Mid-Season Review: HANNIBAL

You should be watching NBC's stylish new take on Lecter. 

We're seven eps through the 13-episode first season of NBC's Hannibal, and evidently nobody is watching it. It's more than a little frustrating that a show this good can't score ratings to save Bryan Fuller's life, and a second season has yet to be announced. Watch this show, people! It's on tomorrow night at 10/9c, which gives you plenty of time to catch up on the past few episodes. Granted, the pilot, titled "Apéritif," (read my review here) is no longer streaming, and the NBC video player truly sucks, but Hannibal is good enough that you should watch it even under these less than ideal conditions. Got it?

If I'm insistent, it's because Hannibal offers outstanding style and grue, and I want it to survive to a sophomore season. Say nothing of the fact that we don't want Bryan Fuller to stop getting hired to produce television (the showrunner's had ill fortune with his previous series, WonderfallsPushing Daisies and Mockingbird Lane). Hannibal employs an entire slew of writers, directors, art directors and actors who should be rewarded with steady work. David Slade, James Foley, David Fury and Guillermo Navarro have all directed or written episodes, not to mention a cast that boasts Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas, Eddie Izzard, Gillian Anderson, Ellen Greene and Gina Torres among its ranks. 

But this is all just the on-paper stuff, and plenty of shows work on paper. Hannibal shines brightest when it's on your screen, wowing you with its vibrant visual flourishes and stunningly original gore. Set decorator Jaro Dick has decades of experience transforming empty studio space into a fully realized environment, and he works beautifully with the fastidious whimsy that's become Fuller's signature. Everything is placed just so to create a tableau of optimum power. 

And not for nothing, but this show is just gross. Gloriously, magnificently, miraculously gross. LOOK AT THIS.

The show has its share of scares, too. Hannibal isn't heavy on jump spooks, but instead permeates each episode with a thick feeling of dread. Will's visions hold an awful beauty, their vivid palette only making the butchery more shocking. The credit sequence is also gorgeous, and I love the haunting original score by Brian Reitzell. 

And it's not only the gore and the decor that are breathtaking - Dr. Lecter is a regular host of perfectly appointed dinner parties, and may I just say, that man knows how to plate some long pig. I would legitimately eat human flesh prepared by Hannibal Lecter.

Now, when I said that Hannibal's strength is not on paper, I mean it quite specifically, as the dialogue is often weak and occasionally outright dumb. Of course, the dialogue is no worse in Hannibal than on any other procedural, and usually much better, but when every other aspect of the show is so superior, its flaws are more noticeable. Flaws like sporadic pacing and an over-reliance on plotting coincidences would be brushed aside on a lesser show, but they're holding back Hannibal from what could be greatness. 

But what should, on paper, read as half-baked character development is elevated by tremendous performances, particularly by Mikkelsen and Dancy. The relationship between Hannibal and Graham is the meat and potatoes (or liver and fava beans) of the show, and on this score, the two leads triumph. 

So no, Hannibal isn't perfect, but it's certainly one of the best new shows on TV right now and absolutely the best new network series. And it's struggling, which I hate to see, so I hope you'll give it a chance, and I hope NBC will show its faith in the series for a second season. 

Here's the preview for tomorrow's episode - it's actually super spoilery and I wish I hadn't watched it, but I give you leave to make that decision yourself: