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Hannibal: Season 2

Hannibal: Season 2

What He said:

He

Oh Hannibal, you have been a bad, bad boy.

Hannibal Lecter (played the very talented Mads Mikkelsen) is not only a serial killer and cannibal, he is also a vindictive little bastard too. Will Graham (the equally talented Hugh Dancy) is a special investigator for the FBI and he has been investigating a series of murders for the bureau. After working on several crimes together – and then going to become one of his patients – Will has come to suspect Hannibal of being the very killer they have been hunting. So what does Hannibal do? He doesn’t flee or tamper with the evidence to steer things away from himself. He frames Will for his crimes. Not only does Hannibal kill and eat people, he blames one of his friends/colleagues in the process! He is truly a villainous individual.   

The previous season ends with Will in prison. He has been charged with being the infamous serial killer, the Chesapeake Ripper, but the audience knows it is actually Hannibal. Will does too, he just hasn’t proven it yet, and was completely unaware about the fact that Hannibal was setting him up in the meantime.

To add insult to injury Hannibal has taken his job as a criminal profiler for the FBI. He is for all intents and purposes Will Graham now. Hannibal really knows how to kick somebody when they are down.

His strange obsession with Will doesn’t end there though, because once Will is eventually freed – sorry  for the minor spoiler, but you had to know he wasn’t going to spend the whole season incarcerated – Hannibal begins treating Will again (more on how that happens later). Once they resume therapy, Hannibal is a lot more forthcoming than he was in the past. He doesn’t come right out and tell Will who he is, but he doesn’t outright deny it either. Additionally, he starts to begin the process of “recruiting” Will. He’s drawn to Will’s unique ability and is obsessed with making him his test subject, protégé, and possibly even his friend. Is Hannibal the Cannibal merely curious about Will from a scientific standpoint or is he actually lonely? I think it’s a little bit of both to be honest. Despite the fact that he’s not a serial killer, Will has what’s called “pure empathy.” It’s why he is so good at his job. He can put himself into a killer’s shoes. He can wrap his mind around a killer’s motives. Hannibal is fascinated by this and seems to want to “set Will free” if you will (and turn him into an actual serial killer).

Hannibal: Season 2

A great deal happens before it gets to that point though.

So anyway, Will is in a mental institution and about to go on trial for Hannibal’s crimes. He is determined to not only prove his innocence, but proving that Hannibal is the one responsible for his false imprisonment. Lecter’s plan is genius, because every time he says Hannibal framed him, he looks nuts. His former friends and colleagues simply think he is fixated on Hannibal Lecter and discredit his credibility.

That doesn’t stop Will from trying though and boy does he try several different routes.

First he enlists the help of his friend and colleague, Alana Bloom. Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) is a fellow criminal profiler and agrees to help Will through hypnosis. Alana doesn’t actually believe Will is innocent, but also thinks he’s mentally ill and thus not responsible for his actions. She thinks the therapy will act as some sort of coping mechanism for Will, but eventually tires of his obsession with Hannibal, and ends the friendship.

Will then recruits another colleague, Beverly Katz. Beverly (Hettienne Park) is a crime scene investigator for the FBI who often worked with Will when he was a free man. She also thinks Will is guilty, but due to his amazing ability to get inside the mind of a serial killer, she goes to him for help with a case. Will agrees to help Beverly if she promises to look more into his claims about Hannibal. She agrees to his deal. After a while, she starts to think Will might be telling the truth.

Will even recruits hospital staff to help with his mission; the most prominent being Dr. Frederick Chilton. Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) has some questionable ethics. Chilton is obsessed with fame, especially in the medical circles he frequents. In season one, he convinces another patient through hypnotherapy that he is the Chesapeake Ripper. Chilton wants to be known for treating infamous patients, even if that means lying about their true identity. After working with Will, he begins to suspect that Will is right about Hannibal and sees this as an opportunity to catch the real Chesapeake Ripper. He’s also fearful of Hannibal because now that he’s Will’s therapist, and Will is spending all of his free time trying to convince Chilton Hannibal is the Chesapeak Ripper, Chilton begins to believe Hannibla will see him as a threat. Chilton’s a sleazy guy, but his desire for fame and self-preservation are hilarious to watch. Raul Esparza is a delight in this role. He is truly “a character.”

