Best example of all was Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), the daughter of serial killer Garett Jacob Hobbs. On a lesser procedural crime series Abigail would have been a one and done character; the damsel in distress Will saved. But here, the psychological damage her father had put her through long before his death, not to mention the horrific day he died (and killed her mother) cast a big shadow on the entire season. Abigail’s own secrets and her growing bond with both Hannibal and Will made for a compelling through line, as so many possibilities lay before her with two surrogate fathers who could help shape her into someone who stops murders or causes them. If she is truly dead, she’ll be a missed aspect of the show.
While Will and Hannibal’s relationship is the one at the core of this series, Jack Crawford – an integral character in Harris’ books – was hardly shortchanged. Laurence Fishburne, looking far more engaged than during his short time on CSI, was great as Crawford who had his own interplay with Hannibal occurring all season, while dealing with some huge issues at home. The story of Jack’s ill-fated attempt to use FBI trainee Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) to help find the Chesapeake Ripper also was used to truly shape who Jack was and what was motivating him, rather than a bit of backstory thrown in and then barely touched upon.
Hannibal’s flaws were relatively minor. The show is known for its theatricality, but a couple of the killers pulled off things that seemed nearly superhuman as far as the work that went into them for one person to accomplish. Also, while we got a couple of nice moments between Will and Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park), as the season progressed, Jimmy Price (Scott Thompson) and Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams) were just sort of there, throwing in a couple of funny lines, but not really adding much.
Overall though, the supporting characters were strong. Caroline Dhavernas had a tricky role she pulled off well as a protégé to Hannibal and a colleague of Will’s whose close ties to both men made it all the more difficult to suspect either was up to no good. Despite only appearing a couple of times, Gina Torres brought a lot of power to Bella Crawford’s plight and rift with her husband. And it was a delight to see Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s own psychiatrist, as we tried to figure out exactly what she and Hannibal knew about one another.
Regardless though, Hannibal has plenty to fuel its stories going forward. Fuller didn’t play into audience expectations at all – who would have guessed that Will would have figured out the truth about Hannibal by the end of the first season? But by having it occur in the manner it did, with Will disgraced, imprisoned and looking guilty of multiple murders, while Hannibal walks free, the entire dynamic has been upended in a very exciting way.
Beyond the great story and characters, Hannibal also has to be praised for its amazing tone, style and visuals. This is the best looking show on network TV, with a moody, dark and yet highly artistic style established by director David Slade in the pilot that would continue through the season. The way in which we saw Will’s POV, whether it be how he reconstructs a crime scene or his hallucinations, was always fascinating and imaginative.
And I can’t finish this review without mentioning the murders themselves and the tableaus we were presented with all season. Human angels. Human totem poles. Human instruments. The things done to the human body on this show were horrific and depraved and brilliantly macabre. This was horror at its finest, going to twisted yet inspired places that proved Bryan Fuller was one of us when it came to appreciating the over the top places stories like this can go. It’s still shocking to me that Fuller got away with all he did on NBC in primetime and hilarious to think back on a time when people said this show wouldn’t be able to go as far as it should on network TV.
Also have to commend the decision Fuller made to be very selective about when he showed Hannibal actually commit an act of violence. So much was implied and insinuated, as we saw Hannibal present his beautifully prepared (and beautifully shot) meals, but we rarely saw Dr. Lecter actually harm anyone onscreen. But when he did… Wow. By holding back, it made it al the more impactful to see Hannibal slam Alana’s head against a wall, to kill a colleague, or — in a scene that was just delightfully, wonderfully awesome — kill a patient and then have a brutal fight to the death with a fellow serial killer.
Its struggles in the ratings are baffling and frustrating to be sure, but hopefully the positive buzz will lead to more people checking out Hannibal in the interim before it returns. Meanwhile, for those of us who adore the show, we can still bask in the delight of knowing this expertly told story will continue.
Fuller has said “In the first season we have this weird bromance between Will and Hannibal, season two is the nasty break up and the third season would have a fugitive angle to it, the fourth season would be ‘Red Dragon,’ the fifth season would be in the realm of ‘Silence Of The Lambs,’ the sixth season would be ‘Hannibal,”
This clearly means that there is a grand plan. Which means a lot, because in the past many such series have run for too long and lost quality greatly because of it (See Dexter). So if there is a plan, they need to stick to it.
Hannibal will return on Feb. 28 2014, on NBC. Watch the trailer here.