It’s only a couple of weeks now before Hannibal comes back to our screens for its second season.
That also means there’s still a couple of weeks for those of you who aren’t already devoted ‘fannibals’ to take a look at the first season and get excited about one of my very favourite shows from the last few years.
I’ll grant you that if you’re wildly averse to gore, serial killers or intense psychological manipulation, this may not be the show for you. But if you think you can cope with any/all of those things, here are a few other important reasons why you should get involved and see what all the fuss is about.
Please note: There are some disturbing images in this post, so tread carefully.
1. Mads Mikkelsen
In the title role, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen offers a completely different approach to the part of Hannibal Lecter, one that—hopefully—avoids any and all unfavourable comparisons with any of the actors who’ve played him before (and one, of course, in particular).
There’s something fantastically refreshing and exciting about the way Mikkelsen has chosen to interpret the role. Whereas Anthony Hopkins played up Lecter’s inherent creepiness, his terrifyingly calm insanity vs. his outbursts of violent madness, and while Brian Cox (who played the role in Michael Mann’s 1986 film Manhunter) made Lecter as horribly normal as possible, Mikkelsen’s approach is to play Lecter as something akin to a fallen angel, or even Lucifer himself. Not that the show actually ever suggests such a thing is possible, but Mikkelsen’s Lecter exudes a calm, measured fascination with humanity—and in particular with Will Graham—that is offset by the absolutely abhorrent nature of his crimes and his cannibalistic tendencies. He feels inhuman in a way that hasn’t ever quite been captured before, beyond psychopathic and more akin to a force of pure evil.
Also, he delivers the show’s many, many cannibalism related puns with great enthusiasm and a wry smile.
2. Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Hetienne Park, Caroline Dhavernas et al.
Basically, this cast is talented as hell and they all deserve a mention, particularly the many awesome ladies who have been included.
Speaking of …
3. Genderswapped casting
Brace yourselves, this is a big one.
In a rare moment of self-awareness from a white male television writer/producer, showrunner Bryan Fuller actually took notice of the fact that the existing canon for the Lecter novels—particularly pre-Lambs and the arrival of Clarice Starling—is exceptionally male. Fuller is on record more than once commenting on how he wanted to include additional female characters to balance this out, which he did by changing the genders of already existing characters, rather than just creating new ones (though he did also do that).
So Dr. Alan Bloom becomes Dr. Alana Bloom, played by Caroline Dhavernas:
And Freddy Lounds is now Freddie, played by Lara Jean Chorostecki, and with the most astonishingly beautiful mane of hair you could ever wish to see:
The show even passes the Bechdel test from time to time, which for a show still largely centred about two or three lead male protagonists, is actually pretty impressive. (It shouldn’t be, of course, but that’s a different post for another day.)
Kacey Rohl as Abigail Hobbs.
Hetienne Park as Beverley Katz (one of Red Dragon’s few female presences).
As well as the central cast of awesome ladies, the show also features both Gina Torres and Gillian Anderson in supporting roles, just to make things that much better.
(And Eddie Izzard!! I know he’s not a lady, but … Eddie Izzard, you guys!)
4. A new take on an old classic
I’m sure there are plenty of purists who don’t like the way Fuller et al have taken liberties with the plot of the original Harris novels, or the ways in which they intend to reimagine the content of the movies, particularly Silence of the Lambs (though if copyright issues remain as they are, the show may never be able to feature characters like Clarice Starling or Jame Gumb).
To my mind, though, it’s one of the most convincing and well-managed reinterpretations of an already existing franchise I’ve ever seen (and there seem to be a lot of them on TV these days). The show is careful about how it draws out and extends events and situations from the novels, and very cleverly sets us up for future happenings we know to be coming along down the line.
That being said, it’s also enjoyable if you have no knowledge whatsoever of any Lecter books/films, not relying too heavily on the audience knowing what comes next.
5. Aesthetically pleasing
Seriously. If you can stand the fact that many of the best shots and landscapes feature dead bodies in various states of ickiness, the aesthetic and tone captured by the cinematography, set design, lighting and visual effects is absolutely fantastic. It’s no shock when you consider how much more effort is being placed these days into making TV that’s visually and stylistically high class, but in Hannibal it really, really shows.
6. Dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.
Look, I know this show probably won’t appeal to many because of the high levels of gore and the fact that it is, at times, really pretty disturbing. But if you can manage to see past that—or, better yet, embrace it as part of the show’s own particular brand of horrific charm—it’s a really exciting, often exceptionally good piece of television.
You should definitely get on board in time to enjoy what looks to be a rollercoaster ride of a second season.
(Screencaps taken from hannibalscreencaps and aclashofcaps.)