TV review: ‘Hannibal’

Lawrence Fishburne shares a meal of, well, you can guess, with Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) in NBC’s Hannibal.

The Details

Two stars
Thursdays, 10 p.m., NBC

Let’s try a thought experiment: Say you’d never seen or even heard of the movies Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising, nor the four source novels by Thomas Harris about charismatic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. What then would you think of NBC’s Hannibal? You might wonder why it’s named after a secondary character when the real star is troubled FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, full of annoying mannerisms), the latest in TV’s long line of insensitive-but-brilliant crime-solvers (see also: The Mentalist, Elementary, Perception, etc.).

You might even wonder what dapper, aloof psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen, paling in comparison to the most famous Lecter, Anthony Hopkins) is doing hanging around the margins of this dour crime drama, which is sort of like a more stylized version of Criminal Minds. Since Hannibal takes place before Lecter was discovered as a serial killer, it plays coy with his secret life, with labored references to his penchant for cannibalism (he’s always preparing exotic gourmet dishes) and nods to lines or images from the Lecter movies. In the meantime, it’s a brutal, frequently graphic crime procedural, with Will and his FBI boss (an authoritative Laurence Fishburne) solving horrific crimes, often with Lecter’s help as a consultant.

Show creator Bryan Fuller (best known for lighter fare like Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls) plays out the serialized storyline extremely slowly, such that the hypothetical clueless viewer might not even pick up on Lecter’s true nature for a long time. By the final episode available for review, it appears that Fuller is making a very long, meandering adaptation of Harris’ first Lecter novel, Red Dragon. But since that hypothetical unspoiled viewer doesn’t actually exist—and everyone in the show’s audience knows exactly where things are headed—Hannibal ends up being a frustrating exercise in tedium, broken up only by lurid, flashy murder investigations.


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