Hannibal Review: “Amuse-bouche” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Amuse-Bouche: A bite-sized hors d’oeuvre offered for free at the beginning of a meal. You can’t buy it, like an appetizer; it’s bestowed at chef’s discretion and selection, to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine.

Yum. Got mushrooms? Hannibal is heating up…

Chippewa Falls County, Minnesota. In the Minnesota Shrike’s nest, a chilling cabin resides, containing a stark collection of antlers, some of which sport bloody tips, the “permanent installation of an evil mind.” Will Graham’s accompanied Jack Crawford the site, and seems to be recovering from having recently gotten too close to the Shrike himself, Garrett Hobbs.

Though haunted persistently by Hobbs’ image, Will takes solace in comatose daughter Abigail’s survival thus far. He’s more stable now, less rattled by the proceedings and apparently more able to sustain standing in the monster’s shoes without losing his own humanity, as evidenced by his wince when Crawford mentions that Abigail spent much time in this room with her father.

Back at Langley Will reports to the agents, who erupt in vigorous applause to his victory and receive his abrupt and vociferous “Stop that.” Hobbs is dead, but the task now is to stop those his story will inspire.

Toward precisely that end, Crawford is salivating to have Will join his team in permanent residence; it’s just now to secure the psych eval rubber stamp so he can sleep at night with this decision ~ and convince Will to submit to it. Will finds therapy to be an acquired taste he has yet to acquire, yet assents. Not with Dr. Alana Bloom (formerly Sidney, to book readers), since she and Will are familiar, but rather with Dr. Hannibal Lecter, since he’s already familiar with the Hobbs case.

Lecter’s office is cavernous, expansive, echoing the ornate filigree of mid-20th century Europe, and filled with well-placed furniture of specific function and careful selection, complete with an upstairs library level. Lecter himself occupies it with a certain centeredness, stable and present to the uninformed (and, arguably, in actuality), poised like a predator ready to pounce to those in the know (aka us). Clearly Lecter is an exceptional psychiatrist, and it is easy to feel comfortable with him, especially when you don’t know, and unsettlingly, even when you do (all kudos Mikkelsen).

Lecter immediately proffers Will his imprimatur, so that the conversation may continue unobstructed. Continue it does, organizing around concepts of responsibility for deaths caused, and senses of obligation toward deaths prevented. Lecter shares that he himself experiences a “staggering” sense of obligation to those whose lives he’s saved, complete with enigmatic expression that simultaneously makes one wonder precisely what he means by that, and take him at face value. (Note: never do that.) Session complete, rubber stamp secured, Will is back in action as Special Agent Graham.

And none too soon for the poor unfortunates discovered by three boys exploring in the woods. As one corrects another, “That isn’t a marijuana plant.” Indeed. It’s a human hand emerging from the ground, fed by an intravenous tube and staked like a tomato plant, and we’re treated to a pull-back the likes of which we’ve not seen since Neo gazed speechless upon the pods (hey, there’s Laurence Fishburne…). Crawford to Graham: “Welcome back.”

Nine bodies, each serving as the foundation of a gruesome mushroom patch (Katz is in fine black humor form again: “Find any shitakes?”) When Will does what Will does so well, his closed eyes open and he gazes out from the killer’s mind: buried alive, kept such long enough to activate as a fertilizer to feed the mushrooms. The victim is alive, but never to be conscious again. I don’t need them to be. This is my design.

As reasoned out during conversation with Lecter, this “farmer” is driven by a need for connection; the mushroom shares a certain biochemical similarity with the human brain that allows them, so to speak, to blend. Because the mycelium “know when you pass and reach back,” through the mushrooms, the killer, Stanis, feels he can connect with the people. People who, by virtue of being diabetic are perfectly suited to a) providing the chemical composition necessary to jumpstarting the fungus, b) being easily subjected to coma, and c) identifying themselves by picking up their meds from him, their pharmacist. “Is this your correct address?” You’ll never answer that question again without a twinge…

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