Was anyone else surprised by how good this show turned out to be? The only thing that compelled me to watch this show was the fact that Mads Mikkelsen was playing Hannibal. The only other thing I had seen him in was 2006's Casino Royale where he was very memorable as the main villain so he seemed like a fascinating choice for the title role in Hannibal. I put on the first episode expecting the writing to be second rate and predictable since I figured this was yet another adaptation of Red Dragon, which has already been adapted twice. Little did I know that it would take surprising new turns and keep me immersed in this story all season long. I guess I expected them to focus on Hannibal more than in the Red Dragon book since that is the title of the show, and Hannibal really doesn't have a large role in the book anyway other than his dialogues with Will Graham. So I knew from the outset that Hannibal was going to be the main focus, but I had no idea just how many liberties they would take with Hannibal's relationship with Will Graham prior to being captured and indeed Hannibal's role in supposedly "helping" the FBI and how many devious twists and were available to the writers. Plus Mads Mikkelsen seems to have reinvented the role itself. Instead of doing an Anthony Hopkins impersonation, Mikkelsen is much more subtle in portraying Hannibal's madness, and he makes it entirely believable that Hannibal would appear above suspicion for most of the show. Indeed, if one had no prior knowledge of Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs, a casual viewer might think Hannibal to be the hero of the story genuinely trying to help Will Graham and the FBI catch serial killers instead of being a ruthless serial killer and cannibal himself.
I'm already looking forward to season 2 of Hannibal. Who knows how many more changes are in store, but if the quality of the writing, performances, and directing stays this high, than this series may rightly become thought of as the definitive version of the story even though it's very different than the books and prior films. It's just that good. Maybe, with SK's recent note about how movies and tv adaptations will never change the experience of the original book, people will come to judge adaptations on their own merits instead of how closely they replicate the experience of reading the books because really, nothing can actually accomplish that anyway. Plus, those people who read the original story in book form will have an all new experience when seeing the tv show or movie.
I thought the first season was pretty great. I stopped watching for a while, because the ratings were so poor that I figured there was no chance the series would be renewed, and I didn't want to get invested in yet another Bryan Fuller show that died too early a death. Once a second season was commissioned, though, I resumed watching.
Also, I'm glad that the creators of this show appear to be (for all intents and purposes) unhindered by the fact the show is on network television. They seem able to bring all the necessary details to the screen rather than cut away or compromise the story in anyway. The victim's bodies appear as gruesome as they need to be and there's no sugarcoating of what the killers do or romanticizing of the killers in any way. Will Graham is haunted and his instability is believable and entirely relatable because of the trauma he subjects himself to pursing these killers and his method of entering their minds and reliving their thought processes. The way Hannibal sees though Will and manipulates things like a child playing with toys from his toy box is just fascinating. Indeed, Mikkelsen's Hannibal maintains the character's most recognizable traits while opting for an uncanny subtlety achieving a brilliant new portrayal of such an iconic character.