If the first episode of Hannibal served as a relatively restrained if visually lavish re-introduction to the cannibal psychiatrist and the psychologically fragile Will Graham, ‘Amuse Bouche’ is a gloriously gothic indication of what Bryan Fuller intends to do with the show.
Will’s having some trouble dealing with his lack of guilt about shooting Garrett Jacob Hobbs and Jack Crawford insists that Hannibal Lecter gives him the all-clear before he goes back out into the field. Hannibal’s more than happy to give Will the greenlight as it helps establish a mutual trust. Will needs the support when he’s called into a particularly gruesome crime scene where a killer has turned comatose humans into a living mushroom garden. Sniffing around Will and his therapist is tabloid hack Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki), who might find more than she bargained for.
Hannibal’s pilot, directed by David Slade, served as an introduction to the kind of visual sumptuousness we could expect from the show. ‘Amuse-Bouche’ (directed by Michael Rymer) continues to provide a feast for the eyes, although it’s not for the faint-hearted. The human mushroom garden that Will must decipher is a truly nightmarish creation. Watching the FBI team unpick what on earth had actually happened, it’s difficult to believe this made it past the censors.
But Hannibal continues to show that it’s not interested, at least primarily, in providing cheap thrills for gore-hounds. Everything that’s dark and upsetting here serves a dramatic purpose and Bryan Fuller’s “elegant horror” plan continues to come to fruition. While it is horrifying, it’s immaculately framed and beautifully shot. And it’s hard to imagine another series making such an eerie motif out of antlers.
Speaking of things coming to fruition, Hannibal continues to develop his friendship with Will, pushing and probing to find what upsets him. Following a very strong performance in the pilot, Dancy is on fine form as he conveys Will’s conflicting feelings at his first killing. Will is certainly guilt-ridden, but the bulk of that guilt comes from the fact that he might have actually enjoyed ending the life of a monstrous serial killer, a “sprig of zest” as Hannibal puts it. While Dancy definitely has twitchy, uncomfortable Will down pat now, it’s good to see him show his range with a tender scene between Will and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas).
But this week really belongs to two characters. While his dark side is only hinted at in the pilot, we get our first real glimpse at his potential for darkness when tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds walks into his office under false pretences. Like Alana Bloom, Freddie Lounds has been rewritten as a woman and Lara Jean Chorostecki makes the role her own with an excellent turn. Whether it’s pretending to be a concerned parent at a crime scene, trying to talk her way out of criminal charges in the face of a furious Jack Crawford, or callously telling a cop she did him a favour by getting him fired, this Lounds is every inch the conniving, manipulative hack of Harris’ novel.
The scene between Freddie and Hannibal is the stand-out of an extremely strong episode. He guesses who she is almost instantly, but she’s unwilling to admit to anything unless forced. Hannibal’s friendly exterior drops for a moment and it’s obvious that she has no choice but to give up her recording of Will’s session with the good doctor. “You’ve been terribly rude, Miss Lounds. What’s to be done about that?” Mikkelsen continues to prove himself an inspired choice for Lecter, switching effortlessly between quiet threat with Lounds and entertaining Jack Crawford over a dinner of what he tells the FBI chief is pork.
As in the previous episode, the serial killer of the week plotline is wrapped up rather neatly, but it’s clear that these one-off villains are there to drive Will’s development. Which isn’t to say that the subplot isn’t interesting. The scene where the ghoulish pharmacist Elden Stammets locates Lounds is brutally shocking, and we definitely need to applaud the Wonderfalls crossover (Gretchen Speck-Horowitz, now just Gretchen Speck). He sets his sights on Will because he wants to be understood, and Will wounds rather than kills him. This act of mercy allows Hannibal to confront Will with the upsetting fact that killing makes people feel powerful. The story about God dropping a church roof on 34 of his worshippers in the middle of a hymn is a lift from Red Dragon but it fits perfectly here.
Hannibal’s pilot episode was an assured and exciting new approach to Thomas Harris’ characters, and this episode ups the ante. It’s superbly acted, it’s very well written and it’s beautifully shot. We can’t wait for ‘Potage.’