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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing here is vegetarian (some spoilers), 24 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Hannibal - Season 1 [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
You know who Hannibal Lector is, even if you've never seen "Red Dragon" or "The Silence of the Lambs" -- a witty, cultured man who happens to be a cannibalistic serial killer.

He is also the sinister heart of "Hannibal: Season One," a TV show somewhat based on the works and characters of Thomas Harris. This is one of the smartest shows on television today -- a thorny, dark-hearted psychodrama, full of subtle manipulation and dangerous killers. It took a few episodes for me to fully warm up to Mads Mikkelson, but after awhile his quietly aesthetic portrayal really caught on.

FBI special investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has a special gift -- he is able to empathize with serial killers, understanding how their minds work. Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) enlists him to help in the most bizarre serial killing cases, and enlists forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lector (Mikkelson) to keep Will from going off the rails.

And frankly, Will needs the help. His first case involves a cannibalistic serial killer known as the Minnesota Shrike, who kills young girls and almost murders his daughter Abigail. As Will struggles with the aftermath of this case, he is called in on a series of bizarre murders -- people turned into grotesque angels, mutilated into instruments, used as fungal fertilizer, missing children turned into murderers, an organ harvester, and a man who claims to be the notorious Chesapeake Ripper.

But Will suspects that a copycat killer is at large, using other serial killers as a smokescreen for his own activities. He doesn't suspect that the copycat killer is far closer than he thinks: Dr. Lector (this isn't much of a spoiler -- it's revealed in the first episode), who manipulates Crawford, Will, his shrink friend Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), and anyone else who falls into his orbit. Oh, and he eats people.

Bryan Fuller has always had a macabre streak (see "Pushing Daisies" or "Dead Like Me"), but in "Hannibal," that streak covers the whole canvas. Don't expect quirkiness or comedy in this -- it's all shadows, grey skies and blood, with only a few lighter moments (Will spending time with his dogs) to gently remind you that the world is not all horror.

It also doesn't have any supernatural quirks, yet it still maintains a dreamlike, almost mystical quality through Will's hallucinations, and the ghostlike elusiveness of the killers. Lector himself is almost like an elegant demon, conjuring complicated tortures and schemes while also listening to classical music and frying up gourmet meals of human flesh. His cultured calm seems almost inhuman, his cold sadism and elusiveness almost beyond human understanding.

It's also gory. Very gory. Admittedly you can't have a story about serial killers and cannibalism without some gore, but it has some truly grotesque, stomach-churning stuff that you wouldn't expect to find on network shows.

And while coming up with a bunch of one-off serial killings -- only some of which are successfully stopped -- the writers weave in elaborate subplots involving a potentially psychotic teenager, the Chesapeake killer, a murdered protege of Crawford's, and Will's increasing mental deterioration. Every episode creeps us closer to Will figuring out what is truly going on, and who is pulling the strings on everyone around him.

Dancy plays Will as a shaky, damaged man whose special talents are slowly destroying him, but who feels that he must continue to save others' lives. Fishburne is the steady rock at the center of the show, an essentially decent man who must sacrifice Will's well-being so that other people have a chance to live. And it has good supporting performances by Dhavernas, Gillian Anderson and Hettienne Park.

I have to admit, Mads Mikkelson annoyed me for the first two episodes -- he seemed very passionless and wooden at first. But his acting style began to grow on me as we see the few things that bring a sparkle to his eye (mostly classical music), and explore some of his cold, friendless world.

"Hannibal Season One" is a series as rich and dark as spilled lifeblood... and about as horrifying. Intelligent, grotesque and powerful.
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