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

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…

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Don't give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up.

Dark Star (1974)
(SPOILERS) Is Dark Star more a John Carpenter film or more a Dan O’Bannon one? Until the mid ‘80s it might have seemed atypical of either of them, since they had both subsequently eschewed comedy in favour of horror (or thriller). And then they made Big Trouble in Little China and Return of the Living Dead respectively, and you’d have been none-the-wiser again. I think it’s probably fair to suggest it was a more personal film to O’Bannon, who took its commercial failure harder, and Carpenter certainly didn’t relish the tension their creative collaboration brought (“a duel of control” as he put it), as he elected not to work with his co-writer/ actor/ editor/ production designer/ special effects supervisor again. Which is a shame, as, while no one is ever going to label Dark Star a masterpiece, their meeting of minds resulted in one of the decade’s most enduring cult classics, and for all that they may have dismissed it/ seen only its negatives since, one of the best mo…

What I have tried to show you is the inevitability of history. What must be, must be.

The Avengers 2.24: A Sense of History
Another gem, A Sense of History features one of the series’ very best villains in Patrick Mower’s belligerent, sneering student Duboys. Steed and Mrs Peel arrive at St Bode’s College investigating murder most cloistered, and the author of a politically sensitive theoretical document, in Martin Woodhouse’s final, and best, teleplay for the show (other notables include Mr. Teddy Bear and The Wringer).

Ruination to all men!

The Avengers 24: How to Succeed…. At Murder
On the one hand, this episode has a distinctly reactionary whiff about it, pricking the bubble of the feminist movement, with Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. On the other, it has Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. How to Succeed… At Murder (a title play on How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, perhaps) is often very funny, even if you’re more than a little aware of the “wacky” formula that has been steadily honed over the course of the fourth season.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

You just keep on drilling, sir, and we'll keep on killing.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
(SPOILERS) The drubbing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk received really wasn’t unfair. I can’t even offer it the “brave experiment” consolation on the basis of its use of a different frame rate – not evident in itself on 24fps Blu ray, but the neutering effect of the actual compositions is, and quite tellingly in places – since the material itself is so lacking. It’s yet another misguided (to be generous to its motives) War on Terror movie, and one that manages to be both formulaic and at times fatuous in its presentation.

The irony is that Ang Lee, who wanted Billy Lynn to feel immersive and realistic, has made a movie where nothing seems real. Jean-Christophe Castelli’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel is careful to tread heavily on every war movie cliché it can muster – and Vietnam War movie cliché at that – as it follows Billy Lynn (British actor Joe Alwyn) and his unit (“Bravo Squad”) on a media blitz celebrating their heroism in 2004 Iraq …

This here's a bottomless pit, baby. Two-and-a-half miles straight down.

The Abyss (1989)
(SPOILERS) By the time The Abyss was released in late summer ’89, I was a card carrying James Cameron fanboy (not a term was in such common use then, thankfully). Such devotion would only truly fade once True Lies revealed the stark, unadulterated truth of his filmmaking foibles. Consequently, I was an ardent Abyss apologist, railing at suggestions of its flaws. I loved the action, found the love story affecting, and admired the general conceit. So, when the Special Edition arrived in 1993, with its Day the Earth Stood Still-invoking global tsunami reinserted, I was more than happy to embrace it as a now-fully-revealed masterpiece.

I still see the Special Edition as significantly better than the release version (whatever quality concerns swore Cameron off the effects initially, CGI had advanced sufficiently by that point;certainly, the only underwhelming aspect is the surfaced alien craft, which was deemed suitable for the theatrical release), both dramatically and them…