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« 2014 Year in Review: The Legacy of The Colbert Report | Main | 2014 Year in Review: Birdman, The Movie of the Year »

2014 Year in Review: Is Hannibal a Good Show?

Dramas of 2014 were dark affairs.  The bleakness of True Detective, the tragedy of The Leftovers, the Game of the Thrones-ness of Game of Thrones.  Everything unravelling for Don Draper, the end of Sons of Anarchy.  Joining these ranks is a show that got a lot of attention in its second season: Hannibal.

When Hannibal arrived in early 2013 I sat watching with one though revolving in my mind, "I cannot believe this is on network television."  It is far and away the most gruesome show I have ever seen on television.  If you haven't had the chance, just imagine a show all about serial killers with an absurd flair for the dramatic where the camera shows EVERYTHING.

There is actually a scene in which a man plays a dead man's vocal chords with a violin bow.  And the guy doing the playing is the show's hero!

One of the more mild images of gore from the show.

Needless to say I was hooked on the show's appreciation for camp and pressure cooker plots.  Also, being a fan of the source material (Thomas Harris' Red Dragon novels) helps.  There is a wonderful cat and mouse game always in motion between FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and brilliant super villain, Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen).  The side characters added just the right amount of spice to a wicked feast of a show.

Then the 2nd season happened, and the show blew up.  After nearly failing to get renewed because of sagging veiwership, the show was assailed by critical acclaim in its 2nd season and a ratings boost guaranteeing it a 3rd season.  But, much like a fan spurned by his favorite band's sudden rise to fame, I wasn't singing Hannibal's praise quite as loudly.

The show gradually lost some of its luster.  I nearly quit on it multiple times during its 13 episode run.  I wondered if the attention from critics wasn't some kind of "make up" game being played because the show was nearly cancelled after a fantastic first season no one saw.

Most disappointing of all were the wild departures from the source material that the show had taken.  Major characters in the books were killed off or their destinies greatly altered.  Other characters have been introduced far too soon, others are strangely absent.  This might not be so confounding if the creators haven't stood steadfast by the concept of telling the story of the novels in show.  Whether or not they remain true to this one thing is clear:  The audience is going to be robbed of time with one of the series best two characters in the form of either a premature departure of Will Graham or late entrance by Clarice Starling.

They don't make life easy for Will Graham on Hannibal.

While it is hardly condemnable for a network television show to alter the story of an over 30 years old novel series that has largely fallen into obscurity one has to worry what will keep the show's already absurd premise (just how many serial killers are there in the greater Maryland area??) from floating into Lalaland.

After its absolutely bananas season 2 finale which acted as a sort of culling for the show's cast (though I suspect all the main players will still be there when the dust settles), it is hard to say where it will go from here.  I will confess, I'll be there for the premiere, but this season is sink or swim for Hannibal, it is going to need to impress if I'm going to be there to see who is getting cut up in the next finale.

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