Skip to main content

Is your social worker in that horse?

Hannibal 

Season 2


(SPOILERS) I think I've had it with Hannibal. I struggled to get through this run. They've done the character of Will Graham a huge disservice in overtly playing up the novel's "We're the same". And then there’s Hugh Dancy's twitchy, nervy performance as Graham. Initially a breath of fresh air, it has become an irritation. The end of the first season had me vacillating over whether to continue. Imprisoning Graham in the regalia of Dr Lecter was the kind of cheap shot you could tell the makers thought was daring and “mind-blowing” but was brought the fledgling series dangerously close to jumping the shark.


The problems of performance don’t just extend to Dancy. Mads Mikkelsen is so one note, the title character has become wholly disinteresting. It's not the actor’s fault. Hannibal, like all great monsters, should be used sparingly; not served up to the point of bloat in copious, tedious sessions of analysis and and preparations of human remains for lovingly shot dinner parties. Worst of all, the Bryan Fuller’s overarching plot doesn't make Hannibal seem smart, so it has the consequence of making everyone else look like complete idiots. I found it impossible to suspend disbelief through this season because the scenario is consistently so silly. It begs ridicule.


That said, the last couple of episodes of the season are at least engaging, managing to pull the storytelling away from its festering cyclic soirees. Particularly arresting are the grotesquerie of Mason Verger's fate and Michael Pitt's performance; somewhere between Jack Nicholson's and Heath Ledger's Jokers. Raul Esparza as Dr Chilton is consistently good value too, one of the few players who manages to eclipse a (still good) big screen version, although he unceremoniously disappears two-thirds of the way through proceedings.


Honestly, I’m mystified by the raves this series is getting. Sure, it’s luxuriantly shot, but it’s masquerade as artfully decadent and intellectually stimulating fare palls so quickly; all it ends up having going for it is art direction and an over-burden prosthetics/latex department.


The conceit on which the first series concluded, the aforementioned not- so-clever flip of having Will incarcerated, was the point where the series finally devolved into self-referential geek gorging on any piece of Harris-lore available. This was okay when it was the stray line here or there, but the rejigging of classic moments and characters ends up becoming hugely annoying rather than the sign of a sure creative signature.


This all comes back to what I see as a fundamental betrayal of the character of Will Graham. In their overwrought attempts to maintain a (wholly, tiresomely repetitive) dialogue between Graham and Lecter the makers have reduced the character to a reactive plaything, who only exists in the reflection of Lecter himself. Unfortunately Dancy wears Graham’s every wince and grimace all over his semi-bearded face.  Unlike the William Peterson Graham, who looks like your classic hero but is allowed space and unknown depths between the verbiage. 


Mann’s Manhunter looks more and more like the only version that understood how to treat these characters. They are so ripe for over-enthusiastic melodramatics (or atmospherics) that reining it in is the only way to foster verisimilitude. Wallowing in the depraved elegance of Lecter is tiresome. Somehow this series mustered ratings sufficient for a third commission. When the series began, I was looking forward to seeing how Fuller adapted Red Dragon (Season Four, if it gets there, I believe), but by this point I just know it will piss me off.



2.1 Last season I was at least sufficiently intrigued to review each episode. I’m only going to briefly comment on them this time, as I found so much of it borderline tiresome. Even when there was an occasionally arresting twist or turn. Kaiseki (***) is a passable opener, with a nicely executed teaser for the finale as Jack Crawford engages in a no-holds barred slow motion fight with the badass Doctor. Gillian Anderson is the best thing in this series, all smooth control and low-key poise, but Will in prison is so silly, the series simply never recovers. It can’t just snap that back that shark again to the point before he was locked up.


2.2 Tim Hunter, as with the first episode, shoots Sakizuke (***1/2) with appropriate gothic sheen. But the latest serial killer, as revealed by the sub (if that’s possible) Human Centipede collage, has reached the point of empty attempts to out-gross the last one. Still, this has its moments; Lecter showing up at the killer’s silo (“Hello. I love you work”), Will sussing out what’s wrong with the array (“You are not my design”), Du Maurier visiting Will’s (“I believe you”). But then there’s the stealing of Lecter’s Red Dragon line about God killing and extending it ad nauseam throughout the season.


2.3 Hassun (***) has in its favour a trial, always good dramatic meat, and the excesses of the murder of the bailiff and the judge are diverting, but such excesses ensure it reeks of pissing on any chance of a coherent universe. Obviously, this series exists in a hermetic world at the best of times, but the inundation of crazily excessive murders creates a mundanity and not in a banality of evil way.


2.4 Takiawase (***) More decorative corpses, this time involving beehives. This looks to break out of the general Lecter veneration when Katz listens to Will and goes to investigate Lecter. So that’s it for her. There’s also a nice moment when Lecter saves Mrs Crawford (another dull character, a forlorn attempt to eke out some pathos and feeling in the series; it’s too damn predictable and cynical to do that) based on the toss of a coin. Amanda Plummer plays a nutter, which is unusual for her.


