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“Killing must feel good to God, too…He does it all the time, and are we not created in His image?”
–Dr. Hannibal Lecter

If you’ll recall my review of Hannibal‘s pilot episode from last week, you’ll remember my overall positive impression of the show, and my less than glowing assessment of former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen in the title role: What with his cold, overly creepy demeanor and unintelligible accent.

However, I was fair enough to allow for the possibility that Mikkelsen might grow into the role, and my reservations could be premature. They certainly were.

Mikkelsen emerges in “Amuse-Bouche”, directed by Michael Rymer (who directed 24 episodes of one of my favorite shows: 2003’s Battlestar Galactica), as the Dr. Lecter a show this promising deserves. He’s much more articulate and expressive–he even smiles! (see above) I suspect the aloofness I criticized him for in the pilot was a deliberate gambit on the part of creator Bryan Fuller: I think he put some distance between Lecter and the audience in the first episode as a way of allowing us to become comfortable with his vision of the character. We could observe him before becoming fully invested.

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At it’s heart,  “Amuse-Bouche” concerns the fallout of the “Minnesota Shrike” case from last week. When we last left Will, Hannibal, and the gang, Graham had just put ten bullets into Garrett Jacob Hobbs, the aforementioned Shrike. Hobbs had been secretly tipped off by Lecter, and when Graham and the doctor arrived at his home, he’d already slit his wife’s throat, and was in the process of doing the same to his daughter. It was too late for the wife, but Graham and Lecter managed to save the daughter, and both spent a great deal of time at her bedside while she lay comatose.

This allowed the two men to bridge the gap that separated them in the pilot, and when we see them together in “Amuse-Bouche”, it’s clear that they’re developing a mutual respect, if not quite a true friendship yet. Especially after Lecter “rubber stamps” Graham’s mandatory psych evaluation, apparently a requirement for investigators after they kill a perp in the field (something Graham has never done, and why he had to quit his previous job as a Homicide cop: He could never bring himself to shoot a live person). Graham has made his distaste for head-shrinking abundantly clear, and he appreciates Lecter’s gesture. For his part, Lecter seems to have little concern about Graham from a professional standpoint, but an insatiable personal curiousity about him.
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Meanwhile, Crawford is concerned about Graham. It was his idea to have Lecter perform the psych evaluation. He’s afraid Will may have gotten too close to the Hobbs case…Which is especially distressing given that the killer’s comatose daughter is suspected of being her father’s accomplice. The above scene is of a dinner Lecter prepared for the FBI agent. I’m hoping that this will be a recurring theme: Hannibal made breakfast for Graham in the pilot, and it would be interesting if every episode features a character sitting down to a meal prepared by the doctor.

But Graham doesn’t have time to merely lick his psychological wounds:  A new killer is on the loose. This one is a pharmacist who induces comas in diabetics by switching their meds, hooks them up to IVs of sugar water while they’re still alive, and buries them in compost–using their bodies to fertilize mushrooms (which may be the most disturbing M.O. I’ve ever seen from a fictional serial murderer). Graham and company were an inch away from catching him, but he was spooked by a blog post from an almost absurdly unethical internet journalist named Freddy Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) who runs a trashy website called Tattlecrime.com–kinda like the TMZ of true crime sites.

STRONG POINTS

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“Amuse-Bouche” introduces, following a mention in “Aperitif”, Lara Jean Chorostecki as Freddy Lounds: Another gender-swapped Red Dragon character (previously portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) like Alana Bloom. Chorostecki nails the part of the glory-hungry journalist who wouldn’t know a scruple if it bit her on the ass. She looks to be auditioning for the role of Hannibal‘s “love to hate” character. She’s unethical, manipulative, and almost sociopathic in her pursuit of a story on Graham–but you can’t help but admire her chutzpah. (Plus: please forgive my descent into superficiality…but DAMN!) 1297401342169_ORIGINAL
She even has the nerve to attempt to spy on a conversation between Lecter and Graham, AND tries to pose as a prospective patient for the chance to interrogate the doctor. Naturally, Lecter sees right through her. It’s a neat moment: Even knowing what Hannibal is, we still root for him when he faces down the likes of Freddy Lounds.

The development of Graham and Lecter’s relationship is fascinating to watch: Will seeks Hannibal’s counsel regarding his feelings after taking down Hobbs…he’s embarrassed, and more than a little disgusted with himself to admit he enjoyed killing him, and Lecter is the only one he’s been able to admit this to, thus strengthening their bond. I really hope the series lasts long enough for us to see the inevitable showdown between these two exceptional minds.

WEAK POINTS

This isn’t the episode’s fault, but I was disappointed that we still have to wait for Eddie Izzard as the Chesapeake Ripper: Apparently the previews at the end of “Aperitif” were less a synopsis of the upcoming episode, and more a series of snippets from the entire season, so there’s no telling when anything seen in the previews is actually going to happen.

I’m a bit concerned by the “Killer of the Week” formula the first two eps have employed: It’s fine for now, but if they stick to it, I fear it could become tiresome fairly quickly.

 

All in all, “Amuse-Bouche” built itself up from the strong foundation of “Aperitif”, and improved on many of the pilot’s weaknesses. It also introduced a highly entertaining new character without detracting from the principals. If Hannibal can keep up this level of quality, it could become one of the most intelligent and entertaining hours on network television….Despite less than stellar ratings from other media outlets.

 

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