Enjoy New Show with Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti

Author Thomas Harris began his series on Lecter, or Hannibal the Cannibal, in 1981 with the novel “Red Dragon.” In “Red Dragon,” Hannibal is used as a consultant for the FBI, despite being imprisoned. This novel gives slight insight into the relationship between agent Will Graham and Lecter, who was caught by Graham only years before.

This pattern is repeated in the second book, “The Silence of the Lambs.” Lecter once again consults with the FBI, but only to utilize this connection to orchestrate his escape. This plot was made famous by the 1991 film “Red Dragon” and was used in the film “Manhunter,” directed by Michael Mann in 1986, as well as the 2002 version of “Red Dragon,” directed by Brett Ratner. Harris continued the series with “Hannibal” and “Hannibal Rising,” a prequel that discusses Lecter’s childhood.

With so many films and books available on the topic, it seems that adding a television show into the mix would just rehash old details, but NBC’s “Hannibal” looks into a timeline ignored by both mediums.

In the first episode, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is asked to come back to the FBI by Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishbourne) to assist in the hunt for a man who abducts women. The FBI is unable to ascertain what the man is doing with the bodies, but almost immediately Graham figures out that the man is eating them. The audience assumes that the criminal is Lecter, but they are dead wrong.

The show instead embarks on the journey of Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Graham becoming colleagues and friends who understand each other. However, Lecter is simultaneously manipulating and steering Graham away from the crimes that Lecter himself committed. Fans may be upset to see a new face portraying Lecter, but Anthony Hopkins was not the first actor to portray the role; Brian Cox played Lecter in “Manhunter” years before Hopkins.

The show has fantastic twists and turns that are not at all predictable. Unlike typical procedural dramas, there is an element of gore entwined with mystery that heightens the level of suspense even within the short one hour time period.

The story, as well as actors, may draw viewers in, but it is the direction and cinematography that will hook them. Bryan Fuller, who produced the visual masterpieces “Pushing Daisies” and “Dead Like Me” uses colors that are highly saturated, which creates a dreamlike experience that often works to confuse viewers as to what they are really seeing. In the second episode, there is a fantastic scene with a burial site involving an interconnecting web of mushrooms and fungi that will have even the most avid horror fans clenching their fists.

“Hannibal” airs on NBC Thursday at 10 p.m. and previous episodes are available on Hulu.