The second season of NBC's most thrilling and unique drama in ages, the Bryan Fuller-created drama-thriller, Hannibal , is nearly upon us. And when February 28, 2014 rolls around, hopefully a great many of you will be stepping up to the plate to take a bite out of the cannibalistic series. One might assume that an extensive knowledge of the Thomas Harris novels on which the series gets its canon is mandatory. But those ones are very wrong. In fact, going into the first season I hadn't even seen Silence of the Lambs (a horrific oversight I have since remedied).
And while knowledge of that film might enhance the viewing experience, it is not necssary. In fact: most anyone should be able to find a way into the series if they only gave it a chance. A case we're here to make for you. Afraid to dive in? Worried it's too gruesome? Confused as to what the heck it's all about and why there's a Will Graham rather than a Clarice Starling? Read on and you'll find out — you'll be chomping at the bit to see this series by the time we're done with you.
It's a Visual Feast
The way the show is shot — in addition to the lush colors, incredible (if creepy)-looking food, set design, and costuming — is nothing short of visual perfection. Equal parts fluid and surreal, the colors, the costumes, and the settings serve up a heightened atmosphere that complements the series' storytelling tone. There are also, at times, homages to other classic horror tropes, stories, and films (so many antlers!) — in addition to nods to Thomas Harris' other Hannibal-centric works. Just look at some of these set images and try not to fall into a daydreamy spell.
See what we mean? You can say what you want about the content, but there's no getting around the fact that this is literally the most beautiful series on television.
The Performances are Outrageous
Seriously. Hugh Dancy's portrayal of addled FBI profiler/professor, Will Graham, is nothing short of anxiety-inducing, which is a huge compliment. The tension he musters — and keeps up without becoming stale — is nothing short of astounding when you consider how hard it would be to go super-camp in that regard. And Mads Mikkelsen: hello, terrifying! Those Mikkelsen boys sure know how to creep the world out (fun fact: his brother, Lars, played Charles Augustus Magnussen on this past season of Sherlock).
And the rest of the cast are no slouches, either. Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, and the series' truly awesome guest stars — including Eddie Izzard, Gillian Anderson, and Raul Esparza just to name a few — all hit the truly fucked-up nail on the head with their emotional, layered, and engaging interpretations of some classic (and not) Thomas Harris characters.
It's Not About Silence of the Lambs
So you've never seen Silence of the Lambs. Or maybe you have. Maybe you loved it, maybe you hated it, maybe you were ambivalent. None of that matters in regards to Hannibal, because the series is essentially a prequel to all that. This is the story of how Lecter ended up all masked-up in front of Clarice.
And it's extra-fun because the series gives backstory to some of the off-handedly mentioned characters and scenarios from the film. Creating a universe that much more enriched and engaging.
It's Layered and Complex
Sure, sometimes it's nice to savor the televised equivalent of pudding now and then — something sweet that goes down easy and is almost impossible to be made disappointing — but don't you want a challenge every now and again? Something that, you know, elicits actual emotions from you beyond "aww shucks" and "how sweet"? Hannibal is just the series to watch if you want your buttons toyed with and pushed a bit out of your comfort zone.
The Spoils of Preexisting Knowledge Spoils Nothing
Unlike some series, the knowledge of things to come (like how, say, most of us out there at least know where Dr. Lecter eventually ends up) doesn't hinder the emotional impact of the show's machinations. Quite the opposite: it actually heightens the experience. And even if you somehow missed the plot of Silence of the Lambs and have no idea what lies ahead for the cannibal named Hannibal, ignorance can also lead to television bliss in this scenario. It's a win-win all around, folks. It's almost as if there's nothing you could do to spoil the series for yourself. Impressive, innit?
It's Impossible to Not Be Riveted
Just watch this stellar recap video of the first season (which should bring you perfectly up to speed, to boot!) and try to rip your hair out with anxious anticipation.