As I mentioned earlier, Will is eventually freed from prison. I won’t say how or why, but just know that he’ll be back with the FBI. When he does, he realizes that all of his attempts to get even with Hannibal were not only in vain, but the wrong approach. They were too direct. Will then decides to “get into bed” with the monster. He pretends to want to move past his accusations of Hannibal. He says that being treated by Hannibal is the best way to do that. In addition that that, he also indicates to Hannibal that he’s interested in Hannibal’s offer.

Hannibal: Season 2

You see, Hannibal didn’t really want to send Will to prison (mental institution technically). He wanted Will to join him. His reasons for that are debatable – they ranged from scientific curiosity, to wanting a protégé and friend, and maybe even a lover – but he definitely wanted Will on his side. Hannibal is drawn to Will. He was fascinated by him. He looks at him as a blank canvas that he could mold into the perfect painting (and serial killer buddy). But make no mistake, when it comes down to him and Will, Hannibal is always going to choose self-preservation.

But now that Will has been freed, Hannibal is like a kid in a candy store. He’s getting a second chance and he couldn’t be happier, especially since Will seems to be openly embracing the whole master/apprentice relationship. Will is just playing along though until he can gather enough definitive proof of Hannibal’s true identity?

Or is he? As brilliant as Will is, the guy does have legitimate mental issues. You know that he starts out saying he wants to catch Hannibal, but is Hannibal successfully convincing him to come over to the Dark Side? Thankfully we don’t find out to the finale, which makes for some excellent suspense.

Will’s boss, Jack Crawford, is also deeply involved in this whole thing. Jack (Laurence Fishburne)  is completely convinced Will is guilty and angrily dismisses Will’s claims he’s been set up. He also blames himself for Will’s situation. He knew of Will’s fragile mental state and feels he pushed him too hard and essentially helped Will turn into the type of person he investigated. So when Will is freed, Jack wants to try to help him. He’s not fully convinced that Hannibal is who Will claims, but does what he can to help. Meanwhile, he’s maintaining his close relationship with Hannibal. He also doesn’t know that Will is dangerously close to losing it with this cat and mouse came he’s playing with Hannibal. The three of them are the definition of frenemies.

Speaking of the cat and mouse game, I was bothered when they decided to take a break from that in order to introduce the Verger siblings: Mason and Margo. I know that there’s such a thing as a filler episode or that characters – these two in particular – were introduced to play a role again in the future. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) was similar in that sense. He was also better executed. He had his own storyline, but it was also carefully woven in and out of the main one. These two were just shoved in our faces for 3-5 episodes. We meet them, they become integral parts of the plots – Margo actually becomes Will’s love interest almost immediately after meeting him – and just like that they’re gone and the finale goes right back to the Will vs. Hannibal storyline. It was forced, served no purpose to the main storyline, and not very well executed; Michael Pitt’s performance as Mason was particularly bad. I laughed at him in the bad way. He was a caricature and a distraction.

In addition to that, my other main gripe about this season is that this show plays the close call/fake death card a little too often.  They’ve done it with about 10 different characters in two seasons, sometimes more than once with the same character, and it got worse this year. You can only pull that gimmick once or twice before a show starts to lose some credibility.  

Aside from that, I still think this is a very good show, so I’m cutting it some slack. There are many good things about this show.

First of all, this show is like crack for junkies or junkfood to a food addict, but for film and television lovers. This show is simply gorgeous. The visuals are hypnotic and intriguing. Whether it’s one of Will’s visions, Hannibal’s outfits, or one of his special meals – the man makes wearing a suit and cooking a meal look like a piece of art – this show is a pleasure to look at.

The acting is top-notch as well.

