‘Hannibal’ Series Premiere Review

Published 2 years ago by

Mads Mikkelsen in Hannibal Aperitif Hannibal Series Premiere Review

The first thing fans might notice about Hannibal, NBC’s recent foray into the world of psychotic serial killers and the (sometimes) unstable minds who are determined to track them down is that, even in this early outing, this series is several things FOX’s serial killer drama The Following is not – i.e., emotionally engaging, legitimately cringe inducing and, most importantly, interested in its topic as something more than a way to push the television envelope.

Certainly, a lot of that has to do with the fact that Hannibal is working with some fairly well known and established characters, so, to a certain degree, the audience is aware what they’re getting into. After all, does anyone ever hear the words “fava beans” or “Chianti” without then imagining Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, his piercing gaze burning itself into the mind of Clarice Starling and, subsequently, moviegoers for over 20 years now?

So, yes, in those terms, Hannibal certainly has a (dismembered) leg up on the competition. But more than the character’s rich history thanks to Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Jonathan Demme and, of course, Thomas Harris (and to a certain degree William Petersen, Brian Cox and Michael Mann), NBC’s big-time gamble on Hannibal Lecter owes its early goodwill to the macabre mind of Bryan Fuller and, in terms of the gorgeous pilot that starts the series off on remarkably solid ground, the directorial prowess of David Slade – who not only knows his way around cinematic vampires of the twinkling and legitimately scary variety, but also directed the outstanding pilot for NBC’s dual-reality drama Awake. And here, much as it was with that short-lived series, Slade’s direction is impeccable.

Hugh Dancy in Hannibal Aperitif Hannibal Series Premiere Review

What makes Hannibal work is the way in which it approaches both the subject matter and the characters. Make no mistake, this is a dark world for the viewer to enter; it is rife with blood, bits of gore and frequent manifestations of other unpleasant, yet intriguingly dream-like imagery. And while violence plays a significant part in the pilot, it isn’t the kind of empty violence that exists simply to propel plotlines and offer a repetitively dour, yet ever-waning thrill; it is there to offer an investigation into the intense ramifications for those who have to deal with violence either directly, or on the periphery – which, as we see in ‘Aperitif’ can be the victims themselves, their family members or investigators who operate on “pure empathy” like Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham.

It is here that Fuller’s script does what few others manage, by making the series’ central protagonist (potentially) more interesting than those he is pursuing. As is stated in the pilot, Will is driven by fear. He’s a bizarre object, something people (those who’ve managed to get to know him, anyway) are as fascinated with as the killers he helps catch. There is something inside Will that he fears might be let loose. “Don’t psychoanalyze me,” Will says, bringing to mind the words of another mild-mannered man barely keeping a monster at bay. “You won’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed.”

Of course, that scene is the first official meeting between Will Graham and Dr. Lecter – though the episode uses a far more ingenious and seamless segue to introduce the character to the audience. In this quiet moment, Mads Mikkelsen exudes more charisma dining alone at his table than most cinematic and television serial killers of recent memory have in all their various exploits.

What Mikkelsen does best, however, is take the character back to a time before he was a product to be repackaged and sold (despite the fact that is precisely what’s going on here). His Lecter is a pitiless therapist that keeps tissues out of the hands of his patient, and when they are requested, he barely moves in order to give them over. But he’s also charming when he needs to be, a monster hiding in plain sight under the cover of his own magnetism and brilliance.

Laurence Fishburne and Hugh Dancy in Hannibal Aperitif Hannibal Series Premiere Review

The series is also blessed with an outstanding supporting cast. Early on, we see that Laurence Fishburne’s Jack Crawford is equally shrewd, plying Lecter with compliments and deference, although he is a very accomplished professional in his own right. Meanwhile, Dr. Alana Bloom (played by Caroline Dhavernas) doesn’t have much to do in the pilot, but it’s clear she’ll be acting as someone who has Will’s well-being at heart.

Best of all, it’s clear the kind of story Hannibal has in mind for its characters; this season and, perhaps, beyond. This is the story of Will Graham and his time with Hannibal Lecter, a time before Hannibal was locked away and his exploits made him infamous. This is one of those stories like Bates Motel where the audience knows the endgame, but not necessarily the entire journey the characters took to get there. And so far, its first steps are intriguing.

Much like Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal is the kind of material that could be pure hokum in the hands of the wrong creative people. Thankfully, as with that film, Fuller and his crew have managed to recapture some of the same frightening, engaging and sometimes devastating magic that made the character of Hannibal Lecter one the world would not soon forget.


Hannibal continues next Thursday with ‘Amuse-bouche’ @10pm on NBC. Check out what the season has in store in the preview below:

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  1. The pilot for hannibal was pretty dam good. The supporting cast makes this show so much better with Laurence Fishburne its gonna be a good season. Just hope that the ratings are gonna gonna be good since its on nbc and nbc tends to cancel alot of their shows after 1 season.

  2. Film may be dead, but Television has rarely disappointed me. This show was amazing.

  3. Interesting, intelligent performances and some beautiful cinematography, especially for a pilot. I’m looking forward to seeing how the series progresses. As a big fan of the novel, I was pleasantly surprised by this. Hugh Dancy seems to have channeled a bit of William L. Petersen’s Graham. Mads Mikkelsen added some surprising humanity to Hannibal, making him even more chilling & devious in the process. Something this good can only mean one thing: NBC will cancel it. 😉

  4. If the pilot was just a glimpse of what’s to come this show can really be something special.
    Hugh Dancy was great and Mikkelsen was such a pleasant surprise. I had never seen him in anything before but WOW!
    Also the tone David Slade set in the episode isn’t like anything I’ve seen on TV before and I loved the Kubrick nods.
    All that worries me now is NBC and they’re notoriously quick cancellation habits. If this ends up as another 1 and done season it will be a real shame.

    • If you like the chemistry between the two leads, you might check out the Antoine Fuqua movie King Arthur to see them together for the first time. :)

  5. I can’t get into cannibals.

  6. I’ve never seen the movie so I came in pretty confused. At first, I thought the Will guy was murdering all of those girls because of the way they showed him recreating the murders. I thought he was the psychopath, and that the focus of the show would be about the cops eventually figuring out that he was commiting all the murders. It wasn’t until the actual Hannibal character came in, I finally started to understand. But anyway, the pilot was great, and the two actors playing Will and Hannibal are great. Boy, there are a lot of great shows coming out these days.

  7. Forgive me if I missed something, but did SR get rid of the star rating system? This isn’t the first article where the stars are missing at the end of the review. It’s a nice way to sum the review up in a way that is quickly understood.

    • They only do the star rating for their movies. They should do it for the tv shows also though.

  8. I’m a huge fan of Mads Mikkelson, so I’ve been waiting for this since last summer, and I wasn’t disappointed. The way they were able to present Will Graham’s imagination at work was creative and interesting and the gore was surreal and imaginary, rather than just revolting. I thought it was glorious to look at, and I think Dancy and Mikkelson will be a treat to watch when they are on screen together (to say nothing of that preview of Gillian Anderson and Mads –hot hot hot).

    The only comparison I’ve been able to come up with is Boyd Crowder and Raylan Givens on Justified; these are two men who are likely two sides of the same coin. On Justified, Boyd and Raylan both know a nudge in the right direction in Raylan’s past would have left them both on the wrong side of the law. But here, Will doesn’t know just how much he has in common with Hannibal, and I’m guessing Hannibal does.

    It’s clear this will not be a show for everyone, but I’m hope it can acquire enough of a following of us twisted sickos to survive.

  9. Creepy, and very well done. Looking forward to how this develops. Mads’ Lecter is instantly scary, and instantly his own take on it too. I did not once think of Anthony or Brian Cox.

    I wasn’t a fan of this idea, especially it being on a network, but I am surprised.


