Hannibal

September 24, 2013

Simplistic TV: The Blacklist: Premiere Episode

FILLING

There were two shows I’d been pining to see all summer.  One stars a resurrected S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent.  The other stars Alan F%*KING Shore.  After watching the premiere of the latter, all I can say is this.  Not since Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 has there been a television show that is as pulpy, intense, humorously ridiculous, and just plain fun as NBC’s The Blacklist.  A show centered around a character larger than life.  Larger than the show he’s on.  A character that rights the ship no matter how bonkers or predictable the situation may be.  That was Kiefer Sutherland.  That was 24.  That is now James Spader.  That is now The Blacklist.  A show that is FILLING that hole in your heart that you don’t like to admit you have.  The hole that enjoys the hell out of a show that wants to be fun.

Understand that 24 was a television event when it premiered back in 2001.  It was a show primarily based on a gimmick.  Twenty-four episodes a season, for one hour, played in real time, all equaling one day.  People watched in droves because the concept hadn’t been done before.  However, something changed after season 3.  Oh, the show kept its format.  However, people stopped flocking to watch it for the concept alone.  They flocked to it because of the craziness.  They flocked to it to see how the show would push the envelop that week.  They flocked to it to see what insane thing Jack Bauer would do to someone next.  The show became a guilty pleasure that people weren’t that guilty about.  The Joe Carnahan directed pilot for The Blacklist is eerily reminiscent of the 24 I used to love.  You see all the punches coming, but are still giddy when they land.  What surprises there are border on unrealistic, but you still gasp when they happen.  And OH BOY is there a character in it that chews up the scenery.  So, what’s it about already?

An infamous American traitor, missing for decades, shows up one day at FBI headquarters and turns himself in.  He offers the government a list of dangerous terrorists plotting against the country.  His only request is that he’ll spill what he knows to a rookie FBI profiler.   Not as experimental a concept as 24.  However, I think the series producers understand what they want to be.  They want to be that 4th season of 24 right out the gate.  They understand that what made 24 great was the outrageous situations and the crazy plot twists and of course the larger than life character.

To be honest, this review was essentially a test to see how long I could go without gushing over the sardonic brilliance of James Spader.  He is such a great choice for this character.  Raymond Reddington is essentially the bizarro Jack Bauer.  A man who talks when he should act and acts when he should talk.  A man always two steps ahead of every situation.  A man, I’m not afraid to say, plays the Hannibal Lecter role better than the man playing the Hannibal Lecter role on fellow NBC show Hannibal.  If there was one reason and one reason only to watch The Blacklist, James Spader’s performance is that reason.  You can just see the potential for great stuff to come with him.  Lets hope writer Jon Bokenkamp can give him as good of material as David E. Kelly did.  Because this show will go as far as Spader’s character takes it.  Relative newcomer Megan Boone is fine in the role of FBI profiler Elizabeth Keene.  What you hope for, chemistry-wise, is if she can hold her own well enough with Spader.  The man does have the potential to act you right off the screen.  Boone has her moments and will hopefully gain more strength as the show goes on.  I’d say something about Henry Lennix, but he is essentially playing the same role he plays in every single thing he’s in.  “Bland Man In Charge.”  Diego Klattenhoff is a bit of a cold fish as well, but who cares?  It’s Spader’s show.

Blacklist is a show that FILLS the void left by shows like 24 and Alias.  Shows that are aware of their flaws, but use them in a way that somehow amplifies their fun.  It is a void that needed to be filled and that networks have been trying to fill for years now.  Don’t believe me?  Fox is already trying to bring back 24 one last time after their movie plans for the show went belly up.  Until that day, The Blacklist will serve as a more than adequate placeholder.  Slap on a fedora…stay away from ballpoint pens…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

April 8, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Final Four Results: BAD

HANNIBAL LECTER (1) WINNER

BEN LINUS (2)


Ben Linus seems to always hide his motives through politeness.  Something that could keep Doctor Lecter at bay for a while.  However, Ben’s massive inferiority complex is a glaring weakness that Hannibal could exploit and turn on him.

