End of Season Notes:
So, at the end of every season of a show, I like to just do a quick concluding post, just to sort of give a very brief outline of what I liked and what I didn’t like about that season or the show as a whole. Now, if you’ve read my posts about this first season of Hannibal, you’ll know that by and large I’ve been very impressed with the show, its cast and its overall execution. There have been a couple of very minor issues that I’ve had with the show and I’ll get to those in a moment.
On the plus side, and there’s a lot to talk about here, I think the real MVP for the show has to be its script. In a lot of ways, I feel that Hannibal’s script is much better suited to paper than to screen simply because of how dense and layered it is. Every line of dialogue feels like it has multiple layers and interpretations and a big part of this comes from how the show is set up. Unlike the first Hannibal Lector book, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal’s identity as a serial killer is known but most members of the audience already know that Hannibal is the villain and a serial killer just because of the impact that Anthony Hopkins’ take on the character left in pop culture. So what was interesting to me, especially at the beginning, before I really knew what direction the show was going, was how the show would handle the burden of having the mystery of who the serial killer was given that everyone kind of already knew. They handled it in the best way possible, in my opinion, by using the audience’s knowledge to create a reliable source of tension. Even people who had no idea who Hannibal Lector had no excuse not to know what he was up to by the end of the first episode and subsequent episodes left little enough to the imagination. As such, the mystery was never about who killed who, but rather about how people would find out that Hannibal did it. Even better, he was hiding in plain sight the whole while. This actually does link back up to my initial point about the importance of the dialogue in the show – the real reason that the multi-layered dialogue is so very effective is because the audience is in a unique position to easily access and appreciate all these layers. Often, in shows that have such nuanced dialogue, the meaning and impact of each line is only really appreciable in hindsight (though it is then lauded as foreshadowing). There is nothing wrong with this, but it is rather common and for one love seeing Hannibal mix things up.
I don’t want to drag this little note out too long but I absolutely cannot end it without giving a lot of credit to the cast. I’ve not been greatly impressed by Lawrence Fishburne though I will say that he did a solid job as Jack Crawford, the FBI’s Behavourial Analysis Unit’s no nonsense chief but the honest truth is that he is undoubtedly overshadowed by both Hugh Dancy, who plays protagonist Will Graham, and Mads Mikkelsen who plays Hannibal Lector. While both Dancy and Mikkelsen both are extremely talented performers in their own right, what really makes the show work is the chemistry that they share. It’s not the usual kind of chemistry either because they share an antagonistic relationship (at least in the viewer’s mind) so it’s an odd dynamic where the actors must gel but they cannot be seen as gelling too much. What impressed me, especially in the first few episodes (after which I got used to it), was the way that each actor could deliver a complex, abstract, almost philosophical speech yet make it positively riveting. They are able to share scenes where one or the other don’t show a word but still are able to convey strong feelings. The dialogue for the show is strong, but it is honestly nothing without capable vectors to carry it.
However, the dialogue can be a double edged sword. There are far too many scenes in Hannibal of Will just bemoaning the fact that he seems to be losing himself to his madness. While that doesn’t seem like something to complain about, I feel like it might make the show unnecessarily cumbersome. Yet, I can’t imagine the show without those excellent scenes of Hannibal and Will talking about nuances of the human psyche. Perhaps a more substantial weakness of the show would be the over reliance on graphic displays of violence. Sometimes, less is more and by not showing or just implying violence they could go a lot further. Again though, I find it hard to be too sincere in this criticism just because those graphic visuals are impactful and do leave behind lasting memories of most episodes so I cannot gainsay them on that account either.
So, I think that’s about everything of note that I wanted to say. I have high expectations and higher hopes for season 2 and I feel immensely confident that they will not disappoint.