Hannibal Review: “Dolce” (Season 3, Episode 6)


“If I saw you every day forever, Will, I would remember this time.”

Alright, it’s time to get real about this Hannibal and Will relationship thing. While I’m a HUGE fan of this show, I do NOT understand all that crazy Hannigram stuff. But I will confess this: The reunion of Will and Hannibal in “Dolce” literally brought me to tears.

Forget for a moment that Hannibal murders and eats people. Forget for a moment that Will’s obsession with Hannibal has gotten his friends killed and that Will genuinely considered helping Hannibal murder Jack Crawford. When Will sat down next to Hannibal in the Uffizi Gallery, I saw such joy in their expressions as two best friends who thought they’d never again share a quiet moment together were reunited. I couldn’t help wishing they would stay like that, fixed in time like the subjects in Botticelli’s “Primavera.” How precious that moment was and they both knew it. “If I saw you every day forever, Will, I would remember this time.” What is will never be again.

hannibal-s03e06

I’m well aware that in real life, neither of these guys is someone who would elicit much sympathy from me. Hannibal is a sadistic cannibal and Will is an antisocial dick. But within the context of the show, they each represent a lonely soul stranded on an island of his own design who discovers he’s not in fact alone. Unfortunately that island by its very nature is built for one, and no friendship between them — no reconciliation — can last for very long. That’s heartbreaking.

Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen convey such a mix of emotions here with naturalistic micro-expressions on their faces and subtle inflections in their voices. I’m convinced their versions of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, respectively, are the very best versions that have appeared onscreen to date.

It will be fascinating to see how their relationship evolves once Hannibal is locked up. In the book and movie versions of Red Dragon, Will needs Hannibal to help him catch Francis Dolarhyde. I wonder how much help the Will Graham of the television show will actually need versus how much their reconnection will draw them back together.

There are 7 more episodes of Hannibal left, which could likely be the last 7 times we get to see Dancy, Mikkelsen, et al portray these fascinating and complex characters. When Will tells Hannibal, “I’m curious whether either of us can survive separation,” I find myself wondering how well we fans will fare.

Hannibites:

  • “Jack was the first to suggest getting inside your head. Now we both have the opportunity to chew quite literally what we’ve only chewed figuratively.” What a great twist on the brain-eating scene from the book to have Will Graham take the place of Krendler!
  • When Will whispered, “I don’t believe you” to Bedelia, I cheered out loud! These writers are so amazing. It seems like they never miss the chance to call back to a previous moment between two characters.
  • Alana Bloom is now fully “immersed” with the Vergers. I noticed her blood red blouse and it made me wonder how the colors of her clothes maybe match her evolution. I’ll need to pay closer attention when I rewatch this season.
  • That is one wicked expensive dress shirt Hannibal’s dressed Will in for “dinner.”
  • “In my defense, you weaponized your uterus. You shouldn’t have been waving it around like a loaded pistol.”
  • Apparently, Jack and Chiyo were supposed to have a big choreographed fight scene in the elevator but it got cut because of time and/or money. While that would have been cool, I really like the tension in the scene as is.
  • “This isn’t meat, this is man.” Can’t argue with Cordell’s logic on that one.
  • Will, about to be killed and eaten by Hannibal (in which order he does not know), manages probably the best insult a person could make to Hannibal: “The soup isn’t very good.” Hahaha!
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Hannibal Review: “Contorno” (Season 3, Episode 5)


“The first step in the development of taste is to be willing to credit your own opinion.”

It is my opinion, and dare I say I have a refined palate for storytelling, that even the worst episode of Hannibal is some of the best television ever created. And while “Contorno” is not my favorite episode, it’s still got a lot going for it.

Let’s get the best scene out of the way first: The Jack v. Hannibal rematch. How satisfying to see Hannibal get his ass kicked! Personally, I would have liked a little more back and forth, but that slow motion shot of Jack kicking Hannibal through glass was glorious. And the giant hook! I instantly recalled Jack saying to Will in Season 2, “I’m a good fisherman, too.”

In other news, Will and Choyo are headed to Florence by train to stop/kill Hannibal, depending on who you ask. That is, until Will “Alana-Blooms” off the back of the train! (Forget “jump scares,” this show has officially invented the “push scare.”)

Hannibal - Season 3Choyo has correctly pegged Will as a tad bit off-center and chosen to delay his arrival in Italy. Empathy and reciprocity have led Will Graham to a state of moral dumbfounding, as Hannibal tells Bedelia, and Choyo clearly doesn’t trust Will to find his moral compass again. I wonder if Choyo witnessed Will’s creation of the moth man he left in Hannibal’s Lithuanian dungeon. It’s hard to imagine she wasn’t privy to an art project that must have taken Will hours to complete. “Stay outside, I’ll be done in a minute!”

Will is both attracted and repulsed by Hannibal and his feelings for him. “Hannibal and I afforded each other an experience we may not otherwise have had.” He loves what Hannibal has shown him but he hates that he loves it. The only way to prove to himself that he is not like Hannibal is to kill him. Or so he thinks. Choyo tells Will that “there are means of influence other than violence.” Is this planting the seed for Will to pursue Hannibal’s capture instead of his death?

Initially, the Choyo character didn’t do much for me. Pazzi either. My problem with both of these characters is that they were introduced to us with a lot talking and very little action. So the only sense of them we got was through their stories about themselves. And in the case of Choyo especially, her delivery of those stories is so monotone as to remove almost all trace of dramatic tension. In contrast to the characters we already know (and know very well — and know through action) these new characters were dissatisfying. Initially, that is. But on rewatching these episodes, especially “Contorno,” I’ve listened closely to their words. I can imagine real people with real experiences behind those words. And they’re both so damned tragic. I now find myself feeling for them, rooting for them.

