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Hannibal – TV review (S2E1, Kaiseki)


Well, it’s finally started in the UK. After weeks of avoiding Twitter early on Saturday mornings (when Bryan Fuller was still tweeting about the US airing), Hannibal series 2 is finally on SkyLiving. I reviewed all of the S1 episodes (here, or click the Hannibal tag below) across a series of weekends when I rewatched them on DVD, but I’m going to try to review S2 weekly.

The AV Club’s review for Kaiseki gave the episode a B+, and Bryan Fuller is now doing a weekly walkthrough of the episodes (on US timings). He also did some live-tweeting about the show as it was being aired (@ByranFuller), so if you don’t follow him, do!

Spoiler alert below!

This episode kicks off with some high-octane drama reminiscent of something out of a Bourne film: a fight-to-the-death between Jack and Hannibal (in the kitchen, of course), ending seemingly with Jack fatally wounded. And, also of course, it’s a teaser, a prequel, and the next moment we are ‘twelve weeks earlier’, and Hannibal is finely slicing some fish to serve Jack as a ‘mourning’ ritual for Will.

Make no mistake, the fight scene is impressive and dramatic, but there is something eminently frustrating in the ‘twelve weeks earlier’ device beyond the intended tension, I think because the whole series is itself a prequel, a sort of ‘several years earlier’ for the books and films that many of us know so well. The nested device borders on irritating. Yes, we know he’s a bad guy and is going to be caught by Will and Jack. But given how S1 ended — with Will apparently convincingly set up for Hannibal’s crimes — there is more to be gained from the tension of how Hannibal will be caught, and a fight scene with Jack that seemingly ruptures their entire relationship is… unnecessary. It is, as Fuller admits, him indulging himself, and it is a hint that like Doctor Who or the BBC Sherlock, there is a real risk of the show pandering to fandom and its yearnings (yes, I think Fuller — and Moffat and others — can be part of their ‘own’ fandoms!).

Anyway, that grumble out of the way, there are some great things here, now common themes for Hannibal: wonderful scoring; a gorgeous, saturated look; beautifully nuanced acting; and some impressive guest stars.

New is Cynthia Nixon as Jack’s boss, pressuring Alana to retract a potentially damning report of Jack’s treatment of Will. The battle-lines here are clear. Gillian Anderson is back as Hannibal’s therapist, counselling Hannibal to move away from thinking of Will as a friend and to be cautious about Will’s intention to manipulate him, especially salient given that Will is begin to recollect how Hannibal has framed him (with some assistance from Alana).

Whilst Jack and Alana — those with Will’s best interests at heart — are almost accidentally divided, the game of mutual manipulation between Hannibal and Will keeps them mindfully bonded together in mutual fascination and destruction: as Will says, his inner voice sounds like Hannibal, and together they are the very antithesis of friendship. This is what is interesting about Fuller’s Hannibal: his insatiable curiosity and impulse to be a ‘good’ therapist — helping Will understand himself — that absorbs him utterly, that he lives. Hannibal is an existentialist, and his mindful choices will lead him inexorably to what seems to be his own destruction — at least his own incarceration — and, we know, back out of it again.

This episode puts Hannibal into Will’s role within the FBI team, the temporary misplacement of them both now complete. Hannibal is being investigated, following Will’s accusations, but despite suspicion is drawn in to offer insight on the team’s cases. Sadly for the FBI team, he has his own agenda, and so is less obviously effective than Will, leading Beverly to seek insights from the latter in his prison cell, deliberately evoking Will’s insight-seeking conversation with Hannibal in Red Dragon. The procedural element to this episode (the rather creepy model-maker, injecting victims with heroin and silicone and stitching them together in a collage) is only partial, but is presumably to be completed in S2E2.

My favourite moment — in part because it suggests how one of my favourite relationships is going to unfold this series — is between Hannibal and Bedelia. In complying with the investigation against him, Hannibal puts her in an untenable and terrifying position, giving her informed consent to discuss him whilst knowing that there are some things she will not divulge (such as his killing of one of her patients). The scene is wonderfully tense. We can see on Anderson’s face that Hannibal is burning his bridges with her, and the conscious choice to do so on his. The threat to her is barely veiled, and things are going to get interesting between them, I’m sure!


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