Hannibal Season 1 Review “Amuse-Bouche”

Hannibal (NBC) Episode 2 Amuse Bouche (7)

On this week’s “Hannibal,” we saw Will Graham doing his best to put the events of last week’s episode behind him, while taking on his latest case in “Amuse-Bouche.” If, like me, you were wondering what that title meant, then I will tell you: it’s an appetizer of sorts, typically bite-sized and made at the chef’s discretion, which is to say, something that is not on the menu proper.

From the looks of things, each episode’s title is going to be a similar dining-related term, with last week’s being “Aperitif,” which is a drink, typically alcoholic, that one has before dinner. Given our titular character’s obsession with fine dining, that makes perfect, tongue-in-cheek sense that is in keeping with the show’s pitch black humor, although I can’t imagine anyone wanting what Hannibal’s serving up, however well it might be prepared.

Speaking of which, you might want to skip having any mushrooms while watching this week’s episode, as they figured prominently into the proceedings, in the ickiest manner imaginable. In Will’s latest case, we got a gander at the grossest garden this side of the one in Motel Hell,” in which human bodies were literally used as fertilizer for the fungi in question. If that wasn’t disgusting enough for you, they were kept alive as long as possible during said incubation, with one still kicking as our team dug it up. Yikes!

As a longtime horror fan, I’ve seen some pretty gross things over the years, but the sight of fungi-fied corpses ranks right up there with the sickest, and this was on network television. Way to give pay cable a run for their money, NBC- you overachievers, you! This killer’s MO was pretty disturbing, with him targeting diabetics and replacing their prescriptions with sugar water to induce comas, so that they could then be buried alive and kept that way while he grew his mushroom garden. I’ll never look at the local pharmacist quite the same way again, that’s for sure.

Thankfully, Will nabbed the responsible guy, Eldon Stammets, just before he gave the same treatment to Abigail Hobbs, who is the daughter of last week’s killer. If, as Jack Crawford and his team suspects, Abigail is actually her father’s partner in crime, he may wish he hadn’t saved her after all. That remains to be seen, but from the looks of things, she wakes up next week, so it will be interesting to see what develops there. Might Hannibal have figured this out and helped save her for this reason? We shall see.

Another interesting development was that Hannibal was assigned to give Will his psych evaluation, in light of last week’s shooting. Hannibal signed off on Will without hesitation, though that didn’t stop him from trying to psychoanalyze him anyway. Those scenes with Will and Hannibal were among the episode’s most effective, definitely bringing to mind similar scenes in the books with Will and an incarcerated Hannibal, as well as the ones with him and Clarice. I’m sure fans of the books relished them as much as I did, and I like the way the books are informing the series thus far, retaining the spirit of them without being a direct adaptation.

Another element of the books was introduced this week, in a more unexpected fashion, when the character of reporter Freddie Lounds was brought onto the show, as played by Lara Jean Chorostecki. As fans of the books and movies know, the character is traditionally male (in fact, none other than Philip Seymour Hoffman played him in the movie version of “Red Dragon”– a decidedly different approach than taken here), so assigning it to a pretty redhead is an interesting move on the show’s part.

Still, as in the books, Lounds is here portrayed as decidedly sleazy and unethical, shilling for a tabloid-style website that does a nasty expose on Will that directly leads to Abigail getting targeted. As my faithful readers know, I’m a bit of a sucker for the redheads, so to say I had mixed feelings about this development is putting it mildly. So pretty, but so awful a human being!

It’s kind of a brilliant move on the casting department’s part, if you think about it. The previous incarnations were so hiss-able that you didn’t much care when they met their fates, but by making it a pretty girl…well, let’s just say it makes things a bit more complicated, at least if you’re a guy (okay, a straight guy- or gay girl, for that matter). I found myself both attracted and repulsed by this bottom-feeder, especially when it was revealed that she got a hard-working cop suspended- and that it wasn’t the first time.

As if that weren’t bad enough, she was also indirectly responsible for the guy getting killed, as the poor fellow wouldn’t have even been where he was if he hadn’t come to tell Lounds off for getting him suspended! (A lot of out-of-nowhere head shots on TV lately, between this and “The Walking Dead” and “Being Human.”)

Also great was the showdown between her and Hannibal, who sniffed her out right away (perhaps literally, given his inclinations), and the bit with her and Crawford, who almost had her arrested for contaminating the Hobbs’ crime scene, when they discovered one of her hairs in the attic. How creepy was that attic, by the way, what with all the antlers everywhere? You wouldn’t want to take a wrong step in that place!

Some great cheeky dialogue this week, as with the pilot, this time courtesy of the wonderfully-named Jim Danger Gray. (I feel like the “Danger” part should be in quotes, as if he were a stuntman by trade.) As before, Lecter got the best lines of the bunch, with his bits about how he was “very supportive of bake-offs” and his invite to Crawford: “Next time, bring your wife. I’d love to have you both for dinner.” I see what you did there, Hannibal!

Also nice was the atmospheric direction by Michael Rymer, who also directed an episode of the similarly-creepy “American Horror Story.” The dream sequence with the moose was pretty unsettling, but nothing beats that garden of horrors for sheer nightmare-inducing visuals. That was truly disturbing and a big shout-out to the special effects crew for bringing that to life, so to speak. I won’t soon forget that sight anytime soon.

So, all in all, a solid follow-up to the superlative pilot. I like the direction the show is headed in and the way it’s continuing to introduce plot and character elements from the Thomas Harris source material, even while diverging from it in some places, as with the casting of Lounds as female. The serial killers featured thus far are also very true to the types featured in Harris’ novels, as well, so that aspect of the show is well-done.

Thus far, there is nothing in the series that would be out of place in the actual book/film series as it exists, and that’s a good thing. In other words, the show makes the material its own without dishonoring it. I’m not sure you could ask for more, all things considered. The question is, can the show sustain it? I guess we’ll see.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Hannibal”? Do you like the way the show uses the material from the books? How about the “new” material that wasn’t featured in the books? Or the decision to make Lounds a woman? Did the whole mushroom thing skeeve you out, too? Let me know what you thought in the comments section!