Monday, July 8, 2013

Hannibal NBC Review

Hannibal is the latest creation of one of my favorite TV producers, Bryan Fuller. Now, I must admit I had my doubts about this show: could Bryan Fuller really pull off something as dark and intense as Hannibal Lecter? I mean, he had been known, at least in my mind, for adorable, bright-colored, quirky shows with light plots and pie-makers and talking inanimate objects. And besides, another police drama? *Groan* But after the fact, I can see how this show was perfect for Fuller. Although somewhat sugar-coated in all his shows, there is a theme of death and a certain amount of darkness--- I mean, Pushing Daisies is about a guy that can bring dead people back to life, but also kill them again. Take all the cute humor and primary-colored sets out of that and you have some pretty scary stuff. And don't Wonderfalls and Hannibal really address the same question; Am I going insane? Not to mention the interest in food shown in Pushing Daisies and well, obviously in Hannibal. 

So, to get to my point, I was completely wrong to doubt that Fuller could pull off Hannibal. So, so wrong. To be honest, I had to warm up to it, but by mid-season I think that the show caught it's stride and started to develop its own personality and really set itself apart from the other crime dramas on air.

If you haven't watched the show, in which case I have no idea what you're doing with your life, it focuses on the time period before Thomas Harris's books, following police consultant Will Graham. Will Graham has the power of complete empathy under his control; he can assume the point of view of murderers and see from their eyes the murders unfolding, thus gaining clues and insight into how the crime was committed. 
The problem with Will Graham is that this takes a toll on his psyche; he wakes up gasping from terrifying nightmares, and he starts losing his grasp on himself, slipping entirely into the minds of the killers. To help him cope, the police chief Jack Crawford brings in psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter, who watches Will's pursuit of the so-called "Chesapeake Ripper" with a bemused smile.

Bryan Fuller's Hannibal Lecter is played by the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who most may know from his role as the villain in one of the recent James Bond movies. I haven't actually seen any of the Hannibal movies, but I do know that Mads Mikkelsen portrays a very different kind of Hannibal; more restrained, refined, and of course, with a Danish accent. I personally thought that Mikkelsen's character was genius. 
From the start of the show, you know Hannibal is the murderer; the tension of the show isn't about figuring out who dun' it. But it's interesting how the show manipulates your feelings towards Hannibal. Yes, you know that he killed all these people, you know that's not pork he's serving up at his dinner table, and yet, you want to like him. You want to like him because he wears European suits and nice ties, he decorates with luxurious furniture, and his dinner parties are a work of art. You want to like him because he's a gentleman, and because of that, it's almost like the truth becomes tasteful.  Because the show leads you through this train of thought, you can understand why no one suspects him, and everybody likes him. But as the season progresses, you start to turn on him. "Wait, Hannibal, why would you do that?" At the beginning, you didn't know him too well; you could project what you wanted him to be onto him; he was understanding, a good friend, even merciful, in your eyes. You wanted him to be a human. But then you see more of him, of who he is and what he does, and you find it harder and harder to connect to him, you start to feel hatred towards him. I think how you, as the viewer, were led through this really made you understand the points of view of those surrounding him; you, too, were given the power of empathy, just like Will and Hannibal. 
I like that by the end of season one you still didn't really know too much about who Hannibal really was, only how people saw him. You never really saw through the "person-mask" he had on; only at the end did he let Will see his true self, when he smiled through the bars of the jail cell. It leaves you wanting more and keeps the interest on Hannibal, so there's always room to develop him as a character. 

Something I truly enjoyed about the show was how stylized it was, from the sets to the script to the lighting and costumes. This wasn't just a show that focused on a plot, this was an all-around production, where everything, even down to the smallest detail, was a work of art- in the true fashion of Hannibal Lecter.

The show was directed by David Slade, whose work I recognized from his movie Hard Candy. He incorporated his trademark flashes of red among mostly stark colors, blacks and whites and grays. This lent the show a very interesting atmosphere- surgical at times, moody at others. 

I loved the costume design in Hannibal. The outfit that Freddie Lounds (left) in the picture above has got to be one of my favorites in the whole show, but Hannibal himself was so impeccably dressed throughout the season. His signature was a three-piece plaid suit and a paisley tie; don't ask me how he pulled it off, but he did.

Something I didn't appreciate until after finishing the show was the cinematography, and the attention to detail that was put into it. I found a lot written by film students on the sets, colors, focus, and more, and realized that I hadn't really thought to look for those things while watching; I'd become so accustomed to watching shows that were plot-driven and didn't care to pay attention to those aspects of the production. But I love that this show did that- there's a layer beneath what is said that is created. Why are those colors saturated? Why is Will leaning towards Hannibal in this shot, but placed elsewhere in this one? Why is that curtain more open than in previous episodes? And answering all these questions gives you so much more understanding of the show.

Actually, that caption sums up the script writing a little too well. The first couple episodes of the show I wasn't sure how I felt about the script; I thought maybe Fuller's style didn't apply too well in the context. But then I realized something; the script wasn't trying to be realistic. In fact, it was completely self-indulgent, as if it had been written by a poet. Yet once I realized that, I enjoyed it so much- listening to the characters' dialogue turned into one of my favorite parts of the show, and added even more to it's moody and artistic feel. When I think of it, the script made me understand that the show wasn't trying to be realistic in any way- it was surreal and psychological, and you had to embrace that style to really enjoy watching it.
The moment I truly committed to the script, though, was when Hannibal says,"Killing must feel good to God, too. He does it all the time, and are we not created in his image?" I feel like that was the moment the show hit it's stride, veered off the road of normal police dramas, and turned into something far darker and more beautiful.

I have to give a shout-out to Bryan Fuller for bringing back the actors and actresses from his other shows. It was interesting to see some familiar faces, but set in a different light. Fingers crossed that Lee Pace makes a cameo!

I thought the music was done very well. It was a mix of creepy vibrations and classical music, but it fit together very well; the classical was a nice touch and added to the style of Hannibal Lecter.

The. Number. Of. Puns. In. This. Show. And every time Hannibal says one you just expect him to turn and wink at the camera. But I think there's something interesting in them, too, apart from the humor. For one thing, you get a little glimpse into how Hannibal views people; he equates them to sheep and pigs-- animals. But also, it's almost as if he wants to get caught. He says things that could very easily give him away, and yet no one recognizes them; he seems almost disappointed in people. I don't think it's even that he wants to get caught, necessarily. It's just that he wants people to recognize his art. You could see a bit of this in the episode where the police were giving credit to someone else for Hannibal's work, and, for the only time in the season, Hannibal gets mad- shown in a slight facial twitch, but you can see it. The psyche of Hannibal Lecter, the psychiatrist, is something that you only see glimpses into, and I hope you see more in the upcoming seasons.

I'll be honest, right here and now, and state NBC's Hannibal has become my favorite show, right on top of Sherlock. I was indecisive as to how to review this show; I was tempted to go episode by episode simply because there's so much detail and so much to talk about in each. I think what makes this show successful is that it's such an interesting plot line, and it'll appease the people that simply want to watch a show for entertainment. But that could be any show. What then sets it apart as quality is that there's a level beneath that, a level of details and inferences, ideas, themes, things to think about- there's a beauty and intricacy to the show that sets it above others. It's one of those shows where you learn more every time you talk about it. So I think that there's something in it for everyone (just not the faint-hearted) and I would recommend it. 5/5 stars!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog