Hannibal: Season One

Hannibal: Season One
As television's most consistent and distinctive genre voice not surnamed Whedon, Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me) does a hell of a job revitalizing and expanding upon the mythology of pop culture's most beloved cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, in the NBC psychological thriller Hannibal. Another retread of Red Dragon wouldn't be a very appetizing proposition without his meticulous research and incisive wit coupled with 30 Days of Night director David Slade's bold, hyper-stylized visual translation of Fuller's vivid imagination. Then there's Mads Mikkelsen's performance; his work is so subtly strong that it pushes Anthony Hopkins's less reserved take on the title character aside within the span of a single episode.

Acting as a prequel to the events of Red Dragon, Hannibal follows the re-entry of special agent Will Graham (a nervous ball of tics and mental anguish as played by Hugh Dancy) into the field of crime scene analysis. The uncommonly empathetic profiler is brought in to investigate the patterns and psychology of a newly discovered serial killer, despite being less than mentally stable. His superior, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), is more concerned with results than the emotional health of his agent, so instead of giving Graham leave after case stress starts to crack him again, he hooks up the anti-social genius with a highly recommended psychiatrist who just so happens to be a master killer and practicing cannibal.

The dynamic between Graham and Lecter forms the backbone of the series, with genuine compassion and affection casting darkly playful light on the (partially) unwitting game of cat and mouse they're acting out. Through their conversations, Fuller is able to explore myriad psychological themes, all of which are supported and expanded upon from episode to episode by whatever deranged serial killing is being investigated from week to week.

Speaking of, the murders in Hannibal are among the most creative, disturbing and sickly beautiful this reviewer has laid eyes on. It's shocking to realize that this level of grotesque horror is being shown on network television, but nobody swears and any nudity is covered up by buckets of blood and gore, so apparently it's all good. To point out just how deranged these puritanical standards are, Fuller pulls examples of studio notes requiring the butt crack of a flayed corpse to be filled with blood in order to make it past the censors.

Anecdotes like this and exceptional attention to the show's visual design and thematic imperatives run throughout the excellent special features included in the Blu-Ray package of this first of what seems intended to be four seasons. For aspiring writers, a complete storyboard and script of the pilot episode will be of considerable interest, as will the two very in-depth and highly entertaining commentaries — for the pilot and the season finale — with Slade, Fuller and Dancy for anyone fascinated by television production or storytelling in general.

"Hannibal Reborn" takes the typical "Making Of" approach to explaining how and why the project came together with behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast, crew and key creative personnel. Fuller's confidence and holistic insights show up here as strongly as they do in "A Taste For Killing", in which the skilled writer unabashedly explains his insistence on creating "food porn" to be set at Dr. Lecter's elegant and refined table. The show's celebrity chef consultant and food stylist make appearances to explain the art of creating dishes intended to be made of human flesh and organs and how to substitute ingredients to satisfy all cast palates and diets.

The grisly, wickedly inventive murder makeup is subject to a separate feature, entitled "The FX of Murder," as is the subtly ingenious, highly atypical music by composer Brian Reitzell, in "Symphony for the Slaughter." Finally, there are a few short deleted scenes and a surprisingly hilarious gag reel, largely thanks to Mikkelsen's curt, deadpan scene sabotaging. Arguably, Hannibal is the finest adaptation of Thomas Harris's work to date, and this is an absolutely first-rate home video release. (eOne)