Deep, Dark, and Disgusting
Hannibal is one of the classiest, most artistic TV shows I've ever seen. In addition to building the Hannibal Lecter legend from the ground-up in an impressively realistic and sinister manner, this show supersedes its entertaining plot and becomes a thoughtful meditation on the horrific emotional and psychological effects of violence on everyone it touches, from victims and law enforcement to perpetrators. The show is a slow burn at first, but as it gains steam through the season it becomes absolutely riveting and mind-blowing. Mads Mikkelsen's performance as Lecter is smolderingly sinister and frightening but also occasionally alluring and sympathetic. His understated emotion and quiet physical cues make Anthony Hopkins' legendary portrayal seem cheesy in contrast. The rest of the cast is also uniformly excellent, especially regulars Laurence Fishbourne and Hugh Dancy as well as guest stars Eddie Izzard, Raul Esparza, and Gillian Anderson. All of this praise comes with a very important caveat, however: this show is absolutely not for children of any age. It's certainly the most graphic, gory program I've ever seen on television (including TV-MA cable offerings like American Horror Story), and how it manages to skim by with a TV-14 is absolutely beyond me. Every type of gratuitous violent act, from cannibalism to dismemberment, is shown onscreen. The most alarming visuals come from the aftermaths of horrific crimes, where corpses are seen after immolation, skinning, decomposition, etc. The DVDs are even more graphic, containing "Producer's Cuts" of episodes that are too bloody for TV. All of this sounds terribly unnecessary and appalling, but in actuality the show is very conscious of the way it portrays violence, even removing one episode from airing because of recent headlines-making violence. I'm traditionally more upset by violence than I am with sex or profanity in TV and movies, but Hannibal is one of my favorite shows. All of the violence it shows has a point, and is never, ever glamorized or idealized in the least. It's explicit and monstrous, but is meant to have a negative effect on the audience and characters. Kids and teens won't be able to appreciate the context surrounding the gore; they'll just be overwhelmed by it. But for discerning adults who think they're able to stomach it, Hannibal is one of the most contemplative, mature shows to grace primetime television.
What other families should know