Thursday, April 23, 2015

HANNIBAL Ep. 3: "Potage"

(S           P           O           I           L           E           R           S)

In which it feels like I’m talking to his shadow, suspended on dust.

“I have seen dogs and many creatures…I mean the Devil…He said he would give me fine things, if I did what he would have me.”   -Abigail Hobbs (April 19, 1692)

Though the battle of wills/dark romance between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter drives the narrative of Hannibal’s first season, Abigail Hobbs forms the center around which this and other major conflicts revolve.  She’s arguably the least intimidating character in the show, and yet the sheer force of her presence is mesmerizing.  It’s a credit to Kacey Rohl, who gives a real powerhouse of a performance as the last survivor of the Hobbs clan.  The trauma that both binds Abigail and Will and thrusts them into interior darkness is one whose deep effects require both characters to mutate into open maws of grief and pain.  The trajectory of Hugh Dancy’s portrayal of this traumatic agony is aided by Will’s already-autistic tendencies.  But as Abigail, Rohl has little prep time before her embrace of the destructive chaos that envelops her; she only has a few brief scenes of relative domestic tranquility in “Apertif” before her father’s murder and her subsequent coma.  When she finally awakens in “Potage”, it’s from a pre-credits vision in which her caressing of a dead deer morphs into her hand running through a dead woman’s hair (the brownish tree branches on her hospital room wallpaper are a nice counterpoint to the lush yellow and orange leaves of her vision).  But like Will, the end of her dance in the nightmare netherworld brings no respite, only the sense that she has brought the nightmare back into reality with her.

The challenge that Rohl faces is how to portray a character that must be such a raw nerve of fear and anxiety, while also maintaining enough of a connection to emotional equilibrium to keep the mystery of her potential complicity with her father’s murders intact.  From a physical standpoint, her penetrating blue eyes, offset by an open face, allow her to vacillate between wide-eyed terror and trenchant, almost accusatory glares.  But it’s her utter commitment to the emotional depths into which Abigail must plunge that really makes the role.  Her physical abandon during her awakening, and during her murder of Nicholas Boyle, is akin to the apex of an exorcism.

And that’s appropriate, considering the context of her historical namesake.  Abigail Hobbs was a 14 year-old girl accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials, and one of the prime witnesses to confess to covenanting with the Devil (the quote that leads off this essay is from her testimony.)  Seeing Hannibal’s Abigail through this lens lends her plight that much added depth and complexity.  It makes this episode the beginning of her trial, as everyone involved casts shades of doubt on her supposed innocence, turning her into more of an object to be dissected than a traumatized human being (for as much gravitas as Laurence Fishburne brings to the role of Jack Crawford, he’s also ruthlessly mercenary in favoring Hannibal’s advice to interview Abigail over Alana’s more cautious tone.)  Knowing that the real life Abigail was, in many ways, the product of internecine social warfare and the mass hysteria that resulted from it makes the viewer both sympathize with her and question her motivations at every step.  The pre-credits flashback to what is seemingly her first father-daughter hunt paints Garret as a man driven to mold his daughter in his image…but it’s still her version of events.

There’s a strong hint of the Electra Complex made physically manifest in Abigail, as she draws a series of father figures to her, while keeping a safe distance from the women who offer her help (granted, there aren’t many who do so in this season, although there’s always a hint of tension between Alana’s growing romantic involvement with Will and his obsession with saving Abigail.)  From what little is portrayed of her home life, she’s very attached to her father, his murder affecting her much more than that of her mother (her flashback to the cabin has an uncomfortable, barely concealed erotic air to it.)  Will is drawn to her as a means of redemption for his murder of Garret and for the toll of his visions, but he will also assume a fatherly role in trying to guide her out of the darkness (one which she will gladly embrace.  As she says when proposing a reenactment of the murder “You be my dad, and you be my mom…”, further invoking the Electra Complex.)  He also reverses this complex when he dreams of slashing her throat in order to make everything better, salvation and assumption of the Hobbs mantle mingling in a viscous release.  And, of course, there’s Hannibal, the ultimate dark father.  His offer to assist her in covering up the murder of Nicholas Boyle (“I can help you, if you ask me to”) is seemingly a direct reference to the Salem Abigail’s admission of her pact with the Devil.  But it’s also reminiscent of classic vampire mythology, in which they can only enter someone’s house if invited.

