Hannibal Season 2 Premiere: Kaiseki review

The Hannibal season 2 premiere is a flawless example of just how good network television can be.

Tonight marks the Season 2 premiere of Hannibal, something this viewer has been looking forward to all year. Hannibal fans are hungry and no matter how many times I oogle pictures of Mads Mikkelsen painted up and wearing antlers, it can never be enough. With the very first episode of the season, Kaiseki, we are promised a complete meal. Literally. Kaiseki ryori is a traditional Japanese dinner made up of more than a dozen courses. Sure, they are all small plates, but that only means the meal is going to last longer.

Last season was a battle of chess. A drawn out seduction. Dinner at Thomas Keller’s restaurant The French Laundry. In other words, it was freaking awesome.

Hannibal and Graham met while consulting with the FBI on the Garrett Jacob Hobbs case. Hobbs, a serial killer, was quickly put down at the end of the first episode, but his presence echoed through the rest of the season. Soon Graham and Hannibal were working together more and more frequently. And while the audience knew who and what Hannibal was (a sociopath) his relationship with Graham seemed to predict the relationship he had with Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal appeared to have real affection for Graham, a desire to make a connection, have a friend. Yet in the end the parameters for Hannibal’s perceived friendship turned out to be pretty thin. While I have no doubt that Hannibal feels for Graham, those feelings exist well within his arrogance and self-interest. Graham became an interesting experiment in psychology and an exercise of relative incompetence on the part of FBI Special Agent Jack Crawford and his team.

For his part, Graham suffered, both physically and psychologically. His fragile mental health crumbled as his brain literally cooked in his skull due to a serious neurological virus. First he started blacking out, losing time, then losing memory, and finally losing his freedom after Hannibal neatly set him up to take the fall for his increasingly sadistic murders.

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Aside from the incredible writing and blockbuster cast, the two other elements of Hannibal that I missed the most were the set design and the costuming. Holy crap is this an attractive show (in more ways than one). A little bird told me that NBC will be offering Hannibal-esq swag in the near future and I cannot wait to see just what that will entail! Otherwise, this viewer has to say that the only other shows on television that give me so much straight up viewing pleasure are Boardwalk Empire and American Horror Story. Cinematography and set design can sometimes seem like a lost art, but not on Hannibal.

This week’s season premiere starts out with a tease, giving us a glimpse of the brutal, and inevitable, fight between Hannibal and Crawford. The two actors go at it, and between Hannibal’s lean speed and Crawford’s weight and experience, seem evenly matched. Full admission: I love a well-choreographed fight scene. The physicality it takes for two actors to put themselves out there and not rely on a shaky camera or obvious stunt doubles is a thing of beauty. Anywho, after this glimpse of things to come, the episode cuts to twelve weeks earlier, where the two men are calmly enjoying a sashimi and sea urchin dinner as they discus Graham’s descent into madness.

Hannibal seems particularly concerned with his friend’s incarceration, to the point that he might even be, dare we say it, lonely? Aw! He misses his bromance! Since he cannot share his feelings with Crawford (especially since the FBI is investigating Hannibal, simply as a formality toward closing the case on Graham), he confides in his own psychoanalyst, the imminently sexy Dr. Du Maurier. During their session he gives her informed consent to talk to Crawford about him in his capacity as a patient. She coolly masks the fact that she is crapping in her designer dress suite; after all, a good poker player knows how to hold their cards close to their chest. In the Season 1 finale it became obvious that Du Maurier was aware of what Hannibal is, even if he maintains that she does not know what he is capable of. That might be one of the few understatements the good doctor has made.

Really, though, everyone is worried about Graham. Poor guy is incarcerated in Boston’s version of Arkham Asylum, getting psychoanalyzed by the incompetent Dr. Chilton. How nice to see he has returned to the job after what must have been an extensive medical leave. You will recall that last season he was eviscerated. Graham, meanwhile, is using the time to go on a mental vacation and catch up on his fly fishing. The only thing he catches are visitors. Lots of visitors.

Crawford stops by, but is not buying Graham’s continued narrative that the doctor did it.

Dr. Bloom is still in his corner, sort of. Like everyone else, she thinks that while guilty, he is not responsible for what he did while in the throws of a brain fever. She walks his dogs, promises to get him a new lawyer, and tries to help him recover memories. One of which is a stunning visual of a banquet with the antler man. Sure, antler man is not a real memory, but Graham sure is preoccupied with that ear he horked up last season. He remembers Hannibal literally jamming it down his throat in one of the most unapologetically phallic scenes that I have ever seen on television. That is one helluva bromance!

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Agent Katz visits Graham. While she believes he is guilty, she also thinks that he is the best at what he does, and is there asking his opinion on their latest case. All personal drama aside, murder stops for no one. Artificially preserved bodies were discovered in a local river. I use the term ‘persevered’ loosely here. This week’s killer is a fan of picking up strangers, shooting them up with heroin, hosing them off, and then injecting them full of preservative. Lucky for Graham, Agent Katz not only brought the file, she brought pictures (this episode was a particularly effective homage to the dialogue in Silence of the Lambs) and he immediately sees that the killer has arranged a color palette.

The case is also being worked by Hannibal, who is ecstatic to become the FBI’s new Graham, helping Crawford profile killers. Oh Crawford, what are we going to do with you? After a busy week of sniffing preserved river bodies, flirting with Du Maurier, getting swabbed by the FBI, and wining and dining the incompetent, Hannibal finally makes time to visit Graham. The moment is soured when it becomes clear that Graham no longer reciprocates the doctor’s feelings. He may not be able to get Hannibal out of his head, but he sure as shit knows that this dude is not his friend. Graham puts all his cards on the table; insisting that “there will be a reckoning.”  

Challenge accepted. Hannibal can’t wait, and neither can I.

Body parts consumed this week: Some delightful sea urchin, but no “meats” (Chilton has to watch his protein intake).

How do I cook that? Sashimi of Snapper with Sea Urchin and Truffles: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sashimi-of-snapper-with-sea-urchin-and-truffles-recipe.html#

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5 out of 5