Being familiar with the book, Hannibal, I knew Pazzi’s fate, but I’m still in the dark about Choyo. Her line to Will about snails surviving digestion in a bird’s stomach to find they’ve traveled the world has me intrigued. Was that meant for him or for her?

Regarding Pazzi, when we first met him, his motive to catch Hannibal seemed entirely a desire for redemption. Even in this episode, he references his “fall from grace” that has damned him to menial tasks for his former subordinates. But with the introduction of his wife, it seems his motive has shifted to something more mercenary. That shift felt sudden and rather thin on first watch, a contrivance to follow the plotline from the book. But on second viewing, I began to think about previous episodes in which Pazzi tried to recruit both Will and Jack. Why enlist their help? In the answer to that question is the key to his motivation….

Consider this: For whatever reason, it seems Pazzi does not trust his colleagues and superiors in the Italian police. Perhaps he fears they would take most or all of the credit for any apprehension of Lecter, but his role would be undeniable if he were partnered with the American FBI. Therefore, it’s Will’s and Jack’s dual refusals that drive Pazzi to Mason Verger. If credit for Hannibal’s capture (and thus restoration of Pazzi’s former glory) is in question, then Mason’s bounty is a consolation prize. Was a consolation prize. Would have been a consolation prize. Oh poor Pazzi.

Hannibites:

  • Fireflies eat snails. Birds eat snails. Bedelia eats snails. Is there a connection?
  • What I love about long-form storytelling done right (as in the case of Hannibal) is how they have time for a moment where Jack mispronounces the meal at the Pazzi’s and is corrected. This has nothing to do with plot, but grounds the characters in a genuine moment between humans. So that when one of them is gutted and hanged, it’s more than just a plot development; it’s a tragic end to a human we cared for.
  • Is Alana Bloom a quitter? Vote now.
  • How did Alana track down those receipts? Is she randomly calling shops in Europe? How many languages does she speak so that she can inquire about purchases? I thought maybe Bedelia sent them to her but Alana describes a “blonde woman” who makes the purchases, so clearly she spoke to the merchant. That’s some serious Nancy Drew sleuthing right there!
  • The cutaways to Mason in that scene are hilarious. He looks so proud of her!
  • Brian Reitzell’s scoring makes awesome slow motion even more slow motion-y awesome.
  • “A little more hidden, a little less seen / When life is most like a dream.” This writing is poetry.
  • The double meaning of Hannibal’s comment to Pazzi: “Like any good investigator, I’m sure you’re sifting the circumstances for profit.”
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Hannibal Review: “Apertivo” (Season 3, Episode 4)


“One of those friendships that ends after the disemboweling.”

“Apertivo” was the episode 2 I was hoping for. The fact that it comes a little later in the season doesn’t bother me, though, because I think it was a necessary choice for pacing reasons. This episode is electric, and I suspect all of the tension sown in episodes 2 and 3 will begin to pay off in exciting ways from this point forward.

Hannibal - Season 3We’re treated to 3 “surprises” in this episode (though not surprising to those who avidly devour Hannibal news):

First, Dr. Chilton is alive (!), twice resurrected. Surviving the removal of his insides by Dr. Gideon in Season 1 and surviving a bullet to the face by Miriam Lass in Season 2, Chilton proves that no one on Hannibal is dead until we see a corpse, preferably displayed as a work of art. I loved how it was Chilton who came to see Will in the hospital, instead of Abigail as Will wanted/imagined. The disappointment in Will’s face is utterly tragic. It’s like the most perfectly executed bad joke, mirroring Abigail’s second “resurrection,” only this time fo’ realz. The reuse of the dialogue from episode 2 is poignant and heart-breaking. Hugh Dancy’s reluctant delivery of the line “He left us to die” suggests that Will is reliving this scene a second time just as we are.

Second, Alana is alive (!) — with an adamantium skeleton and mutant healing powers! (Not really, but who wouldn’t want to see Caroline Dhavernas as the next Wolverine? Am I alone in this fantasy?) It seems Alana has gained a newfound understanding of Will’s early homicidal instincts.

Season 2 Alana: “Will, it’s wrong to conspire to murder Hannibal just because he’s killing everyone you care about.”

Season 3 Alana: “Hey, Mason, can we conspire to murder Hannibal? He’s killing everyone I care about.”

To what degree is she deceiving Mason? And will her dance with this devil corrupt/transform her in the same way Will’s dance with Hannibal corrupted/transformed him?

And third, “Apertivo” introduces us to the “good as new” Mason Verger. In tonight’s episode, the role of Mason Verger will be performed by Joe Anderson. I wasn’t so sure what to think on first viewing; he seemed kind of flat compared to Michael Pitt’s more flamboyant approach. But the second time I watched the episode I found myself really enjoying the subtleties of his performance, especially in the eyes and voice. Where Pitt’s Mason was operatic, Anderson’s is fully of seething anger.

Also quite interesting was Will’s clear admission of his ambivalence about Hannibal to Jack Crawford. Though still conflicted, Will’s emotions swing much closer towards forgiveness than I ever expected. After the Season 2 massacre — in particular, Hannibal’s sadistic “Indian giver” act of murdering Abigail right in front of Will after resurrecting her for him only moments before — I’d envisioned a vengeance-driven Season 3 Will pursuing Hannibal across Europe. Instead we get a Will Graham who not only imagines an alternate world where he participates in Jack’s murder, but perhaps even wishes he had. Apparently this is not one of those friendships that ends after the disemboweling.

(By the way, that scene that begins with Crawford’s murder and transitions through to the conversation in Will’s garage — all set to those sweeping and weeping melodic strings — could be the most beautiful moment in the entire series so far.)

