NBC’s Hannibal pulls no punches on the gore, but what else did you expect?

Hannibal - Season 1

NBC’s ‘Hannibal’ premieres this coming Thursday, and while it’s very well done and at many times faithful to the source material, its graphic nature might turn off the usual crowd that hangs out on NBC or network TV in general.


For most people, the name Hannibal Lecter is first associated with the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs and the Academy Award winning performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins, or its source material. The character actually debuted in the 1981 novel, Red Dragon, which was also later adapted into two films. The character continued on in prequel and sequel novels and films: respectively, Hannibal Rising and Hannibal. As related to the most famous The Silence of the Lambs, NBC’s Hannibal is a prequel story, though it remains to be fully seen how faithful it will remain to the source material, and whether we’ll ever see that moment where Lecter is taken into custody.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is so far not the central character here. That honor goes to Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).

One interesting point about the show is how Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is so far (after the five episodes I screened) not the central character here. That honor goes to Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a criminal profiler with the FBI who has a unique gift when it comes to getting into the mind of a killer. Graham can sort of step into the role of the killer, so to speak, by putting himself smack in the middle of the crime scene and — in his mind — replaying the events as they unfolded, from the killer’s perspective. From that description, it surely doesn’t sound completely original, but the visual effect on-screen is interesting and impressive. It’s an aspect that’s also not overdone or overused, which makes it all cooler when it does happen. Graham — in case you didn’t know — is a character from the novels as well, and has similar abilities. Similarly, in both, Graham isn’t exactly proud of these abilities and appears to detest them. He and others know their usefulness, though, when it comes to nailing down a killer.

The show is largely based on the Red Dragon novel, so what we’re seeing is a more detailed account of the cases Graham and Jack Crawford (Laurence J. Fishburne III) took on in leading up to the discovery and take-down of Lecter.

The show is largely based on the Red Dragon novel, so what we’re seeing is a more detailed account of the cases Graham and Jack Crawford (Laurence J. Fishburne III) took on in leading up to the discovery and take-down of Lecter. The same cases are there — “The Minnesota Shrike” and “The Chesapeake Ripper” — but they don’t exactly go down as they did in the novels. For example, in “The Chesapeake Ripper” case, it was there when Graham discovered Lecter’s involvement. Instead, a new character of Agent Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) gets that honor. Besides that detail, it faithfully follows much of what went down in the books. But what’s also very different from the novels is that Hannibal Lecter isn’t a passing source of information for Graham’s (or, rather, Lass’ case); he plays an active role in tagging along and assisting with several cases. What’s more, Lecter serves as a psychiatrist for not only Graham and his ongoing mental issues, but Crawford’s wife as well.

Still, Lecter’s involvement isn’t like Mentalist‘s Patrick Jane tagging along and helping with every CBI case. He’s so far little-used, especially for a show bearing his name. There’s certainly a lot more to his character than assisting the FBI and with various characters’ mental issues. Even though the show detracts a bit from the source material, there’s no doubt Lecter’s still a cold-blooded, calculating and disturbed killer. The question sometimes is who is he actually killing … and what’s he serving his guests for dinner.

With that said, I have to hit on what makes this show quite a change of pace for NBC. This show is quite brutally graphic with what it shows of the murders (and attempted murders), enough to make many squirm. And, mind you, these graphic scenes haven’t yet gotten into what the dear Dr. Lecter’s most infamously known for: eating human flesh. There are a couple of scenes, for example, where a killer slits a couple of throats. It’s pretty damned realistic looking, and it will make any blood-fearing folks pretty uncomfortable. It gets worse in subsequent episodes, but I won’t get into that, as that’s spoiler territory.

While I really like the show a lot, I fear that the violent visuals are what will throw off the usual NBC viewership.

There’s been somewhat of a trend lately in shows that are sometimes going overboard with the blood and gore, and they’re rather successful ones to boot. The Walking Dead. The Following. So is this the arena NBC’s trying to get into with Hannibal? While I really like the show a lot, I fear that the violent visuals are what will throw off the usual NBC viewership and, therefore, the ratings the show needs to carry on. A show like this seems better suited for cable. I watch and love Showtime’s Dexter, and even that has less disturbing visuals than this. And, like Dexter, if you’re watching Hannibal — a show about a freakin’ cannibal — you should pretty much know what you’re in for. Hopefully, if the ratings don’t work out, NBC will consider letting it live on elsewhere. For now, though, it’ll be interesting to watch where things wind up for Lecter and if plans are to keep Hannibal on the loose for the duration.

Hannibal premieres this Thursday night at 10 PM Eastern on NBC.

Photo Credit: Robert Trachtenberg/NBC

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