Hannibal: Amuse-Bouche

“It’s beautiful in its own way. Giving voice to the unmentionable.”

'Amuse-Bouche', episode two of Hannibal, does two things. It reiterates what we already know to be true, that people are often very misguided in the effort to connect to one another. It also shows us we don’t even know the half of it. This discord underlies the story and each carefully crafted scene is infected with it. Like a fungus.

In short, Will can’t let go of the fact that he killed Garret Jacob Hobbs, Jack is conflicted with his personal role in Will’s impending downfall while Hannibal vacillates between helping Will and hurting him further. And, this week’s featured serial killer MAKES A GARDEN OUT OF PEOPLE TO GROW MUSHROOMS. We’ll get to that a little later.

The episode begins with further investigation into Hobbs and his torture cabin in the woods. (A place where the sheer number of antlers in one room is nothing less than gruesome.) Now the task for the FBI is to piece together the real story behind Hobbs’ crimes. That includes finding out if his daughter Abigail, currently in a coma, had any part in it. Oh! And here’s Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki), a tacky inelegant tabloid journalist, purveyor of tattlecrime.com, in her motel room uploading pictures taken earlier of the same crime scene Will and Jack visited. (Her tedious presence soon becomes a major foil for everyone, especially Will. But more on that later.)

Will welcomes the safety of the cement angular classroom in Virginia until Dr. Bloom encourages him to get help processing the death of Hobbs. Jack joins the cause to impress that he really does feel guilt for what’s transpired and will Will please do a psych eval with Dr. Lecter? (Because we already know who and what Lecter is, every other way he interacts with our characters is a potential source of amusement. Or suspense. Or alarm.)

Will and Hannibal’s “therapy session” involves Will as physically far away from Hannibal as possible. Instinct perhaps kicking in, Will walks along the library stacks in the upper part of the bi-level office while Hannibal remains around his desk below. Still, the two manage to connect over their feelings about Abigail including the responsibility they both feel for her. But where Will’s struggling with why and how he’s obligated to her at all, it’s safe to say Hannibal is wondering if he should have let her die. (Her throat was cut and Hannibal stopped the bleeding.)

A word about where the story goes from here: I’ve watched a lot of TV and movies. I’ve read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road! Yet nothing in this life prepared me for the visual, conceptual or emotional reveal of someone growing mushrooms from human bodies. A precise acutely dehumanizing fertilization process tucked away in a forest somewhere.

Once Will, Jack and the dynamic forensic trio arrive, the particulars only get grimmer. In fact, in the scene’s climax one of the bodies, still alive, desperately reaches out a nature-baked hand to snap Will out of his psychic reconstruction reality, back into the present one. (It begs the question: Was Will’s trance-y view into the killer’s mind worse or better in those moments prior.) Oh and Freddie Lounds is there, manipulating a local authority for tawdry bits, including the name of the profiler standing mysteriously alone in the middle of the garden.

Naturally, Will ends up back in Hannibal’s office. While processing what Will saw when he was sussing out the crime scene (he saw Hobbs in one of the graves), they collaborate on the profile. It’s another example of, at the very least, a professional relationship of two like-minded-ish people stimulating each other, even if it is over the mind of a murderer. The choice to foster this is a huge credit to the writers who know that where this is going, the more facets to their relationship that there are, the higher the stakes.

Back to Ms. Lounds who clumsily infiltrates Dr. Lecter’s office trolling for more of a story. Luckily Hannibal doesn’t buy her "I'm looking for a therapist" routine for one second. He chastises her for sneaking around and attempts to protect Will from her planned public humiliation. Oh and poor gifted Will, the only one on the team who has now inexplicably pieced together the right details about the killer that tip the scales in the law's favor. Watching him sit in on each autopsy alienating himself with every creepy outloud conclusion is pretty heartbreaking.

The third act moves at a serious clip and lots of things happen. Once the FBI figures out pharmacist Elon Stammets is le killer, a SWAT team too late to catch him at his pharmacy job discovers a girl alive in his trunk wearing a dirt blanket. Lounds is indirectly connected. Her site was the last thing Stammets looked at before he bolted. Freddie gets ziptied as Jack and the FBI run up on her in her motel room with a team of agents. He found her hair at Hobbs’ cabin and knows she’s been up to no good to the detriment of their investigation(s). Will visits Abigail and falls asleep and has a haunting dream about a stag. Enter on tiptoe, Dr. Bloom who visits Abigail to read to her in her coma-state. (And to Will in his sleepy-state.) It’s this quiet moment that precedes the episode’s most jarring scene where the local detective that Lounds hounded in the forest for scraps gets shot point-blank a few feet from her by Stammets who calmly asks her for information about Will, which Freddie supplies in great detail. (Presumably at gunpoint)

The episode speeds to its conclusion with Stammets penetrating the hospital under false pretenses in order to steal Abigail to bury her, too, so Will can connect with her properly through the properties of fungus (but of course!) but Will takes him down with a clean shot to the arm, not killing him this time, like Hobbs, but stopping him and also saving Abigail. Hannibal explains to Will the power one feels by taking another life and Will must reconcile that he liked killing Hobbs.

