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TV Waffle - Hannibal

For many, the Hannibal Lecter mythos has had its time. But, following the success of forensics-themed shows like 'CSI', 'Bones', and 'Dexter', NBC has seen fit to return to the cannibal in yet another "re-imagining".
Developed by Bryan Fuller, who cut his teeth as a writer on ‘Star Trek: Voyager’, 'Hannibal' is set in modern day and takes many liberties with the source material (primarily Thomas Harris’ first Lecter novel, ‘Red Dragon’).
The show revolves around events which were only hinted at in the book, as we follow the burgeoning friendship between troubled FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and the psychiatrist Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), who is recruited by Behavioral Science boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) to assist Graham in dealing with his disturbing ability to empathize with, and thus enable the capture of, various deranged murderers.
To suit the modern-day demand for all demographic groups to be catered for, various characters from the book have become female, most notably the tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki). Graham’s psychologist friend Sidney Bloom has become Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), who seems primed to become a sort of love interest. Gillian Anderson turns up as a new character, a retired shrink who continues to chinwag with Lecter. You don’t need me to point out that Laurence Fishburne is not a white man, but of all the changes his turn as Jack Crawford is probably the least jarring for those familiar with the books, as he exudes exactly the right level of authority for the role.
Granted, the show is aimed at bringing the world of Lecter to a whole new audience, but for those who have read Harris’ books, the most annoying aspect of the script is the way in which lines which are spoken at a much later date in the chronology of events have been plucked and placed out of context in the middle of a dialogue exchange. It’s as though the writers were suddenly at a loss for a suitably wise comment (usually from Lecter), so they cherry-picked some pithy little phrase to fill a gap.
There is a new serial killer for Graham to pursue almost every episode, and the writers have really gone to town devising elaborate and often utterly ridiculous motivations for an array of demented psychos. Drama of this sort is always going to flirt with going over the top, but what makes this series so ludicrous is not so much the far-fetched methods of the serial killers themselves, but the way in which so many peripheral and non-psychotic characters seem to get dragged into the action, with initially innocent victims becoming murderers themselves. It’s as though just existing in the same world as Lecter will cause you to turn psychopathic and grab the nearest sharp object.
Hugh Dancy gives a decent performance as Graham, convincing us that he is genuinely unsettled by his unique ability. As for the key casting of Lecter, there is no doubting that Mikkelsen is a talented actor, and the fact that he is European was probably the main factor in his getting the role. But he is too strapping and athletic-looking for the part. Lecter is described as being like a cat – a small coiled up bundle of energy ready to pounce. Apparently Ian Holm was the original choice for The Silence of the Lambs. For modern audiences, Robert Carlysle wouldn’t have been a bad choice.
Ultimately, I’d have to say that this show just doesn’t work. In Harris’ saga, we learn that Lecter was briefly consulted about the crimes for which he himself was actually guilty, and this liaison between himself and the FBI soon led to Graham’s insight that Lecter was the culprit. This show stretches the concept to risible extremes. There’s just something too implausible about it. A second season has been commissioned, and apparently several more are planned. Hannibal can only get more preposterous.


Andy Sneyd

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