Hannibal Season 2 Premiere Review “Kaiseki”

Hannibal Season 2 Episode 1 Kaiseki (9)

Before Hannibal was set to premiere last spring, there were plenty of reservations about the program. First, it was on NBC Thursday at 10 PM; a notorious dead zone where shows have failed for NBC since ER went off the air. Second, it starred a lot of people you’d heard of (or maybe not), but no one who had had a real moment in long time. Third, there wasn’t a fervor over more Hannibal content. The movies post-Silence of the Lambs had bastardized the product to the point where no one was that interested (the ratings certainly proved that was the case). Finally, it was on NBC (couldn’t resist). It seemed destined to be another over-the-top serial killer drama on a slate filled with over-the-top serial killer drama.

Then, the show began to build buzz among critics. It was clear something was going on here. While it was possible that everyone was grading on a curve, there was legitimate enjoyment coming from those who had watched the series. Now, 14 episodes in, that original promise has been fulfilled and then some. Regardless of how low-rated the series is, Bryan Fuller and company have created something unlike anything else on the television dial at the moment. While serial killer shows of profoundly lower quality continue to double down on hyper-brutalized violent imagery, Fuller and director David Slade have made Hannibal into a stylized dream world. It’s distanced himself from a lot of the easy shots serial killer shows use to convey dread. Hannibal Lecter is an amazing villain (and Mads Mikkelsen plays him wonderfully), but he’s not an all-powerful supervillain.

As a result, the show deep dives into the mind of Lecter, and our protagonist Will Graham. Graham’s state of being in the first episode of the season was evocative of Silence of the Lambs, and the nature of his situation makes for several good conversations with those who come to visit. Even Lecter’s visit is fascinating: He’s not taunting Will; he genuinely feels bad that Will had to end up in this situation, but Will was his unfortunate patsy. Lecter’s obsession with Will Graham should lead to many interesting moments during the season. It’s going to lead to more weirdly honest conversations with Gillian Anderson, some interplay with his “friend” Will, and some engaging moments with Dr. Lecter as “the new Will Graham”.

Oh, and of course there will be that 3 minute fight scene between Jack Crawford and Hannibal. Opening the season with something so expertly choreographed and such a seminal moment of the series turns out to be a wonderful choice by Fuller. It gives all of the subsequent scenes between the two combatants and extra layer it didn’t need but we’re happy to have nonetheless. Call it an extra serving of sashimi in an already expertly made Kaiseki.

And that’s what sets Hannibal apart from its many counterparts. It doesn’t wallow in serial killer memes and exploit them to manipulate the audience. Instead, the show raises many of these concepts to high art. It’s a testament to Fuller’s writing, Slade’s vision, and the work of the many talented actors in this series. It all makes for a delicious opening course to the show’s second season.