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The Same Lie from Your Tongue Trips: Six Reasons Why You Should Be Watching "Hannibal"

By Cindy Davis | TV Reviews | April 10, 2013 | Comments ()


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From the first rumblings of a television series about Hannibal Lecter, the little hairs on my arms were set aquiver. Granted, it was being developed by NBC, which automatically means temper one’s expectations; the combination of the source material and Bryan Fuller as writer/showrunner balanced the scale. Because I’m not terribly familiar with him, I didn’t have much of a reaction to Hugh Dancy being cast, but the second Mads Mikkelsen came on board, that sealed the deal; no matter how badly they might fork things up, I was going to watch. Last Thursday, “Hannibal” made its promising debut, and let me tell you what…you need to jump on this train. While most of us have quietly and quickly quit “The Following” and “Bates Motel,” both hammy and heavy-handed, I think “Hannibal” could be a long hauler. Jump on now before you miss one more second of this “love story” between Agent Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

1. Hugh Dancy as Will Graham

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Let me start out by saying I haven’t seen Dancy in much, so I was completely unprepared for how great he was. As in Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the character is extremely empathetic, here to the point he imagines himself in a killer’s shoes—committing horrific murders. This version Will Graham has the added twist of being on the Asperger’s end of the autistic spectrum, semi-forced into identifying himself to his boss (Lawrence Fishburne as Jack Crawford). Dancy seamlessly transforms from violent criminal (we see Graham actually committing the violent acts as he imagines them in his head) to a brilliant, disheveled investigator who can barely look someone in the eye, to a haunted and vulnerable man on the defense, as Hannibal sizes up his intellectual competition. For me, Dancy is the surprise star of the show—where I thought Mikkelsen would dwarf everyone around him, Dancy’s raw throw-it-all-on-the-table style of acting commanded attention. Interestingly, I noticed a similarity to his wife’s acting style, albeit without the contorted cry-face.


2. Mads Mothereffin’ Mikkelsen

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As filled with anticipation as I was to see Mikkelsen’s take on Dr. Lecter, I did wonder how he’d sound, and whether it would be troublesome were it so different from the iconic Anthony Hopkins version of Lecter. Even though the two actors generally have a different appearance, there is some similarity in facial structure that lends itself to the imagination.

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Someone wisely made the decision to just let Mikkelsen go with his own Scandanavian accent; the natural thickness in his voice gives his Lecter enough of a European polish—it works. And though he may be well known for his gruff, tough film roles, refined Mads translates beautifully. The angles of his face seem sharper, giving way to those of his tie and tailored suit. His slow, careful movements give this Lecter an unsettling calm and grace—almost a softness we might have expected of a younger Hopkins. It’s the violent history we already know that unconsciously aids Mikkelsen’s performance, but he is already playing us (and Will); foolish fiddles we are. There’s a moment at the end of the pilot episode, “Apéritif”; a disarming gesture by Hannibal that catches us off guard. But it is the utterly serene, slight-hint-of-a-smile on Mikkelsen’s face that leaves us knowing we should be terrified.


3. Bryan Fuller’s Glorious Use of Color, His Vision and References to The Shining

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I practically peed my pants when I saw that bathroom scene, directly lifted from inspired by The Shining. Fuller is a huge Kubrick and Shining fan; he especially loves its visual distinctions. And if you’ve seen Fuller’s other shows (“Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me”), you’re already aware he’s developed a brand of visual style that commands as much attention as characters and plotlines. Because the story of Will Graham is that of a man who is driven to breakdown, Fuller is pursuing the series along some parallel Shining lines. (As long as rights can be secured, future appearances by Clarice Starling and Jame Gumb can also be expected.)


4. The Elaborate Reenactments and Crime Scenes…The Horror!

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Any Silence of the Lambs fan remembers the crime scenes as much as Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

SotL

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“Hannibal”

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I’m happy to report that neither the show nor the network seems to be shying away from the dark, dirty or disgusting (we’ll have to wait to see if any cellmates do the ol’ fluid flinging). Hannibal’s already cooked up a liver and some lungs, but I’ll be damned if I’ve spotted any beans as yet.


