With the debut of NBC’s “Hannibal,” one more serial killer is joining the ever-swelling ranks of the once-neglected character archetype on TV. Serial killers used to be restricted to cinematic thrillers and the last few minutes of the occasional “Law & Order.”
But increasingly, they’re everywhere and not just on cop shows. In fact, in one case, a serial killer is the cop.
Here are a few of the most notable killers to have graced the small screen in the past few years. Some have been caught, some have paid the ultimate price and others ... well, others are still out there. (Fox; FX; AMC)
Killer: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is a forensic psychiatrist who is also a killer.
Modus operandi: He eats his victims -- you know, fava beans, chianti, the whole bit.
Still at large? Yes, and watching him help the police while also killing people will be the great fun of the series. (NBC)
Killer: Billy Grimm, played by Robert Knepper, is the leader of the cult.
Modus operandi: So who is in the cult? They are rabid fans of a thriller TV show titled “The Cult,” who are inclined to re-create the crimes they see depicted on the show.
Still at large? Yes, but Matt Davis, pictured with Jessica Lucas, is an investigative journalist who is looking into his brother’s disappearance and finds out about other mysterious disappearances involving the cult. (Jack Rowand / The CW)
Killer: Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy, is an Edgar Allan Poe scholar who murdered girls in the poet’s honor -- until he was caught and imprisoned.
Modus operandi: Carroll once did his own Poe-inspired dirty work, but since being jailed, it appears he is using the Internet and social media to recruit followers who continue his bloody business.
Still at large? It remains to be seen whether Carroll will hatch a successful escape plan, but his cult-like followers are certainly at large. (Fox)
Killer: Jack the Ripper?
Modus operandi: Gutting with a knife is preferred, but the victims in London’s East End meet all sorts of ghastly demises.
Still at large? The real Jack the Ripper was never apprehended, and this series picks up six months after the killing of the Ripper’s supposed final victim. The police (played by Jerome Flynn, left and Matthew MacFadyen) suspect the Ripper may be back. (Jonathan Hession / BBC America)
Killer: The “Unsub,” or unknown subject, is tracked down by the FBI’s specialized team called the Behavior Analysis Unit, which uses behavioral science and technology to find the killer. Each episode of the CBS show is devoted to a different unsub.
Modus operandi: Hacking, slashing, slaying, shooting, eating. You name it, the BAU has seen it.
Still at large? Most episodes are settled by the BAU finding and locking up the unsub before s/he claims the next victim, but a few extra creepy unsubs have eluded even this task force. (CBS )
Killer: Dexter Morgan
Modus operandi: Dexter only kills people who have unjustifiably killed someone themselves, and he makes sure to prove their guilt beforehand.
Still at large? Yes, because he’s meticulous about covering his tracks. Incidentally, he always collects a blood sample from his victim’s cheek to make a blood slide. (Randy Tepper)
Killer: Bloody Face
Modus operandi: Killing his victims, skinning them from the feet up and wearing their faces as masks.
Still at large? While the original Bloody Face of the 1960s was eventually stopped, a new one popped up in the present day to continue the disgusting rampage of death. Bloody Face has also inspired many imitators, meaning that the mask and the name are more powerful than just one person. (FX)
Killer: Michael Raymond-James plays Drew Marshall, alias Rene Lenier, who sets out to kill vampires and fangbangers (humans who associate or sympathize with vampires) on “True Blood.”
Modus operandi: The man with a thick Cajun accent is quiet during his kills and usually strangles his victims with a belt. His main target is Sookie Stackhouse: he’s gone after her several times, her cat and her grandmother.
Still at large? Technically, no. Sookie Stackhouse and Sam Merlotte took Rene out when he came after her by ramming a shovel into the back of his neck. But the memory of Rene haunts his former fiance Arlene during her pregnancy with his unborn child in Season 3 and his ghost appears in Season 4 to warn Arlene that there’s more to her new beau Terry than meets the eye. (HBO)
Killer: The Carver
Modus operandi: Carved the victim’s cheeks down to the lip to resemble a smile, then raped and killed them.
Still at large? Surprisingly, yes. The Carver worked in tandem with his sister, and though he got shot and taken to the morgue, it was all a ruse. The Carver and sister lived to vacation (and kill) in Andalusia. (FX)
Killer: Gabriel Gray (played by Zachary Quinto) sheds his old identity and takes the name “Sylar” from a watch brand, as he was raised the son of a watchmaker.
Modus operandi: Sylar’s special power involves replicating the powers of other characters through contact with their brains, so his method of killing often involves beheading.
Still at large? After four seasons of flip-flopping between good and evil, and quite a body count, Sylar eventually mends his murdering ways... or so it seems. (Dean Hendler / NBC Universal)