“He Felt Powerful” [Hannibal, ep 1.2]

At the risk of sounding cynical, I must admit: This is where I expected to see Hannibal fall apart (i.e. right out of the gate). If I hadn’t already viewed the second and third episodes before starting this recap, I don’t know I would have had faith enough in Hannibal to do so. Now, having finished the majority of the first season, I can vouch that this show indeed has legs. And most surprisingly, heart.

Last Week:

My first recap of Hannibal was written fairly slap-dash and I apologize for the spelling mistakes and errors regarding the cast/crew mentioned. While I don’t doubt there will be mistakes here again, I’m sure the quality is of a higher standard. Also, this recap is far more structured. This is the same format I’ll be using for future recaps of Hannibal (as-well as other shows). Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy.

So, anyway, this is the part of the recap where we re-consider events from the previous episode from the new perspective we have after watching this episode. This part will usually be kept pretty brief. Since we are only on episode two, there isn’t much to look back at. Though, now that we’ve seen Garret Jacob Hobbs appear during Will Graham’s hallucination, we have an inkling that the events in “Aperitif” will have repercussions. In fact, this is the first of what will become frequent reassurances of the character, be it through hallucination or flash-back sequence. I commend the writers for using every part of the animal, just like Hobbs would have (ha… ha…). It would have been easy for the show to get swept up in the murder of the week formula and forget all about Abigail and her dead father.

Episode Summary:

The first season of Hannibal had a definite theme to the naming of its episodes: that of twelve-courses of French cuisine. The pilot episode’s title, “Aperitif”, referenced the tradition of starting a twelve-course meal with a single glass of wine, to acclimatize your taste buds. In effect, this was what the pilot episode achieved; it re-intrpoduced you to the characters you’ve already met in several incarnations over several films and novels, as-well as establishing the foundations of this season’s story-arc’s, without actually serving you anything of substance– yet. It wets your appetite, but not much else. “Amuse-Bouche”, the second episode, refers to a small appetizer (of the cook’s sole selection) that is served with the intention of giving you a window into how the chief approaches the culinary craft. The writing team behind Hannibal (lead by Bryan Fuller, of Pushing Daises fame) used the sophomore episode as a chance to introduce you to the broader themes and the delicious character nuisances. It’s still only an appetizer; it won’t satisfy your hunger, but it will leave you in no doubt that you’ll enjoy the eleven courses to come.

So, the plot… Will Graham and Jack Crawdord (played with incredible integrity by Lawrence Fishburne) make a return visit to Garret and Abigail Hobbs’s cabin. There’s one shot on this opening sequence that shows Will standing in the attic. The walls surrounding him covered in dozens upon dozens of antlers. It’s a great visual metaphor for the rest of the season; the legacy of Garret Jacob Hobbs engulfing Will, ready to consume him whole. Jack tells Will he suspects Abigail of being involved in her father’s murders, Will wants to hear none of it. The scene ends with the realization that Freddie Lounds, immoral tabloid journalist (played by Lara Jean Chorostecki) has already published photographs of the crime scene on her website.

Next, we’re in the class-room. Will is offended by class’s applause and tries to storm forward with his presentation about Hobbs. A very neat transition has the camera moving into a presentation slide of Hobbs’s corpse laying bloody on his kitchen floor, before fading to the same shot at the crime scene. A moment passes, then the camera moves back, to reveal Will looking at the evidence, contemplating. It’s a great way of showing Will’s powerful imagination. It’s also one of many, many fun camera tricks in this show. So, Jack and Alana Bloom (played with measure by Caroline Dhavernas) show up after Will’s class to “ambush” him with the prospect of consulting for the FBI. He says “yes”.

Three teenage boys are wondering through the woods, when they stumble on what they think is marijuana grow-up. Then, after closer inspection, they determine it is a mush-room grow-up. Then, after closer closer inspection, they realize in horror that it is a human hand sprouting out of the dirt. A medical-tube of some-sort (we later learn this is an intravenous-feed) runs down into the ground, partially hidden in the underbrush, supported by a rusty piece of rebar. Camera starts to pull back to reveal a neat, symmetrical row of hands growing out of the soil, wrists limp, skin covered in mush-rooms and fungus. Then you realize what you are looking at: a mush-room farm. The image is disgusting, disturbing; the visual is beautiful, almost magical. Over-saturated greens and lively yellows fill the frame; high-lighted with rich browns and deep blacks. It’s a stunning look and I think it is the moment Hannibal really got its hooks into me.

Another excellent scene comes later in the episode, when that immoral tabloid journalist (the only profession this show hates more than journalists seems to be therapists) tries to work her way into a session with Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) under false pretences, in under to learn information on Will Graham. Hannibal, of course, sees through her immediately. I loved the tension during this scene. Even the smallest, subtlest gesture from Hannibal cranks up the suspense. I particularly loved it when he placed her purse on the other-side of the couch, so she’d be trapped beside him. The blocking there was genius.

One more short scene I want to make note of before the linearity of this recap falls apart… When the would-be victim of the mush-room killer shows up at the pharmacy to collect her insulin, the creepy way the pharmacist double-checks her address made my skin crawl. It was also the harsh, fluorescent lights used and eye-hieght camera-level that made it seem particularly real. I believed, viscerally, that that young woman had just become trapped in a horrible fate beyond her imagining. It really creeped me out.

The conclusion of the murder of the week was satisfying, to me. I didn’t expect the motive behind the corpse/mush-room garden to be as creepy as the sight it-self. The speech about connections and fungus – riffing off a really interesting TED Talk the writer’s admit to having been inspired by – also functions as a nifty way to think of Will Graham’s ability to empathize unconditionally.

Favourite Line(s):

Random Kid #3: “That’s not marijuana…”

Hannibal: “Killing must feel good for God, too. He does it all the time. And are we not created in his image? […] He dropped a church roof on thirty-five of his worshippers last Wednesday night in Texas, as they sung a hymn.”   Will: “Did God feel good about that?”   Hannibal: “He felt powerful.”

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