First of all, those opening credits! They perfectly establish the blend of elegance and viciousness this show is striving for, and in my opinion, is achieving.
Looks like my prayers are going to be answered as far as the stylish aesthetic is concerned. The icy beauty of every shot gives me plenty of screenshot options. And we get plenty of striking imagery in this episode. From Garrett Jacob Hobbs' cabin, to our killer of the week's mushroom garden and plenty of Will's hallucinations and dreams in between. Even if people don't like the plotting, characters or anything else, it'll be hard to argue that the show doesn't look superb.
But, how could they not like the plotting or the characters? I hope each episode can stay as structured as these first two. While they are part of a continuing story, they manage to deal with their own arcs and themes in very dynamic and satisfying ways, helping to retain the "mini-movie" feeling the pilot established. In this case, the focus is Will's inner conflict in regards to him gunning down Hobbs. The ending with Lecter and Will discussing whether or not God feels good when he strikes down humans is wonderfully dark territory for a network show to be treading, and it also gives us even more insight into each of our main characters.
We also get introduced to tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds, who Thomas Harris fans will notice has undergone a gender change since his original appearance in Red Dragon. I really like her! I wonder if this means the show is willing to deviate from our expectations completely, and if it will eventually get brave enough to rewrite all of the established canon. If so, I'm all for it. It means we'll have no idea what's lying in wait around the corner, which is what you want from any suspenseful storytelling.
I'm also pleased that the show is going to keep a wry bit of dark humor in its pocket every now and then. My favorite moment of the episode was when Lecter confronted Freddie for recording his and Will's therapy session and after saying, "You've been terribly rude. What's to be done about that?", we cut to a dinner plate full of meat with a suspiciously red sauce being poured over it. Haha! While it turns out it's not actually Ms. Lounds, it's a great use of the audiences knowledge about Lecter. If we get little bits of beastly fun like that once an episode, I'll be delighted.
And I am sold on Mads Mikkelsen's Lecter. Although he's still being kept on the sidelines for now, I eagerly anticipate our first Lecter-cetric episode. Mikkelsen's calm and almost surgeon-like demeanor makes him the most interesting of monsters: one with precision. It's also clear that he's having fun with the character, really selling it in the few scenes he and Hugh Dancy have together (expect to see lots of these scenes in Lecter's office). If there's any compliment I can give, it's that I have put any preconceptions about the character off to the side and am just taking in every sinister scene Mikkelsen gives me.
Honestly, this show is proving to be better than the last two movies made about the Hannibal Lecter character. They have a definitive story they want to tell but manage to make each episode somewhat standalone as well, the look of the series is well-established and gorgeous, the characters (not just the villains, mind you) are interestingly twisted and compelling, the actors are doing great work and everything feels deliberately paced and thought out. Looks like I'll have at least one horror prequel show to look forward to every week. Start watching Hannibal, if you aren't already. This one looks like it's going to be tasty.