The Remote: ‘Hannibal’ a tasty, human take on pop culture’s most famous cannibal

THE REMOTE with Ryan Pait

By: Ryan Pait

NBC’s “Hannibal” may make you rethink your views on cannibalism.

Stick with me here.

Taking an antihero and deconstructing him or her has become a common theme on television these days.

Look no further than “Bates Motel,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” or the recently-departed “Breaking Bad.” All feature characters that seem quintessentially ‘bad,’ but they’re examined through different shades of grey that explain why they do what they do.

“Hannibal,” which follows Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) in his adventures in serial killing and fine dining, can easily be classified in a similar category. The show also follows special agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a criminal profiler who befriends Hannibal through his work with the FBI.

The show, which was developed by Bryan Fuller from Thomas Harris’s novel “Red Dragon,” is a reworking of the tale of one of pop culture’s most famous serious killers, brought famously to life by Anthony Hopkins in the Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs.”

What “Hannibal” does best is mixing up its format. The show could be classified as a crime procedural, but it alternates masterfully between “case of the week” episodes and larger overarching plots that guide the show’s short, 13-episode seasons.

The show is also just absolutely and unapologetically weird. Iterations of procedurals like “CSI” and “NCIS” are abundant in the world of television, but do they have plotlines where characters argue about who vomited up someone’s ear?

I think not.

“Hannibal” also features some of the greatest character work currently on television, courtesy of Mikkelsen and Dancy.

Mikkelsen is just as great of a Hannibal as Hopkins, and he benefits from getting to develop the character over a longer amount of time. Mikkelsen’s sleek and suave demeanor is absolutely intoxicating to watch on screen, just as Hopkins’s debonair rigidity was in “Lambs.” “Hannibal” lets us meet Lecter as the man before he becomes the legend.

And Mikkelsen just makes you like Hannibal, even though you know he’s having his cake and eating it too.

Dancy’s Graham is equally fascinating, mostly because his headspace is so wild. Fuller’s signature visual style helps visualize Will’s inner workings, and Dancy brings them to life with a cerebral force.

Dancy’s intensity may only be matched by his real-life wife Claire Danes’s performance on “Homeland.”

The great irony of the show is that we know that Will and Hannibal will eventually turn on each other, we just don’t know when. The show maintains this ironic suspense nicely, especially because Mikkelsen and Dancy play so well off each other.

Fair warning, though: this show is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

“Hannibal” is an exercise in gorgeous grotesquery as well as an exercise in contrasts. The crimes that Will and Hannibal solve together are absolutely disgusting, but the food that Hannibal cooks sure looks amazing.

It might not make you switch to human meat, but “Hannibal” makes it look pretty darn delicious.

Season 2 Grade: A-

“Hannibal” airs Fridays at 10/9C on NBC. Previous seasons are available on DVD, Blu-Ray, iTunes, Amazon Prime and On Demand.