Hannibal Season 2 Premiere Review: "Tell Me What You See"
Oh, Hannibal, how I missed you. You know, if "missed" is the correct word to use when talking about a show that causes me to feel massive amounts of dread and stress on a near weekly basis while reveling in its own grotesque displays of corpses...
Yes, "missed" is the correct word.
When we last left off, Hannibal had deftly framed Will for multiple murders using not an "orgy of evidence," but just enough to convince everyone that Will was guilty. So the question for Jack and Alana as Season 2 began with "Kaiseki" was not whether or not Will had killed a number of people, but whether Will had consciously killed a number of people—as opposed to a situation where Will's psyche, under duress from the encephalitis, had led him to unknowingly murder all those victims in the style of the killers he'd been hunting through Season 1 after tumbling so far down into Garret Jacob Hobbs' mental point-of-view.
It's a terribly lonely place to be, for us and for Will; we and Will both know that he's innocent of these crimes, but we don't have any allies who believe our version—the actual version—of what transpired. And the continued beauty of Hannibal's frame job is that Will's focus on Hannibal helped to clear Hannibal's name as the FBI gathered Hannibal's DNA and tried to match it against anything that Hannibal had planted on and around Will. Of course, there was nothing. Or at least there wouldn't be, until twelve weeks into the future.
I'm generally not a big fan of flash-forward/in media res openings and framing devices, because I think that television has come to rely too heavily on that type of structure as a pseudo-tension builder—hell, even Top Chef used one in its Season 11 finale. They can skew the attention of the audience regarding the present-day narrative, forcing viewers to consider the question of "How do they get there?" instead of letting them ask, "What are they doing?" For example, I didn't much care for Breaking Bad's deployment of a flash-forward at the start of its final season, as a lot of events in the present felt like the show was checking off boxes, and things got rather rote at times.
But with Hannibal, there are two important exceptions to the rule. The first is that we already know, given the franchise's history and Bryan Fuller's own comments on his plan for the show, that Hannibal will eventually be caught and incarcerated. So the series, by its very narrative premise, is already working to answer the question of "How did they get there?"—especially since it's tweaked Will and Hannibal's history from its previous versions in novel and film, changing just enough to keep even those fans who are well-versed in the franchise guessing.
The second exception is that, well, that fight scene between Jack and Hannibal was just, well, it was the bee's knees. It recalled, for me, the fight scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, as both sequences demonstrate that stabbing and choking and beating the tar out of someone rarely ends as quickly or as cleanly as we're used to seeing in most media representations of violence (amusingly, Torn Curtain's fight ends with someone's head in an oven). The fight was perfectly in-line with Hannibal's approach to carnage, in that it was both brutally intense (at least for Jack, who was gasping for air before getting stabbed in the neck, while Hannibal was all swagger the entire time) and impossible to look away from.
And if there's one more reason that I'm not annoyed with Hannibal's flash-forward opening, it's that the big question of Season 2 appears to be—at least for now—"How did I end up here?" Will is digging into his memory in an effort to detangle Hannibal's extensive web of deceit, and the progress he makes in answering that question will likely feed into the "How did they end up there?" query that was posed by the opening scene. Also, I really liked the show's allusion to the mental metronome that signaled Will's consciousness shifts in Season 1 via the use of an actual metronome to induce his hypnosis and gain access to his buried memories.
Like Dr. Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, memories are what Will has instead of a view. However, instead of the Duomo seen from the Belvedere, Will prefers to recall himself fly fishing, casting lures into a river and hoping to hook himself a new memory. It's a pleasant variation on Thomas Harris's use of memory palaces from the novel Hannibal, with the notion of a memory palace being derived from the ancient Greeks and Romans as a way of storing and organizing all sorts of information in an orderly and personalized way within one's mind. And since Will's mind is an unreliable mess, it makes sense that he would conceptualize his memory palace as a safe pastime involving flowing water, instead of as a library or a museum—and even that flowing water is home to the ravenstag and the Hannibalstag.
The flowing and unreliable nature of Will's memory, however, is likely why he was willing to turn to hypnosis. Between the inky representation of Alana and the aforementioned metronome effect being used to denote Will's shift in consciousness, and to give it a sense of physicality, I appreciate that Hannibal is finding ways to integrate its nightmare logic, even though Will's mind is clearer than it once was. At least the hypnosis session helped to trigger Will's memory of how Abigail Hobbs' ear got into his stomach, treating us to a fuzzy, black-and-white flashback complete with a throat camera and scraping musical sound effects that had me wincing the entire time.
Recalling the memory was a victory for Will, even if it won't immediately help him, either legally or in convincing his friends he's been wronged. To them, it'll merely be a story he concocted to shift the blame to Hannibal. But to Will, it's a reminder that he is not, in fact, crazy, and perhaps it'll be the first step in silencing Hannibal's voice from the well of his mind.
À LA CARTE
– Welcome to our Season 2 coverage of Hannibal. I'm very excited to discuss the show with you all, so I hope you'll read and comment every week and encourage your friends and fellow fannibals to swing by and do the same. Be sure to also read Kaitlin's interview with Bryan Fuller and Hugh Dancy for some quick insights into the upcoming season, but be forewarned that it does contain some small spoilers.
– "I can't quite place the fish." "He was a flounder."
– "You do realize you're his favorite topic of conversation. Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal."
– "Lost in thought?" "Not lost. Not anymore. I used to hear my thoughts inside my skull with the same, um, tone, timber, accent as if the words were coming out of my mouth." "And now?" "Now my inner-voice sounds like you. I can't get you out of my head." "Friendship can sometimes involve a breach of individual separateness." "You're not my friend."
– I received a speaker bar and subwoofer set for Christmas, and I cannot begin to tell you how amazing Hannibal sounds with a fancier set-up. Brian Reitzell’s soundscape score has some lovely sonic layers that I just wasn’t hearing before. My cat, however, is not a fan.
– Lover of the classics that he is, Hannibal paired his meals with two different compositions. With Jack, he served his mukōzuke dish to the tune of Schubert's 4 Impromptus, Op. 142, D. 935, Impromptu No. 3. For his dinner with Chilton, Hannibal accompanied his vegetarian meal ("One can learn to love beets.") with Mendelssohn's Songs without Words, Op.19, No.1. Me, I wrote this review—and likely all others for Hannibal to follow—while listening to various pieces composed by Tōru Takemitsu.
– Since this episode and next week's are essentially a two-parter, we'll discuss a number of things from this episode in more depth next week, including our killer ("You have nice skin."), his eye for art (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), Hannibal's role as "the new Will Graham," how Du Maurier figures into things, and Cynthia Nixon's federal examiner Kade Prurnell.
What'd you think of Hannibal's Season 2 premiere?
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