Friday, May 9, 2014

NBC Renews Hannibal!

Hannibal, NBC's gothic horror drama based on the Thomas Harris Hannibal Lecter novels, has been renewed for a third season.

Commence culinary puns.

The show has suffered from consistently low ratings on Friday nights despite much-deserved critical acclaim and a rightfully passionate fanbase. The show faced a similar "will they/won't they" fate after the first season, but continues to hang on due in large part to its international co-financing. It is a low monetary risk for NBC, and the network is in dire need of quality content. If the show ever does get abruptly cancelled, it's likely it will be picked up by another network or digital streaming company like Netflix, however.

The television landscape has significantly changed in recent years. Low ratings are not necessarily an indication of a show's popularity. People aren't watching TV the way they used to: they have Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, and DVR to name a few digital outlets, and all one need do is surf the internet for a little while to see that Hannibal is a much-beloved series.

Hannibal has been consistently excellent, subversive, and entirely unique. It is truly unlike anything on television today. While, on the outside, it might appear to be a simple, shock-value procedural, a cheap gore-fest, it is a deeply psychological drama that's less "monster of the week" in structure and much more episodic.

Like The X-Files it is one of the only television shows that's actually frightening. Well-known for its shocking depictions of procedural violence, the show brilliantly manages to walk a fine line between sensationalism and beauty. The show establishes early on that the occasionally "hard-R" gore is a necessary part of the psychological aesthetic, eloquently avoiding gratuity.

In context, this is actually the result of three, completely-crafted psychologies over the course of several episodes.
The excellent writing and increasingly (and suitably) strange narrative is supported by a cast that includes Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, Lawrence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, and Mads Mikkelsen as the good Dr. Lecter.

Each episode is akin to a forty-minute film that contributes to a larger thirteen hour saga, offering a level of depth, quality, and sincerity not often seen on network television. Bryan Fuller, the series showrunner, has managed to write dialogue that gives occasional nods to the Harris novels and the Hannibal films, even some ironic wordplay and puns with regard to Hannibal's cannibalistic ways, without sacrificing authenticity or dipping too far into fan-service. Such winks surprisingly add depth to the proceedings, played straight by the actors, but presenting a kind of alternate, decidedly stranger Hannibal-universe to those familiar with the character.

And then there's Mads Mikkelsen, whose Hannibal is a monster all his own that doesn't even inspire comparisons to Anthony Hopkins. Both exist independently of the other, stamping their own take firmly into pop-culture.

Being gifted with a weekly performance by Mikkelsen (best known in America for playing a Bond-villain in Casino Royale) is like watching Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro every week on television in their prime. He offers a marvelous performance in each episode, sculpting a vicious character that incorporates everything Lecter fans love, while exploring previously unseen depths of the cannibal's ethics and amorality.

In this series we see the relationship between Hannibal and Will Graham that we never got on the big screen, and it is a dark, twisted interpretation that occasionally dares to be heartwarming, even sensual.

Hugh Dancy's occasionally over the top, but endearing and wholly committed portrayal of Graham is unlike any other protagonist on television - his primary conflict, and his "super power" being that he is too empathetic. That might sound silly on the page, but when you watch it, and remain open-minded, you will see how Graham is a wonderful and decidedly different main character that showcasing the best in humanity.

This is a show about emotionality above all, and what it is that makes us do the wonderful and terrible things we do.

The second season is wrapping up soon.

Currently Fuller only has rights to the characters in Red Dragon, but with any luck he will eventually secure the rights to Silence of the Lambs, and if NBC continues to support the show then this grim and beautiful depiction of Hannibal the Cannibal will live on.

1 comment:

  1. totally agreed.

    great piece of writing, man, as usual.