This vampiric concept is also given a fascinating and oblique spin when Alana introduces the concept of Folie à deux during her conversation with Abigail when they return to the Hobbs house.  The psychological theory of the potential for madness to be shared between two people (or more, in its extended versions), it’s meant to offer a potential explanation for the possibility that Garret Hobbs’s psychosis could be passed along to his daughter.  But it also provides a motif that pervades this episode: the gradual creep of insanity that spreads amongst the characters like an expanding pool of blood.

I’ve theorized before about how Hannibal acts as a sort of viral agent in the show, not only slowly infecting Will, but Alana, Jack, the FBI…even the visuals and sound design reflect his decadent, fantastical mind the further along we go.  “Potage” seems to support this conceit, although it also calls into question whether Hannibal is the carrier of the madness or just the provocateur who encourages its development.  It’s early in the show’s run, but Will already has a strong notion of the characteristics of the Minnesota Shrike copycat; Hannibal walks into his classroom right as he’s listing those attributes to his students.  So the machinations that Lecter puts into motion in this episode (encouraging Jack to let Will talk to Abigail, knocking out Alana at the Hobbs house and then aiding Abigail in the cover up) make sense from a self-preservational standpoint.  They also present the possibility that Abigail is the Typhoid Mary of this storyline, her traumatized innocence actually a vessel for the oceans of insanity that threaten to burst forth. 

And burst they do, wherever they come from, in the stunning climax, in which the tensions that have been building throughout the episode explode into a cathartic, horrifying rampage of violence.  An already on-the-edge Abigail lays witness to the aftermath of the ritual slaughter of her friend Marissa (impaled in the antler room, another canny chess move by Hannibal) in her father’s cabin.  When she returns home, the insanity continues to flow freely.  Marissa’s mother accuses her of killing her daughter, Freddie Lounds (who’s everywhere in “Potage”, manipulating the proceeedings as much as Hannibal) accosts her about a potential biography, and after discovering the human hair of one of Garret’s victims in a deer-adorned pillow, she’s then confronted by a distraught Nicholas Boyle, fearing for his life.  Her gutting of him with a hunting knife is the awful emotional zenith of the emotional turmoil coursing through this episode.  Once again, Brian Reitzell’s music is a star in its own right.  Throughout “Potage” he utilizes a symphonic cacophony of atonal and dissonant soundscapes to immerse the viewer in the growing chaos.  The combination of the hair pillow and Nicholas’s reappearance is accompanied by a full onslaught of strings, pandemonium reigning as the blood flows.

It’s only through Hannibal, coldly rational as always, that the chaos finally ends.  As in “Amuse-Bouche”, DP James Hawkinson uses rack focus to frame him as a slightly blurry presence alongside the person upon whom he’s casting his spell (Will in that episode, Abigail in this one).  Like Will, Abigail also addresses him from the upper level when she visits his office after escaping from the hospital.  And like her would-be protector, she’s lured down into Hannibal’s abyss, their mutual secrets the bond that will tie them together throughout this season.  

And now for the leftovers:

*It really is amazing how much Freddie Lounds manipulates so many plot threads this early in the show.  You can see why Hannibal views her as a threat, but also how his nimble mind realizes how useful she can be in this ever-evolving chess game.

*Also, I might be stretching a bit here, but I’m struck by how much this shot of Freddie speaking with Abigail recalls her couch scene with Hannibal in “Amuse-Bouche”, in which her red outfit is contrasted with his cool blue suit and couch (she’s also once again on the left side of the frame.)  Add in her leopard skin dress and there’s another strong visual connection between her and the show’s titular cannibal.         

