Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: Hannibal is based on the novels of Thomas Harris, and was created, written, and executive produced by Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies). Martha De Laurentiis, who produced the three Hannibal movies in the 2000s, also executive produces. The pilot was directed by David Slade (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Awake).
The Cast & How You Know Them: The series stars Hugh Dancy (The Big C) and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale). The cast also includes Laurence Fishburne (CSI), Caroline Dhavernas (Wonderfalls), Hettienne Park (Young Adult), Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall), Aaron Abrams (Rookie Blue), and Lara Jean Chorostecki (Camelot). And hey, it may be relevant to your interests to know that Gina Torres and Gillian Anderson will both be appearing later in the season.
The Premise: This is a prequel to Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter novels (and the corresponding movie adaptations). It focuses on brilliant but troubled FBI profiler Will Graham and his investigative partnership with psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter as they hunt for serial killers. (The audience, of course, knows that Lecter is himself a killer, but the other characters do not.)
What Works: Caveat: I’ve never seen or read any other version of the Hannibal Lecter stories, and I am not a horror fan in general. But I found myself loving this pilot. The cast is great, especially the lead performances by Dancy and Mikkelsen. I loved the way they portrayed Will Graham’s thinking – I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, but it was an original way to illustrate the mostly-internal act of crime-solving, and I really enjoyed that. The whole thing was fascinating and twisted without coming across as gratuitous, and the episode left me wanting to see more immediately.
What Doesn’t: This show is very gory, which is not necessarily bad but will be a turnoff for some viewers. (For what it’s worth, though, I didn’t find it particularly frightening, and I am easily frightened.) It’s always tough when the audience has important knowledge that (most of) the main characters lack, and while it wasn’t a problem in the pilot, it will have to be handled carefully going forward. It’s hard to maintain that suspense while keeping it from seeming like the characters are just being dense to not have figured out what’s going on.
Our Favorite Line: “Well, feeling bad defeats the purpose of being a psychopath, doesn’t it?”
You Might Like This if you like suspense and horror with a heavy psychological aspect, and don’t mind some gore. It will appeal to mystery fans who want something a little more involved and complex than the standard procedural.
(Photo courtesy of NBC.)