’m so surprised that this is on network TV as well, it seems way too arthouse-y, not to mention the crazy violence. Love it though.
Reblogged this on FILM GRIMOIRE and commented:
In honour of the final episode of Hannibal, which was a real killer, I thought I’d reblog an older post of mine from earlier in the year when I first started watching the series. Season three was a bit of a crazy one with some beautiful imagery that I may visit here on the blog one day. I wish that there was more to see, because a) the show is fantastic, and b) there were a whole bunch of cliffhangers in the final episode, if you know what I mean. But in the mean time, here are ten things that I love about NBC’s Hannibal, all of which I still is still applicable, at least for me.
What did you guys think of the Hannibal finale?
I always found the whole psychological talk a bit much but the performances and the visuals kept me watching and the adaptation of Red Dragon was fantastic. Great article!
Thanks heaps Sati! I loved the adaptation of Red Dragon as well, the twists on the original were really interesting. Wish there was another season!
❤ Fantastic post for a fantastic show. This is really a slice of perfection. I wish there was more, but I feel that if they don't continue after this last season, it still ended wonderfully. Gripping, beautiful, dark, edgy, smart. Ahhhh, will stop now.
Thanks heaps! I almost wish there was more as well, I kind of can’t handle that ambiguous ending. But in a way it opens up so many different interpretations of what happened that it suits the show in a strange way. Absolutely love Mads Mikkelsen, he is amazing.
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