*James Hawkinson bathes this episode in earth tones both bright (the leaves in the forest) and warmly welcoming (the suburban décor of the Hobbs house), which makes the carnage that is unleashed upon this visual landscape all the more unsettling, and a violation of everything that is supposed to be reassuring about domestic life.

*”Miss Lounds, it’s not very smart to piss off a guy who thinks about killing people for a living” (Will, ill-fatedly bringing the funny to Freddie.)

*”It’s a hybrid.  Great car for stalking.” (Alana, to Will)

*Will: “Abigail Hobbs doesn’t have anyone”  Alana: “You can’t be her everyone.”

*”I don’t do well at redeeming gift cards” (Alana, to Will)

…..can you tell that I dig Caroline Dhavernas’s work on this show?  After all, she is the only one with the insight that Abigail is hiding something. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HANNIBAL Ep. 2: "Amuse-Bouche"

(S           P           O           I           L           E           R           S)

In which killing must feel good to God too.  He does it all the time. And are we not created in his image?

“Amuse-Bouche” might be the perfect microcosm for the first season of Hannibal.  The backbone of its plot is constructed from the fairly accessible standards of the modern crime procedural (a killer of the week, the compressed hunt for said killer, a semi-breakneck storytelling pace).  Hannibal and Will have their first faceoff in his American Gothic/Art Nouveau office, an arena they will return to again and again over the next 24 episodes.  A familiar character is introduced in revamped manner (Freddie Lounds.)  And along the way, everything starts breaking up, teetering on the edge of oblivion in a Francis Bacon/Hieronymous Bosch nightmarescape of theological nihilism and mushroom-infested bodies.

Ah yes, the mushrooms.  Talk about laying all your cards on the table from the beginning.  “Apertif”’s treatment of Cassie Boyle’s death scene tableau was gruesome, but the left turn that “Amuse-Bouche” takes, into a world wherein rogue pharmacist Eldon Stammets plants drugged diabetics so that the fungus they grow will offer them a more profound connection to humanity and the world, shows that Bryan Fuller and company aren’t interested in playing things straight.  The mushroom as metaphor device is a giddy embrace of the psychedelically obscene, but it’s also fertile ground for the show’s deeper obsessions.  As Hannibal tells Will during their first session, “The structure of the fungus mirrors that of the human brain.  A web of intricate connections.”  Will claims that that therapy doesn’t work on him because he knows all the tricks, but the mind games that Lecter wants to play draw from a rulebook more angular and oblique than anything Will has seen before, from a cool, observational philosophy that seeks intricate connections in terms most stark and calculating. 

The connections that slowly grow between Will and Hannibal are at the forefront of this extended metaphor.  As established in “Apertif”, there’s a strong symbiosis between these two opposite ends of the empathy spectrum.  During their first session, Will roams the upper level library of Lecter’s office, while Hannibal stands still on the floor, listening intently to his reservations about therapy.  From a visual standpoint, Hannibal is a very warm and inviting abyss, but Will isn’t quite ready to dive in yet (note too that in one shot of Hannibal, a blurry statue of a wolf is featured in the background, pointing directly in his sightline toward Will.)  But Hannibal’s overarching motivations are much more complex.  While classic Lecter lore depicts the Will-Hannibal dynamic as one based in animosity and revenge, Hannibal paints a portrait of a platonic love affair between two deeply flawed outsiders.  Though he’ll always be an alluring amalgam of anti-hero and villain (and though he’ll test these boundaries in future episodes) the Hannibal Lecter of this show defies the easy logic of a traditional antagonist.  Indeed, much like the fungus so prominently featured in this episode (and the phantasmagoric deer that treads through Will’s subconscious), he’s more a force of nature than anything, a self-imagined feature of the natural order of being, constantly expanding into other territories, colonizing, reaching out.  It’s a concept in line with the best of David Cronenberg: the disease is just doing its job.

