About the Show

Thomas Harris’s novel Red Dragon gets the prequel TV treatment viewers never knew they wanted, thanks to executive producer Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies). Criminal profiler extraordinaire Will Graham is pulled into Baltimore-based psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter’s orbit by FBI behavioral sciences head Jack Crawford to help solve some particularly ghastly cases. It sounds like well-trod ground, but Dancy’s and Mikkelsen’s electrifying performances, the gorgeous production values, and the stunning, dreamlike imagery elevate what could be just another serial killer-centric series to the most beautiful nightmare viewers have ever experienced.

Season 1

Former FBI special agent Will Graham is a superb profiler, but he sometimes gets a little too far inside his quarry’s head. He’s resigned to a life of teaching at Quantico, until Jack Crawford calls him in on a case that will be closely supervised by well-regarded psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (who also throws quite the elegant dinner party). They begin a hunt for the Minnesota Shrike, a budding serial killer and cannibal who preys on (who else?) young women and whose victims all look suspiciously like Abigail Hobbs. “Abigail is the thing that will truly break Will,” Fuller has hinted.

Season 2

Fuller and his team knew from Harris’s novel that Graham had been so shattered by the Minnesota Shrike that he’d spent time in an institution, but the author offered no other details. So Graham begins Season 2 as more or less a permanent “guest” of the unctuous Dr. Chilton at the Baltimore State Psychiatric Hospital for the Criminally Insane after being framed by Lecter for Hobbs’s murder and trying to free himself and capture Lecter. “Part of the fun for this season is seeing Will hit bottom and come up swinging,” Fuller has said. The path from an incarcerated Graham in the premiere to a thrilling melee at Chez Lecter in the finale is even darker and more twisted than audiences have come to expect from Fuller, the mind that served up a villain who uses human bodies as food for special mushrooms.

Best Episodes

Season 1, Episode 1: "Aperitif"
Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter's beautiful (though ultimately fraught) friendship begins.

Season 1, Episode 6: "Entree"
Eddie Izzard makes his first appearance as Dr. Abel Gideon, the man everyone believes to be the Chesapeake Ripper -- everyone except Graham.

Season 1, Episode 12: "Releves"
Graham contracts a horrifying case of encephalitis and starts losing vast tracts of time, though he does gain insight into just how involved Hobbs was in her father's crimes.

Season 2, Episode 1: "Kaiseki"
Graham spends his time awaiting trial for a crime he didn't commit by hatching various schemes to reveal to his former colleagues Hannibal's true nature.

Season 2, Episode 13: "Mizumono"
The reason for the Jack-Hannibal fight that began the season is revealed, and the resulting insanity is positively operatic.

Bits and Pieces

  • The episode titles from Season 1 are dishes from French cuisine. The titles for Season 2 are Japanese dishes. Season 3 will go Italian.
  • While Lecter is not serving man at every meal, Fuller has said that, if we see the good doctor preparing any type of organ meat, odds are it came from a person.
  • Fuller has explained the difference between Anthony Hopkins’s Southern-fried Lecter and Mikkelsen’s ultra-refined European thusly: “Hannibal Lecter, once fully exposed, has no reason to hide his brutality. That’s where Anthony Hopkins lived. With Mads, you’re seduced with this odd European dandy who’s idiosyncratic on one level but clearly appreciates the finer things in life and is meticulous in his own right, particularly in the kitchen. That’s very different from the man we’ve seen in the mask with the bars over his mouth.”
  • The psychic malady suffered by the woman in Season 1, Episode 10 (“Buffet Froid”) -- Cotard’s syndrome -- is a real, documented disorder in which patients believe themselves to be dead.
  • The flash-forward fight scene between Jack Crawford and Hannibal Lecter that begins Season 2 was a result of Laurence Fishburne’s jealousy. “Mads came up to me in the first season and was like, ‘I want to do a fight scene; I’m very good at them,’ ” Fuller has explained. “So we came up with the Tobias Budge story, and after we had that clash, Laurence came up and was like, ‘You know, I’m really good at fight scenes.’ So, OK, we need to have this clash of the titans, because if you have Laurence Fishburne and Mads Mikkelsen, who are both so well trained in various martial arts, you want to be able to spend that.”
  • Choreographer Busby Berkeley, whose dances often featured complex geometric patterns, inspired the human mural in the first two episodes of Season 2.