In 2013, NBC took a massive chance when Bryan Fuller transformed an Oscar-winning cannibal into a small-screen force of nature. For three sanguinary seasons, Hannibal captivated audiences with its unabashed violence, scintillating performances, and enough food porn to fill a Vegas buffet.
Set in the years before FBI cadet Clarice Starling paid a visit to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Hannibal focused on Dr. Lecter before his reputation as a man-eater became the stuff of nightmares. Featuring familiar characters from the Thomas Harris Universe, NBC unleashed a true monster into primetime, providing an unflinching look at the worst of humanity in the form of a weekly cat-and-mouse game between the main characters. The series quickly became must-see TV for those who had a taste for the darker stuff.
But despite critical acclaim and a loyal, cult-like following, ratings were low, and NBC was forced to cancel the show after three seasons. The end was not truly the end, however, as Netflix acquired the disturbing drama amid rumors and wistful musings of its possible return.
So, is it too late to become a fannibal of Hannibal? Not at all. With 39 episodes and a final episode that can easily act as a series finale, it has has easily transitioned from a groundbreaking primetime offering to a delicious binge with violent delights that any horror fan or foodie will appreciate.
One of the many aspects that elevates the show is the juxtaposition between food and gore. The carefully-crafted elegance of the macabre murders contrasted by the stunning concoctions from Lecter’s kitchen boosts the series from horror to high-art. The lavish attention given to these culinary creations paired with the viewer’s knowledge that the primary ingredient is of a human variety adds to the overall macabre bite of the show.
In addition to the elegance of presentation, the show boasts a stellar cast (including Gillian Anderson and Lawrence Fishburne). But Mads Mikkelsen’s performance as the sinister psychiatrist is the standout. The great Dane does not mimic Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning turn, but creates a wholly unique, charismatic character all his own. This proto-Lecter is not one we have seen before. This Hannibal is not the Hannibal the Cannibal we all know… at least not yet. His true nature is still hidden, simmering just below the surface, masked by a Windsor knot, impeccable manners and a Ph.d.
Attempting to match him point-for-point is Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy, a criminal-profiling prodigy who is cut from the same cloth, but with a moral compass that keeps him from eating the neighborhood Census worker. Fueled by absolute empathy, Dancy’s Graham lives on the verge of madness, just a small push away from losing his grip on reality. Together, the two play off each other, creating a tit-for-tat that raises the stakes in each episode. The game becomes a dance between the two men, whose bromance dances between mutual respect and a need to get the upper hand.
For horrorheads, murder junkies, and gore hounds, Hannibal is the feast that keeps on feeding. The stylized slayings, the opulent epicurean delights, and the apprehension created by the two main characters makes for sensational television. There is nothing like this show right now and it is still unknown if there will ever be more or not. So until a fourth season is greenlit, binge away because this one’s dreadful delights more than satiate.