I’ll be honest, I’m not huge on cooking shows. They’re usually boring with one person talking into a screen and the ingredients are unrealistic (Is swede even a thing?*) and it’s usually a great way to fall asleep at 5pm. This show fortunately is nothing like other cooking shows. The star of the show is charismatic and he brings along some of his friends who are equally as interesting. The ingredients are as common as the people walking outside your house and the food, well you could’ve just munched down the biggest Sunday roast of your life and this show would still make you hungry. Of course the show I’ve been tuning into is… Hannibal.
Now before I start, this review might be a little spoilery for people who haven’t read the books or watched the amazing films.
The Hannibal TV show is based on the series of books by Thomas Harris, but the show’s focus is primarily on Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) & Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and their relationship and how it develops.
The show starts as Will is brought back to the field in the FBI. As a person with pure empathy, he’s able to get in the mind of the killer, based on the evidence. Hannibal is brought into the show as Will’s unofficial psychiatrist and we start to see a bond, that is magnificently played by the actors. You are instantly drawn to Will, finding out about his mental problems early on and almost feeling sorry for him. As the show and friendship gets older, we see it bloom, and we see how it’s has an effect on Hannibal. Where his self-preservation as a serial killer is challenged by his friendship and other challenges that pop up. This is where Mads really comes into his own. We know instantly that Hannibal is a serial killer – and as well adjusted human beings that we shouldn’t support him – but the further we go into the series the more we find ourselves rooting for Hannibal; hoping he can overcome the challenges.
Often, a show’s headliners can be made or broken by its supporting cast and, oh boy, does Hannibal deliver. Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) oozes the authority that an FBI agent in-charge should. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) gets swept up into Will’s world, before becoming a pawn for Hannibal Lecter and his evasion of the FBI.
The show is unlike any on TV at the moment. The first series is very much about solving crimes, yet it isn’t a crime show. The crimes are how we look at the damage on Will’s sanity while also re-introducing the audience to this iteration of Hannibal; not only as a psychiatrist but also how he “helps” Will solves the cases. People will find it hard to relate to the characters, so instead of trying to make you understand, it’s more of a guessing game of where the character will go next. We know the bad guy will get caught, but we don’t know when or how. Every time the net seems to get too close, we see an unexpected turn beautifully orchestrated that will take us down a new path that we didn’t see was an option.
Despite being a show about a serial killer, it’s surprisingly less gruesome than you would imagine. A lot of the action takes place post-mortem and on the rare occasion that there is an action scene; it’s rarely brutal and bloody. Some scenes will make even the most hardened of stomach turn a little, but there are so few that you almost don’t mind. The hardest part of the show, however, is the food. Hannibal is an amazing chef and we see meals that are crafted beautifully and simply make your mouth water. It’s only when you remember that the food is made out of people that you would possibly look away.
The sets that are made for the show are fantastic – along with the wardrobe – seemingly to reflect both main characters. The collected & calculating Hannibal is kitted out with lovely fitted three piece suits and his gorgeous city house. In comparison, the often traumatised Will is dressed in hunting clothes with his cabin in the middle of nowhere.
Ultimately, I think this show does a good job of paying homage to the book series and the films that preceded it, while still being fresh enough to bring new people into the series. Although it was cancelled after season 3 (there are multiple petitions for places like Amazon & Netflix to pick it back up), there’s still a lot to watch and it would be well worth it to any fan of psychological shows. The first season in on Netflix or you can pick up all three seasons in a boxset for around £13 on Amazon.
*Note from Editor: Yes, it's a root vegetable.