And seeing all of Hannibal’s victims together in one episode like this makes me think that perhaps Hannibal’s goal is rarely to kill. Killing is incidental. First principles, Clarice. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing (or attempting to kill, or positioning people into situations where they might be killed)? He wants to see what people become. As Mason Verger says, “Survived him? This is exactly how he intended me to live.”

In summary, “Apertivo” has the potential to be one of my favorite episodes of the series. Every moment between any two characters is pregnant with so much history and so much emotion that what might be born henceforth is something only Hannibal/Hannibal can imagine.

Hannibites:

  • A boat! That’s exactly how Will Graham would travel to Europe!
  • Jack’s goodbye to Bella. Maybe Laurence Fishburne’s best performance in the series. Actually, he rocked this whole episode.
  • What does it say about this cast of characters that Chilton is acting the most rationally of all of them?
  • “Friendship with Hannibal is blackmail elevated to the level of love.” Best line ever. My head exploded when I first heard it.
  • I cheered out loud when I saw Katherine Isabelle’s name appear in the opening credits!
  • “The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears this is true.”
  • Did Mason Verger really quote Conan the Barbarian???
  • Are we to assume that Jack Crawford doesn’t know what “copyright” means, or is it the writers who don’t?
  • Defenestration! Now I love that word, too!
  • The POV of Will’s intestines during the gutting.
  • Sitting there in Hannibal’s house, Will and ghost Abigail reminded me of David and ghost Jack from An American Werewolf in London.
  • Hannibal’s note of condolence to Jack quotes from John Donne’s “A Fever.”
  • Ah, the eternal Baltimore winter.
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Hannibal Review: “Secondo” (Season 3, Episode 3)


“Technically, you killed him.”

NBC announced today that it would not renew its option to broadcast a fourth season of Hannibal. This came as sad news to many fans. But notice my wording in that first sentence.

Hannibal has always been an independently produced show. Just because NBC doesn’t want a Season 4, doesn’t mean there won’t be one. Last year when Season 3 was in question, there were murmurs of other networks who were interested if NBC passed.

The most important variable, in my opinion, in determining whether or not there will be a Season 4 is Bryan Fuller. His commitment to Hannibal has been undeniable. He is also committed to Showtime’s adaptation of American Gods. As sure as I am that he would have delivered a great Season 4 had NBC picked it up, I’m also sure it’s tempting as hell for him to see a silver lining here — no Season 4 of Hannibal would sure simplify his life.

Now for the question of why no Season 4 on NBC. In other words, who, technically, killed Hannibal? NBC itself. No, it’s not a question of inadequate promotion or lead ins or which night the show is on. Hannibal was dead the minute NBC decided to let Fuller do the show he wanted to. This is NOT a network show. The fact that we fans got THREE SEASONS (let alone one season) should have us jumping for joy. That’s a miracle. Let’s all count our blessings before we cut our own hearts out and eat them.

But this is supposed to be a review of episode 3. Thank you for allowing me the digression.

“Secondo” is a merging of the aesthetics of the first two episodes this season, giving us more of Hannibal’s adventures in Florence and more of Will’s search for Hannibal, this time in Lithuania. The juxtaposition is unfortunate. As much as I like the gothic aesthetics of the Will Graham storyline, there’s an electricity to Hannibal’s storyline that dwarfs the rest of the episode.

I found myself wishing for something more to happen. Things did happen, of course. Will met and allied himself with Chiyo. Chiyo resolved her dilemma over whether or not to kill her prisoner. But I didn’t find myself caring very much at all about these new characters and new developments. As I’ve said before, I’m confident I will appreciate this individual episode more once the full context of the season is known, but on first viewing I was ambivalent.

What I was not ambivalent about were two scenes in particular. First, the dinner party Hannibal throws for Sogliato. We’ve never seen the good doctor lose his composure the way he does when he drives the ice pick into Sogliato’s temple. Even when he was massacring Baltimore’s entire FBI field office in the Season 2 finale, he was a man in complete control. It’s quite revealing of the level to which Will’s declaration of forgiveness must have affected Hannibal.

Second was Will’s “design” of the dead prisoner. On first reading I thought it was a sign post to Hannibal, should he return to Lithuania. On second thought, I saw it as a reply to the valentine Hannibal left for Will at the Cappella Palatina. On third thought, I wonder if Will misses the dance he did with Hannibal in Season 2 where he was pretending to be his serial killer protégé, and this was a way for him to flex those murderous muscles. On fourth thought, I imagined a twisted and bizarre Season 4 where Will Graham is the moth-obsessed serial killer standing in for Buffalo Bill (which the television show does not own the rights to). That would be a crazy twist and elegant way to keep Hannibal and Will dancing once Hannibal is committed to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Jack Crawford makes his first appearance of Season 3 in this episode. We’re not given much here except some conversations with Inspector Pazzi that echo too closely to Will’s from last episode. I did find it extremely interesting when Jack says, “I’m not here for the monster … I’m here for Will Graham.” I see two interpretations of this line. One, it seems that a consequence of the Hannibal House Massacre is that Jack has finally learned there is a price too high to pay when pursuing the bad guy. And two, that Jack can see the potential monster in Will Graham and is fighting for his friend’s better angels.

Hannibites:

  • Did anyone else notice the scene “from” episode 2 in the recap that was not actually in episode 2? Will says to Abigail, “There are places within himself he can’t safely go.”
  • That suit Hannibal wears to dinner!
  • Fireflies! And snails!
  • Who keeps that dungeon stocked with candles??
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Hannibal Review: “Primavera” (Season 3, Episode 2)


“More important than suffering”

In “Primavera,” Will Graham offers one of the most pointed insights into Hannibal Lecter’s psychology that the show has given us to date:

“Hannibal follows several trains of thought at once, without distraction from any, and one of the trains is always for his own amusement. He’s playing with us. Always.”

