[Review] - Hannibal, Season 2 Episode 1, "Kaiseki"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Season one of Hannibal was about establishing a new arrangement for these characters. The character of Hannibal Lecter had, in my opinion, had all the intrigue drained out of him through over use. Bryan Fuller proved me wrong, by creating a twisted reinterpretation of the sparse back story provided by Red Dragon. The series reintroduced us to the likes of Lecter and Will Graham, Jack Crawford and Dr. Chilton. And, despite the show's obvious self assurance, it was a tentative first season. It teased us at first, allowing us to acclimate to the new surroundings. It balanced the familiar with the extreme, comforted the viewer in convention, while also proudly being daring and original.

Season two isn't holding anything back. The last vestiges of conventionality are gone, allowing the show to explode with it's own violent, lingering, silent passion. This is a show that shouldn't be on network TV. Network TV doesn't deserve this show. This is madness, and it's delicious.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers whose inner voice sounds like Mads Mikkelsen too.


Those explosive opening moments said a lot about where this season is going, in one instance quite literally. The books established that Hannibal viciously mauled Will when the latter discovered the former's true identity, scarring him both physically and mentally. It appears, considering that Will determined Hannibal's' true nature at the end of last year, that the maiming has been transferred to Jack Crawford. By starting the second season with the panther-like attack, the series is making a statement: we aren't pulling any punches. There will be no watering down of the myth of Hannibal for the likes of the broadcast audience. There is no salvation for these characters. Everyone will come out of these version of events less than they went in, if they even survive at all. We have the next twelve weeks to watch as Lecter's manipulations fail, as his arrogance leads to his downfall, and as Graham's truth becomes accepted.

That scene, so precisely and diligently shot (why can't movies have fight scenes that beautifully choreographed?), also showed us the true Hannibal for the first time. We'd seen glimpses of Hannibal The Cannibal before but his true form, the version Will sees as the Wendigo, has always been hidden behind edits and shadow. We've seen the before and after of his hunts, but with the exception of Tobais' attack, we hadn't yet seen the predator hiding under the assortment of stylish suits. "Jack Crawford doesn't know what you're capable of," said Dr. Du Maurier. "Neither do you," said Hannibal, as much to us as to her. To see the facade of eloquence and etiquette drop and reveal the monster underneath is an important step for the audience. Starting now, we need to start falling out of love with Hannibal. Fuller described season one as the "bromance" and season two as the "break up." Now that we are aware of the callous, raw inhuman manipulation that Hannibal is willing to use on Will and the rest of them, we also had to see the claws. Knowing what came before, and what comes next, we can see him in the present for what he truly is.

Last season, I was convinced that Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) would eventually meet a messy end at the hand of Lecter (considering that her male, literary counterpart gets little more than a passing and passive mention in the book). Now, I'm beginning to wonder if she won't replace Molly, his wife in the book. Last season they played with the romantic connection between both her and Will, and her and Hannibal. This season, she appears to have accepted that Will is guilty, but remains his only champion. She alone is willing hope that there is a reason why Will did what he did, that he isn't a psychopath but was momentarily deranged. When he is ultimately vindicated, I can't imagine he will be that accepting of all the rest of his colleagues so easily believing that he was capable of such evil. And the dogs seem to like her, so that bodes well.

As for Will himself, he is blinding himself by his obsession of proving Hannibal's guilt. As Alana states, he's more concerned with that than proving his own innocence. From the outside, it's not hard to agree with Jack or Beverly's positions, because Will is not helping his case by making caging remarks regarding his own repressed memories, or sitting in (the really visually interesting) interview cages while refusing to respond to Chilton's investigations. This benefits Hannibal, but only for so long. We haven't seen Will operate at 100% capacity since the series started, so it will be interesting to see how his confined role evolves this season, as he puts his reputed powers to use against Lecter. Jack at least seems open (more accurately, hopeful) to the possibility of Will's innocence, but the evidence only proves his guilt. Last season, Will was the broken man. This year, it seems that role will fall to Jack.

Food is the chief weapon in the storytelling arsenal of this show, and meals are times when serious matters are brought up. At first, I noted the difference between Jack's immersion and praise of his meal, compared to Chilton's passive and brisk noting of his own. And the way Hannibal reacted to both. But then I realized that Hannibal sets his table in particular ways. With Chilton and with Will, Hannibal always sits to the right side of the screen. With Jack and Alana, he sits to the left. Now, aside from the obvious historical connection with left being evil, I'm not comfortable analysis that seating just yet. But on a show as intricately planned and delicately shot, every visual choice means something. Now I have to figure out what.

A moment should be taken to appreciate the scenes that Mikkelsen shared with Gillian Anderson. The silence, the expression in such little movement, the tension. It was all so wonderful. Anderson's character seems so close to a breaking point, having transitioned from a stately woman of stoic elegance into more of a terrified hostage, desperate not to set her captive off. And Mads has perfected his unshowing grin, the permanent smirk of "I'm better than you" that is on display while never showing a twitch. And I'm still in awe of that swatch of hair that kind of dangles out in front.

Elsewhere, the show shirked off the last remains of it's procedural cocoon, abandoning the case of the week format that had become tired and forced by mid season last year. This time, they've opted to go with a longer arc, introducing someone quite insane, capturing people and freezing them in place, making a human colour wheel. Now that the show has a foundation of excellence, and can start building a deeper mythology, they can really start to focus on the other elements of the Lecter universe. Hannibal has connections to many other killers, and Francis Dolarhyde is out there, somewhere. While this preservationist doesn't match Dolarhyde's MO, it is nice to see that Fuller and his writers are building a larger world. Because that means that later on, they can bring it down on everyone's heads.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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