Review: Hannibal, or: That’s How It’s Done

So, after last week’s disappointment in watching Suicide Squad, I had a hankering for something violent and morally questionable that I’d enjoy. So I started watching Hannibal– again. I’m talking about the 2013 TV series, and this is my… third? fourth? time watching it start to finish. And it’s not getting boring with repetition– it’s getting better.

Why do I love this show? Because it is so well done. It combines vivid cinematography with great acting and a loving attention to detail in its story-telling. It’s tight- every scene is relevant, every shot has meaning. Now, obviously, this show isn’t for everyone. Is it violent? Is it gruesome and disgusting at times? Yes, yes it is. And it’s scary– there’s one scene I still haven’t watched in its entirety because it’s just so damn creepy (maybe I will this time around?) But then, it’s a show about a cannibalistic serial killer and the people trying to catch him. ‘Nice’ isn’t on the menu– so to speak. And how do you make a character who removes people’s organs while they’re still alive and then eats them even slightly sympathetic to the audience? The answer: you make him competent, you give him someone he actually cares about, and you surround him with people who are arguably worse than he is. At least Hannibal has standards.

Why do I love this show again? Because none of the characters are perfect, and none of them are static– they all struggle, they all change. I love it because every conversation has more than one layer, because every choice of body language is deliberate, I love it because even my third time through it pulls me in so thoroughly that I forget to analyse and just watch.

I believe you can tell in a work whether the people who made it loved it, and whether they had fun creating it. Hannibal is such a show. It enjoys its own theatricality, it does what it does whole-heartedly. And maybe that’s why for all the fake blood splattered about with cheerful abandon, the violence doesn’t feel gratuitous– and in fact, there is far less graphic torture, far fewer screaming victims than in, say, Criminal Minds. When Hannibal does horror, it does horror well. But I believe we spend far more time exploring the psychology of the characters than we do watching anyone get murdered. Though we do also spend a fair amount of time watching Hannibal cook. That’s okay though– he’s very fetching in the kitchen, and the food is simply beautiful.

So. If cheeky cannibalism, lovingly-presented dead bodies and a dedicated creep-factor don’t scare you off– do give this show a try. It is, after all, the best cooking show on television.