Hannibal Pilot: “Apértif”

Opening scene of Hannibal

I eagerly awaited Hannibal with the hopefulness of a child at Christmas. And did I get what I wanted? Let’s see…

Let me speak about the opening scene for a moment, if you will. The introduction to Will Graham, played brilliantly by Hugh Dancy, is an attention-grabber. We see a crime scene through his eyes, which aren’t your regular set of eyes. He’s able to go into a trance of sorts in order to recreate the crime, in a sequence that the director pulls off with stunning effect. My favorite bit was the reverse motion. We are given a glimpse of how Graham’s special ability works.

Readers of the books by Thomas Harris will know that Graham has empathy with the killers he studies, but Dancy’s acting takes it one step further by showing us just how intense, emotional, and believable it really is for him. As it turns out, Graham is on the Asperger’s and autism spectrum. This isn’t such a stretch for Dancy to play because he portrayed another man with this affliction in the independent film, Adam, back in 2009. Graham’s struggle with these feelings of empathy shows on Dancy’s face and are another testament to the bang-up job he is doing with this role.

Another thing I noticed was when Graham begins going into his not-so-happy place in order to see the crime, there are flashes of a thin, vertical light. It makes me think of a form of hypnotism and I wonder if it will be explained eventually.

Laurence Fishburne

Laurence Fishburne’s character, Dr. Jack Crawford, has an interesting relationship with Graham. There is a nice balance of respect and yet, on Crawford’s side, power that hides behind a thin veil, waiting to be provoked. At the same time it seems that Graham can be manipulated by Crawford to do as he pleases.

Crawford took a chance on taking Graham to the home of a missing girl knowing that he doesn’t socialize well. This showed me that Crawford values and trusts Graham’s ability to find the killer more than he is troubled by Graham’s quirks. This is driven home when Graham acts awkward by asking the clearly upset parents about the girl’s cat. But there is a purpose for this, and Crawford believes him when he says she was abducted from her home, making the necessary phone calls for help with the crime scene. Crawford’s sensitivity to Graham’s needs in this part make me like him a little more.

Will Graham and his adopted dogs

Another quick thought about Graham: does he “collect” dogs in order to fill the void that he has due to his inability to relate to humans on a social or emotional level? Dogs may provide him with what he is missing by way of human contact and love. It’s an endearing quality.

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal LecterIt’s twenty minutes before we see the series’ title character. With quite the buildup for Dr. Lecter, does he meet expectations? Well, I have to say it was an inspired choice to introduce him by showing him eating what just might be human meat, and savoring his gourmet cuisine. He chews each bite with care and tenderness, relishing the flavor and moment as we see in his contented face. Actor Mads Mikkelsen’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter is reminiscent of a James Bond villain. (And, folks, I typed this before I went back and looked up his resume only to see that Mikkelsen did indeed portray the villain in Casino Royale. Coincidence maybe, but still I feel a little mystical right now. Let me have my moment.) Anthony Hopkins’s Lecter was more cold, more smooth, and at times, sultry, but he also possessed some wicked madman eyes. Can Mikkelsen pull all of this off? We’ll have to wait and see.

Another thought I had was that all of the missing girls bore a resemblance to Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas). I’m wondering if she’s not Lecter’s golden ticket that Graham referred to in the beginning of the episode.

Lecter nails Graham in his quick and not so sneaky profiling. There is quickly a type of camaraderie between them, mostly on Lecter’s part. I believe Lecter’s psychiatrist side finds Graham interesting. In the scene in which they are eating breakfast together, there is an intriguing play on the lighting. Graham is wearing a white shirt, and the sunlight streaming through the crack in the curtain is reflecting off him, leaving him bathed in a bright glow, while Lecter is shrouded in a shadow with darkness licking at his silhouette. The white shirt and light around Graham could be symbolic of good and Lecter’s darkness could be pointing to evil. During their conversation, Lecter gives Graham an analogy of himself involving a mongoose and snakes. It sounds like Lecter thinks Graham is stronger than he knows, being the mongoose that is hiding from the snakes when in reality he could kill the snakes if he wanted to.

Hugh Darcy as Will Graham

So, back to the start where I wondered if the show would meet my expectations. All in all I enjoyed the episode very much. The small quibbles I had with Lecter’s character and a few plot questions weren’t enough to trump the stylistic quality and Dancy’s Graham. The twist ending left me with a few questions that I hope are answered in the next episode.

For the next few episodes, check back in with Criminal Element's Hannibal coverage immediately after the show…I’ll be back with my thoughts before the final commercial break!

What did you think about the first episode?

Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on her Amazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter at @akeller9.

Read all posts by Amber Keller for Criminal Element.


  1. Clare 2e

    Very interesting thought about Dr. Bloom! Happy now to be able to talk about the menagerie- definitely a contact point without hunsn complications. Who takes care of them when Will travels? (picayune, but they imply there must be someone else he trusts! I, too, am waiting to make the call on Mads.

  2. Donna L Dale

    I’d watch Mads in anything. The body of his work is impressive, including two Academy Award nominated films. An elegant, interesting actor whose cheekbones alone deserve attention.

  3. Galdrin

    I wondered if … there was a scene of Dr. Lecter cooking up some meat, then we see Will being awakened by the doctor, and served him breakfast … I wonder if Will knew what he was eating.

  4. Mary Saputo

    I likened Will’s trance(s) Amber, more to a seizure. And as far as Dr. Lecter serving Will breakfast, it “seems” to me that Will shoved aside the small pieces of sausage (fingers?) and ate just the eggs. I also have to say I enjoyed Laurence Fishburn more in this show than in others. But Dr. Lecter? I had a hard time understanding him. And one more point; you know when Will was starting to go into his trance when he was in the girl’s bedroom and all of a sudden this other woman (cop – techie -whatever) started talking and jolted him back to the present? Didn’t you just want to shoot her – or at least just shut her up?

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