April 5, 2013

Simplistic TV: Hannibal, Season One Premier

Hannibal – Mulligan

When trying to adapt a specific character from another medium, say literature or film, to television, its always a tricky proposition.  Since the character is already established in said mediums you have to know the audience that already recognizes the character and make them believe the transition is seamless, while still exposing the character to a new market, fans, critics, etc.  One of the most recognizable characters in modern crime novels is Hannibal Lecter; the psychiatrist/cannibal that haunted our dreams through the words of Thomas Harris.  Even if you’re a “lament” you’ve heard of Lecter in some way, shape, or form.  Now we get to see Dr. Lecter on the small screen as he assists criminal profiler, Will Graham, from the novel “Red Dragon” to try and track down serial killers.  While the premiere episode of “Hannibal” was bumpy, at best, I’ll still give it a mulligan for what its trying to accomplish, at least for a few more episodes.

If you’ve seen, or read, “Red Dragon” or “Silence of the Lambs,” you pretty much know the deal.  There is a killer on the loose, in this case a killer impaling young girls on antlers, and on occasion one or more of their organs missing (see where I’m going with this).  Will Graham is on the case, commissioned by Special Agent Jack Crawford, played by Laurence Fishburne, to find the killer.  Crawford brings in another consultant, Hannibal Lecter, a respected psychiatrist from the Baltimore-area.  Graham and Lecter seem an unlikely duo at first with each one trying to outwit the other, but Lecter sense a kindred spirit in Graham with his ability to empathize with the killers he hunts.

Despite my misgivings about this show, the more I think about it, the more I want to see where it goes.  You know the end of the journey for both Will and Hannibal, but now its the journey of how they both got there.  It’s the cat-and-mouse game that will guide the show onward, which isn’t that bad when you think about it.  With so much fervor on origin stories about mythological characters (just look at every Marvel Studios Phase 1 film) “Hannibal” has a chance to succeed with an audience that wants to know; Why? and How?

While I’ve talked myself off the ledge about the storyline of “Hannibal” my main concern is the casting; namely Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter.  For starters, I like Mads, I think he is a solid actor who knows how to play a villain and steal scenes on occasion.  But I just feel that he is wrong as Lecter.  For starters, he LOOKS like a killer.  The thing about Anthony Hopkins playing Lecter, or even Brian Cox for that matter, was that he didn’t look the part of a psychopathic, narcissistic, cannibal.  He was a posh doctor with a penchant for opera, fine dining, and drawing.  Hopkins was the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Mikkelsen, on the other hand, is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. If I saw him walking down the street I would run the other way because I knew I was only a remark away from being served with a nice Chianti.  I also found myself struggling to understand Lecter when he spoke.  Since Mads has a pretty thick Danish accent, not all the dialogue came through clearly which isn’t great when you are trying to hang on to everything Lecter is saying to get deeper into his character and motives.

With that being said, I don’t blame the casting either.  If the creators are basing this version of Lecter on the novel “Hannibal Rising” it makes sense.  Lecter, by birth, was Eastern European, not British as some of us might assume.  While aristocratic, Eastern Europe, namely Lithuania, is vastly different than the British Isles.  Can Mikkelsen outshine Hopkins as a Hannibal Lecter for a new generation?  Well, we’ll have to see about that.

From a literary standpoint, the show sticks pretty close to the source material of “Red Dragon,”  which is good  in my opinion.  It sheds more light on Will Graham and his special gift for empathy, but it comes off as kind of a second rate Sherlock Holmes, more so the Benedict Cumberbatch version than the Robert Downey Jr. version.

Bottom line, I’m giving this show a mulligan.  I can’t judge a show that I have reasonably high hopes for by just one episode.  Sure, there are kinks to work out, and the show suffers from “a style over substance” problem, and if another network had the rights to Harris’ work, namely an FX or dare I say, HBO, maybe the show could push the envelope a bit more, but that’s not really the issue.  I think the biggest thing people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around are the casting choices and the overall mood.  We fear change, and we’ve been spoiled by the Hopkins’ Lecter for over 20 years so when this new, “exotic” Lecter comes along our first inclination is to bash him, and I fully understand why, but before we jump to conclusions, divorce yourself from preconceived notions of who Lecter was, and let this new incarnation do it’s own thing.

Fun Fact:  H.H. Holmes, who lived from 1861 to 1896, has been given “credit” as one of the first known American serial killers.  His crimes were an inspiration for the book, “The Devil in the White City.”

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