If I were a betting man, I’d have wagered NBC’s attempt to turn the adventures of Hannibal Lecter into a weekly series would go down in TV lore as one of the worst ideas ever (right up there with Joanie Loves Chachi) and unceremoniously canceled after a few episodes. After all, not only is Lecter the most famous and beloved serial killer in movie history, but Anthony Hopkins owns this role just as Sean Connery once owned James Bond. If Hannibal Rising taught us nothing else, it was that nobody cared about Lecter without Hopkins’ icy stare and oily-intellectual delivery. Worst yet, the series starts as an origin story, sans-Hopkins (who's obviously too old), taking place before the events in Thomas Harris’ first Lecter novel, Red Dragon (though featuring many of the same characters). How far could it possibly take a premise we're all well-familiar with?
But lo and behold, Hannibal has managed to stick around for two seasons with a third on the way, and for good reason. The brand name may be familiar, but this is a different animal than any films in the franchise. Sure, it draws its inspiration from Harris’ novels, but the similarities pretty-much end there. Hannibal doesn't achieve the cinematic brilliance of The Silence of the Lambs, nor the over-the-top delirium as the first sequel (sautéed brains, anyone?). This series is darker & moodier, with a tone all its own, suggesting it was never intended as part of the Hannibal Lecter canon, but a different spin on the same characters and premise.
All the while, those who revel in lurid gore will be sated by some truly gruesome imagery (especially coming from a broadcast network program).
Season Two does a surprising good job of extending a concept which I didn’t think would survive past the pilot episode. But by taking Harris’ characters and doing something different with them, Hannibal continues to be, not only watchable, but one of the more darkly-compelling programs currently on TV.
Damn good thing I’ve never been a betting man.
- Documentary: This is My Design
- Featurettes: The Style of a Killer; Bodies of Lies, Hannibal Season 2: Killer Intentions
- Webisodes: Post Mortem with Scott Thompson
- Cast & crew commentaries
- Deleted scenes
- Gag reel
(OUT OF 5)