Hannibal

Pilot, "Apéritif": There's such high expectations for this mid-season NBC series. It is possibly the one series I was most anticipating. A terrific subject matter, created from the wonderful mind of Bryan Fuller ("Death Like Me", "Wonderfalls" and "Pushing Daisies"), an ace, international caliber cast (Mads Mikkelson, Hugh Dancy and Caroline Dhavernas) and an announced roster of exciting guest stars including Gillian Anderson, Gina Torres, and Fullerverse alumni Ellen Muth and Ellen Greene. So it is with a lot of trepidation that I go into this, and sadly, although I liked it, I doubt it will survive on NBC. The subject matter itself is rather dark, and again, that is restrained by it being on network TV, so they cannot really push it too much, and that ultimately may cause it to not reach its full potential. Secondly, it is too intelligent and wordy. The average TV audience is just going to shut off without their visual adrenaline rush and total-sensorium assault. Lastly, other than Laurence Fishburne, there are no other "big names", that your average American network-watching viewer will recognise. Regardless, the directing of the pilot by David Slade is excellent although the scenes of Hannibal alone seemed too stylised and slightly jarring compared to the slightly more gritty feel of the crime scenes. Was that deliberate? Fuller wrote the script and it is slightly exposition heavy but there were some good lines spoken by Hannibal and Graham. I really liked the visuals and scenes of Graham's nightmares and dreamscapes. Those were effectively creepy and spooky. As for acting, Hugh Dancy's effectively portrayed his Will Graham as a jittery, asocial, high functioning empath. He got the vacant stares, and the constant paranoia/fear all pat. Mads Mikkelson, on the other hand, is downright creepy, and his accent definitely helps him in that sense. Makes his Hannibal just that more foreign and jarring. That coupled with the audience's knowledge of his true self, is the main source of dramatic irony that the show should really leverage on. And boy, does he make cannibalism look sexy or what. Yum! Caroline Dhavernas sure has grown up since we last saw her on TV as Jay from "Wonderfalls", and she is now a fine-looking woman. But sadly, her role is still very undefined. As for Fishburne, he is basically the same as he always has been, and in this role, he seemed more to be the audience/Graham facilitator than anything else. I am looking forward to the story that Fuller wants to tell, and I hope he gets to complete it this time. Perhaps, the short engagement (13 episodes) will keep it from being bogged down by fillers and keep the momentum going.

Episode 2, "Amuse Bouche": The show continues with its exceptionally high quality and I am glad this episode ran more like a typical serialised drama, rather than repeat the exposition. The credits were cool and theme song sufficiently creepy. Speaking of creepy, there's not shortage of disturbing scenes in this episode. We still get a murder-of-the-week concept but at least there is a central plot point and linkages to the previous episode. New character Freddie Lounds is introduced, and she is annoying. Which I guess is kudos to the actress Lara Jean Chorostecki. I still don't get Caroline Dhavernas' purpose in this show. I miss her, and she seems kind of wasted thus far. Sharp, witty dialogue by Jim Danger Gray, and delivered exceptionally well, and dead-pannedly, by Mads. His Hannibal is deliciously slick and all that dramatic irony is doing so much for his characterisation. I wonder how he will change when the truth is revealed. The score by Brian Reitzell is really good and darn creepy! And I love the sets, especially Hannibal's office! Wonderfalls Cameo Alert: Gretchen Speck-Horowitz "it's just  Speck, we got divorced. Lost the hyphen and kept the ring" appears!!! Last seen in "Wax Lion" and "Pink Flamingo"

Episode 3, "Potage": The storyline from the pilot continues and there's no murder-of-the-week to solve this outing. I like this. Serialised drama really helps to develop characters more fully than procedurals, and this episode Alana Bloom takes centre stage in the first half and Hannibal is the focus in the second half. Will Graham is relegated to the back today. Finally Caroline Dhavernas is getting getting interesting but so far she still seemed to be more of an accessory (like Jack) than an important figure in the story. She's like the rational side of Science. This show does the dramatic irony and double entendres so well here. Abigail is slowly becoming rather interesting too and the actress Kacey Rohl seemed competent, although sometimes rather forced in her "little actions", to convey the possible duplicity of her character. But Mads is star of this episode as he slowly unpeel off that professional medical veneer and reveals the psychopath within. And, man, is Freddie annoying or what?

