Friday, February 28, 2014

REVIEW: 'Hannibal' - Will Tries to Remember What Happened to Him as Jack and Hannibal Fight in 'Kaiseki'

NBC's Hannibal - Episode 2.01 Kaiseki

Will is determined to fight for his innocence as Hannibal and Jack try to wrap their heads around the fact he's behind bars; Alana faces a strained relationship with Will; and Kade Purnell (Cynthia Nixon) pays the FBI a visit.

Hannibal was one of the most pleasant surprises to come from last season. NBC began airing it late in the season (which then bled into the summer) in the only viable slot it could try. Before it premiered, I asked if we really needed yet another serial killer drama - or another iteration of the Hannibal Lector story. But then that first season began and took viewers on a journey filled with real emotions, gorgeous cinematography, fantastic lead performances and food that looked delicious even though it likely came from a human being.

The first season ended with a grand role reversal of an iconic Hannibal Lector moment - with Will Graham being locked behind bars and the cannibal doctor free on the other side paying him a visit. It's a narrative twist that shakes up everything about the show. Something that allows the first season to end on a strong note even though in all likelihood the show will try to work out of it as quick as possible when it returns.

But the second season doesn't work to undo what it set up in the first season finale. Will is behind bars for the entire premiere and singing his theory that Hannibal set him up for all this to everyone he comes in contact with.

The opening minutes of the episode effectively ramp up the tension of the premiere. Jack and Hannibal in an epic fight sequence is quite the thing to return with. Both of them try to use everything within your typical kitchen to kill the other. Now, I'm not a big fan of in media res openings. More often than not, they void all the tension of the succeeding episode because you are aware of where the story is going. And yes, we know that 12 weeks from now, Jack is going to learn something that destroys all his trust in Hannibal. But what he finds out we don't know yet. Is it that Hannibal framed Will? Or is it that he is the Chesapeake Ripper and therefore the killer of his former protégé? Or maybe he found out what the doctor has been serving him? There's so much open-endedness to those minutes of action that it fuels the rest of the episode with tension. Every interaction we see between Jack and Hannibal is hinted with a new shade of intrigue now that we know of what's to come.

"I am not the intelligent psychopath you are looking for." - Will Graham

Jack's been avoiding Will since his arrest. What happened to Will weighs very heavily on Jack and he has the most consequences to deal with in the aftermath. He's the point of an FBI investigation - led by Cynthia Nixon - and brings in Hannibal to be the new Will Graham for a psychological profile. When he finally does visit Will, he leaves quickly because of how delusional he believes Will to be. Which makes things so much more tragic for Jack given what he's about to learn in the coming weeks.

And on some level, Hannibal too feels a responsibility for Will Graham. He brilliantly crafted and manipulated him into his current situation. But he also feels a direct and distinct connection to the man. As he shares with Bedelia, he stepped into Will's shoes and looked death in the eye. He emphasizes with Will and feels that that connection is the closet thing to an honest friendship he can ever have. It's a delusional stance as Will sees Hannibal for who he really is even though he can't prove it to anyone. This connection forces him to see Will and to work with the FBI to feel it grow stronger. But will that connection be the thing to unravel everything Hannibal has established to live the life he has?

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kaiseki" was written by Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot and directed by Tim Hunter.
  • The show does much better with the female cast in this opener. Both Caroline Dhavernas and Hettienne Park feel closer to the narrative as well as important players in what's happening to Will.
  • The cinematography remains so awe-inspiring. Loved the multiple shots of the river as well as the demented closing shot of the pile of color-blocked bodies. But the more minute detail of Beverly swabbing the inside of Hannibal's mouth was just as gorgeous.
  • The sound design also gets much kudos during this opening hour. The score of the opening sequence was amazing as well as the spine-tingling that results from Hannibal forcing that tube down Will's mouth to put the ear in there.