Food. It brings us together. And it will bring Hannibal Lecter (M.D.) and Will Graham together. Say, over breakfast with eggs and sausage. Questionable, questionable, sausage.
Yes, yes there was murder and crime and some stuff and Graham has the crazy face, and I will get to all of that in a minute. First I want to get to the good stuff. The meat. The moment we were all waiting for. Hannibal on the small screen. How were the show runners going to have Hannibal makes his entrance? Why, eating of course! He shows up doing what he does best, devouring a very pretty dish that looks like it came straight out of the closest restaurant with a Michelin Star.
Eating is such a wonderful, sensual act. We engage the senses when we eat. We use our mouths. And in the case of actor Mads Mikkelsen, we look ridiculously hot while doing it. Food = sexy time. “But Gerri, that’s gross! But Gerri, he’s a cannibal! But Gerri, you have some kind of sick infatuation with fictional villains!” All of this may be true; but that does not change the facts. Food = sexy time. Just accept it and move on.
I have to be honest here; I was more disturbed by the fact that Lecter was wearing what has got to be one of the most hideous suits I have ever laid eyes on. 1980 called and wants that giant tie back. Man. It takes one hell of a guy to make that get-up look good. But if there is one thing Mikkelsen has in spades, its swagger.
Anywho… What were we talking about? Oh, yeah! The show! We know Lecter from the novels by Thomas Harris (Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising) and the movies based on those novels, typically starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as lead cannibal. NBC’s new TV series, Hannibal, will tackle that golden time before FBI profiler Will Graham (played here by Hugh Dancy, who I will forever associate with vibrators due to his role in the movie Hysteria) discovered the truth about Lecter. Before the good Doctor landed in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Before Jody Foster’s landmark role as FBI Cadet Clarice Starling.
This series is set to break all new ground. We see Hannibal as he was; a psychiatrist with a thriving private practice and no criminal history to speak of. Well, at least there was no record of a criminal history.
The show starts with a murder. Young, virginal Elise is snatched up from her bedroom, kneed in the stomach, choked, and then mounted on a rack of antlers like a trophy. Then her liver was cut out. Then her liver was stuffed back in and young, virginal Elise was placed back in her bed. Someone had a busy night. Lead investigator, Jack Crawford (played by a screamy and dickish Lawrence Fishburne) calls in Graham so they can get a feel for what this killer is doing. Literally. Graham is what Lecter calls a “pure empath” meaning he can connect with the killer and imagine the situation from that person’s perspective. How much does this suck? A lot.
As poor Elise lay on the coroner’s slab, Graham’s imagination gets the best of him. Beautiful shots pan out, showing Elise strung up in the darkened room of Graham’s mind. Poor Graham is quite the twitchy bunny. He does not play well with others. He also likes dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. He is not at all impressed with Crawford’s new friend and professional head shrinker, Dr. Lecter.
Lecter, however, is quite taken with Graham’s ability, and his role, as the Doctor puts it, as “the mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by.”
What does this mean? Does Lecter want Graham out there keeping other cannibals and killers from poaching his victims? Or are the snakes he is referring to Agent Crawford and the rest of the FBI? He helps the FBI catch Elise’s killer, but also warns the man that the agents are on to him.
Perhaps Lecter is just bored and having a bit of sport.
What is crystal clear, however, is his role in this series. There is no ambiguity. He is a killer and a cannibal and the new series does not just embrace his nature, it flaunts it. There will be violence. There will be blood. There will be a dress code for dinner. The writers have a clear vision for how Lecter and Graham will be portrayed. However, I am not 100% sure their vision for the plot is equally strong.
In my opinion the end of the pilot seems to lose its way toward the end of the episode. They could have drawn out the story arc for the Minnesota Shrike over a few more episodes. The beauty and poetry of the cannibal killer as Graham imagined and then described him did not seem to fit the actual villain when he was confronted at the end. That guy was a nervous, pathetic, wreck. Was that the right guy? I mean, if he was killing Elise and the rest of those girls, then devouring their livers in order to symbolically keep his daughter from leaving him, why did he turn around and hold her as a hostage? Surely he had enough time between Lecter’s call, warning him that they were coming, to when they showed up.I am not willing to pass judgment yet. Pilot episodes are notoriously wonky and lopsided. Not everything on TV can be as magnificent as The Walking Dead, Dexter, or Boardwalk Empire. And for the most part, Hannibal the series has a lot of promise. Great cast, great cinematography, great concept, extremely gross images of raw human bits in the kitchen.
All the ingredients are there; let’s see how good the chef is.
Body parts consumed this week:
Liver and lungs? Iew, organ meat. I do not imagine lungs are very tasty.