One of my favorite things about the first two episodes of the season that I didn't touch on too much in my reviews, but that many of you mentioned in the comments, was the pleasure of the eye mural killer being spread across two episodes. I generally don't slight shows for employing procedural plots, or even for just being procedurals; like with all things, if something is well-executed, then there's no reason to dismiss it. Early in Season 1, Hannibal struggled to elevate its procedural stories into anything more than just thematic parallels to its serialized plot, which often made them feel a little narratively under-baked (looking at you, "Amuse-Bouche"). This was in no small part because they had to be wrapped up in a single episode.
But as the first season progressed, Hannibal showed a marked improvement in merging the narrative and the thematic, and the episodes became more unified and enjoyable as a result. So the decision to spread the eye mural killer and now Will's admirer across across multiple episodes is a smart structural shift for the show to make. While Bryan Fuller has said the show will still do standalone episodes, this "set up a killer in one episode, and then we don't pay him off until three episodes later" approach gives things a bit more of an investigative feel, even more so when we're not entirely sure who the killer is.
But everything I just said was more of a macro-level response to "Hassun." From a more episodic perspective, this installment—more than "Sakizuki" and certainly more than "Kaiseki"—felt like the official start of Season 2. Fuller has said that "Kaiseki" was more like Season 1, Episode 14 than Season 2, Episode 1, and ultimately, "Sakizuki" felt like a transitional episode between Season 1 and Season 2. I don't mean any of that in a negative way—not at all—I just want to point out that between Will's trial and the arrival of his admirer, I feel like we're now firmly in Season 2 territory, as a lot of the impact of Season 1's events and themes are being felt by the characters, and by the show.
Take, for example, the suggestion I made in my review of the Season 1 finale about how Will's response to that all the death and destruction arguably would/should mirror our own response to the copious amounts of violence and gore we consume in our media, both fictional and (sadly) non-fictional. Will's struggle to cope and Hannibal's implication that we, too, should be struggling to cope helped to set the show apart from its other serial killer TV brethren.
Did you notice how "Hassun" flipped this on us in the prosecutor's opening arguments? Instead of the show's perspective of trauma and coping, the prosecutor, Marion Vega (Maria del Mar), put forth the idea that Will Graham became violent because he saw so many horrible things that he just snapped or was inspired by them (or wanted to outdo the originals, as per Chilton's diagnosis). It was the "violent media is making us more violent" argument that we see attached to video games, movies, and, yes, certain television series, including and arguably, Hannibal.
It's a tricky needle for Hannibal to thread. The show couldn't convincingly depict Will's fragile mental state without showing all this horrible stuff, but that horrible stuff is also being glorified as artistic by critics and audiences, which lends an air of cultural legitimacy to the proceedings, and that, in turn, makes it seem like the show could be privileging murder and cannibalism. It's made all the worse by the fact that Hannibal is dapper and charming (and, based on some comments, the only character some of you really care about). Look no further than the discussions about the show here on this site that have made similar points.
Hannibal presented those discussions in "Hassun," and cleverly did so through a trial, where we expect characters to explain things, and to argue in support of their explanations. So the choice to have a copycat come into the mix at this point is doubly sharp since the copycat is doing exactly what the prosecutor is arguing that Will did: After finding inspiration in violence, the copycat committed a violent act in the model of what he or she knows of Will. It's a house of mirrors of media effects arguments, and while Hannibal obviously has a bias in its favor, its willingness to internalize and present the counter arguments to its merits makes for good drama.
– I loved the Will and Alana stuff this week. I mean, I hated watching Alana say that she only has a professional interest in Will, but I loved the pain that both Dancy and Dhavernas put into that scene, followed by their hand-holding at the end. "What do you want?" "I want to save you." WARM FUZZY FEELINGS.
– "I think I opened your mail." Will's lawyer, Leonard Brauer (Shawn Doyle), was great. Slick, funny, and like Jimmy and Brian, he was just far enough outside Hannibal's depressing doldrums without also feeling like he was from a different show.
– Speaking of Brian and Jimmy, they were on fire this week. I enjoyed Brian being flabbergasted that people were seriously considering the notion that Will is maybe innocent, while Jimmy's regret over not getting a stool sample from Will was priceless.
– I have a theory about who Will's admirer is, and while it's based largely on casting choices, there were a couple of tidbits in this episode that I felt made gestures to the killer's identity.
– Recent episode promos have me seriously concerned about Beverly. I'm really hoping it's just a fake-out from NBC's marketing department. PLEASE BE A FAKE-OUT FROM NBC'S MARKETING DEPARTMENT.
– "I shoot Mr. Sykes once, collapsing lungs, tearing through his heart’s aorta and pulmonary arteries. He will die believing we were friends. It is his last thought. His death isn't personal. He is a merely the ink from which flows my poem. My tribute. This is my design."
– "This killer wrote you a poem. Are you going to let his love go to waste?"
– Music selections of the week! As Will and Hannibal dressed for court, we were treated to a little Don Giovanni with the aria "Dalla sua pace la mia dipende," a fitting choice, considering the lyrics. When Hannibal and Jack were having drinks following Jack's testimony, the scene was scored with the third movement of Beethoven's Piano Trio, Op. 97, commonly called the "Archduke Trio," and a favorite of mine. Finally, the music playing in the big lead-up to the judge being strung up was Chopin's Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, no. 4. Fun fact: It was the piece Chopin requested be played at his own funeral.
– I love love love love love love loved the clothes this week. Hannibal's suit at the start of the episode, as he and Jack were having a drink, was perhaps my favorite thing Hannibal's worn so far. The winner of the hour, however, was Freddie in what has to be a nod to Rosslind Russell's outfits in His Girl Friday.
Or am I just completely crazy?
How did "Hassun" taste going down?
AIRED ON 8/29/2015
Season 3 : Episode 13