5. Eddie’s Coming

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That’s right, our buddy Eddie Izzard shed that terrible Grandpa Munster costume and traded it in for a prison jumpsuit. Come to think of it, he’d be a perfect fling-ster.


6. And Gillian Anderson, Too

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Our favorite former redhead joins in the fun as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Lecter’s psychiatrist. I can’t even imagine the greatness that will happen when Anderson and Mikkelsen sit across from each other.


The series isn’t perfect; Fishburne is just serviceable, and the supporting cast of FBI agents are little more than distraction. But with Dancy and Mikkelsen, who cares? Their cat and mouse/dance is the real reason to watch. What are you waiting for? It’s not to late to play catch up tonight, before the second episode, “Amuse-Bouche” airs Thursday night at 9 pm EST. Here’s the pilot:


Cindy Davis, (Twitter) sometimes still hears the lambs.



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • Rochelle

    I've had a thing for Mikkelsen since he was the only watchable part of that terrible King Arthur movie with Clive Owen (the awfulness of that movie still enrages me). He is amazing as Hannibal Lechter. Creeped me out and made my panties intellectually damp. I just watched the pilot and was blown away!

  • Bert

    Let me guess, Dustin already despises this show.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    Plus SCOTT MUHFUGGING THOMPSON as a CSI!!!

  • Guest

    +1. I miss Buddy Cole.

  • Don Juan de Markup

    When you look at all the serial killer shows, Cult, Following, Bates and Dexter, this one looks like it will be far superior. There's a season sneak preview running on Hulu and they have some scenes with Gillian and Mads as doctor and patient as well as some of Hannibal killing. It looks like the entire season is going to escalate amazingly well. I wonder if at some point they're going to have Hannibal and Graham reach a confrontation and then continue or if Hannibal will always be the puppet master to a very damaged puppet and how much of the damage will be done by Hannibal.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    So I guess I'm the only one enjoying Bates Motel. :/

  • asherlev1

    Yes!! I adore this show. But I actually think Fishburne is pretty great.

  • annie

    You forgot to mention how painfully adorable Hugh Dancy is. The brutal violence against women is a big squick factor for me, but that's to be expected with this franchise anyway. Otherwise, I approve this list.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I absolutely concur. I didn't make the "Pushing Daisies" connection, but it makes sense to me now. The visuals in this show make it worth the watch alone. But add in Dancy and Mikkelson and I am well and truly hooked after one episode.

  • ViciousTrollop

    I'm a big fan of the film Manhunter starring the amazing William Petersen as Will Graham. He's the best Graham, IMO. I'm looking at you, Edward Norton!

  • TheOriginalMRod

    You had me at Gillian Anderson.

  • chanohack

    Eddie Izzard is coming? I'm sold!

    (And if my boyfriend is cranky about it, I will say, "Gillian Anderson will be here soon," and that ought to keep him quiet for a while. God, this post is so informative!)

  • Jill

    When Mr. Izzard arrives, he will officially be the hottest guy on the show. Step aside Mr. Dancy.

  • cindy_lightballoon

    I really really loved this, hopefully it'll stay good! I dunno if it was the direction, or the script or the acting or whatever, but it really got under my skin, like it made me properly scared. Nothing has done that in a while!

  • RilesSD

    Completely agree, the pilot was amazing. If Hugh Dancy keeps this level of performance up, he deserves an Emmy. Mads is incredible as Hannibal. I'm still watching The Following, but this is definitely a much tighter and better show.

  • ceebee_eebee

    I freaked watching this. FREAKED. Will Graham is one of my favorite fictional characters and I was really nervous how Dancy would be in the role. I was absolutely floored at how much I loved every single thing about the first episode. I could have cried with joy. My only argument with this review is Fishburne. I think he's FABULOUS as Crawford. Honestly, as much as I love Manhunter and SotL, I think Fishburne might be the best Jack Crawford of the bunch. But that's just details. Overall, EEEEEEEEE. I agree this show is an absolute MUST SEE.