Mikkelsen is an absolute joy to watch. I am not a smart or eloquent enough man to put it into words that would do it justice, but his Hannibal is one of the most interesting and entertaining characters . I’ve ever seen. It goes without saying, but eating human beings is beyond terrible; especially when the guy does it for fun! It’s not like he’s stranded in the woods or mountains somewhere and forced to do it, he does it because he likes it! But the guy is so damn slick, well-dressed, sophisticated, and unapologetically indulgent, you kind of admire his willingness to do whatever pleases him. I wouldn’t say I respect it – the guy is a serial killer and cannibal after all – but it makes him a very enjoyable character to watch. He’s also really complicated too. Like I said earlier, he wants something from Will. There are times you think he just wants to push Will over the edge and is simply curious to see what happens. There’s other’s you think he’s longing for some sense of “family” and sees Will as a son. And then there are the times you’re saying, “Wait, is he into Will?” Whatever his true movies are, you do get the vibe he’s a little lonely and looking for some kind of companionship and you sort of feel bad for the guy. Then you realize he’s a cannibal and that goes away. He’s not without his own code of conduct either, because there are other killers whom he finds to be tacky or ugly (their behavior not their looks). I wouldn’t say I’m rooting for him, but he’s damn interesting to watch. This might sound like blasphemy considering Sir Anthony Hopkins popularized the character as far as film/TV goes, but Mikkelsen is even better. He has such an interesting look and one that lends itself to playing the bad guy very much too. He looks evil as hell, has an awesome accent, and is physically imposing too. He’s also got a lot of charisma. I feel like he could talk you into doing things you don’t want to do quite easily.

Hannibal: Season 2

Hugh Dancy is his opposite/nemesis in every way. Will Graham has legitimate issues. He has trouble with the crimes he investigates, but is also really good at it. He’s like an emotionally unstable genius. He’s very good at his speciality, but you also worry the guy could just snap one day. He’s very much a tortured man because of that.

The relationship between them reminds me a lot of Batman and the Joker. They are destined to clash as long as the both of them are still breathing. But need each other too. They drive one another and have found their life’s purpose in the other. You know how there’s something in people’s lives that define them? That is what they are to each other.

Laurence Fishburne is an old pro and his performance as Jack Crawford is no different. Jack is dedicated to the job, which sometimes causes problems with his personal life. He works most of the time and when he isn’t, he’s eating dinner with Hannibal or Will. His wife is a virtually a non-factor in his life. He’s a good cop who genially cares justice, but he sometimes breaks the rules to get it done. This doesn’t bother me personally, but due process and all that other stuff requires it. I would talk more about his performance, but it’s late, I’m tired, and I’ve already rambled enough.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This review was written for your reading pleasure on June 6, 2014.

Hannibal: Season 2

What She said:

She

The He and I absolutely loved Season 1 of Hannibal, I mean LOVED.  Granted, I wouldn’t put the show quite at the level of Breaking Bad (the writing is not as tight), but the production value of this often overlooked program is spectacular.  Personally, I think that this TV show suffers from being relegated to the oft-dead Friday night 10 p.m. time-slot, but thankfully it’s still holding its own, and was recently picked up for a third season.  I know that some critics believe that Season 2 was actually better than the first.  However, I’m on the opposite side of that coin.  I felt Season 1 was just a little more cleanly written.  That said, I found both seasons to be fascinating, thrilling, and haunting.

Season 2 of Hannibal picks up where it also ends, if that makes sense (I know it doesn’t).  We see Jack Crawford enter Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s home and attack the serial killer.  The fight scene that follows is action packed and brutal.  At the end of it, Jack is left mortally wounded.  And then the viewer is flashed back to twelve weeks earlier.  Will Graham is still in prison, wrongly accused as Abigail Hobbs’ murderer, and he is working with Alana Bloom to try to recover some of his memories.  He knows that Hannibal has set him up, but he’s trying to figure out exactly how.  In the meantime, Jack is facing disciplinary action from the Inspector General’s Office for his mishandling of Will.  Of course, we’ve got plenty of murder cases as well, and Hannibal continues to be of use to the FBI, as he fills in for Will and aids in profiling the killers.

