“Believe in the best of me.”
Season 2 of NBC’s Hannibal is proving to be even more provocative than an excellent Season 1. For the uninitiated, Hannibal is the story of serial killer Hannibal Lecter (a character introduced in Thomas Harris’s novel Red Dragon but made famous by Anthony Hopkins in the film, The Silence of the Lambs) and FBI profiler Will Graham’s mission to solve those crimes and stop the killer.
But despite great storytelling, by the end of Season 1, intelligent viewers like yours truly could no longer avoid what seemed to be the show’s major limitation: how long can we be expected to believe that Special Agent Graham (described in this most recent episode as “the smartest person in the room”) can’t catch this guy? To stretch this premise out for a second season would betray the realism the show prides itself on.
Turns out the creators had a surprise for us. Season 1 ended with Will Graham figuring out that Hannibal is the killer just as Hannibal successfully frames him for those very crimes. Then news hit that Season 2 would feature a “clever” switcheroo for fans of Red Dragon with Graham as the committed psychopath being consulted on crimes by Hannibal. NBC, get ready to win the award for youngest show to jump the shark.
BUT… (and I’m SOOO happy there’s a but)
Just 3 episodes into Season 2, series creator Bryan Fuller and his creative team have already proven there’s lots of great storytelling and psychological drama to be wrought from this seemingly gimmicky ironic plot twist.
First, they set up the ticking clock. Season 2 began with an intense one-scene flash-forward 12 weeks into the future which saw a vicious fight between Hannibal and head of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit Jack Crawford, laying to rest the notion that the show will drag out Hannibal’s unmasking any longer than that. And as each episode propels us to that confrontation, episode 3, “Hassun,” upped the stakes again with the start of Will Graham’s criminal trial.
Speaking of ticking clocks, “Hassun” opens on a clock ticking backwards as Graham does his freaky empathy thing where he relives the killing from the killer’s perspective. Only this time it’s his own execution; he is both executioner and executed. Snap back to reality and the trial begins.
But there’s more here than just the literal trial; all of the main characters are going through their own psychological/emotional trials. Will has started to doubt his conviction that Hannibal is the killer who framed him. Or is he faking this doubt to lure Hannibal into a mistake? Likely a bit of both. Crawford is struggling with guilt over pushing Will too far even after he saw Will was not well. On top of that, his wife is losing her battle with cancer and will be dead soon. As a result he surprises the prosecution by changing his testimony on the stand: Will could not have committed pre-meditated murder. Psychologist Alana Bloom agrees but her credibility is undermined by a brief romantic encounter with Will last season. Her testimony that she has no romantic feelings just a “professional curiosity” of him cuts deep, wounding both her and Will.
And the most complex of characters, Hannibal himself. Does he actually care about Will? Does he care about Jack? Can he care about anyone? Maybe he views life like cooking. What happens to a recipe when you introduce a new ingredient? I suspect it’s the thrill of the game that drives him, not who wins. But when he tells Will, “I want you to believe in the best of me, just as I believe in the best of you,” I find myself wanting to believe.
So the odds are stacked against Graham. His closest allies (Bloom and Crawford) don’t believe he’s innocent. His enemies (Freddie Lounds and Dr. Chilton) are willing to lie or distort facts on the stand. And there’s a wildcard: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Will’s best frenemy, is playing bloody games with the evidence, going as far as staging one of his most dramatic murder set pieces yet in the final moments of the episode that derails the trial completely.
And let’s not forget the deliciously dark humor. When Graham’s lawyer opens an envelope and out falls an ear, he deadpans to Will, “I think I opened your mail.” If the series is to find a big enough audience to justify a Season 3 renewal, it will need more moments of smart, black humor like this.
Hannibal may be more genre-beholden than shows like True Detective or Homeland, but the quality of the storytelling (and this episode is a great example) is on par with the best cable shows. Maybe Hannibal can save the life of not just Will Graham but network TV too.
PussNHikingBoots 3/18/2014 8:55:15 PM
Provovative indeed. Surely intelligent reviewer, Curtis G. Schmitt, did not fail to realize that “the smartest person in the room” comment may have been directed at Will, but was in fact, referring to Hannibal. Thus the supercilious courtroom smile on those luscious lips.
