Hannibal, Sky Living, with Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy

Hannibal Series 1.Episode 01 "Amuse Bouche"..Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Special Agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy)
Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter and Hugh Dancy as Will Graham in Hannibal. Pics: Sky Living

Rating: ★★★½

Sky Living: Tuesdays, 10pm

Story: FBI man Will Graham is using his psychological empathy and insight into killers to hunt a mass murderer, Garret Jacob Hobbs, when he is assigned a new man to assist him – Dr Hannibal Lecter.

ARE WE NOT OVER Hannibal Lecter? Four novels, five Hollywood movies – but producers think we still want to gorge on tales of the serial killer and gourmand.

Hannibal Series 1.Episode 01 "Apéritif"...Special Agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy)
Special Agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy)

So we have this 13-part TV series, which has just started on Sky Living. And pretty grisly it is too, with throat slashings, pools of blood and naked women mounted on the antlers of decapitated deer heads (I decided not to include a picture of that scene).

It’s all madly far-fetched, but that’s because Hannibal and his fellow serial maniacs are closer to the horror genre than crime. Author Thomas Harris’s creations here evoke that other great devourer of humans Dracula, along with Sherlock Holmes, represented by the similarly Asbergers-affected Will Graham, with his totally implausible deductions – ‘He has a daughter, same hair [as the victim], same height, she’s an only daughter…’ How the heck did he work that out?

Hannibal‘s selling point, of course, is not its believability but its thrills and shocks. These it has in abundance.

Gillian Anderson coming up
In addition, it is slickly filmed and has a good cast. Hugh Dancy, seen recently in The Big C with
Laura Linney, is the straight guy Will Graham to Mads Mikkelsen’s charismatic, beautifully dressed Lecter. Perhaps best known as the villain in Casino Royale, Mikkelsen mixes erudition with homicidal menace very well indeed, particularly in an early scene when Laurence Fishburne’s FBI chief comes calling unexpectedly.

Hannibal Series 1. Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki).Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen)
Journalist Freddie gets close to Hannibal

Gillian Anderson will also be featuring later as Dr Bedelia Du Maurier, Lecter’s psychotherapist (could be dangerous job to have). In the States this is being seen as the former X Files‘ star’s big TV comeback, whereas everyone in Britain knows she been moonlighting as Victorian ladies in BBC productions Bleak House, The Crimson Petal and the White and Great Expectations.

She can also be seen in this week’s The Fall on BBC2 as a detective hunting a serial killer in Belfast, a less lurid but more chilling drama than Hannibal.

Lecter is using Graham’s ‘pure empathy’

Hannibal Series 1.Episode 01 "Amuse Bouche"..Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen)
And the award for best-dressed serial killer goes to…

Anyway, the Grand Guignol continues this week in episode two with the discovery that Hobbs has spawned a copycat killer, a mass woodland grave is found containing people that were buried alive, and a journalist hunting a scoop is lured into Lecter’s therapy room.

The big twist will come, of course, when Graham finally works out that Lecter is observing and learning from the FBI man’s ‘pure empathy’ with mass murderers such as himself. In the meantime, watching Hannibal toy with Graham should be interesting.

Hannibal is over the top, and the attempt at dark humour (each episode is named after a course on a French menu) is not as biting, so to speak, as the satire in Dexter, for instance. But the show is getting good reviews in the States, and the superior writing and acting seem set to have patrons coming back for more helpings.

Cast: Hugh Dancy Special Agent Will Graham, Mads Mikkelsen Dr Hannibal Lecter, Caroline Dhavernas Dr Alana Bloom, Hettienne Park Special Agent Beverly Katz, Laurence Fishburne Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford, Lara Jean Chorostecki Fredricka ‘Freddie’ Lounds,  Scott Thompson Jimmy Price,  Aaron Abrams Brian Zeller,  Kacey Rohl Abigail Hobbs, Gina Torres Phyllis ‘Bella’ Crawford,  Ellen Greene Mrs Komeda, Raúl Esparza Dr Frederick Chilton, Gillian Anderson Dr Bedelia Du Maurier

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