What it’s about:
Criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, Black Hawk Down) is recruited by the FBI Behavioral Science Unit to catch serial killers, thanks to his unique ability to fully empathize with others. Given that this skill involves fully immersing himself in the killers’ shoes in order to determine their mentality and motives, Will’s own mental health becomes a cause for concern. The head of Will’s unit, Special Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix) employs the help of psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson, Casino Royale) to keep an eye on Will. Of course, nobody knows that Dr. Lecter is a cannibal and a serial killer himself.
Why it’s so good:
As visually stunning as it is disturbing, “Hannibal” brings a whole new dimension to the serial killer you may already know from books and movies past (see: Thomas Harris’s The Red Dragon and most famously, The Silence of the Lambs). Delving into Will’s mind as he struggles to maintain sanity and seeing the famous psychiatrist before he becomes infamous for eating people is an irresistibly compelling combination. “Hannibal” is far from the jump-scares you might come to expect from the horror genre; its macabre and often grisly imagery mixed with suspenseful pacing (possibly involving you screaming at the screen that his name literally rhymes with cannibal) make it a great bet for the Halloween season.
Why you should binge it:
Despite its pretense as an episodic crime drama with new murders every week, “Hannibal” is much more suited to the description of psychological thriller, as the cases that Will encounters often come back in one way or another, whether because of Hannibal’s underhanded involvement or because of the toll they take on his mental state. With fewer than 40 episodes in the entire completed series, relatively little subplot and the fate of the main characters constantly hanging in the balance, the show moves quickly enough that it is hard to resist absorbing the whole thing at once.
Dancy and Mikkelson both carry the show with ease as they embody the complex psyches of two vastly different men whom the viewer can only hope to understand. The characters’ relationship with one another is just as fascinating as they are individually, and they steal each scene they are in. Still, keep a look out for the phenomenal Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s own psychologist who adds intrigue with hidden secrets and motives of her own.
While you would expect a show about a cannibal to be gruesome in some degree, don’t be misled by the show’s placement on a prime-time network like NBC. That “Viewer Discretion Advised” warning is something to take seriously if you have a weak stomach, especially given that all of the serial killers on the show seem to find the most visually graphic way to dispose of bodies. If “Dexter” or even the average medical drama proved too hard to watch, “Hannibal” is not the crime fix you’re looking for.