  10. The Following bashing in this article is unwarranted. To compare a show that just premiered to one that has been on god weeks is just…

    • No offense but The Following is starting to run out of steam. I like it for the first 4-6 episodes but now it just feels dull, repetitive, and over the top. It has gotten to the point where the episodes are too predictable and has left me bored at times. The Hannibal series just started but we shall see if the steam doesn’t run out on this series too. Judging by the crew of writers they have on hand I highly doubt they will though but we shall see

    • He wasn’t bashing it, he just made a comparison based off his own opinion of what he saw thus far.

  11. I enjoyed the first episode very much – I was pleasantly surprised. Mads Mikkelsen was every bit as magnetic as Anthony Hopkins was. But what I was most intrigued by was, as mentioned in the review, the fact that the protagonist was actually a more interesting character. I fear for his life, though.

  12. I didn’t enjoy the first episode at all… It was so poorly written …
    NBC=Nothing But Crap

  13. Very good indeed. Mads nailed it, studious to the point of perversity. I suspect throughout he will initiate small details not necessarily related the main plot but just to provoke a reaction and observe (poking a stick in other words). Based on the trailer for episode 2, it seems far from a ‘new killer every week’ formula which is grand by me. This should be a Lecter/Graham story and nothing more. Based on this pilot, seems to be what we are getting.

    Which leads comparison of evolution with another new show. ‘Bates Motel’. We have two shows here that should focus on the psychology between the two leads. I suspect whichever one sticks to this formula will last longer. ‘Bates Motel’ is already showing signs of disappearing up its rear end.

  14. If you like Mads, and I do by the way, be sure to check him out in a recent feature-length movie produced by a cell phone company (Virgin? Sprint?) based entirely on suggestions from subscribers. It sounds corny but the end result was fantastic with Mads at the helm.

    • Also, ‘The Hunt’, which I just saw recently. His performance in that is marvelous. Strong film also.

    • Deutsche Telekom. The Hungary episode is my favorite. I’m patiently waiting for The Hunt to be released in the U.S. (July?).

  15. Well, I got through the first ten seconds of the episode two clip above. As soon as I heard the blasting music in the background, that’s supposed to trick me into becoming excited over the latest franchise cash grab, my index finger hit the stop button right quick. We already have the three movies that approx. covered the books, and they were good, except, of course, the Hollywood ending in the last movie that totally ruined the POINT of the series.


  16. It ws more a of a horror film to me n i ws terified

  17. I would definitely love 2 watch it

  18. Nice review about Hannibal film

  19. Probably what The Following should have been. Also, it’s psychopath not psychotic.

  20. Was a little worried about Mikkelson – thought he’d nail the menace but was concerned he may not be able to play the non-psychopathic, respected side of Lecter too well. But there was nothing to worry about. He made his own character out of it – very hopeful for the series.

  21. I Found the pilot to be decent, issues I had was that the character Hannibal (the main reason to watch the show) was boring and uninteresting plus the actor who is playing him I could barely understand. I am going to keep watching this becasue is could get better and I am hoping it does, but so far it’s just another cop show. Knowing NBC it will be canceled soon.

  22. i liked edward norton’s will graham better. this new will graham seems like he would break any minute now. so fragile and too broody. looks like he needs a bath. no comments on hannibal lecter though. i like him enough. freddie lounds? a girl? nahh… i’ll watch this series but i wouldn’t mind missing an episode or two…

  23. i liked edward norton’s will graham better. this new will graham seems like he would break any minute now. so fragile and too broody. looks like he needs a bath. no comments on hannibal lecter though. i like him enough. freddie lounds? a girl? nahh. i’ll watch this series but i wouldn’t mind missing an episode or two.

  24. Hi, I’m from Serbia and you’re articles are really good :). I love them ;). But what I also really LOVE is Hannibal. I like that it’s not a simple crime show like 1000 others, I enjoy the bromance between Will and Lecter and I’m glad they’ve acted together before and are friends 😉

    • Well, I suppose it’s different with everybody. Personally, I like(and fancy :) the actor. I find him convincing and vulnerable, emotional and special. It’s good enough for me, and, it’s good enough for NBC to renew the show for a second season 😉
      But, I respect your post! 😉