Friday, June 21, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Hannibal, season 1 (2013) ****

TV-14, 12 43-min. episodes
Creator: Bryan Fuller, Thomas Harris (novel “Red Dragon”)

Directors: David Slade, Michael Rymer, Guillermo Navarro, James Foley, Tim Hunter, John Dahl

Writers: Bryan Fuller, Thomas Harris (characters), Jim Danger Gray, David Fury, Chris Brancato, Scott Nimerfro, Kai Yu Wu, Jesse Alexander, Jennifer Schuur, Steve Lightfoot, Andy Black

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams

Guest starring: Kacey Rohl, Vladimir Jon Cubrt, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Mark Rendall, Torianna Lee, Gina Torres, Eddie Izzard, Raul Esparza, Anna Chlumsky, Gillian Anderson, Dan Fogler, Demore Barnes, Lance Henriksen, Ellen Muth, John Benjamin Hickey

“Hannibal” is the rare example of a television series from another source that actually transcends its source material. Ever since most film audiences were introduced to the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs” we have been fascinated with this sometimes-charming and highly intelligent man, diabolical gamesman, and outright cannibal.

He originated as a supporting character in Thomas Harris’s second and third novels “Red Dragon” and “The Silence of the Lambs”, where he helped FBI Special Agents Will Graham and Clarice Starling hunt serial killers from behind the bars where he was placed by Graham and Agent-in-Charge of Behavioral Science Division Jack Crawford. Neither of those stories are about Hannibal, however. Both are better stories than Harris’s follow up novels “Hannibal” and “Hannibal Rising”, which feature Hannibal as the main character.

Bryan Fuller’s new television series “Hannibal” takes a queue from Harris’s mistake and focuses its spotlight on Will Graham instead of Hannibal. Although Hannibal plays a much larger role here, as a consultant to the FBI on Graham’s mental state, this is squarely Graham’s story. Taking place before Graham and Crawford take down the noted psychiatrist as the Chesapeake Bay Ripper, it takes its premise from the peculiar way in which Graham works as an investigator.  Described as having a condition something akin to Asperger’s, Crawford pulls Graham out of the classroom as a teacher of new recruits for his help finding a killer that continues to elude the FBI. To be sure that Graham doesn’t snap under the pressure, Jack employs Hannibal to keep an eye on Graham’s mental state.

Jack has also had a long history trying to find the Chesapeake Bay Ripper, which unbeknownst to him is the man, in whose care he has just placed his best profiler. Hannibal sees a game to play with Graham’s state of mind. And so a new and ultimately fascinating and depraved experiment begins for Hannibal.

Graham has been depicted twice before in the two film adaptations of Harris’s novel “Red Dragon”. In the first, “Manhunter”, William Petersen portrayed him. Later, the novel was remade under its original title with Edward Norton in the role. I think the version here holds most of its inspiration from the first crime scene depicted in “Manhunter” where Petersen seems to disappear into the crime that he is investigating. Here, Hugh Dancy takes this notion to new levels as he relives the crimes he investigates as if he is the killer. His condition worsens as he helps Crawford solve a series of very unusual murders, the types that would make the “CSI: Las Vegas” team sick to their stomachs.

Graham is haunted by strange dreams and soon finds that he is “losing time.” He’ll be at a crime scene and wake up back at Quantico without any memory of how he got there or anyone else noticing that anything had happened with him. Hannibal uses his position as Graham’s psychoanalyst to begin to manipulate these symptoms of Graham’s into a twisted experiment where he can act as a copycat killer to the murders that Graham investigates and frame Graham in the process. The whole thing is very dark and twisted and unlike anything I’ve ever seen on network television before.

The final episode of season one leaves its developments in quite a cliffhanger with Graham incarcerated in the very psychiatric hospital in which Hannibal will eventually be locked away. It creates more anticipation than any show that I can remember for its second season. I hope I can wait a year.

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