Making the Case for NBC's HANNIBAL: Renew Already!

*This post was written on May 16th but I neglected to wrap it and post it.  Good news is NBC renewed Hannibal for Season 2 according to Deadline on May 30th.  Still, I just had to share as this in essence is a review for the show itself.*

Despite Hannibal’s strong ratings when it premiered in April on NBC, the ratings have since dropped, leaving the fate of the psychological drama/thriller up in the air.  What I gather is the show isn’t  bad like Deception starring Meagan Good (now canceled) but it’s not knocking the ratings out of the park like the ultra popular ABC darling, and Shonda Rhimes masterpiece, Scandal (Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn).  For the longest time, Scandal was the only broadcast network show I cared a fig about, especially after I soured on Community and The Office (they just lost my interest).  Then comes Hannibal to complicate things so deliciously… I felt like Goldwyn’s character Fitz when he cheats with Liv Pope in (what else?) Scandal.   Mind you, Scandal is still my baby.  I DVR both shows and catch up with Hannibal on Fridays to relax and really savor the show without commercial interruptions.

I do this because Hannibal is a show that you savor, not only visually, but mentally with all of your senses.  Much like Lecter as he drinks fine wines and eats sumptuous dishes, well, the non-human dishes anyway, letting each bite or sip marinate on his tongue, infusing his palette and coursing through his body, I take every scene in.

In one scene where a most unfortunate nurse was attacked by a copycat, I was overcome with terror and I say this as a Game of Thrones fan.  Her pleading, her attempt at crawling away to safety was so visceral, so pity-inducing, that I wanted to reach out to the screen or throw myself between her and the aggressor, begging for her life on her behalf.  Now that’s good television and Hannibal gets better with each episode.

Mads Mikkelsen was made for this role, and after having seen him as my favorite Bond villain to date, Le Chiffre (I still want a silver holder for my inhaler) in Casino Royale, I couldn’t imagine a better, more stoic actor to play the role.  What Mikkelsen brings to the table as Dr. Lecter is totally different than what Sir Anthony Hopkins brought to the table.  I daresay that Hopkins showed us the more eccentric and the less reserved Lecter that had probably become that way over time.  Mikkelsen portrays a subdued yet stylish Lecter, one who is quietly confident and quietly enjoying his spoils.

The camera loves him and the cinematography of the show, coupled with Mikkelsen’s sombre, yet debonair, qualities challenge my idea of being repulsed serial killer.  It’s hard not to like Hannibal.  He’s a nice guy.  He’s not the most outgoing, or the most bombastic, but he’s soft-spoken and refined, and he cooks his ass off!  He could probably talk to you about the most complicated subjects and topics, and even if you weren’t right, you’d still feel better for having talked to him about it… Until he decides to murder you in one of his many creative ways.

In “Fromage” (S1E8), viewers meet Hannibal’s match Tobias Budge (Demore Barnes), a black serial killer who is a lover of the fine arts, owns his own cello/viola shop, and gives lessons to impressionable, spoiled teen boys.  What we do see is that Tobias is so dedicated, but so far gone into depravity and wickedness that simple cat gut strings aren’t good enough.  I will let you watch that episode and let you agonize over how beautifully filmed Tobias’ wickedness was filmed and how horrible it is at the same time.  That’s what makes this show so bloody good!  The showrunners disregard the usual tropes about serial killers and race (and gender) and have us examine what we thought we understood about the “order of things” and how we understand evil.

Can you tell I’m a fan?  I don’t want to take away from Hugh Dancy’s character, Will Graham, is just as fascinating.  The show artfully creates this unlikely respect and friendship (if you could call it that) between Graham and Lecter, in a way that is slightly tragic because one gathers that if one, correction, both of them weren’t seriously crazy they would be a force to be reckoned with in some way.  It is perhaps through Will’s interactions with Hannibal–his psychiatrist–that we see the latter’s longing for someone who gets him; someone with the same issues as him.  Yet, one always gets the feeling that Will is like a mouse who has forged a shaky friendship with a viper.

Laurence Fishburne plays Agent Jack Crawford, a man with his own demons who is commiserating with the devil in Hannibal.  Laurence Fishburne is the slightly egotistical, but seasoned and highly-capable Senior Agent Jack Crawford who is torn between duty and doing what’s right by will.  In a way, he’s just as exploitative of Will as Lecter but in different ways.  There are also a host of other characters that come and go, mainly murdered, or Gillian Anderson (“X-Files”) as Hannibal’s own psychiatrist.

‘Hannibal’ is a show that many will watch and few will get but that’s not enough to simply get rid of it.  There hasn’t been a show this stylish, this dark and connected to the most sinister aspect of humanity since perhaps ‘Dexter’ on Showtime.  If NBC can’t get it together, then I implore A&E to step in and add it to its lineup right before or after ‘Bates Motel’.