Based on this episode, I think just maybe the same thing could be said about Bryan Fuller, the showrunner behind NBC’s Hannibal.

The appearance of Abigail Hobbs — risen from the dead… again? — infuriated me. The “Buuuulllllshit!” that I screamed must have woken at least a few neighbors. What was Fuller thinking? To have Abigail survive would rob the Season 2 finale (one of the greatest episodes of television I’ve ever witnessed) of its emotional power. There’s no way someone as story-savvy as Fuller would do that, right?

hannibal-s03e02I envisioned a Season 3 of Hannibal that included Abigail alive, and it made me sad. I envisioned the next three months of me NOT looking forward to Thursday nights, and it made me sad. I envisioned a life of talking about how tragic it was that NBC’s Hannibal lost its way after only two seasons, and it made me sad.

So I spent the next 10 minutes of the show chanting under my breath, “She can’t be real, she can’t be real, she can’t be real,” until enough of Will’s repeated mixing of reality, memory, and nightmarish fantasy suggested that Fuller and company were still to be trusted. It was then a tense waiting game until the show finally revealed (at exactly 31 minutes 19 seconds, by the way) that Abigail was in fact dead. A deep sigh of relief.

My conclusion: Despite redeeming itself by the end of the episode, the recap filler + Abigail fake-out + Will weirdness = a disappointing follow-up to last week’s most promising Season 3 premiere.

That is, until I watched it a second time.

“Primavera” holds up MUCH better on a second viewing. The “resurrection” of Abigail as a representation of Will’s conflicted feelings about the choices he made that led to last season’s Hannibal House Massacre is brilliant. Will’s need to make a place for Abigail, if only in his mind, is heartbreaking. Interpreting the conversations between them about possibility and choice as Will working through his own guilt and ambivalence is fascinating.

“After all he’s done, you’d still go to him?” A silent part of Will nods yes.

I also love how moody the whole episode is. It has this creepy gothic feel that culminates in the catacombs beneath the Cappella Palatina in Palermo. What better place to look for the fallen angel Lucifer (Hannibal) than the dark underworld beneath God’s temple?

While the “Il Mostro” backstory provided by Chief Investigator Pazzi was intriguing, I found his conversations with Will — especially Will’s warnings to him — to be a bit repetitive. Fans of the book, Hannibal, will remember Pazzi as the Italian police detective who tries to sell Hannibal to Mason Verger. This Pazzi, more interestingly, seems much more motivated by the opportunity to restore his reputation (tarnished 20 years earlier when he “wrongly” accused Hannibal of being the serial killer, Il Mostro, the “Monster of Florence”) than by financial gain. I wonder how this will lead him to Verger.

Despite an agonizing first viewing experience, I’m finding that “Primavera” keeps rising higher and higher in my estimation the more I think about it. Like God (and Hannibal), Bryan Fuller too seems to believe that “elegance is more important than suffering.”

“He’s playing with us. Always. You still want to go with him?”

Yes. Yes, I do.

Hannibites:

  • The corpse unfolding itself into a deformed version of the stag.
  • It would be fun to drink my evening tea out of a Will Graham face-cup.
  • Why did Will lie to Hannibal? “The wrong thing being the right thing to do was too ugly a thought.” Is the wrong thing going away with Hannibal and the right thing not lying and/or sparing Jack’s life? I’m still chewing on this one.
  • A smile of fire burns through Will’s drawing of a clock.
  • Why does the priest see Abigail? Perhaps he sees the wounded part of Will.
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Hannibal Review: “Antipasto” (Season 3, Episode 1)


“It’s not that kind of party.”

Bonsoir!

hannibal-s03e01And so, NBC’s Hannibal greats us with confidence and style in a season opener that could not have pleased this avid fan more. The champagne is popped and chopped with celebratory violence and in violent celebration. Following the carnage that ended Season 2 and revealed to all who Hannibal really is beneath his “person suit” — and thereby sounding the death knell for the show’s serial-killer-of-the-week formula once and for all — Season 3 brings us what is essentially a brand new “pilot episode” to herald the series’ grand becoming.

From the very first image in which a key ignites the internal combustion engine of a motorcycle, propelling our main character forward down a dark road, Bryan Fuller and his creative team propel us into this next chapter.

Taking inspiration from the setup in the book, Hannibal, the story finds the good doctor in Europe (first in Paris, then Florence), where he’s created a vacancy (in other words, murdered someone) for a prestigious post he covets at the Palazzo Capponi in Florence. But it’s okay, he tells his fellow fugitive and former psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier, because he won the museum curator position fairly, on his merits!

In parallel with the present storyline involving Hannibal and Bedelia’s European vacation, we get a series of flashbacks to Hannibal’s last encounters with Chesapeake Ripper wannabe Abel Gideon, whom Hannibal abducted, fed him his own legs, and finally murdered in “Futamono,” an episode from Season 2. These are new scenes that take place in between the scenes we saw last season. These scenes flesh out the theme of eating and being eaten — the predator-prey relationship that Hannibal has with all who cross his path — that’s a recurring theme throughout the series. But it’s milked here for all it has to offer as we watch Hannibal struggle with his newfound peace in Europe. As we watch him struggle to find someone or something as interesting as Will Graham.

For a moment, we think Hannibal may have found his Will Graham in the morally ambiguous Anthony Dimmond, a seemingly ready-made murder-buddy. Alas, Dimmond is dispatched relatively quickly, bludgeoned with a bust of Aristotle. Hannibal does it in part to make a point to Bedelia that she’s not an observer, but a participant in his exploits. But I think it’s also because the Dimmond “friendship” is too easy for Hannibal. Perhaps all along he’s wanted an adversary more than a friend.

