Tuesday, May 28, 2013

7 Reasons to Watch Hannibal

I'll admit it; Hannibal sounded like a terrible idea for a TV show. A prequel to Silence of the Lambs?  Really? Upon hearing the premise, I rolled my eyes and prepared myself for some snark upon its premiere. Then I read that Bryan Fuller was the creator. And it was starring Hugh Dancy. And then an intriguing trailer was released. And then positive reviews started rolling in.

So I entered the pilot with pretty positive expectations, but even so, I've been blown away by how good Hannibal is. Not only is it absorbingly entertaining, but it's also a really high quality show. Rather than just focusing on Hannibal the cannibal (Mads Mikkelsen), the show also pushes Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) to the forefront as a special agent to the FBI who uses his ability to empathize with murders to help solve their crimes. Hannibal serves as Will's unofficial psychologist, helping him deal with the emotional toll of the job. The dual leads provide variety to the show and have led to a far more interesting story arc than I'd expected.

Unfortunately Hannibal's ratings haven't correlated with its quality. For some reason, a lot of people just aren't watching. If you're one of these people, I'm here to convince you why you should start watching.

However, I will give one caveat; if you can't handle gore, don't watch Hannibal. It's such an excellent show that I don't mind a little bit of cringing, but if you're easily grossed out, Hannibal probably isn't the show for you. That being said, if you can handle some gore, Hannibal is excellent and well worth your time for many reasons including these seven.

1) It's visually beautiful.

Gina Torres as Bella Crawford in therapy with Hannibal

Hannibal and Tobias dinner

I've said before that Pushing Daisies is the cutest show about murder ever. If Pushing Daisies is the cutest, Hannibal has to be the most gorgeously filmed. There's something very intriguing about the juxtaposition of disgusting body parts filmed in a beautiful way or a lush but cannibalistic feast. As gross as its content may be at times, visually Hannibal is an absolute treat.

2) The acting is top notch.

As mentioned earlier, I was a Hugh Dancy fan before watching Hannibal, but having only seen him in movies such as Ella Enchanted and Confessions of a Shopaholic, I had little indication as to how strong his dramatic acting chops are. However, they're on full display in Hannibal as he plays vulnerable, mentally unstable Will Graham. Mads Mikkelsen is also fantastic in his role as Hannibal. He plays a different, more sophisticated Hannibal than Anthony Hopkins that allows his work to stand on its own rather than suffer from comparisons of quality. The supporting cast is great as well with no real weak links.

3) Hugh Dancy

Hugh Dancy as Will Graham on Hannibal

Hugh Dancy's acting in Hannibal is fantastic, but I also just like to look at his face. If you tune into Hannibal, you can too. Plus isn't his name just fun to say? If you start watching, you'll have plenty of opportunities to say "Hugh Dancy" as you tell your friends how much you love the show.

4) There are familiar names and faces for Bryan Fuller fans.

Ellen Greene as Mrs. Komeda on Hannibal

If you're a fan of Bryan Fuller's previous shows (Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls or possibly even the short-lived Mockingbird Lane) and aren't averse to the aforementioned gore, you definitely should give Hannibal a try. Caroline Dhavernas (aka Jaye Tyler from Wonderfalls) is a series regular, and several actors from Fullers' other shows have made briefer appearances, including Ellen Greene (Pushing Daisies) and Eddie Izzard (Mockingbird Lane). Additionally, Dead Like Me's Ellen Muth is set to appear in an upcoming episode. Even more, an actual character has crossed over between worlds. Wonderfall's Gretchen Speck-Horowitz appears in an episode of Hannibal as a diabetic picking up a prescription. In another episode, a Miriam Regina Lass appears, a name that should ring some bells for Dead Like Me fans.

5) The fun community

For such a dark show, Hannibal's crew, cast and fans have a lot of fun with the show online. Bryan Fuller shares tons of tidbits and jokes on Twitter and is very interactive with fans. Aaron Abrams, who plays one of the crime scene investigators on Hannibal, made me laugh with a tweet about his method of positively reinforcing Hugh Dancy. A quick search for Hannibal on Tumblr or Twitter will also reveal a trove of fun comments and gifs from the show's fans. In particular, the dark humor of the "blank is people" jokes seldom fails to amuse me.

6) It's creative.

I'm not always a fan of procedurals. While there might be a standout episode here and there or a great cast that elevates the writing, I find most of these shows tend to be a little boring and monotonous from week to week. The grotesque yet captivating imagery of Hannibal, however, is far from boring. For instance, a memorable episode features humans used as mushroom fertilizer. Fans of Pushing Daisies should remember, Fuller's flair for creative deaths; it's just that deaths in Hannibal are coated with gritty realism rather than the cartoonish surrealism of Pushing Daisies.

7) Doggies!

Will Graham's stray dogs from Hannibal

I can pinpoint the moment in Hannibal's pilot that Will Graham won me over. He picks up a stray dog, only to take him home and introduce him to a whole pack of strays. Cute dogs are almost always plus. And those like me with lingering memories of the puppy torture chamber from The Following's pilot need not fear; Bryan Fuller has tweeted a guarantee of dog safety.

If you want to check out the creativity, acting and cinematography (or Hugh Dancy) yourself, you can watch Hannibal Thursdays on NBC at 10/9c.

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