Television Review – Hannibal: “Amuse-Bouche”/”Potage”

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I took a little break from Hannibal, let my DVR fill up way too much (to the point where it feels like I have a Netflix Instant queue), but finally I’m back in the game to get caught up. While watching the next two episodes in the series, I was forced to ask myself why I took a break from the show in the first place – what about the first episode put a bad taste in my mouth, besides the whole people-eating-people thing and lots of good-looking food made to appear like flesh?

I’m not sure, because “Amuse-Bouche” and “Potage” are good – like, really good. Better than The Walking Dead good. (Sorry, I shouldn’t shame another horror television show, but come on – that massive zombie-fest gets so much unwarranted praise.) Maybe my initial feelings about Hannibal were a little misguided – I know that I didn’t latch onto Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal originally, nor did I find the procedural bent of the pilot to be that entertaining.

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But if Hannibal is going to continue to churn out episodes like “Amuse-Bouche”, I’m going to have a hard time staying away from the show. Will Graham, the serial killer who’s not a serial killer criminal profiler, has just killed the Shrike in cold blood and failed to stop a potentially mortal wound to the man’s daughter. He’s already pretty disturbed about a lot of things in his life, including the fact that he’s so good at putting himself into killers’ shoes that he struggles to identify himself as a normal person. Now that the Shrike has been brought to justice, he wonders if he enjoyed killing him.

But there’s murder afoot and no time for Will to waste – he has to find a man who kills people by putting them into a diabetic coma, burying them in the dirt, and growing mushrooms out of their bodies by keeping them alive and injecting them with chemicals. Yep, this nasty episode does air on primetime television folks. I couldn’t help but get sucked into the awesome storyline of “Amuse-Bouche”, even if the reasoning behind the murderer’s killings is a little farfetched.

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Even so, the real draw to Hannibal from these episodes is the characterization. The cast of the show is really coming together, especially Mikkelsen’s Hannibal and Hugh Dancy’s Will. The unique partnership – symbiosis, perhaps? – between them keeps the viewer on edge all of the time, and “Potage” brings into question the ultimate motive behind Hannibal’s actions. I’ll admit that Hannibal’s darker half still feels a bit too hidden from the viewer’s point of view, but the mystery allows Hannibal to continue with tons of surprises and alliance-flips that can elongate the show.

The color palette in these episodes is amazing; the fall colors pop, the dream-sequence lighting is surreal, and the blood is bright. This is stuff that carries over from Bryan Fuller’s other shows like Pushing Daisies; but in Hannibal, the brightness serves a different purpose. It highlights the oddities of Will’s world and offsetting the dark murders.

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The end of “Potage” gets the long-running arc of Hannibal running, and with all of the questions that the show evokes, one in particular seems to point to an undercurrent in the show: just what is Hannibal’s game? I’m sure he’ll have a lot of them in the coming episodes, but most important is to find out what drives him. Is it human connection, like the mushroom killer? Or is it something more akin to a literal game, the goal to try to outwit Will as long as possible? This meeting of the minds interests me most; that they work both in tandem and opposition gives the show a push and pull that is fascinating, especially when done as well as it is in these two episodes.

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