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Hannibal – Relevés (Review)

For a show about a serial killer and the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit, Hannibal is often surprisingly deep. That’s not much of a surprise, given the quality of the staff working on it, but the show is absolutely stunning meditation on identity and personality. In a way, that’s one of the smartest things about Fuller’s first thirteen episode season, building on the foundations set by Thomas Harris to construct something that fits quite elegantly while remaining its own distinct entity.

Relevés is the penultimate episode of the first season, and the point where – having used Roti to clear away some of the clutter – the show starts tying up a lot of those loose ends. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the episode is the amount of suspense that Bryan Fuller and his staff can wring from the set-up – despite the fact that we know how this story ends, Hannibal manages to engage us so completely in the telling that what we already know seems almost irrelevant.

Things are heating up...

Things are heating up…

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Hannibal – Roti (Review)

Roti is the point where Hannibal really starts to gear up for its finalé. The decision to thematically name each of the first season’s episodes after a part of a meal seems oddly appropriate, as the whole season can be seen as a banquet, each of the courses painstakingly prepared to ensure a rich bouquet of flavour and a pleasing array of tastes. Each course is individual, and yet it remains part of the whole. It’s all one gigantic and enjoyable experience, just broken down into sweet digestible chunks. Each serves a clear purpose, like a chapter in a book, or a course in a meal.

Roti features the return of Abel Gideon, the show’s obvious homage to Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Doctor Hannibal Lecter. It also positions Will precisely where he needs to be for the first season’s rapidly-approaching climax.

A piece of the action...

A piece of the action…

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Hannibal – Sorbet (Review)

Hannibal took its time building up Hannibal Lecter as a serial killer. According to creator Bryan Fuller, there would have been a joke in Aperitif about Lecter’s culinary habits, but holding off on the sight of Lecter as a serial killer until the end of Entrée feels like it was a shrewd move. Not because it could ever fool the audience into forgetting that Hannibal Lecter is a murdering cannibal or anything like that. Instead, it builds up a certain amount of tension and suspense around the character, allowing us to see how those around him could have been blinded by his persona.

With a few obvious exceptions – knocking out Doctor Bloom in Potage or phoning the Hobbs household in Aperitif – we’ve mostly seen Lecter through the eyes of others. While the very premise of the show counts on the audience knowing who or what Lecter is, keeping him at a distance allowed the show a bit of breathing room in its first year. However, now that we’ve caught a glimpse of Lecter in action, Sorbet feels like its willing to pull back the layers on our eponymous epicurean.

Best served warm...

Best served warm…

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Hannibal – Potage (Review)

Hannibal continues to move apace. Serialisation can often be a tricky beast, because it relies heavily on pacing. Reveal too much too fast and none of the plot beats carry enough weight. Drag out your revelations and your game-changing twists, and things feel too slow. The sense of progression is lost. On top of that, and something which is easily overlooked when it comes to serialisation, the key is to ensure that each episode exists as its own entity, while remaining a part of the whole. As often as one might use the “chapters of a book” analogy for episodes of The Sopranos or The Wire, this tends to ignore that each episode generally tended to be structured as its own entity. While a part of a larger story, each episode was its own self-contained unit of story.

Potage seems to suggest that Hannibal is finding its feet in the area, and carefully pacing itself. We are peeling back the layers on the eponymous psychiatrist at a pace that is neither too fast nor too slow. The evidence is mounting and his moves are becoming more brazen, but he retains his air of mystery. Since Lecter is a character who only really works with that sense of mystery, it’s a shrewd balance between progressing the plot and retaining the character’s appeal. Potage demonstrates the show has quite a knack for it.

The good doctor?

The good doctor?

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Hannibal – Aperitif (Review)

I’ll admit to being a bit sceptical about Hannibal as a concept. I am quite fond of all three of the Anthony Hopkins films, although I realise that both Red Dragon and Hannibal are flawed pieces of work at best. I also have a soft spot for Michael Mann’s Manhunter, even if I am not as firm a devotee as others. However, there’s a point where you reach saturation even with an especially interesting character.

There was something increasingly frustrating about watching Thomas Harris and various writers and directors delve beneath the surface of “Hannibal the Cannibal” to offer trite explanations and rationalisations for a character who was originally a force of nature. A television series seems to be the perfect way to over-saturate the market even further. If the character of Hannibal could seem trite and mundane after four films released years apart, how do you make a weekly television series exciting?

Surely you’ll either resort to explaining away all the mystery of the character, or you’ll simply wind up with a particularly shallow and generic serial killer show. There is a middle ground to be found, but it will be hard to strike that balance. With that in mind, I will confess that I am quite impressed with the pilot for Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal. Although it’s too early to form a definitive judgement, Aperitif is quite appetising.

The meat of the matter...

The meat of the matter…

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Non-Review Review: Hannibal

I actually have a bit of a soft spot for Hannibal. I think the key to enjoying and appreciating Ridley Scott’s 2001 serial-killer film is to realise that it’s a fundamentally different animal to The Silence of the Lambs, to the point where it isn’t really a sequel – despite featuring many of the same characters and considerably fewer of the same actors. Those expecting a faithful follow-up or conclusion will be disappointed, as will those who fell in love with Jonathan Demme’s delightfully understated The Silence of the Lambs. Even the title character here seems to lack the complexity he demonstrated in that earlier instalment, instead acting like the villain of a slasher film cast in the unlikely role of an anti-hero.

Still, despite these flaws, Hannibal is quite entertaining (if far too uneven and unsatisfying) on its own terms.

She looks good enough to eat…

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The Once Terrifying Hannibal Lecter: Upping the Ante on the Anti-Hero…

I have the pleasure of catching a rather wonderful screening of The Silence of the Lambs last week. It was a fantastic evening, not least because I got a chance to finally see the film on the big screen for the first time. However, it occurred to me on watching it that Hannibal Lecter was much more compelling as a character here than he would eventually become. With the (very debatable) exception of Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon, Lecter’s subsequent film appearances feel like they are missing some vital component. I like Hannibal more than most, but I think the character suffers when promoted to lead. The less said about Hannibal Rising, the better. I am more than a little wary about the upcoming television show, even if it does star Mads Mikkelsen. What happened? When did Lecter become so toothless?

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