[This is a review of Hannibal season 2, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
It’s safe to assume that when NBC announced it would be making Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, most people wouldn’t have thought it would turn a portion of the second season’s plot into a high stakes courtroom drama. It’s also likely safe to assume that, even while locked away amongst the wood paneling and drab gray tones of a courtroom, the show would still find a way to get its characters poking and prodding at some of the most gruesome looking crime scenes ever to be put on television.
In that regard, ‘Hassun’ had a lot to live up to; after all, it followed an episode where a young man peeled his own flesh off parts of his body to avoid becoming a permanent part of a killer’s eye-catching mural. This time around, the episode begins in the mind of Will Graham, which, for some reason, is a fairly terrifying place, even when he whisks himself away to enjoy a calming bit of fly fishing as a way to avoid the incessant pecking of the phenomenally intolerable Dr. Chilton (Raúl Esparza). Or, you know, to get away from the fact that even when he gets the odd visitor (and they are all odd in their own way), he’s only generally allowed to greet them while seated in a cage. Thankfully, that wildly imaginative and empathetically amplified brain of Will’s also allows him imagined trips to the electric chair, where he is allowed the rare opportunity to serve as executioner and the executed.
These short excursions into the mind of Will Graham were typically what made season 1 such a compelling experience; they acted as the viewer’s vehicle into the already heightened reality of the show, with the added twist that the character behind the wheel was not of sound enough mind to have been operating any such machinery. In season 2, Will’s supposed lucidity presents the show with something of a hurdle, as the omnipresent sense of apprehension his ever-increasing dreamlike state afforded the series’ remarkable visual aesthetic was as important as having an unreliable narrator serve as the narrative’s protagonist.
Here, however, Fuller & Co. don’t let one man’s outward sanity get in the way of displaying the raging maelstrom of complex iconography, archetypes, and deep-seated personal fears about Hannibal’s role in framing him for crimes he himself committed. Thankfully, they also don’t think staging an episode mostly inside a stuffy courtroom should preclude them from doing something like string a judge up with chains in a heinous tableau, suggesting the legal system is lacking both a brain and a heart.
The real trick to ‘Hassun,’ though, is the way in which it parades characters like the aforementioned Dr. Chilton and Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostescki) – in possibly the greatest non-Hannibal wardrobe achievement of the series to date – one after another, to the stand; only to have someone recreating “Will’s greatest hits” temporarily postpone the trial – because a judge had the top half of his head sawed off and all. It was as though the show was simply playing at doing a courtroom drama, trying it on like Will does the emotions and motivations of the psychopaths he continues to hunt from behind bars. And the end result revealed a lot about they way Will’s colleagues continue to perceive their co-worker, despite the insurmountable allegations against him.
Of course, the most frightening psychopath is also the one helping Jack Crawford and Alana Bloom mount a plausible defense that just might keep Will’s vivid dreams from coming true. If that’s not a compelling conflict of interest, I don’t know what would be.
Hannibal continues next Friday with ‘Takiawase’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: