Wednesday, 5 June 2013

HANNIBAL, 1.9 & 1.10 – 'Trou Normand' & 'Buffet Froid'

Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Below is a double-bill review covering the last few episodes of HANNIBAL, to prevent myself slipping too far behind NBC's broadcast. The low-rated but critically-adored crime drama was renewed last week, too, so I'm very pleased we'll be getting a second course...

written by Steve Lightfoot
directed by Guillermo Navarro

After a few weeks spent exploring the eponymous Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) returned to the spotlight in "Trou Normand"; an episode that also picked up the storyline with Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl). The case-of-the-week storyline was characteristically gruesome, with Graham helping Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) catch a killer who has exhumed his previous victims on a beach and assembled them into a morbid "totem pole" of limbs, heads and torsos. This show is so adept at creating striking, macabre visuals--never let it be said otherwise.

I also liked the theme of the episode being "legacy", once it became clear the serial killer, elderly Lawrence Wells (Lance Henriksen), had created this monument as part of a bizarre "retirement plan"--with a lovely twist that he'd unwittingly killed his own son, his true "legacy", in the process. A special mention must go to cult hero Lance Henriksen, who did so much with his one scene towards the end of the hour—and whose role in '90s crime thriller Millennium (itself inspired by Thomas Harris's novels) was nicely subverted from hunter to hunted.

While the episode's investigation into the totem was perfectly fine, it's natural that the serialised sub-plots felt more interesting. "Trou Normand" picked up the Abigail Hobbs storyline in fine style; particularly considering I was beginning to suspect it had been quietly retired. I should have known better. Nicholas Boyle, the young man Abigail killed in self-defence at her home, whose body was disposed of by the witnessing Lecter, had just been discovered (casting doubt on Lecter's skill as a master criminal, no?), and Crawford now suspects Abigail of murder. Graham also wasn't far behind in coming to believe Abigail has killed, while her accomplice Lecter was starting to doubt Abigail's ability to keep their little secret.

It all made for a tense and engrossing storyline, topped by fine performances by Kacey Rohl as the tortured Abigail—trying to avoid becoming part of her father's own story and legacy, which nicely echoed the A-story. I also continue to love the idea of Graham and Lecter as her "two fathers", fighting to protect her, eventually united in their decision to help keep Abigail safe from the authorities to protect her future.

Lecter's been playing mind-games with Graham all season, but now they're complicit in a major lie. Lecter's hand resting on Graham's shoulder in solidarity spoke volumes to me. The final shock, with Abigail admitting she helped her father kill girls, by befriending them and providing him with information to aide his efforts, also worked really well. I suspected as much very early in the season, but the writers did well to make that look like a dead-end... even during this episode, for awhile. And while you feel sympathy for Abigail because she feared for her own life, I'm not sure we can totally agree with Lecter's assessment that she's a "victim", because the flashback of Abigail performing her 'role' on a train didn't paint an fully innocent picture.

Overall, this was another highly entertaining and well-paced episode with great performances from Henriksen and Rohl. It also took Graham's descent into madness a step further, now he's started experiencing "missing time" whenever he uses his skills to examine a crime scene and get into the mind of a killer. It'll be fun to see exactly how far he'll crash, mentally, before people start to notice... and if Lecter will catch him on his way down, or take great pleasure in hastening the descent.

written by Andy Black, Chris Brancato & Bryan Fuller
directed by John Dahl

We kind of get our answer in "Buffet Froid", which better clarifies the situation with Will Graham's mental state and exactly what Lecter hopes to achieve by treating and befriending him. There were three writers behind this episode, and I always think that suggests some difficulties that required some extra help. It certainly felt that way, because I found "Buffet Froid" quite hard to settle into—perhaps because the episode was mirroring Graham's mental issues with that of this week's serial killer: a woman with Cotard's Syndrome, which makes it impossible for her to discern people's faces, and who wasn't entirely sure she's even alive.

It was a very odd episode, but also quite scary in places (such as the teaser with the first victim being killed while home alone), and I enjoyed the deeper insight into Will Graham's state of mind. He's on the verge of a complete breakdown (still experiencing 'missing time', often convinced he's a killer), and it was fascinating to see Lecter diagnose Graham's condition with the help of scientist friend Dr Sutcliffe (John Benjamin Hickey) and an MRI scan, only to keep that information a secret because a patient like Graham (suffering from advanced Encephalitis) is so fascinating to someone like Lecter.

"Buffer Froid" was ultimately a great deal more interesting when it examined Graham's neurological condition and Lecter's reaction to it, together with Crawford's increased awareness that Graham's work for the FBI might cost his sanity. I was less interested in the killer-of-the-week plot, mostly because it felt so bizarre and unlikely, although I enjoyed the idea of having a serial killer be mildly sympathetic because she's a victim of her own brain disorder. There were some incredibly spooky sequences and grotesque visuals, too, like the various 'extreme Glasgow smiles' Georgia Madchen (Ellen Muth) carves into her victim's faces. Oh, and was Dr Sutcliffe named after notorious real-life serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, aka the Yorkshire Ripper?

23 & 30 May 2013 / NBC