For those unaware, NBC’s Hannibal is one of if not the best shows on broadcast Television. Bryan Fuller’s Adaptation/Prequel/Re-Imaging/Fever Dream TV show about the titular cannibal Doctor Hannibal Lecter and FBI profiler Will Graham. The show is currently airing it’s second season. It continues to draw critical praise and has a devoted fanbase. However it has continued to struggle with ratings after coming close to being cancelled after it finished it’s first season. So without further adieu I give you 10 reasons why Hannibal is the best show you aren’t watching.
It’s By Bryan Fuller!
Fuller is essentially Joss Whedon on a fabulous acid trip. He’s had a long history of creating hilarious, poignant and morbid fair. He also happens to be perpetually cancelled after short runs on critically acclaimed shows that struggle with ratings. Where as Joss has Firefly, Bryan is behind cult classics Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies. He also gave us everyone’s favourite cross-dresser Eddie Izzard and Ellen’s wife Portia in the lush but doomed Munsters re-imagining Mockingbird Lane. He has one of the best eyes presenting lush technicolor with a heavy helping of death. Dead Like Me follows a dead girl who must spend time as a Grimm Reaper after a toilet falls from the sky and kills her. Pushing Daisies tells the story of a pie-maker who can bring the dead back with a touch, and features musical icons Ellen Greene (Little Shop Of Horrors) and Kristen Chenoweth (Wicked). Fuller creates bizarre and beautiful television, the kind that often thrives on cable and dies on the major networks.
The Cinematography Is Mind Blowing
The entire show is so meticulously crafted in every aspect. The clothing each character wears, the set design, effects, and everything within the shot is pretty much flawless. But more then anything it’s the cinematography that truly allows everything to look so lush and detailed. It speaks to the dedication and love the production puts into the show. It looks nothing like TV thriller and more like a lush art film.
The Dream Sequences
In addition to it’s flawless waking world, Hannibal utilizes a fair amount of dream sequences, fantasies, and hallucinations. A big part of the plot if Will Graham’s ability to inhabit the mind of serial killers and how his work with the FBI may be affecting his sanity. Throughout the series, we see some truly mind blowing fantasy sequences, such as Will laying in bed and the room flooding with crashing waves (a nod to Julianne Moore’s suicide fantasy in The Hours). And I would be remiss to omit what is often referred to as The Stag/Raven-Stag/Wendigo. Introduced late in the first season, it is a naked humanoid with massive antlers, night black skin and the face of Hannibal Lecter. It is a testament to the quality of the show that such a bizarre vision can be incorporated into the series. In fact it makes The Rubberman on American Horror Story seem absolutely pedestrian.
Horror fans are often accused of liking gore to a point of vulgarity. And it’s true that it is not often that gore can exist as both truly disturbing and utterly beautiful. Shows like American Horror, Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have shown us plenty of gore on cable TV but I can’t recall a show on broadcast TV featuring so much gore. Each episode will usually involve at least one dead body at a crime scene. We are treated to women mounted on stag heads, people turned into bee-hives, people are flaying to resemble angels, cut open and turned into cellos, and even a mural made of corpses and a totem pole. But it isn’t the crime scenes that will truly gross you out. It’s Hannibal preparing various cannibalistic entrees to feed his guest that are truly gruesome. Very early on we see Hannibal as he prepares a pair of human lungs, pressing the air out, dissecting meat from ventricles. We see him make brain, tongue. He braises a piece of calf muscle and makes a people sausage scramble. It’s truly a horror fans delight!
The Cannibal Puns
The only real moments of levity come from Hannibal’s various cannibal puns and double entendres. When everyone finally clues in that he’s been eating people this whole time they are going to feel mighty stupid. Hannibal is portrayed as the ultimate foodie and that provides plenty of moments of dramatic irony. Such as when Freddy Loundes talks about how horrible it is they are all eating meat. It provides the perfect kind of dark humor required to keep the story from being too bleak while also not ruining the mood of the show.
The Gay SubText of it All!
In the Hannibal books by Thomas Harris, Clarice Starling ends up becoming Hannibal’s lover at the end of the third book (also titled Hannibal). Throughout their interactions, there is an obviously fascination which seems at times sexual in nature. Hannibal sends her perfume, buys her Prada etc. On the show, Hannibal’s obsession with Will Graham is at first presented as purely one of scientific interest. But what becomes clear is that the writers are subtle blurring the line between fascination and lust. Hannibal’s need to control Will is one thing. But he often goes above and beyond when it comes to screwing with Will’s love interest Dr. Alana Bloom. At one point he sends a serial killer to her home and they constantly fight about what is best for Will. It’s the stuff ships are made of! But whatever you do don’t read the fanfiction.
Hugh Dancy! Because!
Hugh Dancy stars as Will Graham and he is pretty much the most adorable of all the various gifted crime solvers on TV. That’s right Sherlockians, he’s cuter then Bumblebatch Cumbersnatch. He’s also a stand out in a top notch cast. He will literally break your heart with his vulnerability and win your mind with his flawless portrayal of a man loosing his mind.
All The Guest Stars!
That is right! That’s Agent Dana Scully! The show features Gillian Anderson as Hannibal’s shrink. Anderson stands out as giving one of the best performances of her career. But that isn’t all. Over the course of a season and change we have gotten guest roles from Gina Torres (Firefly), Molly Shannon(SNL, Superstar), Cynthia Nixon(Sex and the City), Eddie Izzard (The Riches, Mockingbird Lane), Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction) and Ellen Greene(Little Shop of Horrors). Add to that Katherine Isabelle(American Mary, Ginger Snaps), Michael Pitt(Funny Games, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and a rumor that David Bowie might make a cameo. And I would go to gay Canadian hell if I didn’t mention Scott Thompson (Kids in The Hall) who recurs as one of the three FBI lab techs. In short it is chock full of amazingly talented stars, often turning out deranged performances.
On-Par Better Than Any Horror Show On Cable
Horror shows are all the rage right now. It started with genre shows in the vein of Buffy with shows like True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Being Human, Teen Wolf etc. Then it got to be about darker fare like The Walking Dead. Then American Horror Story took the world by storm and everyone was clamoring to see it. And most recently HBO’s True Detective (which seems to be strongly influenced by Hannibal) has become a smash hit and much watch TV. But here is the thing, Hannibal is better. It takes the dark violent beauty of American Horror Story, the fascinating crime solving of True Detective and the no one is safe mentality of The Walking Dead, and prepares a 13 course meal of it. It has a quality not present in the various other horror movies turned TV shows that we are getting of late and it often surpasses the source material and other adaptations in terms of it’s brilliance.
You’ll Regret Not Watching It
Every nerd has one. The show that got cancelled too soon. For many it’s Firefly, or Twin Peaks. These shows obtain cult status and are often trotted out by fellow nerds as a way to establish cred. “What do you mean you’ve never seen Firefly?” is a phrase I’ve heard leaving my lips before and countless other’s mouths as well. Hannibal has been ratings challenged with a rabid fanbase (Fannibals) and it has long been feared that despite it’s widespread acclaim it would be cancelled. Many fans are turned off by the idea of someone other then Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal. Or they have been put off by the decreasing quality of each film installment. But mark my words, this show will be appearing on top 10 lists and lists of under-rated shows for years to come. So what are you waiting for?
Hannibal airs Fridays at 10PM EST on NBC in the US and CityTV in Canada.