Review: ‘Hannibal’ – ‘Amuse Bouche’

A review of tonight’s “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as I rubber stamp you…

“I liked killing Hobbs.” -Will

After last week’s pilot episode introduced us to Bryan Fuller, David Slade and company’s take on the world of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, “Amuse Bouche” demonstrates how “Hannibal” intends to work as a TV series, at least in the short term. Down the road, presumably, Lecter gets caught and we get a season-long version of the Tooth Fairy case from “Red Dragon. Right now, though, the series intends to feature a mix of standalone killers like tonight’s mushroom man, Lecter stirring up trouble in the background, and Will dealing with the emotional fallout from his gift and the work it lets him do.

It’s a potent combination. The mushroom imagery is haunting enough that it maybe could have carried the episode on its own, but as just one element in an hour featuring lots of fallout from the Garrett Jacob Hobbs killing, the on-camera introduction of Fuller’s version of Freddie Lounds(*), it’s dynamite.

(*) In the books and movies, Lounds is a sleazy male tabloid reporter (played by Stephen Lang in “Manhunter” and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Red Dragon”). The web is the new tabloid (TMZ’s more potent than any magazine), and I like the idea of the female Freddie as someone polished enough to slip in and out of places she shouldn’t, able to fool anyone short of Hannibal Lecter himself.

In particular, what works so well is the ongoing duet between Lecter and Graham. On one level, Lecter is taking advantage of his position with Will and the FBI to enhance his own crimes, like the way he copycatted Hobbs’ work last week. But on another, you can sense that he genuinely respects Will, is fascinated by what makes him tick, and is trying to help him as much as he can without exposing himself. Hannibal Lecter likely doesn’t come across many kindred spirits in this world, even with the number of serial killers out there, so it feels special for him to be in the presence of a man as intelligent as Will, with the capacity of empathy and understanding he has (“This is my design”), and now with the knowledge of what it feels like to take another’s life. Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy are working fantastically together, and I look forward to more.

Speaking of which, the premiere ratings were certainly not good, but nor were they the utter catastrophe of “Do No Harm,” “Smash,” or some of NBC’s other problem areas this spring. Given that it’s an international co-production that isn’t costing NBC as much as a traditional drama, given the network’s troubles elsewhere, and given the lack of inventory this late in the season, I can’t imagine a circumstance where all 13 episodes don’t air. Heck, if the show holds steady (or, with repeats on CBS and ABC tonight, goes up even a little), it’s suddenly an NBC success story for the horrible mid-season of 2013! Either way, I’m in this for the season. I hope you are, too.

What did everybody else think?