This show has to have some of the most high-quality cinematography I've seen on network TV. It rivals Sherlock in terms of how it's shot. The people behind the show clearly put a lot of effort into making this show come to life. The show is loaded with symbolism, and it has lots of trippy imagery that really makes the show stand out from its competition.
One notable trait of this show is the "death tableaus". Most of the time, when a murder's discovered, the body is always presented in a macabre sort of display. From totem poles made of bodies, to human cellos, to a body arranged into a saber-toothed tiger. They're are gruesome, but as you continue to watch, much like Will Graham, it gets easier to look. Plus, there's almost a twisted, dark beauty to the arrangements. They get away with a lot on the show. Really pushing the boundaries of network TV.
That's another thing: the atmosphere. The show has this really fitting atmosphere. It's kind of this unsettling feeling, but it's not alienating. The world is dangerous, but inviting. A bit like the title character.
Oh, that reminds me:
ACTING AND CHARACTERS
The show has a bunch of really good actors. The main focus here has to go to the two lead actors: Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelson.
Dancy plays the tortured but gifted FBI consultant Will Graham. Will, as I mentioned in my brief review, is gifted with empathy. But as the show goes on, we learn how unstable he is. The first season is devoted to his downward spiral, due both to a medical condition and Hannibal's manipulations (which are further exposed through flashbacks in season 2). And Hugh Dancy plays it well. When he portrayed Will breaking down sobbing, begging Hannibal not to be lying, it honestly broke my heart. There's a reason one of the fandom's catchphrases is "somebody help Will Graham."
And in season two, he does an equally good job playing the dark side of Will. You can believe he's been pushed to do the questionable things he does (manipulate, murder, lie) in order to expose Hannibal.
Speaking of America's Favorite Psycho Psychiatrist, Mads Mikkelson plays him well, too. He makes the iconic role his own, and lives up to his well-known predecessor, Anthony Hopkins. He is able to be a despicable, intimidating human being, but at the same time cool, collected, and likeable. His Hannibal is like a Venus Flytrap: you're drawn in (like the characters), but he's deadly, and doesn't hesitate to remind us. But with how he portrays him, the audience is still able to come back to him, if that makes sense. Heck, the first time I think the fandom turned on him was after Will's aforementioned breakdown, and even then the fans eventually sort of got over it and accepted his being a terrible person.
Some notable notable actors and their roles on the show include: Gillian Anderson as Hannibal's mysterious psychiatrist, Bedelia DuMaurier. Raul Esparza as Dr. Frederick Chilton (who plays him as both an absolute scumbag in season one, but also enjoyably pathetic in season two). Lara Jean Chorostecki as Freddie Lounds, the online reporter I personally love to hate. Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford. Hettienne Park as the beloved Beverly Katz, as well as the other two forensics guys Jimmy Price and Brian Zeller (played by Scott Thompson and Aarom Abrams. And finally, Michael Pitt as Mason Verger. Dear God, Michael Pitt as Mason Verger.
Finally, there's the writing. Bryan Fuller, the man in charge. Has a clear vision of what he wants to do (having planned 7 seasons of the show). The writing is superb. I can not think of a single episode that didn't entertain me in some way. The story flows at a good pace, not dragging on, but not rushing either. And there never seems to be a useless episode either. Some people have mentioned the story takes some deviations from the books (which I have never read at the time of this editorial thing), but I'm fine with it. From what I do know, he does pay several homages to the original, as well. And I don't see anything wrong with his own interpretation. They are very clear on that. It's not like he's taking the story as is and butchering it, like several adaptions tend to do.
But the best part is that the show is very unpredictable. Just when you think you understand where it's going: BAM! Something happens that changes everything. A character you thought was safe gets killed, one you thought you could trust turns out to not be so trustworthy, and one you thought was dead was alive all along. And you can never be certain what's going on, who's manipulating who. The only certainty is that Hannibal is a cannibal and The Chesapeake Ripper. And I love it.
The show has also drawn actual reaction from me, too. From pleading for a character to turn around and leave before they get caught, to gasping at a character getting suddenly shot. The show gets more of a direct reaction out of me than "I liked this/didn't like this/was outraged by the writers doing this" than most of the shows I watch.
Plus, the show knows how to leave off on a cliffhanger better than other longer-running shows I watch. The first season ends with Will locked up in BSHCI after Hannibal frames him, and the second... GAH! I DON'T WANT TO SPOIL IT UNTIL I REVIEW SEASON 2! It's so good! It leave you begging for another helping just to figure out what's going to happen. I remember reading a joke saying that the reason they renew the show is that the higher-ups watch the finales and want to know what happens, too.
So that's my two cents on why Hannibal is such a good show. It's one of my favorite shows on TV right now. I highly recommend it, though the squeamish should tread carefully. It's truly a modern masterpiece, deserving of all the awards.