Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Best Television of 2015: No.2 - NBC's HANNIBAL

Saturday, 19 December 2015

FBI consultant Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) pursues exposed cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) across Europe, joined by outside forces with nastier intentions, before working on a case involving a man called Francis Dolarhyde who believes he's transforming into the living embodiment of a William Blake painting...

What made it so good? There's simply been nothing on television as artistically sadistic as Hannibal, and for its (sadly) final year we got two-seasons-for-the-price-of-one. First, there was the game-changing storyline where Will had to find and catch Lecter in Italy, which riffed on the novel Hannibal to fine effect—with Will digging into Lecter's family history, whilst the cannibal killer's spree continued in Europe. Then, arguably the show's raison d'ĂȘtre arrived in the second-half, with a surprisingly faithful retelling of Red Dragon (already filmed twice) that nevertheless didn't become a chore to sit through because of the show's twists on the material—plus a benchmark-setting performance by Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde.

While this was actually the weakest season of the show, Hannibal was one of those incredible crime-horror dramas that pushed the envelope so far you were always aware it couldn't survive. But it gave us a huge number of astonishing visuals (both gorgeous and sickening), operatic grandeur, the defining Hannibal Lecter from Mikkelsen, and a handful of jaw-dropping moments and twists. There's mild hope for some kind of continuation with these characters, because it feels so unfair a production with this much quality will be allowed to slip quietly into death. A special miniseries event? A television film? A feature film? Who knows, but I'm anxious for more.

The best moment? Oh, wow. Take your pick! Almost every episode had something to make you wince, or cower in terror. I'm going to say the crazy moment when Lecter finally had Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) over for dinner, and began by using a bone saw on Will's skull, intending to dine on their mutual friend's brains. But there are so many. Jack's fist-fight with Lecter was sublime and very cathartic, too.

Watch this if you like: The Hannibal Lecter oeuvre, Millennium, Luther, and True Detective season 1.

I'm counting down my 10 Best Television Shows of 2015 this year, so check back tomorrow to see what's at number 1. The whole list can be read here.