14th Feb2014

Advance Review: Hannibal 2×01 – ‘Kaiseki’ [Spoiler-Free]

by Nathan Smith

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


I fell out of reviewing Hannibal last season, not because I didn’t have anything to say about the show (because frankly, I always have things to say about the show), I fell out of covering it purely because the timing was never right. But I still kept up with the show, and watched every episode enraptured with the way that show runner Bryan Fuller and company not only made a compelling thirteen episode novel, but took every single story detail and spun it in such a way that nothing went to waste. Even the case of the week killers, save for a few minor exceptions, all had a piece to play in the endgame as the season ratcheted to a close. And boy did it ever close brilliantly. The conceit of Hannibal manipulating Will Graham into not only thinking that he was the Minnesota Shrike’s copycat was a slow burning masterstroke that took its time in revealing itself, but when it did, it was perfect. It really comes back to the idea of nothing being wasted (just like Hobbes himself would have done), and going back over the season on DVD, (which I did and enjoyed), you can see Hannibal working out the kinks on how he would frame this poor, sickly man into thinking that he committed all these horrible acts. And bravo to Fuller and his writers for wisely ending the season with Will in a mental hospital, on the hook for crimes he didn’t commit, without that last act reprieve of someone finding the evidence to exonerate him. Because not only does it lock their hands creatively, it makes it realistic. It makes it heartbreaking.

‘Kaiseki’ is the season two opener, and it’s a doozy. It starts full steam ahead and moves through all the beats, but not so in a way that seems trite or clichéd. There are a lot of answers made in this episode about some of the story beats left previously unanswered. It really serves as a continuation of sorts to ‘Savoreaux,’ following the through line of the finale. It establishes a new world order that Bryan Fuller and company are continuing to cultivate. The events of the premiere have a doom and gloom atmosphere that the show builds on so well. ‘Kaiseki’ begins Hannibal season two in such a way that just gallops ahead and doesn’t look back. Because Hannibal is a show that functions as a dark descent down the rabbit hole, you don’t turn back, you can’t look back. And the things you see, you cannot un-see, and in the season premiere, there’s a whole lot to un-see.

In keeping with that thought process, there are simultaneously some gorgeous visuals throughout the premiere, one of which involves Will Graham and sets a standard for haunting dream-like imagery, of which seems to be in endless supply for the production team on “Hannibal.” And with the good, always comes the bad, and that has to do with the new killer on the block, who is setting out to do something that rivals any of the other tableaus that either the Minnesota Shrike had created or even the totem pole from ‘Trou Normand.’ Not much can be said about the killer who strikes in the premiere, because not too much is given. What we do see is brief but effective. Plain and simple, it’s going to get very nightmarish and very creepy pretty quickly.

The opening of the episode proper sets things up for a dark and bumpy ride, but if we’re really saying it honestly, things are going to get apocalyptic. It’s done in media res, which calls to mind great shows like Breaking Bad, which Hannibal rightly deserves a pedestal next to and tells us one thing, that down the road (twelve weeks from the premiere to be precise), things are going to get mighty violent and nasty between some of the characters, and it’ll be a fantastic wait to see how things get to that point. Snippets of this scene can be seen in the trailer that was released beforehand. The scene itself is an excellently choreographed bit of business and calls to mind ‘Fromage,’ and that fight between Hannibal and Tobias in season one.

The writing and acting continues to stick to the ribs in many ways. The events of last season funnel themselves directly into the premiere, and because of this, there’s a sense of everyone being haunted by the specter of Will Graham, haunted by regret that they didn’t see this coming. This is going to be the season where Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy nab nominations at least, they essay perfectly clean performances here, and it’s going to get stronger as things go on.

Hannibal season two premieres Friday, February 28th at 9/8 central.


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