As the original loveable serial killer gets ready to pack up his kill bag for good and leave us, it seems like dozens are waiting to take his place. When Dexter began, the idea of a lead character being a murderer was radical and shocking. Now, you can’t move for them. The Following, Hannibal and Bates Motel all launched at round about the same time, with mixed success.
Hannibal, with its charismatic lead and disturbingly creative violence seems like the true successor to Dexter’s throne. But how do they compare? Can the young upstart really be treading on the toes of its Emmy-winning elder?
Both shows are based on books: Dexter on the series of novels by Jeff Lindsay, and Hannibal on the characters created by Thomas Harris, in particular the novel Red Dragon. The Dexter books went in a very different direction to the series, taking the supernatural into account and featuring Dexter training his step-children to be killers too (as you do). Harris’ books have the more respected pedigree, thanks largely to the various film adaptations – most notably The Silence of the Lambs. It’s a lot to live up to.
Hannibal gets away with a remarkable amount of brutality considering it’s produced by network channel NBC. But Dexter has the backing of Showtime, alongside stablemates Homeland, Weeds and Nurse Jackie. It’s fair to say the channel is something of an expert at off-beat dark drama.
Dexter’s showrunners are engaged in a constant game of musical chairs, with all its original showrunners gone by the end of series four (which, as you might expect, was also when the show’s decline in quality began). None of Dexter’s showrunners, new or old, can touch the pedigree of Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller, the man behind Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me. Sadly, he doesn’t have the best of luck when it comes to keeping his strange creations alive – hopefully Hannibal will last longer than his previous shows.
Michael C Hall has a well-deserved Golden Globe under his belt for his role as Dexter Morgan, as well as six Emmy nominations.
If Bryan Cranston hadn’t been so insanely good in Breaking Bad, then Hall would no doubt have taken a few home himself. Even when the overall quality of Dexter dipped, Hall has never been anything less than compelling, earning your fondness with some black comedy before reminding you of what an absolute psycho he really is.
His performance as a grieving Dexter in series five, dealing with emotions he didn’t think he was capable of feeling, was incredible. Who would have thought that prissy, uptight David Fisher from Six Feet Under would be such a good killer?
Hannibal has the benefit of former Bond villain Mads Mikkelson in some fabulously tailored suits as the cannibal in question. He is charisma personified, reining in his performance expertly, presenting you with a character that is almost impossible to read, a dangerous enigma at the heart of the show. All he needs to do to scare the shit out of viewers is to serve up a beautifully presented meal. Unfortunately, a strong accent and a shoddy sound balance renders him occasionally unintelligible.