Bedelia has moved to the foreground, showing a greater range of emotion in this one episode than she had in Seasons 1 and 2 combined. I’ll confess, in past episodes I found this character’s fragile stoicism, though interesting, rather one-dimensional. But Gillian Anderson and the writers have given her so much nuance here that I can’t wait to see where they take her now that she’s a series regular (until she’s murdered — like every other supporting character on the show; and then brought back to life — like every other supporting character on the show).

The question of why she joined Hannibal on the run is explored but not answered, at least to this viewer’s satisfaction. In flashback, we observe (and, through our own biases for our favorite cannibal, participate in) her decision to ally with Hannibal immediately after his massacre of Will and company. She finds him in her shower cleansing himself of their blood. While interesting, the scene raises more questions than anything else. What motivates her? Is it professional curiosity about Hannibal or personal curiosity about herself and what’s waking up within her? Given that she was granted immunity for her role in the death of her patient (which we also get to see in flashback), what compelled her to run? Curiosity, yes, but is there more? She seems simultaneously drawn to and afraid of the flame. Later, in Florence, she sits in front of a security camera at a train station, as if hoping someone who might recognize her were watching.

The episode ends with Hannibal creating his latest murder set-piece. It’s his love letter to Will Graham; it’s an invitation to a bloody dinner that will likely take even bigger bites out of the both of them. C’mon, be honest, when Hannibal told Bedelia days earlier, “I’ve found a peace here that I would preserve,” did any of us really believe him?

“Antipasto” has indeed whet our appetites. All of the creative players behind Hannibal are at the top of their games — scoring, photography, acting, editing, directing, and of course, the writing. And like Hannibal, their declaration is loud and clear: We’re still here and you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Hannibites:

  • How funny was that recap at the beginning of the episode? If it made a lick of sense to anyone who hadn’t already watched Season 2, I’ll donate my own tongue to Hannibal’s next dinner party.
  • The hopeful look Hannibal gives Bedelia right before he responds, “It’s not that kind of dinner.”
  • Snails!
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My Current Favorites (That You’re Probably Not Watching — Why???)


I love the following TV shows and movies and want to talk about them with YOU, but you’re NOT watching them!!!!

1. Hannibal

Okay, I’ve been screaming this from the rooftops and some of you are listening. Thank you. But will you hurry up and finish the damn series so we can talk full-on spoiler action to the max? Please?

2. The Fall

Cougar Gillian Anderson and fake jail-bait Aisling Franciosi compete for my affections while this mesmerizing cat-and-mouse story has me binge watching harder than Chinese calculus.

3. Kill List

Is it post-modern action movie? Is it post-modern horror movie? Is it post-modern family drama? None of the above? It’s a movie that got under my skin like very few do. I feel growing up with 80s horror and action movies made me primed to fall in love at first sight.

More to come…

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Should Movies Be Reviewed Subjectively or Objectively?


The lowest rung of humanity is populated by the couch critics, the apathetic advisors who, from a detached perch of safety, believe that every whim that breezes over their small minds, and every one of their witless arguments, ought to carry the same weight as the hard-won wisdom of those who are actually in the fight, whose minds have been sharpened with real-world experience, whose legends are being forged by action.

—Brendon Burchard, The Motivation Manifesto, p. 39

Who is qualified to review a movie? And what kind of review are they qualified to make?

Personally, I think it’s absolutely necessary to consider context before one reviews a movie. That is, who is the audience you’re reviewing the movie for?

If it’s simply Joe Public, then we should embrace subjectivity.

I think Netflix gets it totally right with its rating system:

***** “Loved it”
**** “Really liked it”
*** “Liked it”
** “Didn’t like it”
* “Hated it”

Beyond star or numerical ratings, your review should reflect on the experience you had as a viewer. Optionally, you could also discuss the quality of that experience with the goal of informing potentially like-minded people and helping them choose whether they might or might not have a similar experience.

“I enjoyed it, I hated it, it forced me to rethink my position on X, it scared me, it annoyed me, etc. And here’s why I feel that way.”

The ONLY time I think it’s worth talking about the “objective” quality of a movie is in the context of filmmaking and film history. And that’s a really small audience: Basically filmmakers, film students, and film historians.

And if the reviewer doesn’t have some pretty awesome credentials or experience in filmmaking or film history before he makes his “objective” proclamations, then he’s just a poser with a podium. Or a blog. :)

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Hettienne Park talks NBC’s Hannibal


“The title of the show is not BEVERLY. It’s HANNIBAL.”

Hettienne Park, who portrayed crime scene investigator Beverly Katz on NBC’s HANNIBAL, took time away from her newborn baby (yes, I DO feel guilty about that), to talk to me about gallows humor, racism and sexism on TV, and of course, what it’s like to work on my favorite TV show of all time.

Spoiler Warning: We discuss a pretty major Season 2 plot point that’s related to her character’s story arc.

Question: How did you first get involved with the show?

Hettienne Park: I was performing in a play on Broadway and Bryan Fuller [creator of HANNIBAL] came to see the show. Later on, I auditioned for the role of Beverly Katz. And then I got offered the job.

Question: What about the initial meetings and/or script attracted you to the show and to the Beverly Katz character?

Hettienne: I remember reading the script for the pilot episode and I literally could not put it down. It was the best television script I had read — suspenseful, creative, unpredictable, profound, and seasoned with this great gallows humor. And Beverly Katz seemed like a real bad ass and sort of strange. At least that’s what impressed me about her.

Question: How familiar were you with Bryan Fuller’s earlier work?

