I have been waiting for months and it’s finally here: yes, folks, the best show on television is back.
Let’s bitch it out…
Holy eff. We have to start with that opening scene because it is masterful. I knew what to expect because the Hannibal team leaked this fight scene earlier in the week in an attempt to drum up excitement for the premiere (*please work*). I can honestly say that knowing that Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) would battle Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) in no way prepared me for the actual fight scene the opens ‘Kaiseki’. It is hardcore, filled with shocking and savage blows. What most impresses me (aside from how much destruction the two men cause in just a few minutes) is how the fight choreography matches the personality of each combatant. Hannibal is nimble, striking quickly and sharply and then retreating, whereas Jack – with his larger build and FBI training – is prone to brute force and pile-driver type moves.
The resolution is gasp-worthy: just when we think that Jack may have strangled Hannibal into defeat with his tie (how appropriate), Hannibal stabs him in the neck with a shard of broken glass. Jack’s desperate retreat into the wine cellar as Hannibal full-body slams into the door is then ironically contrasted by the calm, civil dinner conversation twelve weeks earlier. It’s an amazing, kinetic opening that lends the rest of the episode (and, I imagine, the season to come) a looming sense of doom and inevitability. From now until this scene plays out again, each interaction between the two men will remind us of where they’ll be in twelve episodes and make us wonder how Jack discovers the truth. It’s a brilliant play on our expectations (once again) since we know that Hannibal will eventually be caught and imprisoned. Now the clock is ticking…
The question of how Hannibal comes undone is paramount in ‘Kaiseki’ as everyone tries to process the fall-out from season one. Will (Hugh Dancy) spends his time visualizing himself fly-fishing, trying to repair his wounded mind and recover his lost memories. Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) walks his dogs, but just like the one errant mutt, she can’t let Will go – visiting him in prison to help jog his memories. Beverly (Hetienne Park) also visits, but only as a professional courtesy in service of the latest gruesome case (“I’m compartmentalizing” she explains to him as she sits down). When she processes Lecter, collecting cheek swabs to compare with crime scene evidence, Bev relays that her guilt stems from not being able to see the murderer right in front of her. This theme isn’t new; Jack spends ‘Kaiseki’ inquiring of various characters how he missed the signs, a confession of sorts that he makes earlier in the episode during a meeting/interrogation with an unnamed Bureau investigator (Cynthia Nixon) who is looking into Alana’s allegations of misconduct against him.
At the center of the episode are the two men driving this conflict forward: Will and Lecter. With the former an empty shell, unable to remember significant moments from S1, it is up to the latter to carry much of this opening episode. Thankfully Lecter is an enigmatic figure who remains as morally complex as ever. His sessions with Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) remind us of his complicated relationship with Will, a man he continues to refer to as his “friend” and whom he “obsesses” over. Despite their physical separation (the two share only a brief, tense scene), Lecter and Will have an undeniable connection. Bev even goes so far as to name Lecter “the new Will Graham”, a moniker which relates as much to Lecter’s newfound role as FBI profiler as it does his status as a serial killer.
Despite the fact that he spends the entire episode imprisoned, Will is the topic of conversation on everyone’s tongue. For him, however, everything is about Lecter. The good doctor is the only thing that Will can focus on, to such an extent that the stag imagery his injured mind associates with Lecter infects his fly-fishing and creeps into reality when the man himself comes to visit. In a memorably icky and graphic scene, Will remembers how Abigail Hobbs’ (an unseen Kacey Rohl) ear came to be found in his throat. The only reason it’s not the most horrible thing I’ve seen all week is because the black and white dilutes some of the horror.
In its opening hour, Hannibal remains a visual nightmare, a series filled with memorably evocative images that linger in the memory long after the credits roll. As a drama, its characterizations and slow-burn plotting are as masterful as anything on cable, much less network television. As a “crime” show, it is more sophisticated and mature than any of its “serial killer on the loose” counterparts. It is, literally in my opinion, the best television show on the air.
I can’t wait for the next course.
- Raul Esparza’s Chilton is as sleazy as ever. He records Will and Alana’s conversation without their knowledge and then recounts the details to Lecter over dinner. Bonus points for Chilton’s whine about being forced to watch his protein intake following his invasive kidney surgery in 1×11, ‘Rôti’.
- The memory of Lecter forcing a tube – then an ear – down Will’s throat is terrible principally thanks to the accompanying soundtrack, which sounds like someone running a stick along a ribbed plastic tube. <barf>
- If the intubation scene is the grossest, then the most beautiful visual has to be when Alana initially puts Will under hypnosis. Suddenly he sees her as an ethereal figure trailing inky residue from her hair (did I mention that it may also be the episode’s most sensual visual?). I’m unsure how to interpret the monochromatic black and white colour scheme for this Alan, so if anyone has any theories, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
- Is it safe to assume that the flounder and squid that Hannibal serves Jack is (more of) poor Abigail? I honestly hope not because I would desperately like to see Rohl again, but I fear that the time for miraculous survivals has come and gone.
- Du Maurier resents Lecter’s decision to sign the consent form allowing Jack to speak with her about Lecter. She reminds Hannibal that she is uncomfortable being put in a position of having to lie for him again. His response, in a masterful low-angle shot that makes him appear to tower over her, is to casually announce that she doesn’t know what he’s capable of. Something tells me that the only person who has an inkling of what Hannibal can do had better watch her back.
- Lest I forget, the case of the week is typically gruesome: someone is kidnapping victims according to skin colour palette in an effort to preserve the bodies in an eye-like circle that resembles a homicidal art project. It’s appropriately macabre (stop trying to pull your silicon-covered hand from your face buddy!), which is exactly what I expect from this show.
- Finally, in case you don’t know, Kaiseki is “a style of traditional Japanese cuisine in which a series of very small, intricate dishes are prepared”. Now we know…
Talk back: are you happy to have Hannibal back? Did ‘Kaiseki’ quench your appetite? Which visual stayed with you after the episode? And were you stunned at that opening fight scene? Sound off below.
Hannibal airs Fridays at 10pm EST on NBC