Let the 2013 TV midseason forever be known as the season of the sensitive serial killer, because it seems like everywhere you turn, there's a new show about the joys of slicing victims open for fun (or about learning about those joys). Fox's hollow The Following features a literary-professor-turned-eyeball-collector and a cult of dimwitted followers. A&E's Bates Motel has turned back the clock to tell a passable coming-of-age story of a young Norman "Psycho" Bates. And now NBC has Hannibal, a prequel of the Silence of the Lambs prequel Red Dragon.
But is Hannibal a killer new series or just a copycat that'll give me a chance to murder a bunch of terrible puns? I've seen the pilot episode and I'm here to answer your questions in another edition of "Hey TV.com, Should I Watch [This Show]?"
Hannibal? What is this, some sort of Silence of the Lambs prequel?
Yes! But, as I said above, it's even more prequel-y than that! Hannibal is set before the events of Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon, and stars Hugh Dancy (The Big C) as socially awkward FBI profiler Will Graham. After taking time off from hunting serial killers to lecture at the academy, he's brought back into the fold by the agency's head of behavioral sciences Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) when a particularly nasty man in Minnesota starts killing young women. Crawford eventually recruits Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale), who *spoiler alert for those of you who were just born three seconds ago* secretly likes to kill people and eat them, to help Graham catch other serial killers, and voila! You have yourself a TV show.
What kind of twisted mind is behind Hannibal?
One of the best in the business, Bryan Fuller. The Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and Mockingbird Lane creator gets a little more serious here, but his panache for morbid imagery and sharp dialogue is present even when he leaves his normal fancifulness at home.
When does Hannibal serve its first course?
Hannibal debuts on Thursday, April 4 in the 10pm death slot on NBC. The first season is a firm 13 episodes long, and I won't be surprised if NBC has a long leash on this one. You can probably watch it without fear of it being canceled early.
What kind of audience will lap up Hannibal?
There's a cable sensibility to Hannibal, and that's immediately apparent in the opening scene, which uses half of the episode's fake-blood budget in just a few minutes. But wanton violence isn't the only draw here. Hannibal is for the Hannibal Lecter in all of us, the type of person who embraces gore and violence from an intellectual level. With strong characters and gruesome crime scenes, there's a bit of Sherlock and Dexter rolled into one show.
What makes Hannibal work?
First and foremost, tone. Between Fuller's creepy imagination and director David Slade's (Awake) eye for darkness, Hannibal is total eyeball candy for those of us too old to paint our fingernails black anymore. Hannibal's score—which is mostly effective, buzzy electronic tones and chirps that sound like someone fell asleep on the keyboard—punctuates the schizophrenia of its central characters. But what really makes Hannibal so much better than the aforementioned midseason slaughterhouse shows is its attention to the psychology of killing (rather than just blaming it on Edgar Allen Poe), mostly conveyed through Graham's ability to reenact horrific murder scenes within his supremely empathetic imagination by virtually placing himself in the killers' boots. And acting! These dudes can totally act, particularly Dancy as the hinge-less, angry, and uncooperative Graham. Mikkelsen's Lecter is nicely subdued, too.
What won't we like about Hannibal?
As with all FBI profiler series, things feel reverse-engineered to fit the allotted time of network television, but that's more of an inherent problem with the genre than with this particular show. Sticklers will also question some of the procedures, like how Graham and Lecter end up pursuing killers alone despite the fact that Graham is an unstable agent and Lecter isn't even an agent at all. And of course there's the big question of sustainability, which comes from knowing that Lecter won't be exposed as a serial people-eater despite working directly with one of the FBI's best profilers.
Well, should I watch it or not?
I'm going to go ahead and say, "Yes sir/ma'am/gaseous cloud of extraterrestrial energy." Hannibal is a much more complete show than The Following, and one of the better new offerings NBC has put out in the past year.
Can I see a trailer?
What should I drink with my viewing of Hannibal?
The easy answer is Chianti, but I'm going to say HUMAN BLOOD. With rum.
Hannibal premieres Thursday, April 4 at 10pm on NBC.