Hettienne: I had seen PUSHING DAISIES and I loved the heightened reality and the whole look of the show. Once HANNIBAL was on my radar, I remember being immediately intrigued and curious when I realized Fuller was behind NBC’s HANNIBAL. It seemed like a complete 180 going from this colorful comedy about a pie-maker with these magical abilities to this intense thriller about the most dangerous cannibalistic serial killer in fiction. As it turns out, HANNIBAL is distinctly Bryan Fuller. It’s brilliant and so much fun to watch.

Question: How familiar were you with the source material and the movie adaptations? Some actors like to really dig into the source material and others like to free themselves of it and come to the part fresh — what approach did you take with HANNIBAL?

Hettienne: SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was already one of my favorite films so I was very familiar with Hannibal Lecter. And our show takes place before Thomas Harris’ RED DRAGON, which is before SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. I had only read RED DRAGON after booking the show. And Beverly Katz is only briefly mentioned in the novel. Then I watched MANHUNTER [the first film adaptation of RED DRAGON] after we shot season one, and Katz only briefly appears in the film. I guess I prefer going into things with my own ideas so I can feel creative. But if you’ve got the time and haven’t done it already, it’s amazing to read the novel and then see how Bryan adapts the source material to the TV show. And there’s so much in homage to the horror genre. It’s all in the details.

Question: The consensus is (and I agree) that you (and Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams) brought a lot of humanity and life to characters that — on the page anyway — seem to be there simply to advance the plot. How much room were you given to find those creative opportunities to really make Beverly Katz come to life as a three dimensional person that viewers cared about?

Hettienne: It was fun to fill these characters out when they didn’t have much more to do than process crime scenes and provide some technical exposition. Bryan made it clear from the very beginning that he didn’t want any of us to just be generic crime scene guys you see on most procedurals. Plus with Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams, there is no way they won’t bring humanity and life to their characters because they’re hilarious. I also talked a lot with our forensics expert who gave us a crash course training session before we began shooting. What these guys do, what they see, and how they cope is fascinating. Not that you necessarily see any of it, but I definitely tried to use all of that information and adapt it to Katz as much as possible.

Question: The original plan was for Beverly to die in Season 1, and you’ve said in other interviews that Bryan Fuller revealed that to you even before you started shooting the first episode. But when that changed, at what point were you informed that your character would be killed in Season 2?

Hettienne: Yes, Bryan told me at our first meeting what his plan was for Katz. Then while we were shooting season 1 he came to set and pulled me aside and asked if I would come back for season 2. He said he wanted to keep the rapport that Beverly and Will had established and then kill her during season 2 instead. So the only surprise for me was the manner in which Katz would bite it, which was pretty awesome.

Question: Do you play a character any differently knowing how her arc will end (in this case, in murder)?

Hettienne: No, I don’t think you can since there is no way the character is expecting to kick the bucket.

Question: Beverly Katz’s introduction in the pilot episode is the first real moment of humor in a very dark show. And from what I’ve read from you online, you seem to have a great sense of humor about life in general. Gallows humor, of course, is a part of how humans deal with the horrors in life, but how much of the humor in Beverly’s scenes is something you bring to the character, and how difficult is it to strike the right balance between drama and comedy in a show like HANNIBAL?

Hettienne: I think there’s a very thin line between drama and comedy. As you said, humor is how humans deal with the horrors in life. Some of the comedic dialogue came from the writers. And a lot came from us improvising. Bryan mentioned early on that he deliberately wanted comedic actors to play ZPK (Zeller, Price, Katz) because he’s smart like that. Man, I wish I had all the footage of the stuff that never got used. Laurence, Mads, and Hugh are all hilarious too.

Question: In your response to the accusations of racism and sexism directed at Bryan Fuller and the show following Beverly’s death, you wrote, “[if Bryan Fuller hadn’t made that choice] my character would’ve probably remained in the background processing crime scenes regurgitating technical exposition. Instead — albeit not for very long — he wrote enough for Katz to make people get to know her a little better, actually identify with her, and like her enough to care when she gets killed.” [Read her full letter HERE.] You’re addressing an interesting dichotomy: As an isolated story choice, it seems killing Beverly was the “right” choice; but in the greater context of cultural racism/sexism in entertainment, it’s the dearth of strong roles for women and minorities that makes such a story choice feel “wrong.” 

My question to you (finally, right?): Now that some time has passed, how do you look back on the controversy and it’s positive or negative impact on the larger diversity issue? And what signs if any do you see that suggest things might be changing for the better?

Hettienne: It’s absolutely a double-edged sword, I agree. I think if it wasn’t a show about a serial killer, I’d be more up in arms about the whole thing. Generally speaking, yes, of course, controversy is a great way to get networks and studios to take notice and maybe think twice. The reality is they ultimately only care about bottom lines. If there is a demand for diversity and that translates into dollars, they will make changes. And hopefully writers’ rooms will continue becoming more diverse as well. My main point when I wrote that post was that I just wish we could argue about it with some civility and that not all white guys are evil and that I’d rather focus on the positive. I think the more we see minorities in roles that aren’t stereotypical (like the quirky sidekick, or the computer nerd, or the best friend, etc.), those are signs that things might be changing for the better. A great example off the top of my head — Mindy Kaling [actor, writer, director, producer]. She’s definitely changing the game. But yes, we need to see more, absolutely.

Question: Even though I absolutely loved Season 2, one thing I thought was odd was that both Will and Jack seemed to have forgotten about Beverly by the end of the season. Not that we should have had a “This one’s for Beverly” scene, but I thought for sure Will’s guilt over Beverly’s death would be more overt. Do you have any thoughts on how Beverly’s death shaped Will’s and Jack’s choices as the season continued and why the writers didn’t make it more explicit in those final episodes?

