Friday, April 19, 2013

The Idiot Box: Hannibal 1x03 - "Potage" Review

Before I get into the meat of the current Hannibal episode (no pun intended), I want to make a quick note on the subject of episode naming conventions. I know it seems like a really small thing to focus on, but I love when TV shows establish a pattern or theme for episode titles. Even if its something as simple as all one word titles or the Friends gimmick of adding "The One With" before everything, its a nice little Easter egg that I always appreciate. That being said, I'm wondering if the theme of this show might be a little too esoteric. The thing about titles is, you still have to be able to tell the episodes apart by them, and as we get more and more obscure French culinary references for each episode, its going to be that much harder to refer back to individual stories. Not sure how I feel about that just yet, but even though I had to Wiki it to find out what it meant, I still enjoyed "Potage" quite a bit.

Incidentally, Potage is some kind of stew. In case you were interested.

Anyway, Potage continues the story left over from the pilot of the deer obsessed cannibal's comatose daughter as she wakes up, only to find herself a suspected accomplice to her father's actions. The first interesting bit that you will notice about this episode is that it defiantly eschews the formula only just established in the previous episode by not being centered around a killer of the week. There is murder involved, but as I hope will be the case for more episodes to come, the culprit is our in house psychopath himself, leaving no need for the kind of unrealistically endless parade of clever human monsters. This is the story of Hannibal cleaning up his own mess, trying to find a way to divert attention away from himself in the investigation of the cannibal copy cat without killing the one potential witness to his involvement, who doesn't appear to meet his standards for eating and for whom he seems to have genuine affection for.

Watching Lecter decide who not to eat and why is quickly becoming more interesting to me than seeing him actually pick out his next meal. The silly self referential cooking and dining scenes I decried in the first two episodes do not appear here, and as Lecter methodically manipulates the situation to his benefit and in accordance with his own personal moral code, its refreshing to find out that the producers realize he's more than just a guy with a good fashion sense who eats people. The key to keeping this character relatable and even likable is in establishing the rules that he lives by so that we can accept him for all his evil as a part of this world and as a complex human being, not just some boogeyman only relevant for the horrifying thing that sets him apart from normal people. Mikkelson's performance is nearly impenetrable, leaving the viewer to try in vain to guess what Lecter is thinking at any given moment, but we know at least that he is thinking, and isn't just a bloody plot device or hackneyed true crime cliche.

I love that the killer from the first episode has become a major part of this story. It sounds strange that I should even have to count that as a positive, but so many shows like this would have used that as a spring board for exactly the kind of show this episode doesn't want to be, with every week turning out yet another weird way to kill someone for our heroes to investigate while just casually forgetting everything that had come before. We get that weirdness, and as the mushroom guy from last week and the creepy angel thing next week show, its a cut above the norm for a crime procedural, but this story shows that this series can and will exceed that limited framework. Its clear the production team and writers have put more thought into the incidental villains of this show beyond the gimmicky murder set piece of your typical CSI plot, using them to develop characters rather than just show how clever they can be at presenting shocking or disgusting imagery.

We're already three episodes in, and I've yet to be disappointed with this show, which is more than I can say for some other crime shows I've watched recently that I'll probably get to in another review this week. Just when I think its going to fall into the traps of the genre and become formulaic, Hannibal consistently surprises me, which I suppose is itself not really all that surprising given Bryan Fuller's involvement. Though I'm kind of wishing Lecter would just eat that annoying tabloid reporter lady already, otherwise this first season is shaping up to be almost pitch perfect so far. I'm always hesitant to say things like that, as I probably just jinxed it, but now that we're on a roll, I'm completely on board, and if you haven't given this show a shot yet, I definitely recommend catching up with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...