And in this episode, Hannibal’s fungus-like nature is paralleled in the introduction of Freddie Lounds.  In past incarnations, this Red Dragon character has been a loutish male tabloid journalist who quickly meets a flaming wheelchair-bound demise at the hands of Francis Dolarhyde.  Which is what makes Lara Jean Chorostecki’s reinvention of the character so interesting.  She’s still a tabloid ambulance chaser, but she’s also a highly seductive and stylized presence, her pixie-like physicality offset by a steely killer instinct.  Several characters inadvertently draw strong parallels between Hannibal and her.  When he detains her in the hotel room, Jack says “Everywhere you go, you contaminate crime scenes.”  And when the ill-fated Detective Pascal runs her down in the parking lot, his jibe that “You stir the hornet’s nest and I’m the one who gets stung” could be easily applied to the amoral experiments that Hannibal so relishes.  At heart, they’re both parasites, leeching off of others for their sustenance. (Another parallel could be drawn to the viral nature of Freddie’s stomping grounds: the internet.)  The complex relationship that she and Hannibal will form is beautifully captured in the scene on his office couch, when he demands that she destroy the recording of Will’s just-ended session.  Framed in a medium shot, Mads Mikkelsen and Chorostecki are visual study in contrasts: his intimidating frame versus her petite build, his cool blue suit versus her deep red outfit and tight amber curls.  When he asks her what they’re to do about her spying, the camera cuts from a close-up of red-drenched Freddie to a slice of pork loin being drenched in red sauce at Hannibal’s dinner with Jack.  It’s a nice fakeout of a jump cut, but it also establishes early on that Freddie is a prime candidate for Hannibal’s menu.

But the doctor and the tabloid journalist aren’t the only characters joined in a web of fungus-like interconnectivity.  In the aftermath of the Hobbs house massacre, Will has become increasingly attached to Abigail.  Hannibal intimates that he’s adopted her as his surrogate daughter, but Will also sees her as a vehicle for redemption, a chance to break free of the prison of paralysis in which so much of his hyper-empathic insight traps him.  At the same time he’s also deeply wary of overtaking her with the viral curse of his insight.  (Abigail will become the great blank canvas upon which both Will and Hannibal project themselves during this season, a slight whiff of homoerotic mediation permeating the proceedings.)  In death, Garret Jacob Hobbs continues to sprout all over Will’s subconscious, invading both his dreams and reality.  And if Abigail is Will’s daughter, then the supporting characters form a surrogate family of sorts around him in the wake of his deep trauma, Jack playing the father, Alana the sister/wife, and Hannibal the…..strange brother?  Creepy uncle?  In this context, Eldon Stammets’s desire to plant Abigail so that she’s finally able to reach out to Will is almost noble, albeit in a very twisted way.  (Once again, the show depicts the victim as art project, their embracing of the greater natural order through death an elevation into almost spiritual transcendence.)

It’s the visions of Garret Hobbs that finally force Will to relent and agree to therapy with Hannibal.  And it’s here that Hannibal’s grand experiment truly begins, as he prods Will’s feelings about envisioning the vicarious thrill of killing being weakened after his own experience with it.  His comment about God’s ambiguous propensity for killing (featured at the beginning of this essay) ties in with the greater philosophical musing in which he delights: the subject of goodness vs. power. 

One of the most instructive insights into the nature of Hannibal Lecter comes in one of the episode’s briefest moments.  When Will and Alana meet in Abigail’s hospital room, she reads the unconscious girl an excerpt from Flannery O’Connor’s classic short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  O’Connor was the master of Southern gothic, horror-tinged, religious morality fables, in which she mixed a finely honed sense of character complexity with an Old Testament philosophy of blood sacrifice as the only true means for redemption.  “A Good Man” finds a family driving through the South on their vacation, their cantankerous, stuck in the past grandmother insisting that they visit the old family homestead one last time.  The cosmic irony is that this minor diversion (inspired by her false memory of the house’s location) sets in motion an improbable series of events that leads to their execution by escaped serial killer The Misfit and his two sidekicks.  It’s a brutal and nightmarish resolution to a story that initially seems to be about the generational divide.  The Misfit is a fascinating character.  His final sentiment, that the now-murdered grandmother would’ve been a good woman if someone had been there to shoot her every minute of her life, caps off his musings that his role as the killer is a logical progression of life.  O’Connor intended the grandmother to find some form of final redemption in her murder, but she also often noted how she thought The Misfit might find the light after the elderly woman calls him one of her children immediately before he murders her.

