How much I’ve seen: All 3 seasons
Where you can watch it: Seasons 1 & 2 stream free w/Amazon Prime
The Hannibal Lecter movies never really did anything for me, although I’m not totally sure why. Maybe I need to rewatch at least Silence of the Lambs. … ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway, while the movies never did anything for me, I was (as I think most people are) fascinated with Hannibal Lecter. But not enough to actually get into this show until it was basically too late. This show is incredible and deserving of a much bigger audience than it apparently got, because it was cancelled after three seasons.
I honestly don’t really remember much of the movies – the only thing I can remember well is Ray Liota eating his own brains out of his head in Hannibal (the movie), and thinking that that was cheesy and too over-the-top for the rest of the movie – and I never read the books. So I don’t know how much of the early seasons is canon. But the show starts out when Hannibal is a consultant for the FBI, and advises them on serial killer cases. It eventually ends up covering the stuff in the movie (and presumably the book) Red Dragon, but never makes it to the Silence of the Lambs stuff. (Silence was the “first” Lecter movie released, but not the first chronologically. “First” b/c Manhunter was the real first Lecter movie, but it wasn’t Anthony Hopkins that played Lecter.)
If I had to try to describe Hannibal, I guess I’d say it’s like a combination of Criminal Minds (another show about the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit chasing serial killers) and Dexter (another show with a still-active serial killer as a main character). Although I don’t think that comparison gives this show the justice it deserves, since I think it’s much better than both. Though to be fair, Hannibal burned out (was cancelled) before it could fade away (end after sucking for a few seasons).
The idea of Hannibal consulting on serial killer cases as a serial killer himself is amazing to watch. Particularly when he’s investigating himself. There’s a lot to be impressed by with this show. It’s smart, it’s decadently shot and contains visual effects that don’t exist on TV beyond maybe the opening credits to True Detective, but it’s also brutally violent. It also tries my attention span a little. Sometimes with the weird sound effects and tough to digest visuals it’s easy to lose focus on the show. But maybe that’s part of the plan? There was one scene in the third season I remember, specifically, because it seemed like a fairly mundane, not really important part of the plot, right up until Hannibal drove a damn ice pick into a dude’s temple. The violence was swift and brutal, and you couldn’t see it coming. As a viewer, or as the other characters in the scene. And it fit in perfectly with the pathology of a psychopathic serial killer.
The biggest negative to this show is how graphic it is. I was floored when I realized this show aired on network TV! It feels like a Showtime series, but it’s on NBC. I have a pretty high tolerance for graphic violence on TV, and even I got close to the limits of what I was willing to subject myself to watching at one point during season two.
This isn’t really part of the review, but it’s related: I found this video on Boing Boing the other day. It’s the same scene from Red Dragon acted out by three different sets of actors for Manhunter, Red Dragon, and Hannibal (the show).