Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Idiot Box: Hannibal - 1x04/1x05 "Œuf" and "Coquilles" Review

Welcome back to another week of Hannibal reviews, this time with a double dose of episodes to discuss, or maybe more like one and a half a dose. If you weren't aware of the behind the scenes shenanigans related to episode four, you may not have realized that the episode that aired this week was actually episode five, the unaired fourth episode only shown online in an abbreviated web series format, apparently due to some material in that episode that was thought to be somewhat insensitive in the wake of recent events. I gather the events in question were the shootings in Newtown rather than the more recent Boston Marathon bombings. In any case, that's why you might have been confused when the previously on segment started showing scenes you'd never seen before.

First I have to say that I find the decision on the part of Bryan Fuller and the producers to self censor themselves to be a bit silly and over the top. I get the impulse to be aware of art's impact on sensitive issues of the day, even if as an artist I personally think one should never be expected to feel any obligation for the affects of one's art as long as it is proffered in good faith. That being said, I think the time to be concerned with not offending people might have been before you decided to make a show about an unrepentant cannibalistic serial killer who the audience is clearly meant to find endearing. Not to mention, the stuff we do get to see in the online only minisodes involves said killer feeding hallucinogenic drugs to a troubled minor in an attempt to manipulate her in the context of a professional psychiatric relationship. But at least nobody got shot, so its okay.

The latest full episode is back to the killer of the week format, with a particularly interesting and gruesome one this time around in the form of a man with a brain tumor attempting to alleviate his fear of dying in his sleep by murdering people and turning them into guardian angels to watch over him, ripping off their back skin to act as wings. This is yet another example of this shows special knack for going just that extra step further in terms of creative bad guys and grotesque imagery that is still a cut above the usual police procedural. So far the tableaus crafted by the three non-Hannibal killers this season have bordered on the fanciful, lending this show the kind of off kilter near-fantasy tone Fuller is so well known for, but in a context where it only exemplifies how horrifying the subject matter is.

And yet, something troubling has occurred to me after watching enough episodes that I think puts a damper on my enjoyment of the show. The set up of each episode is predicated on the notion that Will Graham has this special gift to see into the minds of killers in order to help catch them, granting him a degree of leeway when it comes to his behavior. In this episode for example, he clears the room of a crime scene before it is fully swept, so that he can lay in the bed and work his mojo. The thing is, of the three killers caught so far this season, his involvement and input hasn't actually helped catch any of them. The first was caught by forensics and what he even admitted was dumb luck, the second by good old fashioned detective work matching prescription records, and this last one, they don't even catch. So far, I'm not getting why Lawrence Fishburne puts up with his whiny bullshit when they don't really need him.

Obviously, the eccentric crime fighter bit still works from a narrative perspective, and I still like watching how this character's mind works even if I'd like them to actually make it more crucial to the actual investigation element. Hannibal is still as charming as ever, helping the chief and his wife through some marital problems while presumably feeding them human flesh on a fancy dinner plate in a scene that was not in any way cut for television to alleviate anyone's moral objections to fucking cannibalism. I'll have to live with the stupid lack of a real fourth episode, which I assume will show up in its entirety on the DVD release, unless Fuller pulls a George Lucas and tries to erase the original from history. Politics and odd consequences of the storytelling mechanic aside, the show's still strong enough to merit sticking with it, and the fifth episode is definitely worthy of the same accolades I've given this whole series thus far.
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