  • DeltaJuliet

    I was wondering how my fellow viewers were doing with the Following. Seems I hung in there longer than a lot of you, and ONLY because of the Bacon. But I have finally given up. Hubby hit play on the DVR the other night and I couldn’t even be bothered to look up from the magazine I was reading (which also wasn’t any good). Hannibal is still sitting on the DVR. After reading this I guess I have to watch it tonight.

  • specialj67

    I was going to pass on it after wasting several hours of my life on those turd-burgers "The Following" (4 episodes) and "Bates Motel" (pilot only), but Alan Sepinwall's and Dan Fienberg's positive review of it on their podcast convinced me otherwise. I'm glad I gave it a chance because the pilot impressed me quite a bit; I always love Bryan Fuller's visual style on his TV shows, and the two leads in this are fantastic.

  • asherlev1

    Sepinwall and Fienberg were gushhhing over the show. It got me so pumped, even though I was already planning on watching.

  • snrp

    I was feeling pretty jaded post-"The Following" (still <3 you, Kevin), but the pilot blew me the fuck away. Also, HOW MUCH BETTER would this show be if we didn't already know how it ends*?

    And if anything, ANYTHING, happens to those dogs, I will lose my shit.

    *SO MUCH BETTER

  • Alexandra Roderick

    up to I looked at the paycheck which had said $4121, I did not believe that...my... friends brother was truley bringing in money part-time at their laptop.. there neighbour started doing this less than and as of now paid the morgage on there appartment and purchased themselves a Smart ForTwo. go to, Big31.com

  • I really enjoyed the premiere, way more than I thought I would, since I have a big thing against cop shows (they all seem kind of the same to me). I thought Hugh Dancy was fantastic (and OK painfully cute) and Mads Mikkelsen appropriately terrifying. I was a little turned off by all the slo-mo, but I think it'll be alright as long as they don't overuse it. Also: Bonus Laurence Fishburne. He has a lot of presence onscreen.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    EW, to those crime scenes. I didn't want to see it before, now I want to conceal it from my roommate so I don't accidentally see it.

  • prairiegirl

    I watched the pilot last night and was thoroughly enthralled. Dancy is just mesmerizing and Mikkelsen makes my skin crawl. Both perfect casting choices as you noted. I can't wait for tomorrow night's episode.

    My one question I had while watching: was it just coincidence that Lecter was eating the same organs that were missing from the victims? Or did he know and was eating them in honor of the killer? Or was he colluding with the killer and having them overnighted so he could cook them up? I was confused on that part.

  • Jerce

    Lecter killed the girl they found in the field. One of the investigators notes that the girl's lungs are missing--that was the reason they showed the scene of Lecter prepping & eating the lungs.

    At the scene, Will Graham states that this murder is a copycat killing, and makes a statement to the effect of, "It's like this murder is a negative that will force me to see the positive [the motives of the real killer]."

    In short, Will wasn't catching on to the killer quickly enough to suit Lecter, so Lecter went out and did a murder to speed things up.

  • prairiegirl

    Makes sense and I thought he might have had a hand but for some reason thought he was still in Maryland. I wasn't following the onscreen locations well enough, I guess. No more multi-tasking whilst watching. Merci!

  • Jerce

    I tuned in last week out of sheer curiosity and I was stunned by how good the pilot was...It's far from perfect, but there is much there to fascinate. I am very doubtful that they can keep up this level of quality and weirdness; but I will be tuning in every week until they start to flag or until the show is cancelled (the pragmatic part of me gives it about 6 weeks).

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'll watch. Thanks.

  • toblerone

    +1 to all of the above but you missed:

    *I also kinda wish it wasn't set in present day.

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