April 12, 2013



HANNIBAL:  Thursday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’

Previously… on HANNIBAL:  FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), in events that precede the Thomas Harris novel and film adaptations of Red Dragon, tracks down serial killers for boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), while trying to cope with the enormous pressure his identification with the lunatics puts on his psyche.  In the pilot, he found and killed a man who was murdering girls who reminded him of his daughter; before Will was able to dispatch him, the man slit his wife’s throat and almost killed his daughter.  He had that opportunity because he’d been tipped off by the psychiatrist who was working with Will on the case, a dapper food connoisseur named Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen).

Episode 2:  In its quest to showcase the prettiest repellent images on television, this week’s episode of Hannibal (written by Co-Producer Jim Danger Gray and directed by Michael Rymer) provided a perfectly planted garden of bodies, each of whom had been buried alive (although in a diabetic coma induced by the killer, who was the victims’s pharmacist) and then kept that way for a time with transfusions of sugar water–all to fertilize a crop of mushrooms that grew in their decomposing corpses, enabling the killer’s fascination with the ability of fungus to “reach out” and connect with others of their species.  So that happened.

For Red Dragon fans, the episode also marked the introduction of Freddie Lounds, the relentless tabloid reporter who, played by Stephen Lang and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the two movies, was ultimately killed by Lecter.  Here she’s a blogger (Lara Jean Chorostecki) with a near-magical ability to get information about and access to Will, and she’s already on Lecter’s bad side.

As with the pilot, this episode only became a “thriller” in the conventional way in its last five minutes, as the mushroom killer–pretty ludicrously–decided to connect with Will by burying the survivor of last week’s killing spree.  It also appears that this surviving girl is going to be the pivot in the season’s continuing arc, as Crawford and Lecter believe she may have assisted her father in the killings, an idea Will vehemently denies.  (For the moment she’s in a coma, so unable to enlighten anyone.)  The episode’s mystery was wrapped up in a few brief sequences, as the show continued to be far more interested in the respective pathologies of Will and Lecter.

Hannibal is more interesting than gripping, more brooding than tense.  For the most part, it’s a very intelligent show (although the attempt to connect this episode with the last was desperate and dumb), but there’s nothing particularly compelling about it.  The characters are dark without being deep, and so far there don’t seem to be any big ideas lurking behind the overall grimness.  The extreme stylization, similarly, is fascinating and distinctive–the deliberate pacing, the fancily decorated sets, that stag stalking Will’s troubled dreams, not to mention the bizarre crimes themselves–yet seemingly to no end other than an aesthetic one.  Hannibal is certainly worth watching to see if it goes anywhere, but it may already have arrived.


EPISODE 2:  If You Can Only Watch One 10PM Thursday Show, Make it “Scandal”–But This One Is Worth Recording



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."