Making a TV series based on the iconic character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter was always going to be a tough ask. So who do you call on? Bryan Fuller, he of TV infamy, with programmes such as Pushing Daisies and the horribly under rated Dead Like Me.
The opening episode, titled, rather appropriately, apéritif, is an excellent opening course to what is hopefully going to be a gastronomic television delicacy. The first episode spends very little time introducing us to our main character, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), FBI profiler extraordinaire with some serious issues himself. This is a different Will Graham than we saw on screen last in the excellent Red Dragon, played by Edward Norton. This is a much more nuanced performance by Dancy. Graham is obviously troubled and why he is working on the cases he is, is kind of baffling, but it makes for a good show.
We follow the case of some missing girls, who, as Will points out, are likely being murdered but he can’t figure out this psychopath, he eventually realises that the killer du jour is actually eating his victims, in order to ‘consume’ them. It’s around this point (about two thirds in) we are finally introduced to the good doctor himself.
This version of Hannibal, much like the version of Will Graham, is very different from what we’ve seen on screen before. This is not Sir Anthony Hopkins. We get a much more European Lecter, played very proficiently by Madds Mikkelson (Casino Royale), this is a Lecter still very much in his prime, still very much a psychiatrist and still very much a cannibal.
This is where my main complaint comes in, we spend very little time with Hannibal before we realise there’s something off, now of course, most people watching this know who this monster is, but it would have been nice for the show’s writers to give him more than a few minutes on screen time before showing him cutting up someone’s lungs.
There’s plenty of blood in this opening episode for sure, and a healthy amount of lung, there’s also cannibalism, though done in typical Hannibal Lecter style, with a nice place setting and some wine (maybe a nice Chianti?), though it felt a bit heavy handed to have the main killer be a cannibal as well as getting Lecter in there. The main plot just felt like a way to shoe horn the cannibal connection in when it wasn’t necessarily needed. Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) could have called upon Lecter for help with any number of crimes, but there’s no mention of why all of a sudden he has been recommended now.
Visually the show is pleasing, and Fuller was obviously given a sizeable budget, David Slade did an excellent job of directing, but with films like Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night, not including the episodes of Breaking Bad he’s directed, Slade was never going to fail with this material. It’s also competently written with no jarring dialogue and the cast doing a great job with what they’ve been given.
Minor gripes aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the opening episode of Hannibal. There’s already clear chemistry between Dancy and Mikkelson and I’m really looking forward to seeing the interplay between them as the series progresses. It will be interesting how it pans out story wise, it seems like they may head in a ‘killer of the week’ direction, which is fine, but unless the series gets renewed for a second season the show is in danger of backing itself into a story corner wise and potentially not having any satisfying ending.