A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hannibal is an intense hour-long crime drama that focuses on a serial killer and the FBI agents attempting to capture him. Viewers see many, many disturbing images, including dead bodies, women and men being shot, stabbed, strangled, and impaled, pools of blood, victims being impaled by deer antlers, and so on. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson) is a killer and a cannibal, we see presumably human body parts being cut up and cooked, then eaten and enjoyed. Viewers may also see naked bodies, characters being stalked, and many murders through the eyes of killers. There is a dark, tense atmosphere throughout, and many graphic discussions of violence and murders. This intense show is not intended for children; parents should think carefully before letting even mature teens watch.
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What's the story?
In NBC's hour-long drama HANNIBAL, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is a professor and FBI criminal profiler who is drawn into a professional association with a man who is secretly a monster: Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a forensic psychologist who kills people and eats their body parts when he's on his own time. Special Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), head of behavioral sciences at the FBI, recruited both Graham and Lecter to work with him on his nastiest cases. He knew Graham, who skews both Aspergers-y and anti-social, was a rather strange guy. But what Crawford didn't know about Lecter could put them all in mortal danger.
Is it any good?
By now, the details of Hannibal Lecter's story are familiar to most people, so Hannibal doesn't have freshness on its side. But showrunners did change one crucial detail, turning Graham from just another hardworking cop into an oddball with what Lecter diagnoses as "true empathy" thanks to his autistic tendencies. He understands the crimes he investigates because he can see things from the killers' point of view. And so does the audience, riding along with Graham as he "becomes" the killer and envisions how murders happened.
Dancy is terrific as the shifty-eyed Graham, Fishburne has his customary gravitas in what's most definitely a third banana part, and wonder of wonders, creepy Mads Mikkelsen, best known stateside as a Bond villain, is so good as Lecter he may make you forget Anthony Hopkins' indelible cinematic Dr. Lecter long enough to enjoy Hannibal-the-show. This is strong stuff, not for kids, but very mature teens and adults may enjoy the gore, darkness, tension, and mystery.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the source material for this show. Have you seen other movies involving the same set of characters, such as The Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal (the movie)? How is this show alike or different? Does the fact that it's on television change what's said or shown?
How are the viewers supposed to feel about Dr. Lecter? Listen to see what musical cues are used when he is shown onscreen, notice what camera angles are used. Did your answer change?
Why do so many shows on television focus on crime and murder? What does that say about what people want to watch? Why do they want to watch stories in which people are harmed?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love mystery
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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