Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TELEVISION: Why NBC’s Hannibal is too delicious to pass up

I’m fairly certain I never thought a show about cannibalism would be in my top ten for the year – but NBC’s Hannibal has proven me wrong.

The show, which finishes up its second season Friday night, is such a profound mixture of visual stimulation and psychological warfare, it’s impossible to look away.

I’m not particularly happy with NBC these days – the cancellation of Revolution has crushed a little bit of my spirit – but I am profoundly thankful to the network for ordering up a third season of the macabre Hannibal.

I know a lot of people are uncomfortable watching the show, saying it's too disturbing to watch.

Between the gore and the long musical interludes that show Hannibal cooking up something new (which is Hannibal is a show that is really hard to watch. It’s really hard to look away, though, too.
usually a portion of his latest victim)  --

Hannibal had a daunting task ahead of it when it was launched last year. Most fans were familiar with the series of books by Thomas Harris – and even more familiar with the ultra-popular movies starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the titular cannibal who abhors rudeness.

So, when a relatively unknown actor named Mads Mikkelson was announced as the new antihero, fans were understandably concerned.

We had no reason to be. Hannibal, in Mikkelson’s capable hands, has become a sociopathic killer with a narcissistic bent and a psychopathic penchant for purposely hurting those around him. He’s still fun to root for – which is a credit to Mikkelson.
This version of Hannibal is the ultimate game player -- only you don't want to be selected to play his games.

His foil, Will Graham, is played by the mesmerizing Hugh Dancy. Dancy has a thankless role as the guy that will ultimately bring Hannibal down because fans are torn about whether or not they want that to actually happen.

Rounding out the cast is the stalwart Lawrence Fishburne as Jack Crawford. Fishburne lends a certain level of credibility to a show that can sometimes seem over-the-top.

The truth is, believing that there are that many creative serial killers roaming around at one time is a little hard.
Besides Hannibal, we’ve dealt with a music teacher who tried to play the vocal chords of dead musicians, a killer that built a sand temple of body parts, a man hunting women (and eating them) that looked like his daughter, a band of sociopathic kids and a incarcerated serial killer that knows the truth about Hannibal’s actions and hides it.

As a side fun fact, that serial killer died this season – but only after Hannibal made him dine on his own legs.

Hannibal isn’t perfect. Sometimes he seems omnipotent, which detracts a little from the narrative. And, I’m not going to lie, the women on this show are often marginalized. Beverly found out the truth and was gutted and put on display, Freddie is a typical tabloid hag, Alana has been warned repeatedly that Hannibal is dangerous and refuses to listen and Miriam was brainwashed into killing an innocent man (and we haven’t seen her since).

Still, though, there’s something magical about the show. It’s like a train wreck, only you can’t look away.

The addition of Michael Pitt as Mason Verger has also been a stroke of genius. Fans of the series knew what Hannibal did to Mason – drugging him up and convincing him to cut up his own face and feed it to dogs – but seeing it (versus hearing about it) was so disturbing last week that it haunted my dreams for a night.

A scene like that should have been hard to sell. It wasn’t, though, and that’s because the cast is both solid and committed. They believe their roles, so they realistically embody them.

In Friday’s season finale, Will and Hannibal’s deadly game is going to come to a head. We know, eventually, that Hannibal is going to get caught.

All that we’re left with right now are the specifics. And I, for one, can’t wait.

What do you think? Do you enjoy Hannibal?


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