01st Mar2014

Hannibal 2×01 – “Kaiseki” [Season Premiere] Review

by Nathan Smith

Stars: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne | Created by Bryan Fuller


Kaiseki: a type of multicourse Japanese meal offering small dishes; a Japanese tasting menu

Wisely, Bryan Fuller, who co-scripted the premiere, leaves Will in lockup as the season begins (forced to be picked apart by antagonistic Frederick Chilton), and truly haunted by the things he’s seen, working very briefly on the case that gets introduced in the premiere. But, and again, masterstroke, they have him unequivocally calling out to the rafters that Hannibal is guilty of framing him the Shrike’s deeds (to no one’s avail), and the acting between the two men in the hospital, with each men on the wrong side of the bars is great, it’s like two gunslingers headed for a showdown. It’s all sweat and grime and desperation as it should be. I said it in my advance review but Mikkelsen and Dancy are bound to nab Emmy nods for the restrained work they do on this show. The image of Graham in his dream state, imagining himself fishing as a means to escape his horrifying reality is filled with hurt and anguish. Because this man is wounded beyond repair and Hugh Dancy sells every single second of his pain and anger at this situation that he finds himself in as he rightly should. And having Will locked into himself, slowly reliving the events as his last few days in a futile attempt to figure out just how Hannibal did in fact, put him into position one for the crimes is effective, as well as the scene showing Hannibal disposing of that incriminating ear into Will (which showcases the series’ palate of grotesque imagery and horrifying set pieces are never ending). Hannibal has taken up prime real estate in Will’s head. So much so, that he sees him in his fishing dream, this time as the nightmarish Stag-Monster or as a visage of an inkblot monster. He’s right where he needs to be.

To see Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal is to see a masked man. He wears the face of a confidant, someone’s psychiatrist, but underneath that visage? It’s a monster. There’s no sense of what makes him tick, and wisely they avoid it in telling this story, as they should. No one wants to see a “Hannibal Rising” back-story here. It would defeat the phantasm that Mikkelsen creates as Hannibal. There’s no sense of why he would manipulate Will and frame him for the Shrike’s crimes. He shows no guilt for what he’s done and even offers himself up for DNA swab testing and gives over his suits for analyzing. He even loves getting called in to consult on the crime that takes place this hour, taking Will’s place as eminent profiler. There is a sense of joy he shows in being a helper to the FBI, but as he discusses this with his doctor, they go even further than that hinting at a deeper well of secrets that he shares with his doctor.

As it should, locking Will up for murder has created ripples across the quiet, still lake. Jack is finding himself on the tail end of a claim that Alana’s filed against him regarding the emotional strain that he placed on Will, (complete with Cynthia Nixon’s cameo as my favorite type of character, the cold and calculated ruthless federal agent), despite his proclaiming that he would watch out for him. It creates this nice dividing rut between their professional and personal lives. Later, we see them talking about how they both, like Winston the dog, are looking to find Will. The scene between the two of them is important. It’s in Will’s house and it looks empty and devoid of life, the bed is stripped and empty. Will’s lost and they know it, but sadly, they just don’t know how to begin to find him. Although they begin making their baby steps towards figuring Will out, Alana visits and hypnotizes Will to try and unlock some clue to what happened. That in turn leads to some gorgeous imagery of an inkblot person splashes into Will, almost like a collage of memories. This description truly does it no justice. The brilliance of Jack and Alana’s subplot is, while they don’t necessarily believe Will was framed, they believe that Will was either himself when he did it, or that it was someone else. And that thought terrifies them. Because if Will is right, then they have been collaborating with a killer they considered a friend.

The earlier scene mentioned is a key moment for Jack, not only because that’s the point where Jack begins chipping away at his doubt of Will’s guilt. And whatever road we have that leads to the events that lead to the dazzling cold open in which Hannibal and Jack fight tooth and nail to a bloody end that leaves Jack in Hannibal’s wine locker, bleeding to death. It’s a nicely choreographed fight scene that makes great use of the minimal space of Hannibal’s kitchen, his sanctuary. It’s good enough to rival the fight scene in ‘Fromage,’ and that battle was King Kong versus Godzilla. And effective mix of stunt doubles and actors, it was seamless and mixed very, very well, and even more so to see Laurence Fishburne back in an excellent fight scene. Now, this opening is twelve weeks after the events of the premiere, but it’s an interesting leap to show Jack knowing that Hannibal is up to something, especially given that the episode proper begins with the two men sitting down to a nice dinner and doesn’t plan on drawing out the story that leads to this monumental occasion.

The case of the week isn’t really discussed in much detail, because it really doesn’t give us a lot to go on, but in a few scenes the storyline is established as extremely creepy. It begins with a river of disgusting bodies, discarded test subjects and moves on to an unlucky person being kidnapped (that part is a nice little horror movie scene in its own right) by a Buffalo Bill type, and submitted to a full body treatment (shades of Vincent D’Onofrio in “The Cell”) that leaves him as the centerpiece to a grotesque tableau that stretches the entire floor span of a silo, which is how the episode closes. It’s visually striking and horrifying and can really only be described as a circular patchwork of human bodies all spiraling out, all glued together. See what I meant earlier? It’s eye candy that shocks you in the best and worst ways. It isn’t something that gets solved in the last minutes of the episode either, we don’t even clearly see the captors face, but it’s a new beginning for a new killer that our protagonists must begin, while trying to save one of their own. And the biggest fear is that they may not be able to.


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