2.5 Mukozuke (***) On the one hand, this has some dramatically strong material. The orderly who worships Will and would have bested Lecter if not for Graham’s intervention, is an effective plotline. But the continued stupidity of all around to Lecter’s activities is as unswallowable as that ear that end up in Will’s stomach. In a series like Dexter (at least at first) enough care was taken with concealment to buy into the essentially absurdity. Here, I’m sure we’re supposed to think “Ohhh! Isn’t he clever?” about Hannibal. But the continued activities of the Chesapeake Ripper, the refusal to listen to Will and the seeming stasis of the plot in deferring any forward movement make this episode dissatisfying overall. Also, it pushes Will into the mode of a man willing to go outside the law. Will’s entire ethos is based on knowing the difference between right and wrong. That’s his speech regarding the Tooth Fairy’s upbringing a nutshell. It isn’t intriguing to make him murkier than he is already, it’s a slap in the face followed by a kneecapping. He becomes weak and insubstantial. A puppet. Nice to see Eddie Izzard back, though.


2.6 Futamono (**) Just why? So Lecter’s now a hit with the ladies, including Doctor Bloom who we now realise is an absolute moron. She must inherit the “silly woman” role, the one who falls for Lecter’s “charms”. And so she provides the old alibi gag, since Jack is (finally!) on to Lecter even though he’s also a complete moron compared to any of his previous incarnations. So much so that he continues to dine round at Lecter’s place, this time on Eddie’s leg.


2.7 Yakimono ( *1/2) God, this is bad. My Girl is back, but of course she’s now totally ‘armless (well, partly) and cannot recognise Lecter. She fingers Chilton instead, and somehow manages to shoot him in the face through the interview room two-way mirror. Apart from the scene being utterly ludicrous, we’re supposed to believe that anyone would seriously suspect Chilton?


2.8 Su-zakana (*) Okay, there’s a great line in this one (“Is your social worker in that horse?”), two even (“You might want to crawl back in there”), and Jeremy Davies appears, playing a nutter, which is as unusual for him as it was for Plummer. But this is crap, from the set up of Will and Jack playing out a plan that never for a moment convinces (not because the writers haven’t put Will in a place where we think he might be capable of murder, but because if the audience can figure it out, it’s no wonder Hannibal can) to Hannibal restraining Will from killing the serial killer.


2.9 Shiizakana(**) This is the one with the guy who’s been watching Brotherhood of the Wolf on a loop and as a result designed himself a special suit. Inevitably Hannibal meets up with him, but this time because he’s an old patient. Woo-hoo. Yeah. The tedium of the appointments between Will and Hannibal would drive anyone to murder. “It’s not an animal. It’s a man who wants to be an animal”. Maybe Fuller and co are saying Will Graham was never all that smart or insightful? More Lecter on God and churches (yawn; or, “I know that line! Woo-hoo!”). Katherine Isabelle is great as Marian Verger, so that’s something.


2.10 Naka-Choko(*1/2) I don’t care if it’s to bait a serial killer; when you have your hero desecrating a corpse and making his own special exhibit from it, you’ve massacred a character. I guess I’m just not in synch with what Fuller has in mind for this show. I certainly don’t think he’s come up with a fresh or distinct take, since there have been two seasons now of the same dreary repetitions and bloody tableaus. The one great element of the last few episodes is Michael Pitt’s thoroughly unrestrained, crazy-hair and sheepskin-coated, performance as Mason Verger. It’s not enough to make this episode good, though.


2.11 Ko No Mono(**1/2) Even the “Did he kill Freddie?” plotline is tiresome, since the whole charade was set up in Episode Eight’s fishing scene. And I don’t know, for some reason I’m not affectionate or grateful to see the throwing away of the Lounds flaming corpse this way. On the other hand, Verger’s “rudeness” is a hoot, making a mess of Lecter’s office and going on about camp. This is the kind of kick in the pants the series desperatelyneeded, all that wry dreariness finally galvanised by a performer who can only get higher. As for the latest corpse sculpture (Shiva-stylee), it’s scraping the barrel.


2.12 Tome-wan(****) Probably the season’s standout, even in all its gag-making lack of glory as Mason Verger is pressed into devouring his own nose. The Will-Hannibal interplay has continued to be exhaustingly lifeless, and this “manipulation of each other” plot has failed to offer respite. However, when it comes to the action and Lecter having his way with Mason, complete with full-on crazy-ville camera work, the results are kind of irresistible. Pitt is hilarious, and disgusting.


2.13 Mizumono(**1/2) Right from the first scene, with the split-screen appeals to loyalty from Hannibal and Jack, the season finale is so heavy-handed it’s not true. Superficially engaging, in terms of which regular character will Hannibal bloody up next, it also manages to be quite asinine. Alana didn’t check her gun before she blundered up to Lecter’s door (is that because she’s a “silly woman”? I guess at least she’s in good company with all the men). And Abigail is brought back for five minutes only to really die this time? Well, that was worth it. The enigmatic coda with Hannibal and Du Maurier on a flight for France is at least interesting (albeit echoing Hannibal), but she’s a lot more so than Lecter himself. Mikkelsen’s doctor is all cold cruelty, without the panache of Hopkins or the earthy magnetism of Cox. I’m little enough interested in the fates of the FBI, who are entirely dimwitted, but there’s also no frisson when Lecter escapes. I wanted to like this series. I’ve liked Fuller’s other series. But this show, now his most successful, is a big bag of dumb in a very well-tailored suit.


