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Second season debut of NBC's 'Hannibal’ feasts on good ratings

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The NBC series “Hannibal” started its second season on Friday, February 28, and bested its ratings of not only its season finale last year but also the four episodes preceding it (http://bit.ly/1kl0EUQ). That bodes well for the thriller that New York magazine just exclaimed is the best drama on network television (http://nym.ag/1bVvDnr).

Of course, your Chicago Horror Examiner also picked it as 2013’s best in horror (http://exm.nr/1jVChgO) and if you are into the genre, you should be watching. There are few horror movies that can match the thrills and chills of this weekly series, even though there are mood killing commercial breaks on TV. No matter, this show sustains a constant sense of palpable dread throughout. It may be on network television, but the limitations of that platform never get in the way of its extraordinary storytelling.

And this new season started off with an extraordinary fight sequence, one as good as anything on the big screen. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) has discovered just how nefarious Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) truly is, and draws his gun. But before he can arrest him, Lecter fights back. The battle is vicious and messy, taking place in Lecter’s kitchen where he’s cooking. It involves knives, rags, pots and pans. And it looks like the two mature actors did most of the stunts themselves in their intense mano-a-mano.

The battle concludes with Crawford very possibly fatally injured. This show moves very fast like that, and yet it never feels rushed. The discovery by Crawford that Lecter is the true killer could have been held off for another season or two, and most show runners likely would have waited, but not Fuller. He pitched “Hannibal” with a five-year story arc, and clearly doesn’t plan on treading water during any of it. That’s just one of the things that makes this exceptional television.

At the end of that incredible opening, we flash back to “twelve weeks earlier”. There, we pick up where the show left off last season with sensitive FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) sitting in jail. Lecter has set him up for the ritualistic killings that the evil doctor himself committed. If you know your Lector lore, he’ll be the one incarcerated eventually, but right now, he’s got Graham doing the time for his crime (http://bit.ly/1d7M1Q1).

Graham knows he’s been set up and isn’t being quiet about it. In previews of the coming season, we see all of Graham’s colleagues starting to come around. Even Lecter’s psychiatrist (played by the coolly confident Gillian Anderson) seems to be turning against her star patient whose secrets she’s been harboring. It promises to be a rich season full of twists, turns and various betrayals.

The second story thread that propels the new season involves the hunt for a new serial killer who likes to varnish his deceased victims into an art collage he’s building in a grain elevator. His newest victim though, isn’t quite dead, and wakes to find himself glued to a hundred corpses. Its imagery like that gives this series its nightmarish power. Opening scene this year aside, it’s not a very violent show. Instead it dwells on the aftermath of killings and their assorted effects on those who discover them.

Lecter is filling in for Graham as the special profiler and next week promises that he and the FBI team will happen upon the grain elevator. Will Lecter be repulsed? Will he be envious? And will he be able to profile the killer’s motives as well as Graham? Those are just a few of the questions to be answered in the season ahead. And for horror fans, it will be a deliciously decadent 12 more weeks.

There’s such a TV renaissance these days, with so many series besting anything put up on the big screen. Current series like “True Detective”, “Mad Men”, “House of Cards”, “The Americans” and the departed “Breaking Bad” have given cinema drama more than a run for its money. And “Hannibal” is part of the new “Golden Age of TV’ as well (http://exm.nr/19uO7rE). It truly is gourmet horror, and it promises some delectable courses for the rest of this season.

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