Hannibal, Ep.1.02: “Amuse-bouche,” one of the most effective thrillers on TV

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Hannibal - Season 1

Hannibal, Season 1, Episode 2: “Amuse Bouche”
Directed by Michael Rhymer
Written by Jim Danger Gray
Airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC

In framing Hannibal as a weekly procedural, showrunner Bryan Fuller populates his world with so many serial killers, it becomes hard to believe that so many of these insane, yet brilliant men can all reside in the same city at the same time. Only two episodes in, and we’ve already been introduced to three killers, with the possibility of a fourth. Yet, while the second episode of Hannibal does introduce a new ‘killer of the week’ formula, the series remains elevated by four things: direction, cinematography, dialogue and acting. Hannibal features two great leads (Mads Mikkelson and Hugh Dancy), a talented writing team;  is incredibly stylish, and features some of the best cutting on television – and by that I mean sharp editing – as well as great lighting, which really helps elevate the mood. Even the set design is extraordinary. Last week’s episode features a washroom that recalls the mens room from The Shining, and “Amuse Bouche” features a scene that recalls a famous sequence from The Silence of the Lambs, in which Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) is working hard on his sewing machine. What we have in Hannibal is one of the most effective thrillers in recent memory; a dramatically different counterpunch to Silence of the Lambs, and more importantly, a series that is able to balance style and substance.

The crime in “Amuse Bouche” is a strange one indeed, but fascinating no less.

As luck would have it, some teenage boys stumble upon an unusual mushroom garden deep in the woods which is being fertilized by human bodies. There are nine victims, each kept alive with a rudimentary life-support system that feeds them sugar water. The mushroom in fact, has been used for centuries by natural healers for stress relief, boosting the immune system and helping to control cholesterol levels. Modern medicine uses it for controlling blood sugar levels, since mushroom boosts adiponectin levels, and more adiponectin means your body can clear sugar from your blood more quickly and efficiently. Which translates to: plenty of energy to get through the day or, in this case, allowing these poor souls left in a diabetic comatose state, to stay alive a little longer and cultivate this twisted oasis. It all doesn’t quite make much sense, but Graham determines the man responsible  must be a pharmacist with access to insulin, since all the victims are diabetic. Later, Lecter suggests that not only does the structure of these magic mushrooms resemble that of the human brain, but are organisms that some people believe, by their very nature, enhance, in some way or another, the innate psychic abilities that people possess. Thus, the sort of connection the killer, a pharmacist named Eldon Stammitz, is searching, and believes he can find in Will Graham.

A few things to note down:

1- The pharmacist’s case somehow ties in loosely to that of Abigail Hobbs, but we are still unclear as to how or why.

2- Abigail, still comatose, is considered to potentially be an accomplice to murders performed by her now late, father, although Graham makes it very clear he doesn’t agree.

3- With the mushroom killer we were treated with two frightening moments. The first comes at the scene of the crime when one of the suspected deceased victims springs back to life and grabs a hold of Graham. The second moment comes later, when Graham discovers a body in the trunk of a car. Hannibal - Season 1

Will Graham has been played by several actors before, including by William Petersen in Michael Mann’s Red Dragon adaptation, Manhunter, and later by Edward Norton in Brett Ratner’s remake. But here Graham is quite different and far more interesting. We know very little about Will Graham from the source material, and with Hannibal, Fuller and his writing staff place the spotlight on him. In particular, what works so well in the series is the relationship between Lecter and Graham, and their partnership alone is worth watching.

In “Amuse-bouche, ” Will is haunted by the killing of Garrett Jacob Hobbs, which marks the first time he has murdered a man. Crawford notices the strain it is having on him and he orders Graham to undergo psychological evaluation with Lecter. It’s no surprise that anyone forced to use lethal force could feel remorse, but it’s different in Graham’s case. As it turns out, Graham isn’t battling with regret but instead feels ashamed for taking pleasure in the act. “God kills all the time. Are we not created in his image?” the doctor asks, and continues saying, “killing makes God feel powerful,” implying that is what Graham is feeling. Lecter might be taking advantage of his position as Will’s psychologist to protect himself, but he is also generally fascinated by the F.B.I. Investigator, and he genuinely respects Graham. This puts a defining irony at the centre of the series; Will has a gift of getting into the minds of killers, and has no trouble in tracking them down, yet Hannibal, the most dangerous of all, is invisible to him, even when the two men are standing alone together in a room.

Hannibal - Season 1

“Amuse Bouche” also introduces the sleazy tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds. Bryan Fuller has changed the sex of Lounds, from a male (in the books) to a shifty redheaded female. Lounds takes an interest in Graham and his unique abilities, and her unethical approach to journalism lands her in hot water not once, but three times. In one incident, she tries to secretly tape her conversation with our favourite psychiatrist, only Lecter isn’t easy to fool. “You’ve been terribly rude, Miss Lounds,” the doctor tells her, “What’s to be done about that?” Lounds is clearly playing with fire, and to Lecter, she is just a silly pawn in his sadistic mind games. With that said, anyone familiar with the mad doctor knows he doesn’t take kindly to rude people. Could Lounds end up on the doctor’s dinner plate sometime in the near future?

Although there are some flaws in this episode (particularly everything involving the corrupt cop who helps Lounds), “Amuse-bouche” is for the most part an incredibly effective thriller. Lara Jean Chorostecki is effective as the slimy tabloid news-lady, and of course there are Mads Mikkelsen and High Dancy, engaged not only in a psychological cat-and-mouse game, but seemingly in a contest to see who can give the best performance. When compared to such popular forensics shows as CSI, Hannibal takes the cake. This psychologically slippery, contemplative thriller really deserves a bigger audience.

