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.Next
Though we might immediately point to Will as our protagonist, the show is much more about Hannibal, as the title would suggest. Over the course of last season we witnessed their cat-and-mouse game and were intrigued by the hypnotic power that Hannibal has on those around him (and on us, the audience). This is partly due to the writing, but I have to hand it to Mads Mikkelsen for giving such an interesting and unique performance. He had a lot to prove with this role, thanks in no small part to the iconic and beloved performance Anthony Hopkins has given three times on the big screen. However, Mikkelsen makes the role his own, and there’s something about him that’s just… inviting. It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is, but his Hannibal is so captivating and eerily mysterious that it’s hard to look away.
Hannibal is at the very center of this episode and it seems that in this season we’re going to dive a little deeper into his complicated psyche. We see him in a therapy session with his therapist, Dr. Bedilia DeMaurier (played by an equally obtuse and almost robotic Gillian Anderson), and he admits that he still sees Will as a good friend. The interesting thing is, I think he really means it.
Later in the episode we see Hannibal alone in his study, staring at an empty chair that used to seat Will upon occasion. By all accounts, Lecter has won. Yes, Will cries fowl and accuses Hannibal of framing him, but no one is listening. The FBI investigates him and finds nothing. He dines with Dr. Chilton, who suspects nothing and still sees Will as a prized possession. Hannibal even gets called to a crime scene and is called “The New Will Graham,” but despite all of this he looks unhappy. Even lonely. He tells Dr. DeMaurier that he misses Will, which she simply says is not friendship, but obsession. Could it be that Hannibal has taken this obsession too far, and is now paying the price? Will denies that a friendship will ever exist between them, and the bars between them act as a powerful metaphor for their relationship.
After watching an entire season of this show, you’d think that it’d be a bit harder to shock me, but the scene where Hannibal shoves the ear of Abigail Hobbs down Will’s throat was truly chilling. Will recalls the memory in a bit of a trance, after receiving some hypnotherapy from Dr. Bloom, and it’s the first glimmer of hope he’s felt since being arrested and imprisoned. He tells Jack that he once doubted even himself, and thought that there was a chance that Hannibal hadn’t done this to him after all. Hope can be a powerful thing, and Will surely has more repressed memories of Hannibal’s deception buried deep within that damaged brain of his. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what comes bubbling back up to the surface.
Speaking of coming up to the surface, I didn’t talk at all about the new murders the FBI is investigating. They seem a bit inconsequential to the rest of the proceedings, at least thus far, so we’ll just have to see what road this new creepy serial killer takes us down. I already feel sorry for him though, because no matter how good the writing for his story may be, he’s not the least bit as interesting as the psychopath that the FBI has hired to help hunt him.
Overall, this was a fantastic start to the new season of Hannibal and feels not so much like a new chapter as it does a continuation of the stories that came before. I mean that in the best possible way, too. it just shows how tightly constructed and impeccably enjoyable this series is.
The episode’s title, “Kaiseki” is a Japanese term for the cuisine hospitality exhibited with Japenese tea ceremonies. The next episode, “Sakizuki,” refers to a Japanese appetizer, meaning that we’re just getting started and have quite the delicate feast to look forward to.Previous