‘Hannibal’ Season 2 Premiere Review – What a Beautiful Presentation

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Laurence Fishburne and Mads Mikkelsen in Hannibal Season 2 Episode 1 Hannibal Season 2 Premiere Review – What a Beautiful Presentation

[This is a review of Hannibal season 2, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]

Season 2 of Bryan Fuller’s sumptuous Hannibal opens up with a prolonged, brutal struggle between Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) that takes place on Lecter’s home turf, both literally and figuratively. Lecter’s kitchen becomes a battleground wherein the implements the good doctor uses to prepare his elaborate and refined meals are transformed into weapons, revealing their true nature to Jack as much as the man wielding them.

The scene begins in medias res, and is so incautious and out of context – considering where last season left off – it creates the sensation, or at least the belief, that it must all be a dream. And then Hannibal stabs Jack in the neck with loose shard of glass, and the arterial spray and Jack’s panic suddenly begins to feel very real. At this point, the audience knows that, like so much else in the series, dream or no, things are going to get grisly.

Then the episode jumps back twelve weeks to a much more civilized meal between the two: “a beautiful presentation.” The conflict between Jack and Hannibal is a portent of things to come, which sets the premiere of season 2, ‘Kaiseki,’ off with an erratic but harrowingly fateful set of circumstances that reconfigures the relationship of two main characters whose goals are at odds with one another, without upsetting the immediate objective of the narrative. That is: to answer the question of what’s happened to Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) since the season 1 finale.

Suffering from wild hallucinations and fevers caused by an acute case of encephalitis that Lecter ensured went undiagnosed for as long as possible, Will has become the likely suspect in a string of murders gift-wrapped in evidence so indisputable his future was like Crawford’s: rather grim. It seems much of Will’s presence this season is destined to be spent in the company of Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza), who is not only short a kidney after his run-in with the late Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), he is, as per usual, operating without a clue as to what is actually going on.

Hugh Dancy in Hannibal Season 2 Episode 1 Hannibal Season 2 Premiere Review – What a Beautiful Presentation

And that’s the key to how Bryan Fuller arranged ‘Kaiseki.’ It is an acknowledgement of his characters that they were unaware as to what was going on, but are now cognizant of the fact that something was completely awry. If season 1 was spent in a gradually deepening dreamlike state, where the rules of logic seemed to be bent on a whim, then season 2 begins the lucid dreaming phase. Circumstances are still completely out of whack, and oftentimes incomprehensible to the major players, but there’s a level of awareness involved now that’s brought with little more than an induced hallucinatory state (and a hazy recovered memory of being force-fed the ear of Abigail Hobbes) for an embattled Will Graham to confirm – at least to himself – Dr. Lecter’s culpability.

Will’s increased lucidity is once more an advantage; he’s able to help Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park) figure out what another bizarre serial killer is up to – he’s making human models by collecting victims according to a specific color palette – but the time he spent losing time, drawing jumbled clocks, and seeing things that weren’t there only help to reinforce the mountain of evidence against him. At this point, Hannibal season 2 has already established a compelling plot that’s not only about disproving the evidence against Will, but also shifting the blame for the evidence’s existence onto Dr. Lecter. It is a move that, like Crawford and Lecter’s tussle, is a foregone conclusion – considering Hannibal is walking the path leading to Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon – but as the series has already proven: knowing the destination doesn’t necessarily spoil the journey.

Making Will and Hannibal adversaries also keeps the series from becoming too comfortable in any status quo it may have established in the 13 episodes prior. The two were far from besties, as Hannibal saw Will as more of an intriguing pet as anything else, while Will’s disheveled state of mind excuses him from adhering to any bond that may have formed during his time in the doctor’s care. But as Hannibal makes clear during his sessions with Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), Will’s incarceration has not abated his former doctor’s obsession with him. That establishes a throughline for the season: A dual obsession that keeps characters going back to a place they know they shouldn’t. Hannibal is playing with fire, teasing a level of transparency that dares Crawford and his colleagues to stare directly into the abyss. In Jack’s case, anyway, it seems the abyss intends to do more than stare back.

Mads Mikkelsen and Hettienne Park in Hannibal Season 2 Episode 1 Hannibal Season 2 Premiere Review – What a Beautiful Presentation

In a sense, that’s precisely what happened with Will. His ability to commune with the darkness and come back with his soul and (until recently) his sanity intact is what drew Hannibal to him. Now, with his appetite suitably whetted, Lecter is on the prowl to see who else might be peering over the edge, waiting to be pushed. With that, Fuller has created an intriguing problem that needs to be solved, a problem that goes beyond the audience knowing what the characters do not; one that puts everyone on the same page, while also leaving them in the dark. It is the beginning of the conflict that will plot the course for the future of these characters, a sublime presentation of a story that uses blood, gore, and other viscera as its medium.

