Jack Crawford, head of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, seeks out special investigator Will Graham to help solve various murder cases across the Maryland area. Graham has a special ability to assume the point of view of a killer, as well as empathize with them. This ability, while it saves lives, has a haunting effect on Graham. In some cases, Graham's fearful mind can lead to distortion of reality. Jack assigns a psychiatrist to Will Graham to help him cope with the work he does.
The psychiatrist is Dr. Hannibal Lecter, known to his colleagues as a brilliant mind and praised doctor, but known to no one as The Chesapeake Ripper, the most wanted serial killer in recent years. As Jack, Will, and Hannibal develop a friendship, Hannibal uses his position to not only play dangerous games with the FBI, but break down Will's mental state. The question is... Why?
The series begins as a prequel to Red Dragon, along with a retelling of many elements of the Hannibal Lecter story.