Four years ago I was flipping channels in bed on a Friday night. I jolted out of my blanket and did a quick double take. Did I really see what I just saw? I did. It was season one of Hannibal, and I had just stumbled on the “human cello” episode. My mouth dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on network television. It was gruesome, creative, and oddly beautiful. I needed more.
But, because I was 26 and going out nearly every weekend, and because NBC was stupid to show Hannibal on Friday nights, I missed out on watching the show when it was airing (I was too cheap to pay for DVR service).
One year later I couldn’t stop thinking about that scene. I was bummed to discover that the series wasn’t available On Demand, and I couldn’t find it on any of the streaming services. It was 2014 and I was bummed over the lack of availability of a network tv show. These were simpler times.
Flash forward to the end of 2016! Not only did I turn 30, I got to mooch off of my amazing boyfriend’s Amazon Prime account. FINALLY! I was able to watch every episode of Hannibal. I am now proud to say that I’m a bona fide Fannibal.
Brian Fuller’s Hannibal is the best horror TV show of this decade. It’s better than The Walking Dead. It’s better than American Horror Story. And as far as how much I’ve enjoyed watching a series, it’s on par with some of the G.O.A.T.s like Breaking Bad and The Wire – really!
Season one – at its most basic – is a classic crime drama with a grisly edge. We meet the curious Will Graham and steadfast Special Agent Jack Crawford of the FBI. We learn that Will has an empathy disorder that allows him to understand the reasons behind why the most demented murderers kill. It’s all very CSI or NCIS at the beginning with more interesting characters and way better gore. Because we’re horror fans, we know who we’re dealing with when Dr. Hannibal Lecter is introduced to the show. But we’re not quite sure who he is at this point and how he fits into everything – until we see him cooking human lungs. Same ol’ Hannibal.
Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is better than Sir Anthony Hopkins’ performance in the film trilogy. Sorry, Hops. I love ya but it’s true. Watching Mikkelsen befriend and manipulate Hugh Dancy’s Graham throughout season one is a treat for viewers. It also sets up an incredible story line for season two where Will toes the line between repairing his psyche and submitting to much darker urges.
Hannibal’s second season is possibly my favorite season of any show – ever. Bold claim, I know. I could not get enough of Will’s struggle to rebuild himself when nobody believed him and Hannibal’s arrogance that ultimately led others to discover his true identity. I told you there would be spoilers, and here’s one of them: the episode where Beverly’s body has been perfectly sliced – vertically – into even sections and then meticulously encased solidified my opinion that Hannibal Lecter is the most interesting and complex character in the history of horror. Another highlight of this season for me is when – spoiler again – Mason Verger uses a knife to slice off pieces of his face and then feeds them to Will’s dog. Holy crap. Seriously, this was on NBC? If you want to talk the finale of season two, hit me up. I could go on for hours.
How stunningly rich and decadent is season three? Bedelia and Hannibal seem like a power couple I would want to know. They are beautiful together, entertaining, classy, and intelligent. Everything you want in a dinner party guest or host, except no, you do NOT want to be a guest at any of their dinner parties. Bedelia’s internal conflict of being a “participant” or an “observer” is quite an interesting character study. As her story unfolds, we learn why her final dinner scene makes perfect sense. Also – Zachary Quinto is amazing and I wish I would’ve gotten to know his character as Bedelia’s ill-fated patient a bit more.
Of course, the real “meat” of season three is Hannibal and Will’s lost bromance. The cat and mouse game of season two may have ended in violence, but in season three its clear that Will and Hannibal can’t quit each other. Will goes to great lengths to find Hannibal in Europe and even with all that has happened between them, he still very much feels a deep sense of loyalty to and connection with Hannibal. Will realizes he can’t lead a normal life and cannot return to his wife and stepson. Too much has happened between Hannibal and Will. They have saved each other and they have tried to kill each other. Will knows that he cannot kill Hannibal, so he hopes that Francis Dolarhyde, aka The Red Dragon, will do it for him. Well, things don’t quite turn out that way. Will and Hannibal take on the Red Dragon together, and the rest is history… or hopefully a fourth season.
The visuals in Hannibal deserve every accolade they’ve received. I can’t possibly write anything more clever than what’s already been written about them. They’re simply stunning. The cinematography, lighting, sound, and set design are all intentional and convey exactly the type of feeling that the moment intends.
In fact, here’s an entire list of examples that prove how visually breathtaking the show really is. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to end a sentence with the word “is”. Dammit, I did it again. Anyway, my personal favorite example of imagery in the show is when Hannibal discovers the creator of the Human Color Wheel and peers into the silo and casually states,”Love your work”. Delicious. God like. Genius.
Beyond Will and Hannibal, the other main characters are so alive and vivid that I feel that I know them. Jack Crawford spends all of his time trying to prevent deaths – including his own wife’s. Dr. Alana Bloom begins her journey on the show as a just psychiatrist who values fairness for all and sees the best in people. It is so damn interesting and fun to watch her transform into a lesbian hitwoman vying to get revenge on Hannibal. The scenes with Margot, Alana, and Hannibal while they’re working together to defeat Mason are delectable. Speaking of Margot, lets talk about how wonderful Katharine Isabelle is. She is and forever will be my modern scream queen. Even Dr. Chilton and Freddy Lounds are characters I couldn’t stop watching.
There is so much subtext, content, and symbolism in Brian Fuller’s Hannibal that I know I will need to watch the series one or two more times before I fully grasp the weight of the body of work I’ve witnessed. It’s a show that I cannot stop thinking about even months after finishing the series. I truly hope we are treated to more from Fuller and his team!
In the mean time, though, I think it’s safe to say that I am officially a “Fannibal”. Hope the rest of the community will welcome me with open arms and a freshly roasted leg.