Hannibal: Season 2

Before too long, Will is brought to trial.  But Will’s trial, of course, does not go as smoothly as would be hoped for.  His lawyer receives a severed ear in the mail, which leads to the discovery of a murdered bailiff.  And the case ends in a mistrial when the judge is found brutally murdered and put on display in the courtroom.  After all that drama, Will decides to engage in a special form of therapy with Dr. Frederick Chilton, which enables him to realize that Hannibal had been manipulating him by encouraging his encephalitis and the resulting delirium.  Will goes to work trying to convince Jack that Hannibal is not only the Chesapeake Ripper, but that he was also responsible for several recent murders as well, including that of an FBI examiner.   

Jack actually begins to believe Will, and starts investigating Hannibal.  However, Hannibal is one smart cookie, and so he’s always two steps ahead of Jack.  Even Miriam Lass is unable to positively identify Hannibal as the Ripper, as her memories are now a blur.  In the meantime, Will is finally exonerated, as all evidence now points to the Ripper, and he’s released from his psychiatric facility.  But oddly enough, he runs to Hannibal to resume therapy.  This may strike you as odd, but it becomes clear that, at least initially, he’s doing it in an attempt to cozy up to Hannibal and gather the evidence he needs to have him arrested.  Will lets Hannibal believe that he’s easily manipulated, and even stages the death of Freddie Lounds to gain Hannibal’s trust.  Hannibal seems captivated, and has some sort of genuine connection with Will, but Will’s plan does not work out quite as he would have hoped, and this all circles back to the scene that opened the season.

To put things bluntly—heads roll in Season 2.  I’m always impressed by how this show seems to one-up itself on the kill factor.  The deaths are brutally appalling and also disturbingly creative.  I left out a lot of the subplots in my storyline description for the second season because, honestly, I didn’t want to confuse or bore you.  But rest assured, there’s a lot going on.  In addition to our overarching plot involving Hannibal, Jack, and Will, we also have several side cases that the group must solve.  As if they don’t have enough stuff on their plates, they’re still FBI agents and there’s still plenty of murderous crime in their area.  Some of these subplots are actually quite sophisticated, and carry over into multiple episodes.

If I have one complaint about Season 2, it’s that there were times when the plots and subplots were just too much to follow.  I had to consult Wikipedia in the middle of some episodes to try to figure out what the heck was going on and who was who.  I liked the final episode of the season, as it attempted to bring clarity to all that was going on, but there were still loose ends.  There were also a couple of peripheral characters during this season that were given more importance that need be.  I feel like the writers of the show were actually trying to throw us off the scent of the main storyline, and it was effective, but confusing and somewhat disappointing. 

Hannibal: Season 2

Aside from that complaint, I’ll say that Season 2 of Hannibal was great for all the same reasons that made Season 1 so memorable.  The cinematography and general look and feel of the show were top notch.  It doesn’t feel like a one hour TV program—it feels much more like a movie, and the director and crew should be lauded for their choices of camera angles, lighting, and filming locations.  The way that this show is filmed successfully adds to the drama and the spookiness of the plots that we see unfold on screen.  It’s actually better shot than half the movies out there today.

Also remaining strong is the acting of all our players involved.  Hannibal is fortunate to have an all-star roster of actors including Hugh Dancy (Will Graham), Laurence Fishburne (Jack Crawford), and Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal Lecter).  Beyond that, even the supporting cast does a wonderful job, including the guest stars.  They are believable and obviously committed to their characters, much like they would be for a movie.  It’s truly amazing how they all come together to create an exceptional ensemble production.  While Mikkelsen is a stand-out as Hannibal, kudos definitely need to be sent to Dancy and Fishburne for commanding a great presence this season.

Now, so much of what we see in Hannibal seems highly implausible, but I’m willing to overlook that for the sake of a compelling and rewarding TV show.  Hannibal is among my favorite shows out there right now, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you start with the first season (available through several streaming outlets for free) and work your way through the series.  It’s definitely worth your time, especially if you’re into the drama/horror genre.

Thumbs up.

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