Before getting to this week's episode, some clarification is needed. Showrunner Bryan Fuller personally pulled the actual fourth episode from airing, due to some reservations over content being insensitive towards those affected by the attacks in Boston. The parts in question had to do with the "freak of the week" killer, nothing involving the over-arching plot. NBC has truncated the episode into a series of webisodes, excising all the possibly upsetting material. From what I gather, they will eventually release the episode (on home video, I'm sure), but this does make things a little weird from a reviewing standpoint. I caught last night's episode (which I'm labeling as "Episode 5" since that is the intended slot it fills within the show's timeline) first and still have to watch the webisodes as of this writing. I'll do a follow-up article once those have been viewed. I also won't get into my personal feelings about the episode being pulled or anything like that. If you are interested in that kind of discourse, please comment below and I'd be happy to discuss it. Now, on with the episode!
This week is another solid episode, mostly focusing on Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and his newly introduced wife Bella (Gina Torres). It's nice to see Fishburne play something other than stone cold hardass in this show, and this week reminds us that this guy was the kid who conned his way in front of Francis Ford Coppola's camera in Apocalypse Now. The moments we get to see Fishburne vulnerable are really strong stuff. I hope the show gives him some more versatility, and he's not just back to being the boss-man with a face like granite and an attitude to match next week. The guy has serious chops. Gina Torres, however, is just okay. Her character as written is pretty good (with an interesting bit of development along the way) and her acting isn't bad at all, it's just kind of...there. She's a little too stiff, and although that can be attributed to what her character is going through, it doesn't make for a very relatable performance. Still, I hope we get to see more of her since she has great potential. Plus, it's just more of an excuse to see Morpheus get all teary-eyed.
I've heard some people aren't too crazy about the "killer of the week" format the show has going, but not only am I enjoying it, I understand it. The showrunners need to wrangle in those CSI viewers, and trick them into watching a show that explores the nature of evil and violence in man. Padding things out with a weekly investigation will help ease those people in with familiarity. I'm sure if the show goes on for another two seasons (fingers crossed), we'll see a move away from that format into something more directly serialized. I'm fine with a "freak of the week" if they keep being so delightfully grand guignol. This week's madman (The Angel-Maker. I love how each killer gets a comic book villain name) gives us some of the goriest displays yet seen on the show. People's backs skinned and hung so they look like angels? Fantastic! The show can continue to get away with such incredibly gruesome displays because everything is composed beautifully. The screenshot below is damn good enough to be a painting. And I love that we are getting to see what the killer's "see", enforcing the show's theme of perception. It doesn't hurt that what this week's psycho sees is people WITH FLAMING HEADS! Hannibal, you know my twisted sense of enjoyment far too well.
Will's story continues to be interesting. He seems to be both sleepwalking and sleep-deprived, which makes for more hallucinogenic head-trips. Where things end with Will and Crawford at the end of this episode actually could spring the show into that slightly more serialized format I mentioned earlier. I doubt it will be permanent, but it'd be nice to get a breather episode that focused directly on Will and didn't have to worry about any other gory shenanigans. ...I do enjoy the gory shenanigans though.
At this point, Mads Mikkelsen has won first place in the "Reinterpreting a Well Known Character" competition. His Lecter is far more complex than Hopkins' Shakespearian monster. Mikkelsen's Lecter can be genuinely comforting and helpful at times, although you can still see the wheels spinning behind his dark eyes. He's always learning about people as much as he can, and it's a delight to see Lecter interacting with people in the real world. Even though we know he's a murderer (and a cannibal), it's impossible not to like him. I never wanted to sit down and chat with Hopkins' Lecter, but I would definitely schedule an appointment with Mikkelsen's character. He's very approachable and inviting, if you don't know what he really is. I can't get enough of him.
This show better go on for at least two seasons. It's leaps and bounds above anything else in it's genre, and things can only get better once we've gotten to know the characters fully. At this point, I want them to rewrite Red Dragon and do an entirely new version of the Hannibal Lecter story. We know that this show isn't connected to any other incarnation, so I hope it lasts long enough to get to that point. I also hope we get a completely different version of Hannibal's past than the abysmally absurd Hannibal Rising. I can't believe I even acknowledge that thing's existence. I'm going to go watch some webisodes.