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Hannibal – TV review (S1E2, Amuse Bouche)

This is the second in my set of reviews of series 1 of Hannibal. The writer’s walkthrough for the AV Club is here, and the AV Club’s own review here.

My review of episode 1 was quite long, and it focused on the characterisation of Will and Hannibal. Going through the rest of the episodes, I’m interested in how the characters and action differ from and/or resemble the novels (Fuller describes himself as a “fanboy”, so we know we’re in safe hands!).

As always, there are spoilers for the whole series beneath the fold, so please proceed with caution.

In brief: visually arresting and with a plausible relationship developing between Will and Hannibal, although the pacing is too compressed.


In terms of the series’ gorgeous visuals, the sight of a neat row of ‘planted’ humans being used to propagate mushrooms is pretty captivating. This is one of my favourite crimes of the series. Every time I watch the episode, I mutter at least once, “That is so cool!” (much to the dismay of my viewing companions). However, in terms of plotting, leaps have to be made in order to fit into the allotted time, such as the jump from the initial breakthrough that a medical professional might be involved to the FBI storming Stammets’ workplace, hastily explained by Jack Crawford on the move. This kind of pacing interrupts our enjoyment of the visuals and the character-growth by a very obvious disjunction, but I suspect is an inevitable result of the tension between the procedural and serialised aspects of the series.

This episodes hinges on the question of connections, with Will’s connection with the comatose Abigail, mirrored in the connection of Stammertz’s comatose victims with the mycelium he grows on them. While law enforcement intervene in the latter, Alana and Crawford intervene in the former; they police his connection with Abigail, Jack because he has suspicions about Abigail, Alana because she sees a connection as potentially unhealthy for both of them. This drives Will to seek Hannibal out voluntarily as someone who understands — and helps him to understand — his response to killing Abigail’s father and to Abigail herself.

Bryan Fuller (in his walkthrough for Episode 3) talks about Hannibal’s sense of responsibility for Abigail, but here, in his declaration to Will that he feels an enormous amount of responsibility, considering how his actions could have led to a different outcome for Abigail, we are left uncertain about the genuineness of these emotions. I wrote about Hannibal’s skills as a therapist in my review of Episode 1, and Bryan Fuller’s walkthrough for Amuse Bouche talks about Hannibal’s work with Will and Jack as “radically unorthodox” but effective thanks to Hannibal’s talent as a profiler and his willingness to manipulate everyone around him. If we see Hannibal’s choice in Episode 1 to stay at Abigail’s bedside as a way to approach Will (and make himself approachable in turn), then this mirroring of Will’s emotion back at him can be seen as a deliberate ploy. It is only after Abigail awakes (in Episode 3) that we can start to evaluate whether or not Hannibal’s declarations are genuine (more about this in later posts).

The episode also introduces Freddie Lounds who, in a Starbuck-esque twist, is female. Immediately, I like her! Conniving and manipulative, obtaining information through local and FBI officers (poor Zeller seems flummoxed by having been used thus!), she gives away information here to the killer who is able to stay one step ahead of the investigation and very nearly kills Abigail Hobbs. Nevertheless, the journalist also proves useful in later episodes where manipulating the press serves to the FBI’s advantage. Unlike Alana Bloom, Freddie has a depth of character that makes her feel an integral part of the story.

One of the most interesting moments for the reimagined Lounds is her first encounter with Hannibal. Hannibal identifies her quickly enough, despite her quite convincing portrayal of a prospective patient; her desire to meet right after Will’s session gives her away. In their confrontation, Hannibal calls all of the shots; she makes very little effort to resist deleting her recording. Given Lounds’ pluck (e.g. in her flirtatious and gutsy response to Jack Crawford in spite of being cuffed and surrounded by FBI agents), this is surprising. Lounds relies on her instincts and ability to read and manipulate people, like both Hannibal and Will (in a later episode she refers to how all three of them have been drawn to professions that attract psychopaths), but here she is lost.

The way in which he asks her what they will are “going to do about that”, head cocked to one side, having set her bag aside far away from her, is threatening but entirely opaque. From another actor, the gesture would seem lecherous, but even Freddie is conscious that this is not Hannibal’s intention, even though we know Lounds is not above sleeping with men to gain the upper hand (i.e. Zeller). The look on her face looking back at Hannibal is entirely blank. She seems entirely unsure about what to offer him.

It is fascinating to wonder about exactly what Hannibal asks for from Lounds in exchange for ‘forgiving’ her ill manners, given that we know this is what provokes his murderous wrath most often. His reference to doctor-patient confidentiality “working both ways” is suggestive, and from his later dry remark about how “naughty” she is in writing her abusive article about Will, the hint is that he has given her information for his own purposes, using her in a similar way to Will in Red Dragon (which ultimately kills her). This exchange is the first in a dance between Freddie and Hannibal that could threaten both of them.

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