Season Two Rating:



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

Trouble’s part of the circus. They said Barnum was in trouble when he lost Tom Thumb.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
(SPOILERS) Anyone of a mind that it’s a recent development for the Oscars to cynically crown underserving recipients should take a good look at this Best Picture winner from the 25thAcademy Awards. In this case, it’s generally reckoned that the Academy felt it was about time to honour Hollywood behemoth Cecil B DeMille, by that point into his seventies and unlikely to be jostling for garlands much longer, before it was too late. Of course, he then only went and made a bona fide best picture contender, The Ten Commandments, and only then pegged it. Because no, The Greatest Show on Earth really isn’t very good.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

Sorry I’m late. I was taking a crap.

The Sting (1973)
(SPOILERS) In any given list of the best things – not just movies – ever, Mark Kermode would include The Exorcist, so it wasn’t a surprise when William Friedkin’s film made an appearance in his Nine films that should have won Best Picture at the Oscars list last month. Of the nominees that year, I suspect he’s correct in his assessment (I don’t think I’ve seen A Touch of Class, so it would be unfair of me to dismiss it outright; if we’re simply talking best film of that year, though, The Exorcist isn’t even 1973’s best horror, that would be Don’t Look Now). He’s certainly not wrong that The Exorcistremains a superior work” to The Sting; the latter’s one of those films, like The Return of the King and The Departed, where the Academy rewarded the cast and crew too late. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the masterpiece from George Roy Hill, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, not this flaccid trifle.

You had to grab every single dollar you could get your hands on, didn't you?

Triple Frontier (2019)
(SPOILERS) Triple Frontier must have seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix, even by their standards of indiscriminately greenlighting projects whenever anyone who can’t get a job at a proper studio asks. It had, after all, been a hot property – nearly a decade ago now – with Kathryn Bigelow attached as director (she retains a producing credit) and subsequently JC Chandor, who has seen it through to completion. Netflix may not have attracted quite the same level of prospective stars – Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum were all involved at various points – but as ever, they haven’t stinted on the production. To what end, though? Well, Bigelow’s involvement is a reliable indicator; this is a movie about very male men doing very masculine things and suffering stoically for it.

What lit the fire that set off our Mr Reaper?

Death Wish (2018)
(SPOILERS) I haven’t seen the original Death Wish, the odd clip aside, and I don’t especially plan to remedy that, owing to an aversion to Charles Bronson when he isn’t in Once Upon a Time in the West and an aversion to Michael Winner when he wasn’t making ‘60s comedies or Peter Ustinov Hercule Poirots. I also have an aversion to Eli Roth, though (this is the first of his oeuvre I’ve seen, again the odd clip aside, as I have a general distaste for his oeuvre), and mildly to Bruce when he’s on autopilot (most of the last twenty years), so really, I probably shouldn’t have checked this one out. It was duly slated as a fascistic, right-wing rallying cry, even though the same slaters consider such behaviour mostly okay if the protagonist is super-powered and wearing a mask when taking justice into his (or her) own hands, but the truth is this remake is a quite serviceable, occasionally amusing little revenger, one that even has sufficient courage in its skewed convictions …

Our "Bullshit!" team has unearthed spectacular new evidence, which suggests, that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
Cheeseburger Film Sandwich. Apparently, that’s what the French call Amazon Women on the Moon. Except that it probably sounds a little more elegant, since they’d be saying it in French (I hope so, anyway). Given the title, it should be no surprise that it is regarded as a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie. Which, in some respects, it is. John Landis originally planned to direct the whole of Amazon Women himself, but brought in other directors due to scheduling issues. The finished film is as much of a mess as Kentucky Fried Movie, arrayed with more miss sketches than hit ones, although it’s decidedly less crude and haphazard than the earlier picture. Some have attempted to reclaim Amazon Women as a dazzling satire on TV’s takeover of our lives, but that’s stretching it. There is a fair bit of satire in there, but the filmmakers were just trying to be funny; there’s no polemic or express commentary. But even on such moderate terms, it only sporadically fulfils…

I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
(SPOILERS) There isn’t, of course, anything left to say about 2001: A Space Odyssey, although the devoted still try, confident in their belief that it’s eternally obliging in offering unfathomable mystery. And it does seem ever responsive to whatever depths one wishes to plumb in analysing it for themes, messages or clues either about what is really going on out there some around Jupiter, or in its director’s head. Albeit, it’s lately become difficult to ascertain which has the more productive cottage industry, 2001 or The Shining, in the latter regard. With Eyes Wide Shut as the curtain call, a final acknowledgement to the devout that, yes, something really emphatic was going under Stanley Kubrick’s hood and it’s there, waiting to be exhumed, if you only look with the right kind of eyes.