Why Hannibal is Killing The Following Already

Mads-Mikkelsen-in-Hannibal-Aperitif

This is a tale of two serial killer dramas, two of many it seems, with the concept being all the rage right now. Yes, Dexter exists on Showtime and Bates Motel is on A&E, but Hannibal and The Following are the two butting heads as both exist on big networks, NBC and Fox, respectively.

While Hannibal has only aired its pilot with a second episode coming tonight, The Following has now put out a dozen, I believe. It may not be fair to judge both shows equally, but Hannibal has made one hell of a first impression, while The Following failed to hold my attention past episode eight or nine.

It’s something that can be hard to put into words sometimes, how you distinguish a show that’s great and one that’s merely watchable. It’s like trying to find that X-factor that made Lost a huge success, but every show that attempted to emulate it afterward a failure.

I’ve watched the Hannibal pilot twice now, and it really does much to set itself apart from The Following. Some of the biggest differences come when comparing and contrasting the pair of the lead and the villain.

Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy in The Following

The Following has Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent attempting to coral James Purefoy’s Joe Carol, a serial killer back on the hunt with the aid of a newfound cult devoted to his “cause.” Bacon’s Ryan Hardy has a heart problem and combats alcoholism as well. He’s a tough guy, but these things are supposed to make him vulnerable enough so that the audience fears for his safety.

Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham is a different animal. He’s an FBI consultant with borderline autism, and has the ability to empathize with anyone to an extreme degree. This makes him socially uncomfortable in nearly all circumstances, but also allows him to get inside the mind of a killer the way most profilers and psychologists cannot.

Hardy is just not that interesting. Over the course of the season so far, we’ve learned there really isn’t all that much of a backstory to him. Yes, he was in love with Carol’s wife, but if that’s the most interesting thing in his past, it’s not much to go on. Graham on the other hand looks to be an incredibly complex character with non-traditional problems. Do we really need another alcoholic ex-cop as the star of the show?

And then there’s the villains, where the gulf grows ever wide. Joe Carol is simply not as cunning or suave a villain as the show makes him out to be. Yes, he’s charming and smiles when he’s saying very nasty things, but there’s nothing I’ve seen that explains how he’s managed to attract such a devoted following of complete strangers brainwashed to kill for him.

hannibal

Hannibal Lecter on the other hand is a different sort of animal, so to speak. Perhaps it’s cheating because we have so much backstory (and uh, futurestory) to go off of with him across the books and movies, but Mads Mikkelsen is bringing a new dimension to the character we’ve never seen before. It may take you a few minutes to adjust to his accent, but once you do, you’ll find he’s a downright bonechilling character. The fact that he’s not yet the villain and is just partnered with Graham at the moment is a more interesting dynamic than the Hardy/Carol cat and mouse game.

It’s perhaps too early to comment on the specifics of the overarching plot of each show, as with one episode, there isn’t much to go on with Hannibal. I’m guessing it will be quasi-procedural with Hannibal’s sins slowly being revealed over time. But with The Following? The cult idea has been dramatically over used to the point where every single episode is a game of “guess who the traitor is.” Fool me once, fine, twice okay, but EVERY week? It gets tiresome quickly, as does Joe’s “Master Plan” which as of yet hasn’t produced plot turns that are all that interesting.

The style of the shows are very disparate however, seeing as how The Following simply doesn’t have a style. It looks like nearly every other police/investigation show out there, and the overuse of Poe imagery doesn’t make it any more profound or creepy.

But Hannibal? Will Graham’s in-head reenactments of crime are something to behold as he wipes away the murder piece by piece and runs through the events himself. The show is dark, somber and feels like it’s something we’d see on AMC or HBO, not NBC. But The Following absolutely feels like a network drama. Both shows are equally violent perhaps, but it’s not violence alone that properly conveys the mood of a show.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where Hannibal goes from here, and hopefully even though it’s not a reality show, NBC will keep it alive even if ratings aren’t phenomenal. But I know I’ll be watching this week when I wasn’t last week, and perhaps the same will be true of others.

 

Paul Tassi is the Managing Editor of TVovermind and also manages the website Unrealitymag.com. He's contributed to major publications such as Forbes as well as BC Media Group properties.
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  • Chantal

    Hannibal over The Following anytime. The Following is a show I watch while there is no show like Hannibal on tv. Hannibal is all about psychological content why, how, what pushes you to do the things you do, what do you do when you can’t stop (either being empathetic or killing). The Following on the contrary is a gimmick-y Poe story, I have no idea why and how the characters (criminals included) experience life, how they deal with their inner struggles and what they long for.
    I hope we get to see character development for the main characters in Hannibal,Will Graham will have to be shown as more than a freaked out guy with too much empathy, but it sounds like the show is capable of doing that.

  • Tiffany

    If you watch the following then you understand now why hardy is like he is it’s because he killed his fathers killer when he was 17. It’s not like it’s all happening over the 3 months it’s been on, it’s only been in there time maybe a couple weeks and with flashbacks and more flashbacks it shows how it’s been planned. Hannibal maybe a good show but the following is just as good and to me better actors. I like both and giving Hannibal a chance but being dvr cause scandal is just so good now and Hannibal is on NBC and shows aren’t going so well on NBC like deception even with probably one of the best cast on any show this year and will probably get canceled even though it was good and lots of people I’ve chatted with like it

  • cleveland

    The Following has a mainstream appeal to it. I agree it’s a right show for a network TV. Hannibal on the other hand many would consider boring for devoting to dealing with killer’s headspace.

  • Ugo Strange

    Well put Paul, well put. And I’ll agree 100% that I don’t see how Carol amassed a cult either but then again how did L. Ron Hubbard and Jim Jones and Charles Manson? The thing we have to remember is that Kevin Williamson said that The Following was created as a “24″ analogue, with Ryan Hardy as the show’s Jack Bauer. His words, not mine. Plus “The Following” isn’t about catching Carol or Ryan Hardy, it’s more about understanding what kind of people these people are. For my money the most interesting character on The Following is Jacob, since he doesn’t fit the standard profile of a killer.

    Hannibal on the other hand is a slow roast. We know how the story ends, we know what’s coming, so we’re watching a character unfold. The dynamic of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter makes the show SO MUCH more exciting. But there in lies the difference between the 2. The Following was created to be an action drama, Hannibal is a police procedural. This is sort of like comparing Weeds to Breaking Bad, similar premise but COMPLETELY different execution and focus. And comparing Hannibal to Dexter (despite them having a common producer) is even unfair because Dexter focuses on Dexter while Hannibal focuses more so on Will Graham and Hannibal is more or less a character that looms in the background like a bomb waiting to go off.

    But well done Paul. Well done indeed.

  • HatDude

    That’s BULL, The Following is awesome, Hannibal is a great character and I love him to death but damn his name is the title of the show and he is just a damn SIDE CHARACTER! It’s supposed to be about him not with him. The Following is more engaging, more action, Hannibal has some action and a lot of psychology going on which is crucial for that show but comparing it to The Following is a hands down fail. They’re both original but you cannot compare them, it’s wrong, I honestly think Hannibal wont get far which is sad, I think they need to redo the entire show from scratch or at least change the TITLE.