Saturday, 13 April 2013

HANNIBAL, 1.2 - 'Amuse-Bouche'

Saturday, 13 April 2013

I thought Hannibal's pilot was terrific (one of the best I've seen in years), and I'm so relieved this second episode was almost as brilliant. In fact, aspects of it were indeed better. I had assumed Hannibal would operate as a case-of-the-week procedural, enlivened by the eponymous doctor's lurking presence and clandestine activities, but "Amuse-Bouche" suggested otherwise.

There was certainly a self-contained 'serial killer of the week' story with a satisfying end, but the repercussions of last week's episode also echoed through the story: the FBI are concerned about potential copycats of Garrett Jacob Hobbs, his comatose daughter might have been an accomplice, and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is struggling to deal with the trauma of having killed for the first time. And it's this that's raised Hannibal Lecter's (Mads Mikkelsen) interest in Will, as something of a kindred spirit in terms of pure intelligence and natural insight into human nature.

"Amuse-Bouche" certainly pushed boundaries when it comes to portraying grisly crime scenes on mainstream US television. The show continues to feel like a cable drama in tone and execution, but kudos to NBC for refusing to censor things. The ghastly imagery in Hannibal is exemplary, and this episode's frightful image of human forearms protruding from the ground of a forest (each with a hypodermic needle stuck into them, resembling macabre plants), was a real eye-opener...

That is preceded to get even more disgusting was quite a feat; once we learned the arms belonged to diabetic people who had been buried alive in shallow graves of compost, kept alive intravenously with sugar-water while comatose, and left to die from kidney failure as their bodies burst forth with mushrooms and fungi. I mean, YUCK. This show definitely isn't rounding the edges when it comes to maintaining the legacy of Thomas Harris's novels and their movie adaptations. It's as grim, nasty, fascinating and engrossing as any Hannibal Lecter aficionado could want.

But it's not just about the sick and twisted visuals. The performances continue to be great, and I really loved the introduction of ruthless reporter Freddie Lounds (Camelot's Lara Jean Chorostecki)--a character from Red Dragon/Manhunter, now gender-swapped to be female. The way she manipulated people to gain access to crime scenes was itself very entertaining to behold, and I liked how only Hannibal saw through her deceit.

The universe of Hannibal already feels very rich and exciting, and I'm relieved that Lecter himself isn't the driving force behind that. He's a great character, but this is more Will's story--of a man perhaps losing his mind, unwittingly being toyed with by his own shrink. He's already having bizarre dreams and hallucinations, so it'll be interesting to see just how fall Will sinks through this season--perhaps teased along into a nervous breakdown by Lecter, who appears to relish this connection to the FBI.

Overall, I'm so excited by this show now. Quite a few of my favourites have finished recently (Fringe, Being Human, Merlin, Spartacus), are due to end this year (Dexter, Misfits), or have started showing worrying signs of fatigue (Homeland), so I need a few shows like Hannibal to replace them. The fact ratings are only hovering around 4 million is a shame (although it's a relief the ratings held steady and didn't drop in week two), but perhaps it doesn't matter too much because Hannibal is co-financed by foreign companies. It's therefore not such a big financial commitment for NBC alone, so they may be happy with decent ratings in a tough Thursday night timeslot with critical acclaim and online buzz.

I certainly want to see Hannibal continue for the five years envisioned; especially as showrunner Bryan Fuller's confirmed a theoretical fourth season will tackle the famous "Red Dragon" storyline, and there are plans for FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling and the facially-disfigured Mason Verger (Lecter's only surviving victim) to be added to the mix.

written by Jim Danger Gray / directed by Michael Rymer / 11 April 2013 / NBC