– Ricky D

Other thoughts:

Kids in the Hall alum, Scott Thompson makes a larger appearance after a blink-and-you-miss-it turn in the pilot.

Watching this series really makes me want to go vegan.

What’s could the stag in Graham’s dream symbolize?

That cop seemed to have no problem in losing his job.

What exactly did Hannibal serve Jack for dinner, and did it come with an amuse-bouche?

  1. Twintosser says

    Spoilers what to expect in the next 4 episodes.
    the article is good enough, but below the video will show you things we have not seen yet.


    1. Ricky says

      oh I don’t want to be spoiled so I won’t look. LOL

  2. Twintosser says

    @ Ricky the Hobbs was in class in the beginning of episode 2 as well, but it is far from being closed. The rumors that I have read are this season maybe next (pending a full pick up) will be faithful to Red Dragon as much as possible.

    Brian Fuller said he considers Red Dragon the bible of Hannibal Lector stories soo thats my guess on the murders in the begining..

    andyou can watch the shows for free at HUlU I use subtitles because sometimes I miss something esp with Hannibals accent.

  3. Twintosser says

    I thought about Hannibal being the killer because in ep 2 (last night) Jack made the comment that all of the bodies are gone, wouldnt there be pieces left. They so far have found nothing outside the cabin or the home either.

    Hannibal has the resources to hide that stuff with money and huge ware houses – remember in Silence of the Lambs he did that.

    just a thought.

    so in Episode 1 the family being killed with the alarm system, wife being tortured before dying, that would be the Tooth fairy then from Red Dragon? The Killer was using the alarm systems company to get his victims.So season 1 would be Red Dragon, depends on ratings to see what season 2 will be like I guess?

    Yes Ive finally nailed it down looks like Gillian Anderson will be in around episode 8 – as a Dr. I dont know if you want more spoilers than that. lol

    1. Deepayan Sengupta says

      There have been some rumours about Dolarhyde’s fingerprints being all over the first murder, but that seemed like a case that Graham was teaching to his class, which indicates to me that it was solved. I do hope he makes an appearance, though, but that’d have to be a multi-episode arc, I think, because Red Dragon is as much from his perspective as it is from Will’s.

      1. Ricky says

        I really wish the network would provide me with screeners so I can watch these episodes again. There is so much to take in on one sitting.

      2. Randy says

        Bryan Fuller already has a rough outline for the series, and that Red Dragon and the Tooth Fairy case would be the outline of season four.

        The first two seasons (according to him) are about what Hannibal means by the two of them being “more alike than they think”. With this structure, season 3 would be the events before Red Dragon, with Will hunting Lector and Lector nearly killing him upon capture.

        In other words, I highly doubt the Tooth Fairy is involved in the pilot murder referenced above. The Tooth Fairy doesn’t surface until after Lector’s in prison, and it seems Fuller will at least stick somewhat closely to the series canon (he’s already shown a desire to bring in Jame Gumb and Clarice Starling, should the show carry on long enough).

        1. Ricky says

          @Randy – I’ve read the exact same story about him wanting to wait for season four which is why I am in agreement with you. However, I dont’ see this series lasting four seasons.

  4. Ricky says

    Thanks for clearing up the location status. I assumed Hobbs, Hannibal and the mushroom killer are all in the same state. If not, at least two of those three are – not to mention the possible fourth.

    I don’t think the cop really reacted in a way that rings true. I don’t know. It seems poorly played on the part of the actor – at least for me.

    I think in this episode, Graham says that Hobbs is “a” killer, but was working with someone else, hinting that he was maybe working for someone else. I agree there is someone else out there. I am just not sure why the others think his daughter was an accomplice. That seems strange and clearly not true.

    Whose to say that Hobbs wasn’t the copycat and Hannibal was the original killer?

    No … the first two episodes made it very clear that Hannibal isn’t responsible for those crimes. He is better than that.

    Hannibal will eats Lounds – I’m pretty sure of it.

    I had no idea that Gillian Anderson would be in this show.

  5. Twintosser says

    There are not always in the same state.
    Will is teaching at Virginia for the FBI
    Hobbs was getting girls at Minnesota campus’s
    His cabin was in Minnesota
    The mushroom killer was in Maryland
    Hannibal is also in Maryland

    The cop totally had a problem losing his job, he even knew she had done this type of thing
    Before – I don’t get what you mean by that? She was just trying to wave everything away
    With a hey you can get paid more blah blah, but she ruined his career, maybe he had hopes to
    Be in the FBI one day or something. She ruined that.

    Hannibal told Jack it was pork loin =)

    Im not convinced that Hobbs was the Shrike killer. Jack said all 7 bodies are gone, no trace = so someone ate them all up.
    Whose to say that Hobbs wasn’t the copycat and Hannibal was the original killer?

    And I really really hope that Hannibal eats Lounds in not a good way either.

    I thought the dream sequence in the hospital was pretty neat.

    He is asleep in Abigail Hobb’s room on the couch, and hears the click clacking of walking in the hall
    And it’s a Moose. Except in real life its Alana Bloom walking in on heels.

    How many times in real life have you heard a noise and it became incorporated into your dream
    At the moment.
    I thought It was pretty cool that the writer did that.

    p.s. where is Gillian Anderson? Any idea when she comes into the show.

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