If it was not apparent from Max Robinson’s phenomenal interview with Hannibal food stylist Janice Poon, we take our Hannibal pretty seriously around these parts. Sometimes we mail each other prop ears when we need to get a point across. Sometimes, we mail each other real ears (I know a guy). We have fun. Anyway, a few members of the Deadshirt staff decided to ply our trademarked deep-yet-concise analysis to a premiere we have been greatly anticipating. This is: Deadshirt Is Eating.
Season One ended with Will Graham, our favorite clench-jawed dog lover and super empath committed into the Bethesda Naval Hospital; a twist that has kept us reeling with anticipation for months. Now, Hannibal walks free with the only person to know his true identity behind bars. Here are our reactions to Hannibal’s glorious return.
Man I’m super excited that Hannibal is back on the air. Like a lot of shows with cult followings, every detail of every scene in this show is intentional. Good storytellers don’t rely only on dialogue. Instead, they use imagery to do its share of talking. Bryan Fuller is a good storyteller. About 30 seconds into the first episode, we see Hannibal’s reflection in a knife. Everything about Hannibal suggests that his knives would be pristine, but the blade that holds his reflection is quite scratched. This is probably foreshadowing Hannibal’s inevitable downward spiral and eventual exposure. Not only because it is seconds before Jack and Hannibal have their Tarantinoesque How-Did-We-End-Up-Here moment, but also because this season looks to be shifting the focus onto Hannibal’s own psychosis. Like Beverly said, he’s the new Will Graham.
At first, I wasn’t big on starting the season off with the fight scene/timejump. I feel that scenes like this put the story in a box. We know where the plot inevitably has to end up. This constricts our imaginations and interpretations of the story and its characters. Then, I realized the cognitive dissonance in that and how I am a huge hypocrite. I like this show so much BECAUSE I know where it’s going. It’s the same reason I don’t care about spoilers. I have control issues. I like to be in the know. People may have thought that the finale of season one was a grand deviation from Thomas Harris’ canon, but I feel that the premiere of Season Two witnessed Fuller completely breaking out of the box he was put in and firmly establishing this adaptation as his own. We are in Fuller’s house now, and we are about to be homeschooled. This is his design.
Also, I now dookey a shooter at the thought being sewn into the center of a giant human representation of an eyeball. Thanks for the nightmare fuel.
This episode was, as always, visually stunning. The recurring stag-horned, Nyarlathotep-black Hannibal avatar (“The Wendigo”) struck the perfect combination of mysterious, gorgeous, terrifying and elegant – you know, like Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter. When it begins rising up into sight, its horns parting water and unseen corpses, you know we’re in for something creepy. It seems this figure’s being set up to get some more screen time in Season Two, and I’m all for that. The best/craziest part is that this isn’t even the most disturbing thing to come out of the water this episode – that prize goes to the corpse whose resin-coated face peeled off in a huge chunk. Squick.
I will say, however, one piece of eye candy that has me see-sawing is the opening fight scene between Jack Crawford and Hannibal. Awesomely choreographed. Great to watch. Exciting back and forth. But I think one of the first season’s greatest strengths was that it didn’t embrace the irony – of the classical, dramatic sort – that we all know Hannibal’s guilty and that he’s going to get caught. I feel like giving us a glimpse of this scene twelve weeks after Season Two’s “real” starting point undercuts the show’s ability to make the most of its plot’s generally staid pace.
While we do have that one potential hiccup in the flow of exposition, that problem does not carry over to the rest of the episode. You have to give it up for Will Graham’s characterization. His inner monologue’s voice has been replaced with Hannibal’s. On the surface, that’s awesomely creepy. But it also gives us a lot to think about regarding the nature of Will’s relationship with Hannibal. The fact Hannibal still considers Will his friend? Agh! That’s so crazy, and I love it! I can’t wait to see how this dynamic develops.
Also, I have to say, I’m glad to see Twitter celebrity Winston back on screen.
Popular culture as of late has really grown obsessed with charismatic, “misunderstood” villains, and their potentially sexual relationships with their foes. (Maybe that’s just Tumblr, actually.) At any rate, Hannibal smartly outdoes any other show, comic, or film trading in similar Black Hat Sympathy by painting it’s titular antagonist as being categorically unworthy of compassionate fandom. Hannibal Lecter, as presented in this series, isn’t like Loki or Khan (or whoever else people are justifying their love for on the Internet.) He’s utterly irredeemable. This series gives you nothing but reasons to despise Hannibal, and STILL leaves you being fascinated by and drawn to him. This season looks to be more squarely focused on the relationship between Hannibal and Will. Never before on television can I think of a hero and a villain who work so well together. Hugh Dancy’s frail, afflicted babyface portrayal of Will Graham enhances Mads Mikkelson’s taut, trim and horrifying characterization of Hannibal. Their parasitic coupling calls to mind the best representations of Xavier and Magneto, but with a sickening twist that paints every interaction between them, and anyone else caught between them, a crimson shade of tragic.
The paradigm shift of having Hannibal in the investigative consultant role and Will being trapped being bars gives the show new life, and further illustrates how much of a foil each is to the other. By placing Will in the position to have to ask to see crime scene photos while handcuffed to a table, the type of predicament audiences would have anticipated seeing Hannibal in by this point, it highlights his innocence, and adds an extra gut punch to every scene of the rest of the case continuing to presume his guilt. The best thing about this show right now, for my money, is the dialogue. It reminds me of playwright Clifford Odets’ approach to screenwriting. In his script for Sweet Smell of Success, he made sure that every character had something they wanted and each interaction in that film feels less like a conversation and more like a war going on in between false pleasantries. Now that we’ve had a season behind us of character building, plot machinations and revelations, every established individual within the show’s intricate framework interacts with one another in a densely layered fashion. Every character acts according to his or her own grief, paranoia, fear, malice or regret. Getting to see this ongoing chess game between two complex minds like Hannibal and Will’s, with the added bonus of a new procedural going on in the background, is extremely enticing.
Mikkelson’s performance, the stunning soundtrack, and the increasingly dreamlike visuals really set this series apart from anything else on network television right now.
Wow, so that was something, huh? This was a great season premiere! While I appreciate the cool flashier elements of this episode (the time jump showdown between Hannibal and Jack that we’ll presumably see more of much later on, the corpse pile reveal at the end,) I think this episode really soared when it came to little subtle things. Replacing Will’s signature “in the mind of the killer” hallucinations with the fly fishing/hypnosis daydreams was a great way to push forward this show’s incredible visual flair and I can’t wait to see how they explore this. I also love the place Hannibal himself is in this season; he relishes taking over Will Graham’s position of authority but his mask is beginning to fall apart and you can sense he’s getting very desperate. He can’t stop picking at Will Graham like a scab. Excited to see where this (multi-episode? Season long?) color pallette killer plot goes. I get the sense the show is going to veer away from “killer of the week” episodes in favor of longer form manhunts now that the show’s found its footing. Oh and “I never feel bad about anything I eat” is maybe the best “Hannibalism” to date.
What were your thoughts on the return of Hannibal? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page!
-The Deadshirt Staff