Hettienne: I do think Beverly’s death marks a turning point for Will where we see him begin to change and decide to play the game with Hannibal. And I think it might be the last straw for Jack as well as we see how he plays his own cards by the end of season 2. But I can’t answer why the writers didn’t write more regarding the aftermath of Beverly’s death. My guess is there’s only so much they can cram in especially as they’re introducing new characters. I think Beverly’s send off was both horrific and respectful and they simply had to get on with the series. Or maybe they really are racist. Or sexist. Or both. I really don’t think so. But I just don’t know. Would I have liked it if maybe Price and Zeller shed some real tears and maybe weren’t so quick to get back to cracking jokes? Maybe Price falls off the wagon in grief and Zeller confesses to his secret love for Katz? And Jack gets the BAU [the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit] to erect a bust of Beverly in memoriam in the morgue? Yes, I would have liked all of that. But the title of the show is not BEVERLY. It’s HANNIBAL.

Question: Thank you for being so generous with your time, Hettienne! I’ll continue to enjoy your work on HANNIBAL during my many Season 1 and 2 re-watches, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next. Best to you and your family!

Hettienne: Thank you, Curtis!

The HANNIBAL Season 2 Blu-ray and DVD comes out Tuesday, September 16. Season 3 will air on NBC early next year.

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Lara Jean Chorostecki talks NBC’s Hannibal


“This great fiery personality with this fiery red hair…”

Lara Jean Chorostecki graciously allowed me to grill, um, quiz her on her portrayal of the sophisticated but ruthless tabloid reporter, Freddie Lounds, on NBC’s HANNIBAL. While the Lounds character has appeared in two movie versions of Thomas Harris’s novel RED DRAGON, the TV show reinterpreted the character, even changing his gender from male to female. The result, in this fan’s opinion, is a much more nuanced and interesting character better suited to long-form story-telling.

For those of us familiar with the source material, we know Freddie’s ultimate fate. But the good news is that the writers have started deviating enough from the books that anything is possible. So hopefully we’ll see lots more of Freddie in future seasons.

Question: Hi Lara Jean, I love the show and I absolutely love your version of Freddie Lounds. As you know, you’re in some great company with Stephen Lang [who played Lounds in MANHUNTER] and Phillip Seymour Hoffman [who played Lounds in RED DRAGON]. Did you feel any pressure following in their footsteps?

Lara Jean Chorostecki: For me, it wasn’t really an issue because my version [of the character] is so different. Bryan Fuller had outlined how we were going to take her in a slightly more sophisticated vein, and that already in itself takes me away from Hoffman’s and Lang’s versions. And I really think the gender switch gave me so much freedom to kind of recreate her. If I was male playing another male version of that character, it would perhaps be a lot of pressure considering those versions were so fantastic but being female and taking her in a more sophisticated but no less ruthless way made it a lot easier.

Question: I love that you describe her as sophisticated because she’s a real departure from the other versions. I read that she’s modeled after Rebekah Brooks [real-life red-haired tabloid news editor], who’s a pretty complex character herself. With so much raw material to draw upon — Rebekah Brooks and also the source material — where did you start and how did you first get a handle on how you wanted to play her?

Lara Jean: I did actually start with Rebekah Brooks because Bryan had modeled [Freddie Lounds] after Brooks and had told me so when I started preparing for the part. So I read a great Vanity Fair article on her [“Untangling Rebekah Brooks” by Suzanna Andrews], and I kind of started there and thought about her world and relation with [Rupert] Murdoch, and what a woman would have to be like to be able to succeed in the tabloid world. And then from there it’s been throughout Season 1 and Season 2 some development for her that has changed [her] because some pretty crazy stuff happens in front of her and it seems not to phase her, but I like to think it has internally over time. I think in Season 2, her relationship with Will and her relationship to Abigail show perhaps the stuff that’s appeared in front of her has affected her subtly inside and she just tries really hard not to show it in order to succeed in her world and maintain her own sense of power.

Question: She’s kind of a paradox. She’s manipulative, she’s willing to lie, but there’s also this part of her that really wants to find the truth. There’s this sincerity to her search for what’s really going on.

Lara Jean: Yeah, I think that’s part of the departure from Lang and Hoffman as well. Bryan has written in — and I hope I’ve brought it to life — that degree of sincerity to her and her work especially when it comes to Abigail at the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2. There is a degree of “yes she’s ruthless, yes doesn’t have a moral compass,” but she does want to be authentic.

Question: She’s kind of admirable in a way.

Lara Jean: [She laughs.] I love that! Yes, she’s admirable. You’re the first person who’s ever said that about her [laughs].

Question: I’ve read about acting that you never want to play a villain as a villain. Instead, you want to find why the “villain” sees him/herself as the good guy, and then play them that way. What do you think is going on psychologically for Freddie Lounds that allows her to do the despicable things she does?

Lara Jean: She never feels unjustified. I think that’s a big thing. I think there’s a clear purpose and motivation to everything that she does. And that in itself takes her away from feeling that she’s a villain in any way. And she’s human. In the finale of Season 2 there’s a line where she talks about her start, which is authentic to the Thomas Harris novel [RED DRAGON], that she started as a cancer editor at a tabloid, writing about all these cures for cancer. And in that scene in particular I found in the writing a profound sense of loneliness to this girl. And that kind of isolation that she consistently has makes her to me — because I love her and I love playing her — not a villain in my eyes and therefore makes it pretty easy to not play a villain. And because of that need for truth and this kind of isolation, I think ultimately she is admirable in her own mind.

Question: Yes, I love that scene. And I think another thing about that scene is that maybe we even see a bit of sympathy in her towards Will. She says to him, “You really don’t know if you’re going to survive him, do you?”