This same sense of motivational complexity courses through Hannibal, as the notorious killer (at least to us) betrays a deeper philosophical bent about his place in the universal order than we might expect.  But maybe the real question is who’s the true misfit in all of this?  As the show slithers its way through its two seasons, the line between Will and Hannibal, killer and victim, hunter and hunted, will become increasingly blurred.  It makes for very uncomfortable viewing at times (especially in Season 2), but such is the grand interconnected web that Bryan Fuller and company spin.  And as an audience, being caught in that web can be a deeply intoxicating experience.     

A few leftovers before we go:

*One of Hannibal’s great pleasures is its willingness to indulge in the pure beauty of imagery (often on a symbolic level.)  “Amuse-Bouche” has two of my favorite examples of this.

When Jack and Will invade Hobbs’s cabin at the episode’s beginning, they discover his infamous attic of deer antlers, another image that could be straight out of Will’s nightmare netherworld.  It forms a neat visual metaphor for the animal/human, hunter/hunted dichotomy, as well as for the doom-laden traps that Will must traverse throughout the show’s run.

And when Will muses to Alana about his mental state in the hospital, the final shot of him cuts to a swirl of white liquid entering a sea of darkness.  It turns out to be the cream in Freddie Lounds’s coffee cup, an impressionistic callback to Jean-Luc Godard’s universe in a coffee cup scene in Two or Three Things I Know About Her, but also a stark metaphor for the yin-yang synthesis of Will and Hannibal.

*Only Hannibal Lecter would use the term “sprig of zest” to describe the feeling Will experienced in killing Garret Jacob Hobbs.

*”The mirrors of your mind can reflect the best of yourself, not the worst of someone else.”  (Hannibal to Will.)

*One trait that Mads Mikkelsen carries over from former screen Lecters is his absolute sense of stillness, which is eerily complemented by his unconventionally chiseled face.  He’s like a preening hawk, waiting for the chance to pounce.

*This is also the first episode to use the famous opening credits, in which torrents of blood slowly congeal into Hannibal’s face.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

HANNIBAL Ep. 1: "Apertif"

                                           (S       P       O       I       L       E       R       S)                                                                                                                                                                  In which you have to convince yourself that the lion is not in the room.  When it is, I assure you, you’ll know.

And so it begins, this gorgeous, thrilling, haunting dance between two men of obsession, two keen observers of the human condition trapped within the confines of their own personalities.  An epic battle of wits.  A stunning meditation on art and perception.  A twisted love story, a bromance on Atropine.

The brilliance of Bryan Fuller’s vision is partly based in a storytelling methodology often used in prequels, but rarely done well: the expansion of a minor plot point referred to in the past tense.  In Hannibal’s case, it’s a reference in Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon to Will Graham’s work with the Minnesota Shrike, his first case and one that leaves deep scars.  Fuller uses this throwaway line as the basis for the backbone of the plot for the first 13 episodes.  But he also employs it as a springboard for the themes and motifs that will drive the show through its first two seasons: the role of the hunter and the hunted, the pathology of the killer’s mind, the fine line between the human and the animalistic, and the fungible duality of identity.

One of the most striking manipulations of the Harris universe that Hannibal offers is its depiction of Will’s finely honed/debilitating psychological insight, his “pure empathy” as  Lecter puts it.  Past cinematic versions of Will have paid lip service to this concept, usually showing his first person POV as he flashes back to what the killer might have seen.  But Fuller goes one step further in having Will reenact each part of the murders in his head, completely assuming the role of the perpetrator.  On a formal level, it’s an enticing visual shorthand which also establishes the existentially tortured state of his mind, the mental and physical toll of his visions, like no other depiction before.  The mantra that he repeats (“This is my design”) is supposed to help him walk through the killer’s process, but it’s also an unconscious statement of the strict process that Will needs to deal with empathy this strong, and of the key role that this entire process plays in his life. 

