A review of tonight's “Hannibal” – which NBC renewed for a third season earlier today – coming up just as soon as the teacup comes back together…
“What are you up to?” -Alana
“Ko No Mono” is the sort of episode that I imagine will play better for someone binging season 2 at a later date than somebody watching week-to-week. It inches the Will/Hannibal fishing chess game a little – and even has a moment where Alana accuses Jack of moving pieces around on the board – but it's not until fairly late in the episode, when we find out the truth about Freddie Lounds and see what horrible fate Mason has planned for Margot, that it feels compelling as its own thing rather than part of the larger whole.
Really, I think this entire second half of the season may play better that way, even though I've been enjoying all the post-Chilton episodes. Bryan Fuller and company – including David Slade, directing his first episode of the season here – are clearly treating these episodes as a new phase of the story, not only with the characters who are appearing, but with the elliptical, almost dreamlike visual and editing style (the way that at one point in this episode, for instance, Hannibal seems to be conversing with himself rather than with Will) that's been introduced, on top of giving Hugh Dancy a very different look. It all feels as if two separate seasons that just happen to be airing back to back without a break. I admire the willingness to experiment, but I also miss the crispness and precision the show had when Will was still in the mental hospital.
Though some of the strangeness is also coming from the Verger family, where it continues to feel as if there are large parts of their story have been left on the cutting room floor. (The previouslies was the first time I noticed Hannibal mentioning that Margot planned to get pregnant, but it's entirely possible it was in last week's episode and I missed it because Mads Mikkelsen's accent is occasionally impenetrable.) And on a show that's distinguished itself from the rest of the Hannibal-verse by having an understated Lecter, and where most of the performances are buttoned-down even as the visuals and plotting are insane, Michael Pitt's extravagantly mannered performance – as someone joked on Twitter the other day, Pitt “might be the first actor who ever looked at a Gary Oldman performance and thought, “'I could go bigger.'” – isn't a natural fit. This guy who wanders around making little kids cry so he can drink their tears in his martini is memorable, but maybe not a part of this version of the story. Though his cruel revenge on Margot for trying to impregnate her way around papa's will(*) gave us a brief sense of what a Hannibal Lecter story directed by David Cronenberg might look like.
(*) In a weird way, Mason sterilizing Margot against her will may be the “Hannibal” plot device I'm most surprised got past NBC Standards and Practices, because most of what the killers do has an air of the fantastic. This is monstrous, but not in a science-fiction-y way like turning a corpse into a beehive or a tree.
I do, however, like I like how Fuller continues to play with both our expectations from the books and films and their iconography, like when we see what appears to be Freddie's flaming corpse strapped to a rolling wheelchair, just as happens in various version of “Red Dragon.” Fuller has said that he'd like to do his version of the “Red Dragon” story a few seasons from now (assuming the show makes it that long), and clearly Freddie is going to play a different role in the story, given that she turns up alive and well in Jack's office, as the show reveals both that Will has been lying to Hannibal (which most of us assumed) and that Jack is in on at least part of this fishing expedition (which there's been more of a split opinion about).
The most effective part of the episode involves a character the show's had a spotty track record with in Alana. She's flitted in and out of the narrative at times, and her faith in Will and/or Hannibal waxes and wanes in ways that sometimes feel true to character, sometimes just for convenience. But Caroline Dhavernas got a lot of good material to play this week as Dr. Bloom came to grips with all the twisted things happening between the two most interesting men in her life, and even started playing profiler (a role she'd never been comfortable with previously) because she was tired of being a passive participant in all this drama. I imagine we'll learn more next week about exactly what Jack told her, what Will's been up to, etc., and how she reacts.
As with Will being in the mental hospital, this game he's playing with Dr. Lecter is the sort of thing that probably couldn't carry an entire season (even at 13 episodes), so it's good that Fuller is devoting half of this season to each. This is clearly leading somewhere big, based on the flash-forward that began the season, and I'm eager at this point (and maybe a little impatient) to get there.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org