Episode 4, "Ceuf" (Pulled due to violence, but will review the full ep once it's available. Below is just a quick word regarding the webisodes online): Actually without the violence and the gore to distract, the amazing characterisations of the cast is brought out so much more clearly. Hannibal and Bloom is definitely a pairing that I would like to see more of, as is the Hannibal/Abigail pairing. Mads is really outstanding as Hannibal.
(Update - 2 May 2013): Finally caught the full episode. The webisodes are now put into context. The case-of-the-week was not that gruesome/violent, although the subject matter was rather disturbing, but at least it brought out more in the characterisation of Will and drew parallel between Will, Hannibal and Abigail. On the other hand, Alana again seemed more secondary which is such a pity and a waste of Caroline Dhavernas. A cameo by Morpheus brought out a chuckle. Lastly, I also do not see the chemistry between, nor the need to suggest an interest from, Hettienne Park (I don't even know her character's name) and Hugh Dancy. Unless she's going to die in the end.

Episode 5, "Coquilles": A fantastically creepy outing that stayed away from the pilot, but the great thing about "Hannibal" is that these standalone episodes are not as procedural as one would expect. More time is actually spent on characterisation, and in this case of Jack's, then solving the actual crime itself. Essentially, the main focus of the series is on Will and Hannibal and not psycho-killer of the week. And it's brilliant to see Mads and Hugh playing off each other. We also get "officially" introduced to Jack's wife, Phyllis, as played by a rather severe, and slightly haggard looking Gina Torres. Her appearance does suit her character but a departure from her usual on screen persona. Nonetheless, her presence allows us to get a better understanding of the man that Jack is, but the way he pushes Will presents us a dilemma with regards to our regard of him. Complex!

Episode 6, "Entree": Woah!! The first amazingly mindblowing episode. So many nods to the movies, and finally Hannibal outs himself. Amazing! Can't wait to see how the next episode will continue on from here. Freddie is much more tolerable in small amounts, and sadly Will is back in the background this time round. A different kind of format in storytelling this time round with flashbacks and a crime that is more on why is he doing it? Rather than who is doing it? But once the show loses its dramatic irony that Hannibal is a sociopath, how else can it sustain itself?

Episode 7, "Sorbet": The very great thing about this series is that Fuller and company have created complex characters and they are not afraid to explore their characterisations each week. The case-of-the-week tend to be in the background and serve as stepping stones to further explore the leads. And the star of this week is Hannibal. Sadly, Alana Bloom is still nothing more than a footnote and an expository mouthpiece. But then, GILLIAN ANDERSON!! Woohoo!! An interesting psychiatrist to Hannibal's culinary expert, and boy, does the food look good or what!

Episode 8, "Fromage": A gross-out crime-of-the-week again beautifully dovetails into the characterisation of the main bromance. But other than that, not a very strong entry in the season. Although I do hope that after these two episodes of teasing, the next one gives us a full blown Gillian Anderson story! She is mysteriously fascinating.

Episode 9, "Trou Normand": Back to Abigail and the conclusion of her mystery. Wonder how else will her character play out now in this new atypical family. I sense bad things happening to Alana and they kind of just dropped that whole Jack's wife has terminal cancer plot line eh? The case of the week is again outstandingly creepy, but solved really quickly and concluded by the end of the Second Act. Perhaps Fuller et al should consider serialising this in another format? The first few episodes were outstanding, but these last two were iffy.

Episode 10, "Buffet Froid": Firstly, thankfully this series got picked up for a second season, so the investment has not been for nothing! Can't wait to see how Fuller wrap up Season 1. Secondly, Georgia from Dead Like Me!!! What a great way to re-address Ellen Muth's character, giving her a mental illness that makes her think that she is dead! Wow! Although the mental illness aspect was not well-handled. And my gosh, the scenes were absolutely freaky, especially the opening sequence and the ending face-less Hannibal. Love the continuous development of characterisation here, but why is Hannibal really allowing Will's encephalitis to go on? I doubt it's really for scientific/publishing purposes. Perhaps, an inflamed brain tastes nicer?

Episode 11 - 13: What a brilliant, brilliant ride of a show this has been!! A great ending, that leaves so much to be explored in Season 2. Thank the TV gods that Fuller and team decided to eschew the typical case-of-the-week for a proper serialised drama/thriller that has fantastic characterisations, but of course all would have been for nought if we did not have such fantastic actors personifying the roles! Caroline Dhavernas absolutely stood out in the finale and Fishburne continues to be a presence in the role. Gillian Anderson is perfect: a gorgeous enigma wrapped in inscrutability and mystery; can't wait for them to tell us more about her! And of course, Hugh Dancy shows us that the Dancy/Danes household is one highly strung bag of wonderful craziness; Mads Mikkelson has erased Hopkins version of Lecter from my mind. These last three episodes brought us slowly to an electrifying climax and the road there was paved with absolute tension and dread and fear and WTF?!

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