What movie was that...?

26 February 2014

Hannibal: season 1

created by Bryan Fuller

Before season 2 premieres this Friday, I feel I must give Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal a fair amount of credit. In an age of well-conceived, well made cable drama crafted to suit a variety of tastes (from the bleak survivalist humanity of The Walking Dead, to the astonishing quality of True Detective, to the muted drama of Downton Abby, to name a few), the poor networks have earned the reputation (with specific regard to drama) as purveyors of bland, lifeless fiction and gag-inducing reality television (cable is guilty of these sins as well, but I’m not here to debate the point). In a world of acronyms that stand for rock n roll law enforcement departments (SVU, CSI, NCIS, yawn) populated by blasé characters and fill-in-the-blank story-telling, I was certain Hannibal would be just another whiff on the part of the networks to validate themselves as dramatic forces. But there was something I couldn’t quite place about the season 1 trailers, a certain edge better suited for cable, that piqued my interest. It didn’t hurt that I love Mads Mikkelsen in almost everything he does, or that Larry Fishburne would be hanging around bellowing lines like a put out opera singer. So I tuned in, and like the hay days of Lost, Hannibal had me from jump street and never let go. Each episode was revelatory in all the darkness and savagery, delighting in all the twisty, turny, maniacal morbidity that abounds. Hugh Dancy was really swinging for the fences in the first few episodes (which I found off-putting), his portrayal of Will Graham not much more than a collection of twitches, shaky breathing and huffy snark, but luckily for us that has tapered off to reveal a talented actor who has started to hit his stride. Mr F is dependably excellent, as is Caroline Dhavernas, and the revolving door of excellent guest characters is always a treat (I’m looking at you, Mr Eddie Izzard and Ms Gillian Anderson). But let’s not forget that the primary reason, the make or break type of reason, that Hannibal has been successful rests squarely on the shoulders of Mads Mikkelsen, an actor who can so effortlessly relax and strike fear simply by the soothing rasp of his voice. Mikkelsen’s depiction of such an iconic character (nailed by Anthony Hopkins) is an exercise in restraint, which is a feat in itself considering both the over the top nature of the show and television audiences’ expectation for such programming (read: overly dynamic and easily judged), so after such a successful debut I am very excited to see what else is in store for the good doctor. From a technical standpoint, the show is well written and well shot, with each episode working as a chapter in a unified story, which was a little surprising and very refreshing. It’s like sitting down in a diner and getting a delicious confit dinner (ahem, pardon the cutesy food analogy. I only realized its cuteness after typing it). NBC has hopefully decided to take a page from cable’s book, and if more networks choose to chuck out the acronyms and follow suit, we may not have to look solely to cable for our quality programming needs.


Season 2 begins this Friday. Set your DVRs, people.

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