TV Review: ‘Hannibal,’ Season 3

Hannibal cancelled
Image courtesy of NBC

Hannibal” is so exquisitely rendered that it’s sometimes easy to forget what you’re actually watching, at least until an artery opens and blood streams freely and artfully across the screen. Spared from the TV gallows by international money, this adaptation featuring Thomas Harris’ creation returns for a third season on NBC during the summer (mitigating damage from its relatively puny ratings), while providing its devotees another serving of Mads Mikkelsen, in particular, in the title role. If season two built toward a confrontation previewed at the outset, this year finds the show seemingly in no hurry to get anywhere.

As fans might remember, Mikkelsen’s Hannibal carved his way through the FBI profilers he had charmed and entertained before absconding to Europe (although principally filmed in Toronto, some scenes were shot in Florence and Paris), accompanied by his shrink, Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), who treats him with understandable wariness. Anderson isn’t particularly well used in this venue, but having her on Thursdays after “Aquarius,” starring David Duchovny, provides NBC with a sort-of jump on Fox’s planned “The X-Files” revival.

Bearing a bit of a thematic resemblance to the movie “Hannibal” (easily the low point of the character’s literary and cinematic travels), the good doctor has assumed a new identity that finds him lecturing in an academic setting, feeding his unique appetites based on whoever might be seen as an impediment to his career. The episodes are certainly picturesque, reflecting the gift of showrunner Bryan Fuller (who wrote the premiere with Steve Lightfoot, directed by Vincenzo Natali) for conjuring arresting imagery.

In a sense, the languid pace plays to those strengths. Hannibal’s nemesis, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), doesn’t join the fray until the second hour, embarking on an expedition in the third to learn more about his quarry’s history. Spared from driving the story forward, the series can luxuriate in its atmosphere, as gruesome yet oddly beautiful as that often is.

There is still, frankly, something confining (never mind morally questionable) about building a series around the Lecter character, although Mikkelsen’s magnetic performance and piercing gaze offer ample compensation.

The fierce loyalty the program has engendered among a small group of viewers and many critics — who wouldn’t miss the show unless they were strapped to a gurney — infuses “Hannibal” with a certain cable-style chic. Nevertheless, having already earned one stay of execution, prolonging this sort of exercise for too long risks overstaying its welcome; indeed, Fuller has bucked the odds by wringing this much mileage out of the Graham-Lecter cat-and-mouse game.

Seemingly recognizing those limitations, “Hannibal” promises to turn its attention toward another serial killer during the second half of the season – one who slays entire families, no less – but even that riff feels pretty worn out. And as meticulous as the series is, its well-mannered namesake would likely agree that when the host has to resort to spinning plates to keep his guests entertained, the party, no matter how well catered, is probably just about over.

TV Review: 'Hannibal,' Season 3

(Series; NBC, Thurs. June 4, 10 p.m.)


Filmed in Toronto and Europe by Living Dead Guy, Dino De Laurentiis Co. and Gaumont Intl. Television.


Executive producers, Bryan Fuller, Martha De Laurentiis, Steve Lightfoot, Katie O’Connell Marsh, Elisa Todd Ellis, Christophe Riandee, Sidonie Dumas; co-executive producers, Jeff Vlaming, Sean Ryerson; producer, Angelina Burnett; director, Vincenzo Natali; writers, Fuller, Lightfood; camera, James Hawkinson; production designers, Rory Cheyne, Matthew Davies; music, Brian Reitzell; casting, Robin Cook. 60 MIN.


Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Gillian Anderson, Laurence Fishburne

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 19

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. suzcollins says:

    Hannibal is a skillful combination of art, horror, dance, and romance. To say the show is almost “done” when the new season has just started to reveal Hannibal is prosaic at best. If you don’t get it don’t write about it.

  2. Michelle says:

    I see no “plates spinning” here. This show is isn’t pandering to anyone so you label it as worn out? I would consider your assessment incredibly rude, and I’m sure that Hannibal would as well. There is much to tell in this story.

  3. Jason says:

    How is being a critique a profession if everyone views what they see differently? It’s all perspectives, fuck reviews. That’s for the brainless people who don’t know their hand from their ass. Variety sucks just like the majority of reviews, it’s political bullshit. Appearance based diluted images to make a writer look good because something is so appalling. Hollywood Sellouts. There’s a lot of them. Why rant? Cause critiques feel so powerful behind their words, why the need for power behind what creative minds put out. Your writing about what you view, not all the hard work and dedication it takes to make that come to life.

  4. stevenkovacs says:

    I’m a proud loyalist of ‘Hannibal’!

  5. Derek says:

    Brian Lowry, where have I heard that name before?? Oh yeah, you are that hack writer that was giving the same back handed compliments to Person of Interests finale this year. I completely understand your writing style after reading this similar terrible review. You seem to not like great TV. I have had the fortunate thrill of seeing the first 3 episodes of this season, and I thought it was better than the first 2 great seasons. Can’t wait to watch this season, and now I know that if Brian Lowry is reviewing an episode, Variety will not get my click.

  6. C.C. says:

    Lately, it has become all too easy to identify reviewers who obviously write reviews having not done their job. Oh, I’m sure Lowry has seen a few episodes- But then extrapolates on that, and pretends he knows the canon and the arc. Do your job. For crying out loud- you get to watch TV for a living(for now), is it too much to ask that you actually do that job? Reading your review was like watching a child trying to lie about doing their homework. I’m a grown adult. It is really easy to spot people who are lying. Actually, don’t do your jib- because you probably have it in for this show anyway beacuse it is not in vogue like horrible PC garbage like GIRLS or OISTNB. And lord knows you can’t be seen as uncool with your reviewer clique.