Speaking of that opening season fight scene: as joyful as I was to see Mads (Hannibal) leaping over his kitchen counter in one graceful dancer’s motion, I am saddened to know that I only get to see him have his freedom for 12 more weeks. We will no longer be enjoying meals together, watching him work his people parts – sawing legs and flattening lungs, to flambe and pair with fine wines. So, so sad…
It may be interesting to note that the word Hassun means the second course that sets the seasonal theme and includes sushi (raw meat, hmmm?). Hannibal has set the theme here as Will’s acolyte and non-so-secret admirer. I love Curtis’s take on each character going through their own trials. It did not occur to me that way until I read this review. And that thing about introducing a new ingredient. Brilliant. Hats off to you, Curtis.
I’m thinking Hannibal’s idea of the “best” of him is what the audience would consider the worst- his culinary artwork. Though perhaps he means it as his love for Will. After all, Hannibal did makes an awful pretty poem for Will. I’m starting to wonder if Hannibal is trying to lure Will into his bed… Oh, what a glorious plotline THAT would be!!!
TheSilentKiller 3/18/2014 10:43:02 PM
Well…. it might be getting ahead of ourselves to think he’ll be locked up and no longer cooking :). I could very easily see a scenario where Crawford found out over dinner, and Hannibal topped him before he could do anything about it, leaving him alive and free, after killing Jack.
If they are in any way following the books even slightly, Will is going to catch Hannibal, not Jack.
I also didn’t read the “smartest man in the room” as directed at Hannibal. I took H’s smile to mean he was aware of the irony of the comment.
However, this show is easily the best thing on network tv right now. I am shocked – shocked – that they get away with showing what they do.
PussNHikingBoots 3/19/2014 12:18:39 PM
Thank you, TheSilentKiller. I like your alternative scenario. I have the advantage/disadvantage of not having read any of the books other than Red Dragon, so I get to let my imagination roam where it will. And roam it does when Mads is about. 😉
It would be all wrong if Will did NOT catch Hannibal, and I have to believe that Hannibal even wants Will to catch him.
Just to clarify the “smartest man in the room” comment–I do believe that the attorney meant it to be about Will and that everybody in the courtroom thought it was about Will. Only the audience, along with Hannibal, knows it is really about Hannibal because when she is describing all of the murders that Will is accused of, she is really describing Hannibal’s artwork. And he knows it and we know it, and as gross as it is, we love it, don’t we?
“Hello! I LOVE your work!”
CalamityJohnson 3/19/2014 4:56:47 PM
this show absolutely rocks!!! Best show on NBC since Seinfeld. So frustrated people aren’t watching this show in droves. It deserves everyone’s attention aside from queasy women and children. Yikes, some of the scenes are downright heinous, but wow, what good acting and writing. Wow.
Not sure if any of you are fans of Grantland via ESPN, but the critic on there wrote an incredible review for Hannibal and gave a 6-7 year synopsis for what the producers, writers are hoping for. However, due to the poor ratings they don’t think they’ll get to that point (sooooo pissed!!).
TheSilentKiller 3/19/2014 7:47:05 PM
its because they put the show on Friday night death watch. Douchbags.
PussNHikingBoots 3/19/2014 9:11:12 PM
This show is far too good to pull. I had no idea the ratings are low- that’s a true crime, that.
Please don’t take my Hannibal away anytime soon!!!
CurtisLovesMovies 3/21/2014 5:42:43 AM
One of my favorite aspects of this season are the conversations between Will and Hannibal. Everything they say to each other is laced with truth and lies. It’s so interesting to try to figure out how much to believe. Does Hannibal really mean it when he says he wants to be Will’s friend? Is Will really starting to doubt Hannibal’s guilt? On the one hand you have the sociopath who can’t empathize; therefore everyone is just a tool or pawn in his game. On the other hand you have the empath who can take on the feelings of anyone; therefore his feelings are always in doubt. I just love the relationship they’ve created between these two characters that are polar opposites in one respect, yet so much alike in another.
PussNHikingBoots 3/21/2014 8:37:07 PM
CurtisLovesMovies… what he said.
domino2008 3/23/2014 5:04:33 PM
I havent seen this show , because I dont watch many shows on that channel , but ON DEMAND had the season 2 episode when Mad is makig a meal and Fisboure walks in , and just by a glance sets off one of brutal great fights . That just pulled Me to tune in ! Awesome . Its a little hard to watch to catch things right away , but the editing an Mad Mikkelsen is terrific to watch , the way He creates this character in His own way, but His posture an cool with that stone face . I just wished I saw the first season ,. I tape them each week now on my DVD recorder . Hannibal isnt for the weak , the storyline deals with some gross stuff , but if You a enjoy a good story along with great acting this maybe right for You .