As with most pilots, the first episode of Hannibal was a flashy and impressive piece of television. It moved quickly to introduce characters but not at the expense of the episode’s hunt for a cannibalistic killer (not Hannibal, otherwise it would have been a very short series). With this the case, the title of episode two (Amuse Bouche) is apt, as with its slower pace and almost elegant horror aesthetic, it is a greater taste of what is to come.
Amuse Bouche begins with the aftermath of the previous episode, where FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) was forced to kill for the first time, becoming the very thing he is forced to embody, a murderer. This fact is one that young Will is certainly not relishing, as he has become haunted by images of his “victim” as Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelson) refers to him. Whilst struggling to come to terms with this, Will is confronted with a new killer, and not just your run of the mill slasher. In a bizarrely fascinating crime, nine bodies are found in shallow graves, integrated with hydrating tubes to serve as fertilizer for fungus. Buried alive so as to use the circulatory system to better grow the crop, the surreal images of bodies pulled from the earth with plant life growing directly out of them is another indication of the artfully horrific imagery that the series is beginning to claim as its own.
However, unlike most crime procedurals, the episode doesn’t stick with this strange crime for long, and instead uses its time to further prop up the existing characters, as well as introduce new ones. Will’s friend and colleague Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) is given greater emphasis as someone who will clearly become more relevant to the series, and for all those fans of Thomas Harris’ books, a familiar name appears in the form of Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki). A sleazy male journalist in the books, Freddie is now a female tabloid blogger who sets her sights firmly on Will, leading to a confrontation with Laurence Fishburne’s Jack Crawford. Whilst liberties have obviously been taken with Lounds, it is the character that is important, and Lara Jean Chorostecki seems more than up to the task of playing this crooked reporter.
However, it is the burgeoning relationship building between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter that occupies the bulk of the episode, as Will is sent to the doctor to help him come to terms with the events of the previous episode. And why shouldn’t it? It is this pairing that holds the books together, and it is good to see it is carried on into this series, particularly with these particular leads. Hugh Dancy continues his intense performance, maintaining Will as a man on the edge of something between confidence and wide-eyed fear. However, it is Mikkelson’s immeasurably complex presence that holds attention. Whilst some may feel that this quiet Dane is mismatched with the character, this theory becomes all the more ridiculous as the series continues. He may not be as showy (or obvious) as some television killers, but it is precisely this fact that makes him well cast. Quietly polite and unassuming, Mikkelson has the great fortune of conveying everything he needs with just a quick glance or a furtive gesture. The writing for this episode gives more to his character than previously, as it becomes obvious that there is far more going on under that pristine exterior than anyone could know.
Whilst the establishment of the characters is important, more could have arguably been made of the intriguing killer of the episode, as the case is solved fairly simply and little is made of it. However, with the growing suspicion that the actions of Garrett Jacob Hobbs from episode one could live on in his comatose daughter Abigail, a stronger arc for the series is beginning to emerge, making Hannibal worthwhile viewing.
Best Kill: The unearthing of a mass grave, with the bodies used as fertilizer for growing fungus, is shocking and imaginative.
Best Scene: When Hannibal confronts deceitful reporter Freddie Lounds, the first real indication of the doctor’s deadly potential can be felt.