Hannibal Lecter is one of America’s most iconic fictional serial killers. Created by author Thomas Harris in the 1981 novel Red Dragon, he blew up. This lead to two sequel novels, a prequel, and five films featuring the character. The book Red Dragon has been adapted twice for the big screen, the first time with the box office bomb Manhunter in 1986 a film featuring Brian Cox as the famous cannibal, then again in the 2002 film Red Dragon featuring Anthony Hopkins. Now, in 2013 we have a third adaptation of the book with Bryan Fullers new show: Hannibal.
Let’s just get this out of the way quickly shall we? Do not expect this to be set in the movie universe. This is its own show, set in a more modern setting. It will still adapt the book Red Dragon. However, before that, we get to see what the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham was like before the book. Bryan Fuller has stated that he hopes to adapt the novel by season 4, and with any luck do the second and third book as well. Of course, skipping Hannibal Rising (and with good cause, that book was terrible). This could be a risky move considering the Hannibal books and films have such a strong fanbase, myself included. However, after viewing the pilot episode I think this show will do well.
The first episode was fantastic. I enjoyed every minute of it. It hooks you from the beginning with Will Graham getting inside the head of a serial killer and trying to figure out they killed their victim. It was very Sherlock-esque, but had its own unique style to it as well. People would be quick to point out that Will Graham is very much like Sherlock Holmes. However, in vertain adaptations we see Sherlock Holmes as lacking any sort of empathy for the killers and their victims. Graham, however, has the opposite problem. He suffers from overactive empathy. This allows him to empathize with the killer and their victims. This has taken a toll on his psyche. Hugh Dancy gives a great performance as a man who is called in to witness murder after murder and absorbing all of that pain and pleasure that the victim and murderer also felt.
The strongest aspect of the show so far has to be the cast. Each one of them brings something new to the table. Hugh Dancy doesn’t try to be Edward Norton, Lawrence Fishburne, who plays Jack Crawford, doesn’t try to be Harvey Keitel, and last but not least Mads Mikkelsen does not try to be Anthony Hopkins. And thank goodness for that, folks. As much as I enjoyed Mads’ performance, nothing can touch Hopkins and to try to recreate a performance like that would be a terrible idea. He crafts his own interpretation of the character, which is both disturbing and fun to watch. Mads already has a sinister face, so this is clearly the role for him.
What I thought was brilliant about the pilot is that the case being worked was mentioned in both book and the movie version of Red Dragon. Will is brought in to investigate a case of women being kidnapped. One shows up dead returned to her bed. But they notice they have been gored by antlers. Will has troubles working the case because he is flooded with emotions due to his increased empathy levels. Renowned forensic psychologist and future inmate Hannibal Lecter is brought in to help Will. The two don’t quite hit is off at first with Will scoffing “I don’t find you that interesting” while being served a meal by Lecter. “You will.” I won’t give away the name of the killer, but if you have read Red Dragon and have seen the film, you will know who I am talking about. David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) directs the pilot and it looks beautiful. It had a very cinematic feel too it. I worried that we would see a standard cop show cinematography and direction but this show feels like a film, with a few television style tropes throughout. My one concern is that this show has the potential to become a standard procedural show where we get a new case every week and never mention the old ones ever again. I am hoping we see cases last two or three episodes and have a long running story arc for each season. Hopefully later episodes won’t leave a bad taste in our mouths.
Overall Hannibal: “Aperitif” is delicious. With strong performances, great writing and directing the show will not disappoint. We give “Hannibal: “Aperitif” 10 sweetbreads out of 10.