With season two debuting on DVD/Blu-ray on Tuesday, it’s the perfect time to catch up on one of network television’s most boundary-pushing shows, the deliciously perverse Hannibal.
What’s the premise? Criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) assists the FBI in apprehending serial killers, but as the job begins to eat away at his mental health, he starts meeting with therapist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a cannibal who murders rude people and serves them at fancy dinner parties.
What’s it like? If you took Criminal Minds and added elements of the body-horror films of David Cronenberg’s early career and the surreal look and sound design of a David Lynch film, you’d get something like Hannibal. Horror director David Slade (30 Days of Night) directed the pilot and several subsequent episodes, allowing for a consistently tense mood throughout the entire series so far.
Where can I see it? Season one is available on DVD and Blu-Ray and season two is due out September 16 on the same formats. Both seasons are currently streaming on Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, and iTunes.
How long will it take? Each season is 13 episodes long, with an average length of 42 minutes, giving you just over 18 hours of delectable deviousness. This intrepid viewer watched all 26 episodes in four days, but wouldn’t recommend that kind of pace for the squeamish. An episode or two at a time might allow you to savor the flavor of each episode — or cleanse your palate — before moving on to the next course.
What do the critics think? It took awhile for critics to warm up to Hannibal, whose first season ended up at 68 percent on the Tomatometer. Todd VanDerWerff of the AV Club said, “at once beautiful and languorous, Hannibal unfolds with the logic of a terrifying dream.” However, critics agreed that the show perfected the recipe in its second season, which was Certified Fresh at 100 percent; Phil Pirrello of The Wrap said the season “elevates the surprisingly-high bar set by the first — creating binge-worthy television that makes you, like the titular character, covet for more.”
Why should I watch this? Most critics agree that, whether you love it or hate it, there isn’t anything quite like Hannibal on television. It’s a crime procedural and a psychological thriller, filled with horror and just the right dash of romance and comedy. For foodies, Hannibal gives the Food Network a run for its money when it comes to artfully prepared dishes, beautifully photographed. For cinephiles who love good sound design, you’ll be hard pressed to find other shows that put as much emphasis on sound to bring you into its world. Graham and Lecter’s cat-and-mouse relationship is just as disturbing as you would hope from a friendship between a detective and a would-be serial killer. Story arcs feature special guest stars Eddie Izzard and Michael Pitt in meaty roles, and the supporting cast adds variety and spice, popping in and out of episodes at just the right time.
What’s my next step? For more from the Thomas Harris universe, watch 1991 Best Picture winner The Silence of The Lambs (with Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling), as well as follow-ups Red Dragon (with Edward Norton as Graham), and Hannibal, all three of which feature Anthony Hopkins as Lecter. Michael Mann‘s Manhunter features William Petersen (CSI) as Graham and Brian Cox as Lecter, and Hannibal Rising features Gaspard Ulliel as a young Lecter. If you want more from series creator Bryan Fuller, affectionately known as the Fullerverse (all his shows take place in the same universe), check out Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies. Lastly, if you simply must have more serial killers in your life, try Criminal Minds or The Following.