If you are searching for a therapeutic cooking show or a thrilling crime drama, you are in luck. All three seasons of “Hannibal” recently became available to stream on Netflix.
The genre-bending television series “Hannibal” is a modern-day prequel to the critically acclaimed “The Silence of the Lambs.”
However, the creator, Bryan Fuller, twists the timelines and gives familiar characters new fates. In this way, the show follows in the footsteps of the popular film, veering far from the original source material.
Technically, “Hannibal” is a prequel to Thomas Harris’ book “Red Dragon,” but Fuller expands the universe created by Harris and reorganizes the chronology of events in the existing books and movies.
The show differs from previous installments in the universe with its art-house, sexy-horror aesthetic. In particular, “Hannibal” explores the intense relationship between FBI profiler, Will Graham and forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his portrayal of the infamous cannibal in “The Silence of the Lambs,” making the role of Hannibal a difficult feat for any actor to live up to. Yet Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen made the character of Hannibal Lecter his own. Audiences have named him as arguably one of the best television villains of all time.
Mikkelsen portrays Hannibal Lecter with elegance, charm and — dare I say — sex appeal that renews and adds dimension to the character. He even extends this elegance to the kitchen where he could host a beautiful, yet terrifying, cooking show on the Food Network if he wished.
Hugh Dancy plays Will Graham as if it was the role he was born to play, but his on-screen chemistry with Mikkelsen is the real heart of the series. Will Graham is an almost supernatural empath who can barely make eye contact with anyone outside his family of stray dogs.
Tethered to a professor’s desk because of his vivid imagination, Graham teaches forensic classes until Jack Crawford (played by Laurence Fishburne) rips him away. Jack, the head of the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI, brings him back into the field to consult on a serial abduction case.
Graham has a very unique strategy for profiling criminals. Because of his pure empathy and extreme imagination, he has a psychological ability that he refers to as “interpreting the evidence.” He has the ability to empathize with anyone, including the psychopaths and serial killers he encounters. After visiting a crime scene, he assumes the state of mind of a killer and is able to recreate their thinking.
Fuller also reimagined supporting characters by casting women and Black, Asian and Latinx actors. For example, “Red Dragon” book characters like Dr. Alan Bloom and tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds became women in the television series named Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki).
The characters and cast are not the only aspects of this series that make it a must-see. The art direction, cinematography and soundtrack work together to create a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere.
“Hannibal” was way ahead of its time when it first aired on NBC between 2013 and 2015. Despite its famous source material and loyal cult following, “Hannibal” was unfortunately canceled after just three seasons.
In fact, it’s surprising the series lasted on cable television for three years with all the corpses turned into objets d’art. From bodies mounted on antlers, turned into instruments or built into human totem poles, almost every episode of “Hannibal” introduced its audience to a new stomach-churning way to commit murder.
Aside from artistic gore, the food in “Hannibal” is equally as eye-catching as well as stomach-churning when you start to think about it for too long. Every time Hannibal hosts guests at his dinner table, they can expect a beautifully plated but macabre meat-based dish.
All of the meals that Hannibal serves at his extravagant dinner parties and intimate dinner dates are thanks to the series’ culinary consultant, chef José Andrés as well as the food designer, Janice Poon.
Mikkelsen’s Hannibal has a sense of humor about his unorthodox diet that parallels the campiness of Hopkin’s iconic line, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” Hannibal regularly shares his love of wordplay with his dinner guests. “As this evening has already proven, it’s nice to have an old friend for dinner,” Lecter says in one scene.
In addition to vivid scenes of cuisine and murder, the soundtrack of “Hannibal” unnerves its audience. The tracks mirror sounds I can only assume one would hear if they were going crazy.
The soundtrack’s composer, Brian Reitzell, worked in movies such as “Lost in Translation” and “Marie Antionette” before he worked on “Hannibal.”
Reitzell said in an interview with Vulture magazine that he used hundreds of instruments while creating the tense, horrifying soundtrack. “And the thing about the music in ‘Hannibal,’ it is very trance-y, in a way,” Reitzell said. “When it’s working, you’re in that reality, you’re not even in your living room anymore.” Reitzell also touched on how commercial breaks jarred him out of the world of “Hannibal” when he watched it on cable television.
Reitzell’s complaint about commercial breaks is just one of the reasons “Hannibal” may not have succeeded on cable television, but it was destined to be binged.
Now that Netflix is streaming all three seasons of “Hannibal,” there are speculations that the show could possibly be renewed for a fourth season. Of course, nothing is set in stone, but the show’s newfound resurgence in popularity since being put on Netflix inspires hope in some die-hard fans of the series, like myself.