Hannibal: 102 “Amuse-Bouche” Review
Reviewed by Gabriel Bergmoser.
Low ratings in the U.S. have made Hannibal’s future uncertain and I for one think this is really sad. Showrunner Bryan Fuller has said that he has a seven season arc for the series that would presumably cover all the books. I’d love to see where it goes, as so far this show is a brilliant adaptation of the series. But there are problems, and they begin to become clear in the second episode. Maybe the reason for Hannibal’s less-than-impressive impact in America is the fact that, while essentially marketed as a police procedural, the show is much more interested in its characters than anything close to traditional cop-show staples.
On the one hand, this is really refreshing. The show does not shy away from the foibles and flaws of its central characters, and it means that much of the fascination with what is going on comes from the promise of getting deeper into their heads. The problems, however, begin to arise when the show is expected to act more like a traditional procedural.
It becomes painfully obvious over the first few episodes that Hannibal as a series is simply not all that interested in exploring the process of how to catch a killer. While this side of things has been done to death on thousands of other cop shows, it was also an integral part of the original books and films, which where unique in how they balanced the crime-solving part of things with the psychology of the characters. What set the Hannibal Lecter series apart from more run-of-the-mill crime dramas was how much its characters mattered. But the procedural side was often just as important.
Not so in this series however. The killer in tonight’s episode is caught almost by accident, and the hunt for him feels so throwaway when put up against the parts of the episode focussing on Will’s growing relationship with Hannibal. That said, for horror fans the method of murder here is something genuinely skin crawling; keeping victims alive in a coma while growing fungus on them? That’s pretty ugly. And yet all we get in way of explanation of this bizarre and fascinating killer is some vague mutterings about fungus representing human connection. Or something. It’s not the world’s greatest analysis.
It’s hard to blame the episode for letting its killer fall by the wayside however, when it has a lot more on its plate. This episode has the distinction of introducing one of the most memorable characters from the original Lecter canon; the unscrupulous reporter Freddie Lounds, here given a sex change. This change actually works quite well, although I had to question why Crawford did not just go ahead and arrest her. Perhaps he guessed that she could be useful later on, although it might have helped to make this clear.
It probably sounds like I’m being quite hard on this episode, and while yes, it demonstrates a lot of the flaws that drag the series down a bit, there is also so, so much to love about it. Viewers who had their doubts about Mikkelson’s Hannibal in episode one should get a clearer idea of what he’s trying to do here. That final scene between him and Will in the office? Electric. We start to really get the sense that there is a lot more to Hannibal than he is letting on, which is the beauty of what Mikkelson has done with the character. He has an ambiguity that even Hopkins purists have to admit did not exist in the more famous incarnation of the character. In this episode we start to see Will’s defences come down as he and Hannibal bond, and both actors sell it brilliantly. Hannibal is calm, reasonable and understanding in a way that disarms Will and finally gets him to open up a little. It’s quite sad to think of where this is all going to end.
I really hope that Hannibal is given the chance to return for more seasons and really find the show it wants to be. So far what is on offer is truly impressive and fascinating, but problems remain. I don’t believe any of these things are fatal however, and I still think that the good really outweighs the bad. I just hope that the series can get the balance right as it finds its feet.