  7. DocDNoble says:

    I must have been reading a different review compared to everyone else here. I didn’t feel Lowry’s review was backhanded, satirical or in anyway hates the show. I think he represents an accurate view of someone who might watch casually or is new to the series, or just someone who doesn’t live/breathe fandom life. I admit I only started watching Hannibal this year, (yes I have gone back to the beginning and watched from ep 1 and watched several episodes a few times to catch little things I missed. It is undoubtedly a tv cinematographers wet dream to be able to luxuriate in the depths of the scene like is done with this show. It is beautifully shot, although gore is to be expected with a show featuring a serial killer or 3 sometimes in it’s quest to be artful it get’s comically overdone.

    While Mads Mikkelsen is one of the most engaging, mesmerizing actors, it’s not a stretch to say that some of the supporting characters are not of the same quality. Gillian Anderson is extremely under-utilized but she is also splitting her time among a number of series including The Fall, and understandably cannot commit as much time as her character deserves.

    Lowry’s point about the show’s longevity is a real one. Currently it is not high on the ratings list, although everyone would agree that has less to do with the show and more on the US penchant for idiotic reality shows, unfunny, un-original comedies and shock-factor drama. More people are tuning into Netflix/HBO/Showtime etc. I think it would actually be a blessing for the network to axe Hannibal so it can be picked up by HULU or Netflix who could then devote proper attention to it and allow it to go even deeper and slow down the storyline even more.

    The fact is, this show will never, and was never made to appeal to the casual tv viewer that recoils over a Law & Order episode. That’s what will end up killing it with the network, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Rebirth is the name of the game.

    • giantslor says:

      Lowry isn’t new to the series, he’s been reviewing it from the start. Problem is, while most critics agree that the show has gotten better as it’s become less conventional, Lowry thinks it’s getting worse. I don’t read critics to hear the opinions of the unwashed masses, I read them to hear the opinions of connoisseurs.

      As for Hannibal’s ratings, I’d prefer they be high, but ultimately I don’t care what they are as long as I get to keep seeing Hannibal. Right now Hannibal’s international funding, intense fandom, critical acclaim and NBC’s desire to have a prestige series are keeping it on the air here. If that becomes insufficient, I’m confident a cable or streaming outlet will pick it up. Hannibal’s ratings wouldn’t be considered bad on cable — compare its first and second season viewership averages of 2.90 and 2.54 million, respectively, to the ballyhooed True Detective’s average viewership of 2.33 million. Cable’s imprimatur would probably even boost Hannibal’s numbers as more discriminating viewers tuned in.

  8. Matrices says:

    Hannibal fanbase.. please grow up.

    • Wrong addressee, Matrices. People wouldn’t object to a competent review.

    • DocDNoble says:

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion, what some see as brilliant, others see as – meh. Critics love Two Broke Girls and OITNB – i’d rather have multiple, concurrent root canals with no anesthetic than have to sit through such cliched, stereotypical shite. The fandom-esque worship in the comments makes it sound like unless you are literally licking the blood off of your screen in glee, your opinion is nothing. Add Glee to the other two shows I would gladly step in front of a train to miss.

  9. Leigh says:

    So, regardless of how good the show is, Mr. Lowry has dug his trench and is hating it in spite of himself. He couldn’t like it now even if he wanted to. Besides, he’ll prove us “maniacal” fans wrong yet. Just wait, I’m sure he thinks to himself, I’ll be shown correct! This show will be cancelled any day now! Those morons will see! Well, it is now going to have a complete third season, Brian. We win, you lose.

    And by the way, just checked Rotten Tomatoes. This season has a rating of 100% so far and over at Metacritic it is 90%.

    Come on, Mr. Lowry, come to the darkside. You know you want to. Like the show! Quit all this cutting off your nose despite your face (even though I think Hannibal would rather enjoy that).

    • stilesroad says:

      The phrase is “cutting off one’s nose to SPITE one’s face…” (I do not intend to piss you off. I love the English language and I hope you read this in the same spirit as it is intended – I liked your opinion!)

  10. bhammel103 says:

    Wow. So many back-handed comments in this review.

  11. Mowbray says:

    Quite apart from how misguided and, frankly, embarassing this review is (hey, “Variety”, was Mr Lowry actually forced to watch Hannibal? Did you encourage him to share his ignorance of the franchise with us? That would explain a lot…), I wonder whether the reviewer is capable of not being a douche when discussing X-Files actors’ projects.

  12. richard says:

    Reviewers certainly work hard in their race to see who’s dumber, but with this new pearl Mr.Lowry clearly puts himself ahead of the game. It would be hard to find a more obtuse, half-witted and downright stupid commentary about such a great show. This is clearly why some people write great TV series and some write pathetic reviews in a rag. To each his own.

  13. giantslor says:

    Wow. I’ll be sure to remember the name Brian Lowry as someone with horrible taste, to be avoided at all costs. Hannibal would eat him for sure.

    • giantslor says:

      I just googled this guy and discovered he hated last season’s finale, Mizumono. Now I know for sure that Lowry is a simpleton with zero taste.

  14. Goodbyenoway says:

    This is easily the best show on the Big 3 networks which serve up pulp procedurals and unfunny comedies. No surprise that Lowry doesn’t get that. I look forward to the new season.

More TV News from Variety