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- Episode: Hassun (Season 2, Episode 3)
- Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne
- Written By: Steve Lightfoot, Thomas Harris (characters)
- Directed By: Bryan Fuller (TV Series Creator)
- Network: NBC
- Studio: Dino De Laurentiis Company, Living Dead Guy Productions, AXN: Original X Production
Hannibal: Hassun Review
Even more provocative
By Curtis G. Schmitt
March 17, 2014
Season 2 of NBC’s Hannibal is proving to be even more provocative than an excellent Season 1. For the uninitiated, Hannibal is the story of serial killer Hannibal Lecter (a character introduced in Thomas Harris’s novel Red Dragon but made famous by Anthony Hopkins in the film, The Silence of the Lambs) and FBI profiler Will Graham's mission to solve those crimes and stop the killer.
But despite great storytelling, by the end of Season 1, intelligent viewers like yours truly could no longer avoid what seemed to be the show’s major limitation: how long can we be expected to believe that Special Agent Graham (described in this most recent episode as "the smartest person in the room") can't catch this guy? To stretch this premise out for a second season would betray the realism the show prides itself on.
Turns out the creators had a surprise for us. Season 1 ended with Will Graham figuring out that Hannibal is the killer just as Hannibal successfully frames him for those very crimes. Then news hit that Season 2 would feature a “clever” switcheroo for fans of Red Dragon with Graham as the committed psychopath being consulted on crimes by Hannibal. NBC, get ready to win the award for youngest show to jump the shark.
BUT... (and I'm SOOO happy there's a but)
Just 3 episodes into Season 2, series creator Bryan Fuller and his creative team have already proven there's lots of great storytelling and psychological drama to be wrought from this seemingly gimmicky ironic plot twist.
First, they set up the ticking clock. Season 2 began with an intense one-scene flash-forward 12 weeks into the future which saw a vicious fight between Hannibal and head of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit Jack Crawford, laying to rest the notion that the show will drag out Hannibal’s unmasking any longer than that. And as each episode propels us to that confrontation, episode 3, “Hassun,” upped the stakes again with the start of Will Graham’s criminal trial.
Speaking of ticking clocks, “Hassun” opens on a clock ticking backwards as Graham does his freaky empathy thing where he relives the killing from the killer’s perspective. Only this time it’s his own execution; he is both executioner and executed. Snap back to reality and the trial begins.
But there’s more here than just the literal trial; all of the main characters are going through their own psychological/emotional trials. Will has started to doubt his conviction that Hannibal is the killer who framed him. Or is he faking this doubt to lure Hannibal into a mistake? Likely a bit of both. Crawford is struggling with guilt over pushing Will too far even after he saw Will was not well. On top of that, his wife is losing her battle with cancer and will be dead soon. As a result he surprises the prosecution by changing his testimony on the stand: Will could not have committed pre-meditated murder. Psychologist Alana Bloom agrees but her credibility is undermined by a brief romantic encounter with Will last season. Her testimony that she has no romantic feelings just a “professional curiosity” of him cuts deep, wounding both her and Will.
And the most complex of characters, Hannibal himself. Does he actually care about Will? Does he care about Jack? Can he care about anyone? Maybe he views life like cooking. What happens to a recipe when you introduce a new ingredient? I suspect it’s the thrill of the game that drives him, not who wins. But when he tells Will, “I want you to believe in the best of me, just as I believe in the best of you,” I find myself wanting to believe.
So the odds are stacked against Graham. His closest allies (Bloom and Crawford) don’t believe he’s innocent. His enemies (Freddie Lounds and Dr. Chilton) are willing to lie or distort facts on the stand. And there’s a wildcard: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Will’s best frenemy, is playing bloody games with the evidence, going as far as staging one of his most dramatic murder set pieces yet in the final moments of the episode that derails the trial completely.
And let’s not forget the deliciously dark humor. When Graham’s lawyer opens an envelope and out falls an ear, he deadpans to Will, “I think I opened your mail.” If the series is to find a big enough audience to justify a Season 3 renewal, it will need more moments of smart, black humor like this.
Hannibal may be more genre-beholden than shows like True Detective or Homeland, but the quality of the storytelling (and this episode is a great example) is on par with the best cable shows. Maybe Hannibal can save the life of not just Will Graham but network TV too.
Curtis G. Schmitt’s day job is Chief Health Nut & Weight-Loss Specialist at Smarter-Weight-Loss.com but in his spare time he blogs about movies on his Curtis Loves Movies blog. He’s written a non-fiction book on stress reduction called Peaceful Productivity Now, and a collection of speculative fiction called The Other Worlds, both available on Amazon.