Plus s`il vous plait.

Odd and ends

*Tattlecrime.com is like TMZ on acid.

*Every time someone joins Hannibal for dinner, the audience is on edge. This tension mostly surfaces from the simple fact that we know what Hannibal likes to eat for dinner. But the amount of time the show gives to him preparing it and respective dinner guest eating it smartly maximizes the horror.

*I know I'm preaching to the choir that every detail to the set design is impeccable but Hannibal's office still bears mentioning. It's so elite I don't have the interior design vocabulary to comment on it properly.

*Zip ties felt too good for Freddie. She’s that annoying presence that never really has to be accountable for her bad behavior.

*A few more words about Ms. Frederika Lounds. The character has a rich history in the Hannibal universe, though as a sleazy male journalist. I like that Hannibal made her a woman. I wish they had made her more like Kate Mara’s character in House of Cards so that she serves as a surrogate to the viewer…our eyes and ears. Instead, she feels like a mosquito, annoying, persistent but ultimately too small to really pose a threat. I get that she’s not likable but she lacks gravitas.

*Jack joins Hannibal for dinner and psychotherapy. Hannibal teases out of Jack that he’s sensitive to Will’s situation because he’s lost people in the field.

*The stag imagery is everywhere from antlers to Will’s dreams. It’s an apt metaphor for how Will sees Hannibal—powerful, elusive but at the moment benign.

*Oh, Will. Everyone thinks knows he's unstable and basically that conceit contributes to his, wait for it, instability!

*This episode had some story problems. It wasn’t clear how or why Stammets would pursue Will Graham. After all this is only his second high-profile case as of late so even if I can suspend disbelief that he is garnering a reputation among the serial killers of the world, would they already be seeking him out for various and sundry? To then rope Freddie’s website into this was too convenient. In TV writing, we call that double mumbo-jumbo.


Hannibal (to Will): “The mirrors in your mind can reflect the best of yourself. Not the worst of someone else.”

Hannibal: “You’ve been terribly rude, Ms. Lounds. What’s to be done about that?”

Hannibal (to Jack over dinner): “You’ve already told me about your mother. Why stop there?”

Jack: “Am I going to want to hear this?”
Jimmy: “No. And yes, but mostly no.”

Hannibal: (reading tattlecrime.com): “You are naughty, Ms. Lounds.”


ChrisB said...

This episode is creepy beyond the telling of it. People as mushroom growers. Dear God, but I am going to have nightmares about that.

As you point out so well, a lot of the tension in this show lies between what the characters know and we, the audience, know will happen in the future. Every time Hannibal serves dinner, I just cringe.

Great review, Heather, and thanks for getting me back into this show.

Jess Lynde said...

The mushroom garden is definitely one of the more haunting death tableaus from this season. So, so unnerving. And yet, not the worst one for me. Some sick, sick minds work on this show.

Fun tidbit: the woman that ends up in trunk is Gretchen, a guest character from Bryan Fuller's Wonderfalls. Not just the same actress, it is actually the same character. It's weird the way his universes intersect --- Marianne Beattle from the 'Muffin Buffalo' episode of Wonderfalls showed up on Pushing Daisies --- given that he likes to use the same actors and actresses over again. What would happen if Dr. Bloom had interacted with Gretchen? Would she have done some kind of double-take because she looks just like Jaye from high school?

As you both note, this show does an absolutely fantastic job capitalizing on what the audience knows about Hannibal that his colleagues don't. I honestly think the tension in any meal preparation and eating scene gets to me more than the graphic deaths. Jack eating dinner with Hannibal had me squirming on the couch. Any dinner scene, really, has me squirming.

Freeman said...

Gah, this episode was by far the nastiest for me. I have an inexplicable aversion to fungal matter so my body was crawling all over the whole time.

And Heather, your assessment of Freddie Lounds is spot on. And judging from what the showrunners have said about the timeline of the show, she'll be sticking around for quite a while.

Nick said...

Glad to finally see Hannibal being reviewed on this site! It'll be nice to have something to tide myself over with until the next season comes along.

BTW, isn't it spelled Lecter instead of Lector?

sunbunny said...

So I guess I'm the only one who thought the whole mushroom thing was sort of gorgeous in a macabre way? Eh, I'm fine with it. Seriously, the production design on this show...

Nick said...

Oh I totally get what you mean. The way they visually depict all the dark and macabre stuff going on is the sort of thing that would make you puke if you saw it on a documentary... but somehow here, I can't help but note how stylishly it's done. And without giving anything away, some of the upcoming episodes will blow you away as well in this.

sunbunny said...

Exactly. In real life, I see two drops of blood and I half faint. But on this show I'm like this guy turned comatose people into mushroom gardens; that's awesome. The way they do the food is amazing too. It's so disgusting and yet so appetizing looking at the same time.

Freeman said...

I actually have a really strong stomach in real life situations and with TV stuff. But something about mushrooms has always unnerved me.

The rest of the crime scenes in this show didn't bug me though.

Heather said...

That is an epic fail on my part re: the spelling of Lecter. Thank you. That shan't happen again.