Saturday 22 June 2013

HANNIBAL, 1.13 – 'Savoureux'

Saturday 22 June 2013

written by Steve Lightfoot, Bryan Fuller & Scott Nimerfro | directed by David Slade

This excellent first season of Hannibal has been a mind-game between a 'man touched by God' and a 'man possessed by the Devil'. The finale "Savoureux" allowed unhinged profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and sociopath Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to continue their merry dance, and it managed to keep you on tenterhooks despite the fact nobody watching seriously expected Lecter to be unmasked and strapped to an upright gurney. The character's just too much fun in the outside world; which is actually very interesting, seeing as the preceding films struggled once Lecter achieved the same freedom.

I loved how "Savoureux" revealed just how trapped Graham has become thanks to Lecter's planning and manipulations. It was always going to be difficult for Graham to prove he isn't the 'copycat killer' who's been echoing various cases he's worked, and that his latest victim wasn't Abigail Hobbs (for the twisted reason of continuing her murderous father's work), but this finale made it almost impossible thanks to forensic evidence linking him directly to kills. I have to take my hat off to Bryan Fuller and his writing staff, who actually gave us a memorable scene early in the season of Lecter entering Will's house to feed his dogs and play with his fly-reel maker. I didn't give it much thought beyond signifying how much Graham trusts Lecter, so early in their relationship, but here it was revealed Lecter was framing Graham by planting human remains (hair, fingernails, tooth enamel) on his lures as "trophies". From the very start he was setting Will up for a fall, should the need arise to pin the copycat's kills on him. Very clever.

It really doesn't get much worse for poor Will Graham in this episode. His genuine mental health issues (the true diagnosis of which was hidden from him by Lecter) mean it's very hard to convince anyone he isn't "crazy" and guilty; even love interest Dr Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), who on a few occasions came close to realising Lecter could have framed Will while keeping vital information away from Jack Crawford's (Laurence Fishburne) attention.

And after Will came to the belated conclusion his own trusted psychiatrist is a monster hiding in plain sight (brilliantly symbolised by the 'Ravenstag' beast that's been a recurring dream image all season, now given half-human form), it was too late. Graham's credibility is irreparably damaged and his reputation tarnished, but it was great to have the season end with Graham deducing the truth about Lecter, which means the show has avoided making him look like an idiot for long than necessary.

The first season ends with a surprise revelation I really should have seen coming, too: Lecter's own psychiatrist, Dr Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), is aware her last remaining client's a serial killer, and even enjoys the meals he prepares knowing the "ingredients" he uses. How ghoulish to see them both having "veal" together; a meat Bedelia describes as "controversial" because of its young age, making us realise they're actually eating young Abigail Hobbs. Gross. It also takes Bedelia's character into an unexpected realm as Lecter's confidant and the friend he's been pining for all season. In retrospect, Anderson's unusual casting also makes more sense now, as Bedelia feels very much like a middle-aged Clarice Starling type... and, as you may know, Anderson's X Files character Dana Scully was partly inspired by Clarice. Two decades later, the actress is playing a forerunner to her most famous character's inspiration!

I also enjoyed the last scene, which presented us with a delicious reversal of Silence of the Lambs' villain/hero power dynamic. Here it's Will Graham who's been admitted to the Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane, being visited in one of its infamous cells by future patient Dr Lecter (set to the haunting music Vide Cor Meum used in the movie Hannibal). This suggests season 2 will flip Silence of the Lambs' set-up on its head, with Graham as the criminal profiler helping the FBI with tough cases. But does that mean a new character will be introduced to replace Graham out in the field? Does Graham's empathetic abilities even work in isolation? Will Dr Bloom expose Lecter and secure Graham's release, to her own personal cost? Regardless of how the writers will sustain next season before they'll simply have to cast doubt on Lecter's innocence, I was very satisfied by how this inaugural season played out.

Hannibal is the best new drama I've seen in quite sometime, and walked a difficult tightrope without falling off. Considering just how awful this show could have been (Hannibal Rising was a nadir I thought impossible for the franchise to escape), it's a miracle just how well it's bounced back. Hannibal is actually my favourite adaptation of Thomas Harris' work already; because it's done a much better job at explaining Lecter's personality and m.o, while making us understand Graham's unusual thought processes.

It's a great show, with some of the most impressive sound design I've ever heard on the small-screen (this episode utilised a 'whirring' noise that was genuinely unnerving), and one I'm going to miss until its return next year.

20 June 2013 / NBC