Will tells Jack Crawford that his hyper-empathy can be attributed to “an active imagination”, and Alana Bloom later informs him that fear is the price of imagination, and the force that drives Will.  It’s a fascinating dichotomy, this sense of fear and imagination, and it’s no coincidence that when first analyzing the Shrike’s victim, Will uses Willy Wonka and his Golden Ticket as an analogy.  After all, that 1971 film version of the story succinctly follows “Come with me, and we’ll be, in a world of pure imagination” with a harrowing boat ride into the nightmare landscape of its characters.  It also paints Will as a slightly precocious child in a man’s body, someone who hasn’t had the youthful sense of imagination burned out of him, but who also pays a terrible price for maintaining this pure vision in a chaotic and grotesque adult world.  His anti-social tendencies (quasi-autistic, in his own words) make him the ideal candidate for isolated dives into other people’s psyches (empathy crossed with slightly dysfunctional vicarious living), but they also bring him closer each time to losing himself in these netherworlds.  It’s a perilous state that DP James Hawkinson expertly captures in the climax of the opening scene, when Will, who’s deep in the killer’s mindset, is rack focused into Theresa Marlow’s body in the foreground, only for the focus to rack back into him, now in the FBI Academy classroom, a man stuck in an empathic fantasy within an empathic fantasy.

But perhaps the most damaging aspect of Will’s powers is the sense of paralysis that they invoke in him, a Cassandra Complex driven to the extreme.  As he breaks down the opening murder scene at the Marlow house, he notes how the surgical precision of Theresa’s shooting “doesn’t mean she can’t feel pain…she just can’t do anything about it.”  It’s not too far a stretch to see that he’s also talking about himself.  Later in the episode, Hannibal drives this point home when Will asks him how he sees him, Lecter’s answer (“As the mongoose that slipped under the house while the snake slithered by”) both a mildly cutting jibe and a keen insight.  When Will breaks down Elise Nichols’s murder, he notes how the killer “wanted to undo as much as he could”, which parallels his own pattern of insight, in which he envisions a swinging pendulum of light erasing the crime scene.  His aversion to making eye contact with others (because all he can see are the markers of disease) is a literal fear of insight, but also a figurative fear of being able to imagine the darkness that lurks within humans; his own fears in this arena are later fulfilled when Garret Jacobs Hobbs stares at him in the aftermath of his domestic murder apocalypse, his final words (“See?  See?”) a ghastly confirmation of the horrors of perception.

Going back through “Apertif” for the second time, I was struck by how the show’s treatment of Will’s hyper-empathic abilities so deeply resonated with me, and how this subject matter might be why Hannibal has been more of a cult hit than breakout success.  In a modern society that is technically more connected than ever, but whose relentless emphasis on the promotion of the individual has weakened a broader sense of empathy, Will’s plight (and the greater theme it encapsulates) can seem slightly off-putting and alien.  It’s also a deeply earnest exploration of the process, without the buffer of irony to ease the tension, a cutting sense of black humor the only regular respite.

It’s this deep sense of empathy that makes the Will-Hannibal relationship so compelling.  Michael Mann’s Manhunter plays with Hannibal’s desire for revenge on Will, and Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon, throws in a bit more of their backstory in its depiction of the night that Will almost dies in Chez Lecter.  But Hannibal’s exploration of the origin of their connection delves into much greater areas of ambiguity and intrigue, setting up a yin-yang symbiosis between an empathy machine and an empathy vacuum.  Framing Hannibal in the gestational days of his legend allows Fuller to bring out nuanced shades of detail in his character.  Though he’s still the cannibal that a modern audience knows, he also has the same sense of childlike curiosity that drives Will’s visions.  In Will, he sees a kindred soul, a chance for him to possibly gain a foothold in the experience of human emotions.