Lara Jean: Mm hmm, I think what she reflects is that he’s an isolated, lonely character as well. I lot of the characters on our show really are trying to make these connections and not particularly succeeding.

Question: So it’s probably empathy she feels more than sympathy.

Lara Jean: Mm hmm.

Question: As you said, her role has evolved over the course of the two seasons. In Season 1, I saw her as kind of an obstacle for Will Graham, but in Season 2 she becomes an integral part of the plot and Will’s plan to bait Hannibal. How do you see her function on the show?

Lara Jean: I think you’re accurate in thinking in Season 1 she was definitely an obstacle. She was a very well-used tool. Being the kind of fiery personality she is, there’s a danger at times to over-use that character, and that’s where Bryan and his team of writers come in and craft something so well. I don’t feel that she’s ever over-used, and I really don’t feel she’s under-used either. I think they’ve balanced her quite perfectly in Season 1 and Season 2 to come in and make an impact whenever she does instead of kind of being this character that consistently does the same thing over and over, which is particularly a danger in Season 1 had they over-used her. I think the evolution that you see pivots around the Abigail storyline and how the writers have woven all of the characters around that core basis of humanity. I think Abigail was really used for every character as a touchstone of humanity — particularly Hannibal and Will — and then in Season 2, where I got to come in with Freddie and have that touchstone of Abigail and be in that horror that we’ve all been through together because we all were [connected] by this one storyline.

Question: One of the things that’s really interesting about Freddie is how she’s introduced. She’s sitting at her computer naked, she’s presumably just gotten out of the shower in what looks to be a motel room, and the implication later is that she slept with Agent Zeller to get access to the crime scene. Introducing a female character that way seems to require a delicate touch because you don’t want to fall into any kind of misogynistic caricature — like the evil temptress who makes men go bad. How do you walk that line to keep her feeling like a real person?

Lara Jean: I don’t feel there’s any degree of misogyny to her character. What I loved about playing her is that she basically always appears with the boys. So I’m either doing a scene with Laurence [Fishburne] or I’m doing a scene with Mads [Mikkelsen] or I’m doing a scene with Hugh [Dancy] or Eddie Izzard, so she always comes in on par with the boys. So I don’t really feel that she’s objectified in any way. And I think that intro is clever because it instantly tells you that she’s going to make an impact in your world. To introduce a character naked is just to say, “She’s going to be here and you’re going to notice her.”

And I thought it was quite a clever way to put the focus on this long mane of red hair also, which is, yes, a nod to Rebekah Brooks but also a nod to the RED DRAGON storyline and what may or may not happen to her when Francis Dolarhyde comes into the world, and what was already played out fakely in Season 2. So this great fiery personality with this fiery red hair, and that’s all she needs, she doesn’t need anything else. And then she gets into all this armor, this clothing that she wears that’s really out there, that again — getting back to the end of Season 2 — masks this isolation and loneliness by putting herself out there in such a bold manner. In the courtroom in Season 2 is a perfect example. I mean, who wears a big hat into a courtroom? Well, she does because it disguises her. I remember in Season 1 talking with Bryan and the wonderful costume designer Chris [Hargadon] about it. It’s the idea that this is the armor that she puts on as kind of a disguise to mask whatever her truth is inside.

Question: Another thing that stands out about the show is the writing and the dialogue. I think there’s a poetry and an eloquence that puts it on the same level as Aaron Sorkin’s THE WEST WING or even David Milch’s DEADWOOD. Being a writer yourself, what do you think makes the writing so effective and has resonated with this core audience — including myself — that’s just crazy about the show?

Lara Jean: I think you hit the nail on the head to say that there’s a poetry to it, and I love that you brought up DEADWOOD because DEADWOOD to me — it’s so tragic that it ended so soon — DEADWOOD is modern Shakespeare as far as I’m concerned. That series was excellent in terms of the writing. Sometimes fellow actors will ask me, “How much freedom do you have with the text,” and my response is, “Well, none because you don’t want to mess with it” because it’s like Shakespeare in that way. Good writing, good television writing like Sorkin or DEADWOOD or what Bryan does is so good there’s no other words you can choose other than the words that are on the page. And the joy of it is to mine that text. I come from a Shakespearian background actually, I started at the Stratford Festival here in Canada — it’s the largest repertory theatre in North America — and I have a Master’s in Shakespeare, and the same joy that I get from mining [Shakespeare’s text] I’ve re-found mining the text that I get to work with on HANNIBAL. Which is super-exciting because what’s on the surface is not necessarily what’s underneath — and that’s why it’s poetic — and what you’re trying to bring out is what’s underneath, through the cadence and the rhythm and the character. And I think Bryan’s work is fantastic, and Steve Lightfoot and the rest of our writers are so good.

And then of course the actors that we’re blessed to have and I’m blessed to work with bring that text to life so beautifully. I think Gillian Anderson and Hugh and Mads and Laurence and everybody does it so well that you get these incredibly well-rounded characters that are really exciting, and I think that’s why our show critically and with the fans has been so successful because it really resonates with people.

Question: Yeah, and I think it’s so incredible how these characters will say exactly what they mean AND the complete opposite of what they mean in the same exact line!

Lara Jean: Oh yeah.

Question: Thank you so much, Lara Jean. I know you’re working on a new show called CAMP X. I’m looking forward to seeing that and, of course, more of Freddie Lounds on HANNIBAL.

Lara Jean: Thank you. I’m looking forward to Season 3. And yes, I’m shooting CAMP X right now. I’m back in Budapest at the moment, and it’s also a great show, a World War 2 drama, so it’s very different but just as exciting.

The HANNIBAL Season 2 Blu-ray and DVD comes out Tuesday, September 16. Season 3 will air on NBC early next year.

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