"The story is compelling, and it cut off near the end of season one with a cliffhanger that was genuinely startling, not just for the speed with which it showed Will realizing that Hannibal was a devious killer (a twist most series would’ve saved for season two or three) but for the way it messed with our collective image of Lecter as the killer from The Silence of the Lambs, an incarcerated fiend dispensing bons mots to visiting FBI agents. In season one, Hannibal frames Will for murders that Hannibal himself committed or abetted, to the point of literally planting an incriminating ear inside Will’s alimentary canal; at the start of season two, Hannibal takes Will’s place as FBI profiler and occasionally visits him behind bars to ask for his “help” with ongoing cases, inquire about his well-being, and otherwise glean information that can permit him to sustain his deception.
Intriguing as these variations are, though, they’re not the source of Hannibal’s specialness; in fact, Fox’s much dumber and clumsier serial-killer drama The Following pulls off similarly “shocking” twists each and every week, in its determination to be Se7en meets 24, or some such thing. It’s a classic example of script-delivery TV, signaling every scare with a shrieking music cue, covering action and dialogue with multiple shaky cameras, and otherwise behaving as if horror’s only purpose is to set up sledgehammer-obvious scares. Hannibal, in contrast, approaches similar subject matter in a thoughtful way. It does not restrict itself to The Following’s tedious binary of “Something horrible is about to happen” and “Oh my God, that was horrible!” You could say it’s as close as a broadcast network has gotten to the personal artistry of the best premium-cable shows, if it weren’t bolder and more elegant than anything on pay cable right now, including HBO’s own serial-killer drama, True Detective."