“Lost in thought?”
The opening scene couldn’t be more clear: Sh*t is going down this year in Hannibal.
Hannibal’s first season was great, as you’ve likely heard by now, but it could be argued that the show moved a little slowly from time to time. It wasn’t poorly paced or anything, and any sluggishness had fallen by the wayside by the time it’s final third got into motion… but it’s true that as the show started it was hard to see the gears turning.
That doesn’t appear to be a problem anymore. Trading Japanese culinary vocab for Season One’s French titles, season premiere “Kaiseki” kicks off with a bang.
“You let the fox in the henhouse.”
MILD SPOILERS ahead (though frankly it’s the kind of show that can survive them)
With Hannibal’s successful first season behind us, it’s almost impossible to remember how skeptical the prospect of such a show made me. That story’s been told, I thought; who needs another Hannibal Lecter?
Enter Bryan Fuller.
Armed with star Mads Mikkelsen and the rest of a terrific ensemble in front of the camera, Fuller and his team turned the first season of Hannibal into can’t-miss TV. Despite effectively being a prequel to anything we’ve seen of the famed serial killer so far, the show took an unpredictable route to its adaptation that culminated with a one-eighty reversal of virtually everything we knew about how Hannibal stories worked.
So effective is their take on the show; so vivid the horror and mind games, that Silence of the Lambs almost seems quaint in comparison.
Now Hannibal is back, and it mean business.
The season premiere is, per usual, steeped in beautiful, outrageous imagery. This episode runs the gamut, from beautiful sequences of Will Graham fly fishing — an apt metaphor for his continued search for memories — to a truly horrific closing shot that indicates the writers are a long, long way from running out of ways to freak us out. Other great moments litter the runtime: a cheek swab, a hypnosis attempt, and obviously the much-mentioned flash-forward at the start.
Like the imagery and Hannibal’s kitchenware, this season’s mind games seem to be sharper, too. There’s enough devilry, double-dealing, and manipulation to rival Game of Thrones; the only difference is that Hannibal’s scheming and plotting takes place in a more civilized modern society. The demons must hide in the shadows. Hannibal is many things: character study, psychological thriller, crime procedural — but it’s tempting to label it horror above all. This show confronts evil head-on, and it’s the real thing.
Of course, it’s also surprisingly funny. Go figure.
The cast, good as they were last season, seem to have really settled in by now. Mikkelsen is a force to be reckoned with. His immobile visage seems to show everything and nothing all at once. And he is just the coolest-looking mofo on the planet. Especially when things get tense or — more infrequently — violent; Mikkelsen’s screen presence is fearsome.*
In other news, Hugh Dancy is still Will Graham, and he’s still great, but it looks like he gets a whole new sandbox to play in for this season. The change isn’t exactly overdue, but it’ll be nice to see Graham in a less victimized role; his back-and-forth with Hannibal has a whole new set of rules and stakes now.
Last week I wrote a piece about how showrunners are seeing the potential that television has to grow and change characters, or simply to put them through their paces. By that metric (and most other metrics), Hannibal is one of the finest shows on television.
That growth and change looks to be extended to the supporting cast as well. Hopefully they’ll play a larger part as the show moves forward; one of the few niggling complaints about Season One is how often it simply turned into a show about three people. Alana Bloom is a great character; here’s hoping her screen time in the premiere is an indication of the significance she’ll come to have.
Basically, I’m massively intrigued about everything in this season. According to Fuller, Season 2 really kicks into gear around episode four (mind, this premiere was already great). Additionally, one of the reasons he wasn’t shy about the flash-forward at the start of the episode is he claims that there’s so much crazy stuff going on later in the season that the fight isn’t even the wildest move they make.
Which… well, there you go. Sign me up.
Guys and gals, you simply have to watch this show. It’s one of the most thoughtful dramas anywhere on television, it’s scary as hell, and it’s just freakin’ GOOD.* If you haven’t watched it, get onboard now. I don’t know where this show is going yet, but I do know you want to be there when it arrives.
If you have watched it, let me know what you thought of “Kaiseki” below!
*It’s an attribute of his that stuck out to me as far back as King Arthur, in which he plays super-awesome knight Tristan. Hugh Dancy is Galahad, by the way. They were a lot friendlier to each other in that movie, I think.