A review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as I prefer sins of omission to outright lies…
After such an eventful, crazy, borderline apocalyptic stretch of episodes like we've had the last few weeks, it was inevitable and probably necessary that Bryan Fuller would have to ease back on the throttle a bit. The recent pace wasn't sustainable, even in a 13-episode series, unless the plan was for the show to end this year(*).
(*) To sum up the various talking points: 1)The ratings remain terrible, and lower than “Dracula” was doing in this timeslot earlier in the season; 2)”Hannibal” doesn't cost NBC nearly as much as a drama like “Parenthood” or “The Blacklist” because of the partnership with Gaumont, and therefore the ratings are less relevant than with a traditional bubble show, but 3)”Dracula” is also an international co-production, 4)The critical buzz on “Hannibal” (versus the complete lack of any sort of buzz around “Dracula”) might inspire NBC to keep it around, and 5)At the end of last season, Fuller implied to me that another outlet (Amazon? Netflix? A cable channel to be named later?) was prepared to swoop the show up if it was canceled, and 6)I don't know if that same level of interest would exist after a second (and lower-rated) year, or if that mystery suitor might now look at “Hannibal” as damaged goods. The point being, anything could happen, but it's entirely possible that this could be the last season of this wonderful and weird show, so savor it while you can.
So “Su-zakana” takes us back to our Serial Killer of the Week format that had to be put on hold as the Will/Hannibal gamesmanship consumed every other part of the show. But it tries to do so without ignoring the new dynamic between the two leads, both by having them work together on the case and by making the case – with a smooth authority figure trying to make an well-meaning but twitchy individual his patsy – a clear parallel to what Hannibal did to Will.
Now, it is a very clear parallel, down to the casting of Jeremy Davies – a similar physical type to Hugh Dancy who could very easily be playing Will Graham right now – as nervous, horse-kicked Peter. Your mileage will vary on exactly how far you like your shows to go with that particular move (it's one of Shonda Rhimes' favorite storytelling devices, for instance), but this one mostly worked for me because Davies is so good – and such a natural fit in this world (even not playing Will) that as soon as I saw him I was amazed he hadn't appeared sooner – and because the equine horror of it all was so strange and compelling without feeling like a rehash of various other crimes.
And the Will/Hannibal battle for mental superiority remains fantastic, even as the pace has slowed. Will lays out his strategy to Jack (not that Jack understands it) in the ice fishing scene, and he's going to play this thing out, even as he makes it very obvious to Hannibal that it's what he's doing. That's how confident Will Graham is in his abilities here, and it's wonderful.
The subplot featuring Dr. Lecter's wealthy patient Margot (played by Katharine Isabelle) felt a bit roughly inserted here, but it's clearly setting us up for something down the road – possibly Dr. Lecter taking care of the problematic brother for her? – and the Will/Hannibal material around it was so tense that it was okay.
What did everybody else think? A let-down after the bugnuts insanity of recent weeks? A relief? A pleasure to see Jeremy Davies on this show and yet not the killer?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com