Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Idiot Box: Hannibal 1x02 - "Amuse-Bouche" Review

While I planned to start reviewing the new episodes of Game of Thrones and Doctor Who this season, I wasn't originally intending to do Hannibal as well, beyond the pilot anyway. I was certainly convinced to keep watching after the first episode, but I didn't think I would necessarily have enough to say week to week to justify a third weekly television show review. That is, until I watched the second episode and saw the unique way this series is being executed in serial form. These will still probably be shorter than a typical movie review, especially now that I'm back to single episodes, but there's definitely enough going on that I want to talk about it.

Episode Two, titled Amuse-Bouche in what is apparently going to be a motif of culinary themed episode titles, starts off where the last one left off, with Will Graham struggling to overcome the effect of getting into the mind of a cannibalistic killer, now actively seeking the advice of another cannibalistic killer to help him cope. The first thing I notice and appreciate is just how much they are retaining from the pilot, bringing back the memory of the killer from that episode as well as his daughter who may yet be a recurring character, when most shows would simply use them as a springboard for the killer of the week format and be done with it. You get the feeling from this episode that every case is going to be more important than is typical for a police procedural, as they will all weigh on the mind of our hero even as we move on to the next one.

Again I find the style applied to the actual manhunt to be markedly different than what you might see on CSI or other crime shows, but in a very subtle way that is hard to describe. The show seems to go out of its way to spend less time on the details of the investigation and the gathering of clues in sequential order, and more time with the psychology of all the main actors, with the who and how taking a backseat to the why, which is always the most interesting part anyway. I found this to be a little distracting and almost jarring in the first episode, but I've quickly warmed to it. The only problem now is that the approach is so much more organic and personal that the necessity to have new killers week after week might start to come across as even more implausible than it does on your average crime show.

The killer this week was a particularly gruesome one, and showcases what I can only imagine is the influence of Bryan Fuller in terms of a commitment to more creative and bizarre ways of dealing with insane human monsters. I initially worried that this premise might not work episodically with a figure as big as Hannibal Lecter in the show every week, that he might overshadow any of the other bad guys, but so far this has not been the case and shows no signs of happening anytime soon. The idea of burying people alive to use as mini-farms for the cultivation of mushroom gardens is something that would have never occurred to me if I were in the position of imagining a unique serial killer, and as outrageous as it is conceptually, it is as believable as it possibly could be,

As much as I am still liking this show and enjoyed this episode at least as much if not more so than the first one, I find that I'm already beginning to see qualities in the main team of Graham and Lecter that I might grow to dislike. For Graham, he's starting to come off a little too fragile for me to accept that he can continue on in this capacity, and the constant hallucinations, in this case culminating in a moose traipsing through a hospital, will probably get old long before they decide to tone them down. For Lecter's part, while I still think Mikkelsen is great in the role, it seems like they are using Lecter for too many cheap gags. We get another scene of Hannibal cooking a meal we assume is people and feeding it to another character who is unaware of it, and a large part of his subplot involves an almost jokey point of whether or not he ate a guest character. Its not that its bad, but again, I get the feeling they might repeat it a few more times than they need to, and the show has already shown that it is capable of better than that.

Also something I forgot to mention in last week's review is the weirdly random appearance of Scott Thompson from Kids In The Hall as a forensic technician. I suppose its only strange for me considering I've never seen him in anything else outside of Kids, so seeing him all of a sudden here in what is such a bit part surprised me. He's not bad by any means, but he also doesn't seem to have much to do, and it strikes me as odd that you would bring someone like him in to play that part if there wasn't more planned for it to showcase what he could bring to the role. I guess we'll see if it comes to anything in the coming episodes or if he just needed a paycheck.

Overall, this sophomore effort is a pretty good indication that the quality we saw in the pilot of this show is going to extend at least as far as the rest of the season, and I for one will be sticking around to see what happens. Hopefully they start using Lecter more as a central character and not just morbid comic relief, and maybe they could give Graham some heavier balls somewhere down the road. Its too early to tell if the small cracks I'm seeing will expand or seal up, but I see no reason not to give this production team the benefit of the doubt.

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