Hannibal’s attempts to ingratiate himself with Will play out like a classic romantic seduction.  They banter (in their own dry manner) about the matter of taste in Jack’s office, and later he brings Will breakfast (which turns out to be Chekhov’s cannibal protein scramble) in his hotel room.  It’s with Abigail Hobbs that Hannibal finds his true entryway into his psyche, and a possible inroad toward normal emotional equilibrium.  The episode’s final shot, of a slumbering Lecter holding her hand in the hospital room, while Will sits on her other side, sets up the relational triangle that will drive most of this season’s action, Will attempting to absolve his guilt through her salvation, Hannibal yearning for identification with both, while covertly using her to dig into Will’s psyche. 

This shot also serves as a beautiful tableau, a motif that has become one of the show’s hallmarks, and which is on full display in this episode.  The Marlow murder scene is a seductively lit portrait of pandemonium amidst the alluring normalcy of suburbia, the warm, somewhat sterile colors of the house’s interior invaded by the chaotic asymmetry of blood pools and spatter.  Will’s visions of Elise Nichols are straight out of surrealist, gothic horror, her body offered up as spectral sacrifice to a bloodlust-filled god in search of expiation.  Perhaps most striking of all is the site of Cassie Boyle’s murder, which Will quickly ferrets out as the work of a Minnesota Shrike copycat.  For the first time, his nightmare visions of murder take concrete form, the spirit world invading our reality (and an invocation of the classic question of whether the person exploring the evil inadvertently brings the evil with them.)  The copycat will eventually be revealed as Hannibal, beginning the long mindgame that will draw Will closer to him, while also playing a very logical and amoral experiment in conflict. 

And it only makes sense, as Will notes “Our cannibal loves women.  He doesn’t want to destroy them.  He wants to consume them.”  Hannibal’s aesthete leanings raise the matter of murder to the level of high art; as I noted in my introductory essay to this series, his murder tableaus give his victims a sense of transcendence that they might not have in life.  In death, they become indelible symbols, forever imprinted upon the consciousness.  His version of the Shrike killings takes the originals and elevates them to something much more heightened, more profound (much like Hannibal itself takes the somewhat direct machinations of the filmic Lecter universe and expands them in all directions within the long form structure of television.)

But it’s the simplest tableau that is the most resonant in terms of where Hannibal will take its characters.  As he showers in his Minnesota hotel, Will has a vision of a deer standing outside his window at night.  It’s a simple, solitary figure, but as his vision continues, its face begins to slightly warp and transform.  It’s a vision that will gradually haunt Will more and more as the show progresses, a symbol of the encroaching darkness and murderous animal instinct that he fears will consume him.  Of course, it will only be with time that he’ll see the animal’s true Hannibal Lecter-shaped form.  But the darkness has to start somewhere.

Some leftovers to finish:

*Brian Reitzell and company set a great and creepy tone with the sound design for this episode, particularly with the looping bass thrumb and skittering notes that accompany Will’s fugue states.

*It’s interesting to think that if not for Alana’s recommendation of him, Hannibal might not have come into Will’s life (a plot beat that is further complicated in Season 2 with the Will-Hannibal-Alana love triangle), even as she tells Jack that she’s never wanted to be alone in the same room as Will (in order to maintain their friendship, although it’s also a sign of her blindspot for the urbane charm that disguises Lecter’s psychopathy.)

*As I noted in the intro essay to this series, Hannibal’s early episodes definitely show some of the impositions inherent in a modern major network show.  Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams are fun as the comic relief crime scene investigators, but their scenes with Will and Beverly Katz sometimes too closely resemble the exposition-laden ones in standard modern crime shows.  And the general pacing of the pilot is fairly breakneck, with a lot if information and character work packed into just under 45 minutes.  But after all, the episode is called “Apertif”, so setting the stage in such a manner does prepare the viewer for the more deliberate indulgences ahead.