It’s taken me a while to collect my thoughts on the pilot of Hannibal, a show that’s simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. On its surface it’s of a piece of many other shows – it’s an investigative procedural (thankfully avoiding any fancy-schmancy forensic technology) and certainly concerns serial killers, like the critically-reviled The Following. Like Bates Motel, it’s a reboot of a successful horror film (series) set in the present day.
None of this is original or encouraging. But while I admit to having some trepidation about the “profiler getting into the mind of serial killers” trope, the pilot is wildly successful and feels like nothing else on television. It feels like a horror movie; many shows can adopt slasher trappings for five minutes, but Hannibal’s full hour is steeped in a sense of dread and unease, aided by a dissonant, eerie soundtrack.
Pilots – even good ones – are generally clunky by necessity, needing to introduce their characters and a tonne of exposition in little time. “Apéritif” has enough confidence in its audience (and, admittedly, characters that many are already familiar with from the films/books) to focus on mood rather elucidation. Personally, I’m happy to trade off confusion for a show this interesting.