Welcome back, Fannibals! It’s been a long wait, but Bryan Fuller’s incredible, dark and beautifully haunting take on Dr. Lecter has finally returned, and if the premiere episode is any indication, we’re in for one hell of a season of Hannibal.
After a long hiatus, Fuller knows exactly how to kick things off with a bang. The episode opens with a brutal brawl between Lecter (played brilliantly by Mads Mikkelsen) and Jack Crawford (an equally impressive Laurence Fishburne), creating an immediate sense of urgency that gets the show’s blood pumping (and spewing) without wasting any time.
The fight is skillfully shot, and has a sort of dream-like quality to it. Everything happens in a bit of a haze, partially because the scene is jarringly out of context in relation to where we last left off. Hannibal may be a serial killer, but Crawford’s no schlep, holding his own against his opponent even as he takes a knife to the hand and a refrigerator door to the face. The fight is expertly choreographed and Fuller is smart to start the fisticuffs immediately. Throughout the brawl all we can do is wonder how we got to this point, and what’s going to happen next. In other words, it’s damn good television.
Then the episode cuts to black, and the words “twelve weeks earlier” come on screen. Flash-forwards are a tough thing to pull off, as they can sometimes remove the tension in a show because we know where things are going. Here, however, it succeeds in setting the tone for the entire season. With twelve episodes left to go, we know that that fight will likely break out in real-time in the season finale. Because the show is a prequel, and because we know where these characters eventually end up, the flash-forward succeeds in not spoiling anything.
After the cut to black we see Hannibal preparing dinner for… yep, you guessed it, Jack Crawford. It’s such a drastic change of circumstances from what we’ve just witnessed. It perfectly paints a picture of their relationship and throws a blanket of dread and harrowing expectation over the rest of the episode. Fortunately, the set-up is handled so well that it doesn’t take away from the rest of the episode and manages not to upset the immediate objective, which is, “what’s going to happen to Will?”
Will, of course, is behind bars in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, framed by Hannibal and suspected of being a serial killer responsible for a string of murders. Hannibal managed to gift-wrap the evidence so nicely that Will’s guilt seems to be indisputable.
Will isn’t one to give up so easily though, and isn’t afraid to point the finger at the man he believes responsible. He refuses to talk to Dr. Chilton and instead wants to speak with Lecter. He thinks that if Hannibal is responsible, he has the proof buried in his mind. He’s still hallucinating too, often picturing himself fly-fishing in a lake. It’s a peaceful, tranquil dream and for the first time we actually see a Will that seems almost at peace. That is, until the Antler Man rises from the water and jolts Will back to reality.
When Will meets with Hannibal, we’re reminded of how smart it is that Fuller has taken the image of Hannibal in that same prison we know so well from the films and Thomas Harris novels and turned it on its head. Will tells Hannibal that he now hears his thoughts in Hannibal’s voice, and thinks the memories of what he did to him are buried in his mind somewhere.
“I will remember, Dr. Lecter. And when I do, there will be a reckoning,” says Will.