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TV Review: Hannibal “Yakimono” By: Brandon Wolfe

TV Review: Hannibal “Yakimono”
By: Brandon Wolfe

Bryan Fuller’s ‘Hannibal’ has quietly become one of television’s finest shows. Taking the characters from Thomas Harris’ series of novels, the show functions as a prequel to the events of the initial novel, ‘Red Dragon’ (which was adapted with style by Michael Mann in 1986’s ‘Manhunter’ and with bare-bones competence by Brett Ratner in 2002’s ‘Red Dragon’), setting up the working relationship that cannibalistic, yet refined, serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) had with FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) before the latter put the former in prison. Not unlike its titular character, ‘Hannibal’ is essentially a cable series wearing the skin of a network series. It’s daring and challenging in ways few network shows have the stones to attempt. It is also one of the best-looking shows currently on television and almost certainly the goriest in network history. Week after week, the series gets away with horrifically graphic images that would make the ‘Saw’ producers avert their eyes. I suppose you literally can get away with murder when you’re in the NBC Friday-night graveyard and no one’s watching.

Hannibal’s’ first season set up the premise, where the show would function as something of a procedural – basically, a ‘CSI’ where every killer-of-the-week is an ornate performance artist – while developing the central ongoing conflicts in the background. And if that first season did a bit too much running in place, giving us too many scenes of Will Graham’s mental disorientation while Hannibal Lecter acted as an agent of chaos in the shadows, the second season is sprinting wildly, as if being chased by a lunatic. As it has unfolded the story of Will Graham’s incarceration (he was framed as the notorious Chesapeake Ripper by Lecter, who actually committed the crimes), the season has hit a stride where every episode goes so big that it feels like a season finale. Major characters are killed off, victims long thought dead are recovered alive, and more and more, people are beginning to suspect that maybe something is off about all those dinner parties Hannibal keeps throwing.

Picking up where we left off last week, “Yakimono” finds FBI agent Miriam Lass (played by Anna Chlumsky from ‘My Girl,’ who has it much worse here than watching Macaulay Culkin killed by bees) pulled from a secret pit in a remote building. Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, has discovered Miriam’s location based on a clue given by the Chesapeake Ripper in his latest victim, but Crawford is also the person who dispatched Miriam to investigate the Ripper years earlier, leading to her disappearance and presumed death (Crawford was sent Miriam’s arm by the Ripper last season). Jack has recently begun suspecting that Will’s claims about Hannibal Lecter’s true nature might have something to them after all, especially after Will is exonerated of all charges by evidence provided by the Ripper himself. Jack hopes Miriam will be able to offer a smoking gun with regard to the Ripper’s true identity, but it seems Lecter has successfully brainwashed her during her time in captivity and she does not identify him as her captor.

On his way out of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Will informs the smug Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) that he believes Hannibal Lecter will be coming for him next due to his role in convincing another patient, Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), to claim credit for the crimes of the Chesapeake Ripper. Will proves to be correct about Chilton, but not in the way he intended. Lecter does not pursue Chilton as a victim, but instead dresses him up as his next patsy, planting the amputated body of Gideon in Chilton’s home and rendering the good doctor unconscious. When Chilton awakes, he is covered in blood and finds two FBI agents brutally slaughtered in his kitchen. Chilton goes to Will for help, but Will notifies Jack out of obligation. Jack apprehends Chilton and puts him in front of Miriam Lass, who confirms that he is indeed the Chesapeake Ripper, showing just how much of a long game Lecter was playing. Lass then gets her hands on a gun and shoots Chilton in the head.

With the Chesapeake Ripper case now closed to everyone else’s satisfaction, Will is left alone with his certainty that Hannibal is the true culprit. Though he accosted Lecter with a gun earlier in the doctor’s home, he was unable to pull the trigger, so his next course of action is to resume therapy sessions with his former psychiatrist, kicking off a chess match between the two brilliant adversaries.

The prospect of Will and Hannibal engaging in a prolonged meeting of minds is very enticing. Mikkelsen and Dancy have been giving the show’s most impressive performances, performances that are constantly evolving in intriguing ways. In the first season, Will had a haunted quality, his gift for getting inside the heads of killers having taken a toll that left him spooked, yet sort of wryly amused by his own spookiness. Now that Will is aware of the monster that lives behind Hannibal’s eyes, his demeanor has taken a more righteously furious form, growing increasingly angrier each time Hannibal slips through the net.

But Mikkelsen is the big draw here. His version of Hannibal Lecter could not be more different from the iconic hambone that Anthony Hopkins portrayed so famously. His Lecter is as mild-mannered as they come. He never gets ruffled, never betrays any of the animalistic qualities that reside within him. Though there is a sort of otherworldly aura to him, one could see how the characters other than Will would not pick up his scent, whereas it’s very difficult to ever imagine Hopkins’ version of the character hiding in plain sight. This Hannibal Lecter is a fascinatingly withdrawn figure, and Mikkelsen makes him plausible. It also helps that my ears have gotten used to his very thick accent, which did make comprehending his dialogue a bit troublesome in the early goings.

With each episode this season, ‘Hannibal’ leaves its viewers constantly wondering where we go from here, and “Yakimono” is no exception. It effectively reboots the season midstream, changing the dynamic dramatically. Up until this point, the season has concerned Will’s status among his friends and the rest of the world as the Chesapeake Ripper while the real Ripper was still out there creating mayhem. Now that Will is in the clear and the Ripper case is nailed shut by Lecter’s own design, it will be interesting to see what form the show takes now. There is no reason to think the next course in this meal won’t be as sumptuous (gotta close with a food line).

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe on Twitter at @ChiusanoWolfe.

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