Last season, Hannibal was one of the best shows that not enough people tuned in for. As a result, its renewal came with a tremendous sigh of relief. If the season 2 premiere is any indication, Fuller and his cast aren’t changing things up to make it more palatable to a wider audience, they’re keeping this particular fare as haute as it ever was, knowing full well that quality often starts small, and is disseminated best through word of mouth. If you’re not watching Hannibal, you’re missing out on one of the finest, most viscerally entertaining programs television (network or cable) has to offer.


Hannibal continues next Friday with ‘Sakizuki’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:

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  1. A world class review for a world class episode and show.

    Gillian Anderson gave me chills in all her scenes and the clip from the preview!!! Can’t wait for next week.

  2. Did anyone else notice familiar lines from the literature/films in this one? Examples: “You want to know how he’s choosing them, don’t you?”, “Memories are all I have”, and there was another one I seem to be forgetting at the moment…

    Loved that they showed Chilton recording the conversations (another reference to the films).

    • I notice that as well. The “Memories are all I have” and Chilton recording the conversation between Alana and Will.

  3. Hannibal Lecter- “Ah yes Dr. Chillton. Gruesome isn’t he? Fumbles at your head like a freshman pulling at a panty girdle”.

  4. man the opening fight scene was incredible. Can’t wait to see the build up towards it.

  5. When I think back to when it was announced that a Hannibal TV series would be airing I was quick to think that the shows biggest hurdle would be the fact that we already know what will happen.
    Sure that’s the case for any TV series or movie that’s based off prior works but in this case everyone already knows the story of Hannibal Lecter. It’s been a major part of pop culture for over 20 years and even longer if you have read the books. And I highly doubt that there’s someone who is unfamiliar with the story watching.
    To get to my point 99.9% of the viewers watching this show already know what will happen so how in the world can it make for an interesting show?

    It really shouldn’t be but Bryan Fuller and company have crafted what may now be the best show on TV. I know I have said that a lot before when talking about shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones or even True Detective but as soon as I press play to watch a new episode within seconds I’m sucked in and it doesn’t matter that I already know how it will all end. That’s a pretty rare feet IMO and I’m always excited for what’s next.

  6. fabulous return, more than i expected, this is fabulous television i am soo looking forward to people realising they have been eating human flesh :)

  7. This show is one of the best on Tele, I love it!

  8. magnificent show but g******! “I can get you out of my head” they freaking did it on purpose!! now the tumblr fanboys are going to take over the internet!

  9. Crawford: “I almost feel guilty eating it!” as he takes a chopstick of sushi .
    Lecter: “I don’t feel guilty about eating anything.” as he intimately pours the wine from over Jack’s shoulder.
    – Beat –
    Crawford: “I can’t place the fish though.” Enjoying his first bite.
    Lecter: “He was a Flounder.” As Hannibal takes his seat.
    It’s this kind of dialogue and double entendre that makes this one of the best shows currently on television, you can’t help but wanting to see each moment again and again.

  10. I had some issues with the first season, some disappointments about censoring the show on tv etc. But I must say after watching lecter dip those tongues in the beginning, I will not be able to eat certain items anymore, and the acting was superb. The way they had Will, in the role of lecter, same type cell, using him for help. And my favorite although I am sure it wasn’t intentional, it puts what on its skin?..Couldn’t help think of Buffalo with the bodies making the palettes..Great show and a good, honest review. Lets not tell too many people about it, or it will be popular and have to change things..

  11. Love this show, but I have to ask; How likely is it that this show is actually a ‘reboot’ of the character and the entire storyline? I mean, we all know what happens in the books/film universe but what if Hannibal actually does kill Jack Crawford by the end of the season? That would change everything and give the writers an enormous amount of new creative freedom. (just thinking out loud)

  12. If the next episode or two are at this magnificent level/standard I would be hugely shocked if this show was not renewed for at least another 3rd season. At this point I would actually not be surprised at all if a couple seasons would be commissioned (I considered this show so highly IMO).

    Easily the best show currently on tv. I gave up on The Following as the story the show wants to tell could have easily fit into the first season as a mini series, but it’s so dragged out…

  13. Although I had my doubts in the beginning, Mads Mikkelsen is mesmerizing as Hannibal Lecter. From his perfectly tailored suits to his perfectly hidden extra-curricular proclivities, Mads transcends a literary character to actual human with ease, elegance, and silent menace.

    I am glued to this show.

  14. Thank you for this review. You are that rare writer who is not only willing to say they love something, but to be articulate about why they love it. When writers refuse to report their own feelings, the review tends to be about what will be popular and I truly despise that kind of writing. I was a little put off by the expressionistic feel of the new season, but you have convinced me to hang in there. I think you are right. It’s worth it. This show isn’t the usual thing, but it’s damn good. Good job!

  15. Worst episode so far. The twelve week jump pisses me off. now I feel I’ve skipped episodes even though I didn’t and it’s all ruined. If the second episode isn’t 12 weeks in the future then I swear to God I will hunt down the writers and cause harm