If the reason you did not watch NBC's new thriller Hannibal last week was because you're sick of all of the callous, uninspired serial killer shows on TV, we get it. There are many of them in the market, and most of them are bad. But tonight, we beg you to reconsider. The show's second episode, "Amuse-Bouche," is one of the most disturbing, icky, visceral, but ultimately riveting hours of television we've seen in quite awhile. And since we've seen the first five, we assure you that only gets better.
A few weeks ago, we sat down with Hannibal the cannibal himself, Mads Mikkelsen (whom you probably remmeber as the villain from Casino Royale) over some steak. And yes, we spent the entire meal trying not to think of said steak as people meat. Fortunately, just like his onscreen alter-ego, Mikkelsen — who is Danish — is smooth, thoughtful, intelligent, and extremely engaging. He just doesn't eat people (we think).
As we found out in the first episode, though Hannibal is a serial killer, he's not the one the FBI is tracking — and despite being the titular character, much of the action revolves around Hugh Dancy's equally engaging Will Graham. Since Will is a bit of a basket case (understatement — he can almost literally get inside a murderer's head), the FBI brilliantly assigns Hannibal, a therapist, to watch over him. Why would Hannibal take on such a risky assignment? That's easy, according to Mikkelsen.
"Lecter is a man of opportunities — he sees opportunities everywhere," Mikkelsen says. "Every day is a new day, and a start for something beautiful to happen. When he sees Will, he recognizes himself to a degree. [Hannibal] will help this young man open his eyes and use his real potential... He also sees an opportunity for a friend, which is probably not [something] he's had too many of. So that develops. Even though [Hannibal] is a puppeteer, Hannibal really loves Will."
Another reason Hannibal tags along, as we saw last week, is for the opportunity to check out the "competition" — to see what the other psychopaths are doing. In tonight's episode, the particular psychopath in question so disturbing that it will probably trigger your gag reflex, or at least turn you away from a certain cuisine for the rest of your life. And even though Hannibal is deeply riveted by this case, don't assume he'll respect it. As we saw last week with the woman he killed on the antlers, Hannibal feels that not all killers deserve the same level of respect.
"Hannibal is not a classic psychopath," Mikkelsen explains. "He's not [killing] for reasons that other serial killers would. It's not the childhood, it's not that his mother that was a junkie — that's way too banal for him. For him, it's something else. The threshold between life and death is extremely beautiful. I think the closest thing we can compare him with is Satan, the fallen angel. The rest of us see evilness there, but [Hannibal and Satan] see beauty there."
Fans of Dr. Lecter's most famous outing — Silence of the Lambs — may be wondering if Lecter's own peculiar vice gets its due throughout the series. The answer is a resounding, albeit disgusted, yes. What's truly intriguing, however, is that there are certain people who Hannibal would never in a million years dream of marinating in a fine balsamic reduction — like Will, for example, or Laurence Fishburne's character Jack. Everyone else might be f**ked.
"People who are rude definitely have a big chance of ending up on his table," Mikkelsen says. "Everything that's banal, he can either just avoid, or else they'll have a fair chance of ending up on his dinner table… He's divided the world up into banality, and not banality. Among those banal people, if you are rude, you're [taking] a very bad chance. "
Another thing that would probably put you on the table? Messing with Hannibal's new pal Will. "This is like a bromance, right?" Mikkelsen laughs.
Err, yes. Ignore everything we just said. Hannibal is an adorable buddy comedy. Check it out, tonight at 10 on NBC!
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