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Hannibal Ep 2.01 “Kaiseki” fires on all cylinders

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Hannibal Season 2, Episode 1 “Kaiseki”
Directed by Tim Hunter
Written by Bryan Fuller
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on NBC

The end of the first season of Hannibal left Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) locked up in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Season 2 serves a promising start as Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) wine and dine on the episode title kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. Following his arrest for the murders that took place in season one, Will finds himself in a tricky situation where he has to try and prove his innocence while trapped in a cell, and while suffering from temporary memory loss. Hannibal Lecter steps into Will Graham’s shoes as the new FBI criminal profiler, and Will struggles to remember how exactly Hannibal framed him for the crimes Hannibal clearly committed.

The opening of “Kaiseki,” features a bloody, fight-to-the-death sequence between Crawford and Lecter. The choreography of the fight sequence itself, with reflections of the two men’s faces beaming off the blade of the knife, to the glass lodged into the side of Jack’s skull, is enough to whet our appetites for what is ahead this season. As indicated in a title card, Jack will soon catch on to Hannibal’s evil ways, but we have twelve weeks (episodes) to go before getting there. One can argue the cold open deflates the tension throughout the season, but we already know, given the source material where the story leads. With Hannibal, there’s very little that’s unexpected when it comes to the future of the show, but it doesn’t really matter. The journey is the show’s raison d’etre, not the destination.

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Themes of reflection, perception, identity and loneliness pervade the entire series, and “Kaiseki” is no exception. Hannibal no longer desires to be like Will; he now wants to be Will Graham. “You’re the new Will Graham,” Beverly tells Hannibal who tries his best not to smile with glee. Later he recounts that he “got to be Will Graham today,” showing great pride, as if he accomplished one of his life long goals. It’s an interesting twist that puts Hannibal right in the middle of the action, offering a front row seat in examining both the methods of these crimes and the process of those who investigate. “I looked through Will’s eyes and saw death as I imagine Will sees it,” Hannibal says. Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Hannibal remains a fascinating character, the likes of which we’ve not seen before despite the previous big screen adaptations. Hannibal is clearly emotionally conflicted and can never truly get what he wants. What he wants, is to be Graham and yet be his best friend. Maybe friend isn’t the right word. Perhaps Will is his obsession. With Will behind bars, Hannibal may walk in his shoes, but that isn’t enough to make up for Graham’s absence. By the end of the episode, Hannibal sits quietly and alone on his couch, no different than Winston who continues to run away, desperately looking for his best friend. And no different than Jack who mirrors Winston when returning to Jack’s home. The toll of their loneliness isn’t just emotional. They feel tired, distracted, unable to concentrate. That emptiness Hannibal feels by not having Will around, might just lead him to eventually self consciously slip up.

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Hannibal’s visual department continues to impress. We are offered plenty of macabre eye candy once again as Will slowly recovers his memories, beginning with a visually impressive representation of Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas). Tight framing, medium-close-ups, deep, muted colours, shadowy lighting and shallow focus are what we come to expect when watching the series. Hannibal is a gorgeous show, but the beauty extends further than the technical process. Hannibal forces us to look at terrible things, and the imagery is often uncomfortable and difficult to watch. It works to make us see things like Will sees things. Our only way out is to look away, but we rarely do. Hannibal may be about a serial killer, but it’s also about our morbid fascination with death and serial killers in general. In “Kaiseki” we are introduced to a new killer who preserves models of a human colour palette in an abandoned silo. The fixation on skin feels like a nod to the Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill, although Bill still remains out of copyright bounds. The final image of “Kaiseki” reveals a hideous portrait of an eye, composed of human bodies. The victims are huddled together, hideously embalmed with some sort of chemical to help keep their bodies preserved. Huddled in the dark in front of our television sets, we can’t help but admire the careful, artistic hand.

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Finally, to the man of the hour, Will Graham. Will may be suffering from memory loss, but he seems more focused in the beginning of this season. After everything he’s been through with Hannibal, he patiently waits for his chance to return to normality. For the first time in a long time, he has clarity. It becomes Will’s goal to take control of his own memory and perception, enlisting Alana Bloom to help him out. The shots of Will mentally escaping the hospital to do a little fly fishing clearly show he’s slowly gaining control, or at least finding ways to cope with his imprisonment. Will’s visions mirror his internal demons; the monstrous stag returns this year, although what it represents is still unclear. Even more nightmare-inducing is the scene in which Will remembers Hannibal force feeding him the severed ear. “My inner voice sounds like you. And I can’t get you out of my head,” Will tells Hannibal.

Gillian Anderson, returns as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s shrink. It’s clear she knows how dangerous Hannibal can be, but it remains unclear if she knows that he is responsible for any of the crimes. As we discovered in season one, a traumatic incident from her past is what brought them together. It seems perhaps she owes Hannibal a debt, and so she feels obligated to him out. “You maintain an air of transparency while putting me in the position to lie for you. Again,” Du Maurier tells Lecter after he gives her a consent form which will allow her to discuss their therapy sessions with Jack Crawford. In addition to Du Maurier and Bloom, Hannibal (unlike many other shows) is making great use of the female cast. Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park) has a great moment when reaching out to Will in prison. She clearly cares about Graham, but her professionalism stops her from expressing her emotions. She knows she has a job to do, and can be of little help to Will at the moment. Finally, we get the introduction of Cynthia Nixon’s Kade Prurnell, an FBI investigator who’s not happy that Alana formally blames Jack Crawford for his role in Will’s fate. Her appearance albeit brief, signifies for an nice expansion of the world.

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These days, TV overflows with crime dramas done as police procedurals, but no series has gone further in portraying an investigation as meticulously crafted, well acted, and superbly directed as Hannibal. “Kaiseki” features the nail-biting suspense of a first-rate thriller, the allure of a great character study, and the haunting visual flair the show has become famous for.

– Ricky D

Other thoughts:

Jack: “I can’t quite place the fish…”

I’m relieved to see that Alana is taking care of Will’s dogs.

Will: “I am not the intelligent psychopath you are looking for”.

Will: “There will be a reckoning”.

 


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