Strong Buzz for ‘Hannibal’: What the Critics Are Saying

Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne and Mads Mikkelsen of "Hannibal" (Photo: NBC)

If you were prepared to dismiss NBC’s new incarnation of Hannibal Lecter as just another forgettable TV remake that we didn’t need, we urge you to reconsider: “Hannibal” is actually pretty terrific. Creepy and chilling, yes, but also riveting. I know what you’re thinking, but wait….

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Premiering Thursday at 10/9c on NBC, “Hannibal” is a prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs” that’s set in modern day and tells the story of a young Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, probably best known to American audiences as the Bond villain from Daniel Craig’s first outing as 007 in “Casino Royale,” plays the iconic role with such an air of sophistication and intelligence, and a commanding, quiet and haunting presence, that he’s simply spellbinding. His accent adds to the enigmatic nature of the character with a killer taste for the finer things in life (and death).

While the legend of “Hannibal” runs through its veins and takes the show’s title, the central figure here is actually Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, in an equally strong performance), the protagonist of “Red Dragon,” the first Thomas Harris novel that featured Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Watch Hugh Dancy on “The Today Show”:

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Tortured by the “gift” of being able to vividly step into the mind of a killer, Graham is an expert criminal profiler tapped by Special Agent Jack Crawford, this time played by an excellent Laurence Fishburne, to help the FBI hunt a cannibalistic serial killer. While the FBI exploits his “very specific way of thinking,” Graham appears ready to crack at any moment, so he’s forced to sit with a psychiatrist to help him sort out his daily waking nightmare, the one and only Dr. Hannibal Lecter — the very man they are all hunting. Executive producer Bryan Fuller (well known for his aesthetically stunning work in “Pushing Daisies,” among other things) masterfully mixes in strokes of visually compelling scenery with the thematic use of color — the presence of red (the color of blood, of course) in certain scenes (like Hannibal’s office) is particularly striking. Through it all, the “bromance” between Will and Lecter starts to simmer, as the FBI explores the murder-of-the-week without it feeling like your usual formulaic crime procedural.

While it’s entering the TV bloodbath after the crime wave of serial killer shows such as “The Following” and “Bates Motel” have already premiered, “Hannibal” quickly establishes itself as the superior entry in the genre. Sure, the show has its flaws too, but when you consider the dismal midseason offerings we’ve had so far, “Hannibal” is a standout.

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If you need anymore convincing about why you should set your DVRs for this one,
here’s what the critics are saying about “Hannibal”:

“I watched NBC’s creepy, haunting, smart, utterly gorgeous new series “Hannibal” — yet another Hannibal Lecter project, no less — and realized that it’s not the genre that had gotten tired, but the execution of it. I went into “Hannibal” dreading it and came away five episodes later thrilled by it.” — Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix

“Hannibal is the most beautiful series on network TV, alarmingly so. The people who made this series (including creator Bryan Fuller of “Pushing Daisies,” “Dead Like Me,” and “Wonderfalls”) are fascinated by dream and nightmare imagery and visualize it with more panache than you typically see on a broadcast network drama.” — Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture

“If you are wary of yet another show about serial killers and tired of violence in general, know that “Hannibal” (10 p.m. ET Thursday, NBC) is not a cheap attempt to ride TV’s blood-lust trend. At times, this drama is absolutely transfixing, and I say that as someone who felt great weariness at the thought of watching one more show about murderers. If nothing else, watch “Hannibal” for Mads Mikkelsen, who is sensational in the title role.” — Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post

“Dancy’s mix of strength and fragility is incredibly compelling, while Fishburne’s forceful turn erases memories of his dull, misguided star stint on CSI. And while his accent is sometimes daunting, you needn’t spend long with Mikkelsen, whose stillness is almost hypnotizing, to see why he was hired.” — Robert Bianco, USA Today

“The horror-pop icon has been reinvented in a cable-style drama so finely acted, visually scrumptious, and deliciously subversive.” — Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly

“Hannibal” airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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