[Review] Hannibal: Seasons 1 & 2

This might reveal something particularly messed-up with my thinking, but when I heard that Hannibal was being made into a television series all I could think of was, “…that sounds incredibly boring.” Granted, all I knew about the Hannibal franchise was what I’d seen in Silence of the Lambs and what Griffin Asher had told me. Given that Silence of the Lambs is not actually about Hannibal Lecter, that…didn’t give me much to go off of. But. Whatever. Still didn’t care. 
Then another friend, whom my family has dubbed the Microchick, made a comment that she was listening to a podcast interview with Bryan Fuller and that while he talked a lot about his new show, Hannibal, he was also talking about Pushing Daisies and I should listen to it.
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Pushing Daisies (Source)
My reaction was similar to screeching tires on asphalt. 
Bryan Fuller is the writer and creator behind Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies, two shows that I absolutely adore. Dead Like Me is a dry, dark comedy about grim reapers. And while Pushing Daisies is also somewhat of a “dark” comedy, it’s also the most whimsical thing I have ever seen only in competition to Pixar’s Up. My brain was having difficulty computing how the showrunner for two of my favorite quirky, comedic shows could be writing on the dark, twisted, and I assumed humorless franchise of Hannibal. 

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Pushing Daisies (Source)

Once Hannibal went up on amazon prime and the time clicked that hey, whatever I’d try the first episode while I was falling asleep and no time is wasted. (Hint: Don’t do that.)

And…wow. 
The best, succinct, description I can think of for the tone and feel of Hannibal is as if someone straightened their tie with classical music playing softly in the background and then nonchalantly served up “bloody dementia” on a silver platter and presented it to you with a polite smile. 
I had trouble stomaching meat for the next twenty-four hours.
The first thing that blew me away was how artistically Hannibal was presented right off the bat. The second thing that stuck out was how deeply respectful the atmosphere was for the truly horrifying horrificness laid out on the screen. 
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Hannibal (Source)
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Bryan Fuller’s writing is that even in his dark comedies that revolve around death, he never seems to be disrespectful. He respects the heaviness of death even in the midst of making dry jokes regarding it. 
Hannibal doesn’t pull away from visually displaying much. But instead of sensationalizing the twistedly-artistic murders in a way of “look at these cool ways we killed people,” instead the show adds weight to how horrible it is that someone could be killed with so much thought and careful precision. The murders aren’t showcased as a work of art to be appreciated; they’re addressed as deeply, deeply disturbing to the characters who suffer long-term effects of being so directly involved with so much evil for so long.
Hannibal is a refreshing sensitization to true horror. It’s also refreshing in that while it is truly shocking, it never seemed to specifically go for that trashy shock factor many other shows, books, and movies go for. While, say, The Walking Dead pointedly ups its shock and gore factor each season, Hannibal punches with its tone in the first episode and then keeps it consistent throughout season 1 and season 2. It’s a very quiet show, with quiet struggles, and silently presented horrors. 
For the most part, each individual episode has its own macabre case to be solved within the broader story of season 1, which is part of the all-encompassing story of the series. Season 1 and Season 2 fit together like part 1 and part 2 of book 1. The series also has so many twists and turns that it was near impossible for me to guess what was going to happen next because there were so many potential outcomes. This was the first show in recent memory where I didn’t even read the episode blurbs ahead of time because I wanted to be surprised. I enjoyed being concerned and confused. I enjoyed having to think through everything. 
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And thinking through everything is pretty much a requirement. The story of Hannibal is told through a lens that interchanges between an atmospherically logical presentation of something morally perverse to a hazy, hallucinatory pursuit of truth. The most stable character is indisputably evil (Hannibal), while the character with the strongest desire to help people and do good (Will Graham) is on shaky terms with reality.
I have difficulty blanketly recommending Hannibal. Not because it isn’t excellent (it is), but because I would suggest heaping doses of caution to anyone who has the slightest hesitancy about trying a dark show. It’s also hard to really describe how “gory” it is because each murder is so intrinsically unique that each instance of violence is fairly distinctive from another.
Additionally, the show wants you to feel uncomfortably horrified and not okay with the going-ons, which could make it even more difficult to stomach than it already might be for more sensitive viewers. Hannibal also assumes you already know the story of Dr. Hannibal Lecter; you already know he is a psychopath who murders people, cuts pieces of them off/out of them, cooks, and eats them. The series is addressing people who are already familiar with its incredibly gritty subject matter, so its unabashed brutality may be intended to impact people who are already desensitized to the base concept.
I was hesitant about finishing season 2 out of fear that it would end in a way that would truly crush my soul, but instead it ended on a heavy, shocking note that still left me emotionally satisfied. With that fear allayed, my love for Bryan Fuller’s projects continues to burn strong and I’ve got to say…
…I’m super excited for season 3. 
Expansion of Questionable Content: 
*Note* This is far from an exhaustive list. It’s just to give you an idea of what you’d be getting into. 
Expect on-screen arterial spray from slit or stabbed arteries (mostly neck, once in the leg). People are impaled, disemboweled, and dismembered–often on-screen. A few people are ripped apart–partially on-screen–by “animals.” Another man is strapped to a gurney–awake, but drugged–while a serial killer slices him open and removes his organs (again, partially on-screen). A man presses his thumbs into a woman’s eyes, destroying them–on-screen. A woman gets into a car accident, and is kidnapped and told by the kidnapper that he was going to make it that the doctors would find something wrong with her “lady parts” and suggest complete removal of all her reproductive organs so she can’t have a baby. 
On the more “artistic” side of death, multiple women are found impaled and mounted on antlers. A group of people are naked and sewn together (no explicit nudity shown); one man wakes up and tries to get out of the design and tears huge chunks of skin off his body. A “human totem pole” is found on a beach where the bodies of multiple victims have been cut up and arranged into a designed monument.
Sexual content-wise, there is one mention of not finding any semen on a victim to rule out rape. The bare behinds of two victims are seen at a crime scene and in the same episode castrated testicles are seen from afar at another crime scene. There are two sex scenes in season 2, episodes 6 and 10. They are perfectly quiet, and almost hazy, perspective-wise, but they’re also long, and while no explicit nudity is shown, they’re still fairly descriptive.
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One thought on “[Review] Hannibal: Seasons 1 & 2

  1. Pingback: 30 before 30- #15 Silence of the Lambs | Homemade Mythology

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