‘Hannibal’ Season Premiere Review: “Kaiseki”
‘Hannibal’ season 2 serves a first course with its premiere episode, “Kaiseki,” as Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) steps into Will Graham (Hugh Dancy)'s shoes as the FBI's new criminal profiler, while Will himself struggles to remember how it is Hannibal landed him behind bars..
Last year’s ‘Hannibal’ finale “Savoureux” saw Will become a suspect in the murder of Abigail Hobbs, while the team searched for exonerating evidence and Will realized that Hannibal may have set him up, so how does the first course of ‘Hannibal’ season 2 taste?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Hannibal’s second season premiere, “Kaiseki!”
Hannibal prepares his latest meal, as Jack Crawford solemnly enters the kitchen, exchanging a glance before reaching to his gun. Hannibal reacts by flinging a knife into Jack’s hand, beginning a bloody brawl across Hannibal’s entire kitchen, that seemingly ends with Jack getting Hannibal in a sleeper hold. Just then, Hannibal turns the tables with a glass shard to Jack’s throat, sending him running into the wine cellar, and leaving Hannibal to repeatedly throw his weight against the door.
Twelve weeks earlier, Hannibal serves Jack sashimi done in the traditional “Kaiseki” style, noting he last ate a similar meal under the pretense of loss, in this case Will Graham’s imminent conviction. Jack wonders how his bloodhound could have gone so wrong, as Hannibal concurs that it would be in everyone’s best interest to investigate Will’s claims about him. Meanwhile, Will sits in a small enclosure at the Baltimore hospital, dreaming of fly fishing as he tunes out Dr. Chilton, and insists on speaking with Dr. Lecter.
At the FBI offices, oversight investigator Kade Prurnel (Cynthia Nixon) reviews Alana Bloom’s report of Jack’s lapsed judgment in putting Will to work, impressing that the department would prefer the incident be swept under the rug, though Alana remains adamant about having Will’s downfall on record. Hannibal meets with Dr. Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), relaying that Will has asked to see him and he genuinely misses his friend, though she questions the nature of his obsession with Will. Elsewhere, two Baltimore land workers investigate a clogged river point, discovering it full of grotesquely preserved bodies.
Hannibal visits with Will outside his cell, though Will insists the two are no longer friends, and that he’ll eventually remember what Hannibal had done to him. A while later, Beverly Katz swabs Hannibal’s cheek and pours over his suits as part of the investigation, while both lament not having seen Will’s madness earlier. Later still, Jack confers with Hannibal at the scene of the recovered bodies, as Hannibal deduces that the killer had been preserving the bodies as human models of a sort, but discarding those who weren’t up to his or her standards.
Meeting with Bedelia again, Hannibal provides informed consent for her to discuss their sessions with Jack Crawford, though Bedelia questions the scrutiny he has invited from the FBI, given the position it puts her in to lie for him. Bedelia points out that Jack doesn’t know what Hannibal is capable of, before he menacingly reminds her, neither does she. Back at the hospital, Alana updates Will on the condition of his dogs, reminding him that he needs to choose representation in his inevitable case. Will insists he needs to remember what was done to him, asking for Alana’s help in recovering memories through hypnosis, both of them unaware Chilton is listening in.
Will follows a lit metronome as part of his hypnosis, coming to see Alana as a ghostly figure whose voice accompanies him in his mind. There, Will sees himself seated at a rotten feast with Hannibal’s Man-Stag form, and with Abigail Hobbs’ ear on his own plate. Later that night, Hannibal dines with Dr. Chilton, as the psychologist laments Will’s refusal to speak with him, providing Lecter details on Will’s claims about him. Elsewhere, a mysterious figure on the subway purposefully makes contact with another man’s hand, complimenting his skin. Later that night, the man emerges from his home to find his car alarm blaring with plastic wrap hanging from the trunk, then the mysterious figure comes up behind him. Afterward, The man drifts in and out of consciousness, seeing only a spoon preparing heroin, and hands threading string through skin.
The forensic team investigates the recovered bodies, each full of enough heroin to kill them, and with holes threaded through their skin for presentation, but no other apparent commonalities. Stumped, Beverly takes the file to Will in the hospital, handing over photos of other missing but unrecovered people, as Will arranges the photos of varied skin tone to find that the killer has been creating a human color palette.
Later that night, Will accepts his dinner through the bars, but begins to recover a memory as he bites into the steak, seeing Hannibal stuff a tube down his unconscious throat, and finally push a severed ear down into his stomach. Meanwhile, Jack waits for Alana at Will’s house, hoping to be convinced that Will had no idea what he might have been doing, as Alana points out that a psychopath wouldn’t fear discovering the truth of his actions, as Will seems to.
Jack pays a visit to Will in his cell, disrupting another of Will’s fishing dreams, as Jack searches for signs of the man he once knew. Will offers up that while he had doubts before, he’d since recovered a memory of Hannibal that assures him of his innocence, though Jack points out doesn’t help the case in any way. Jack grows frustrated with Will’s still-unproven accusations about Hannibal, though Will insists he’ll come to believe it eventually.
While Hannibal sits alone in his office, elsewhere, the abducted man awakes to find his hand sewn to his face, with much of his body glued together, surrounded by a massive circular arrangement of corpses that appear as the mosaic of a human eye from above.
We have to admit, we somewhat dreaded wading back into the pool of darkness and dreary despair that is Bryan Fuller’s ‘Hannibal.’ Don’t get us wrong, we’ve loved the series since its first installment, but the latter episodes of the first season seemed to take on such a pulsating rhythm of madness and desolation that they became almost taxing to watch. It’s the mark of an affecting, even haunting drama, to be certain, but to even think of Hugh Dancy’s night sweats amid a pounding, ominously dread-filled score has our stomachs in knots already.
It certainly took us by surprise, as well, to see that the first season would so quickly move Will and Dr. Lecter into antagonistic positions, even with the visual symmetry it provided to see the two iconic characters on opposite sides of the glass. The meager ratings of the first season made it difficult to assess if we’d see another, despite all the critical raves, so we suspect Bryan Fuller moved the story into a position that could ostensibly cover both occasions. Even assuming NBC’s ‘Hannibal’ had been guaranteed a full seven seasons, as we’d heard Fuller suggest before, placing the two at odds so quickly felt just a tad premature.
By the same token, there’s a similar urgency created by the opening moments of tonight’s premiere, now that we know Jack and Hannibal will be in a knock-down drag-out bloodbath by the end of the season. The context makes it more or less explicitly the case, which, however memorably a cold open it provides, again seems to be rushing in a manner that deflates tension throughout the season. The audience understandably recognizes Hannibal’s ultimate fate, but wouldn’t it have proven a more exciting climax to be surprised by? Assuming we find ourselves in the same precarious position of doubt regarding a third season, why not save a bit of story for the end?
Admittedly, that’s a long preamble to write ahead of actually discussing the episode itself, though the series’ strengths have by now made a few bullet points all but moot. Yes, “Kaiseki” picks up with the same moody dread as before, with haunting visual flair and wonderful characterizations between Jack, Will and Hannibal himself. Jack seems like a broken, penitent man struggling to find hope against his every instinct, while Will grows increasingly confident in his sanity, despite the toll his work takes on him. After everything he’d been through with Hannibal, he eagerly leaps at a chance return to normality with Beverly’s case file, seeing in it another living daydream to escape the bleak isolation within. And of course, Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal remains a fascinating character the likes of which we’ve not seen before, equal parts divine menace, and earnest humanity in his desire to remain Will’s friend.
Presuming you’re familiar with the series and its absurdly operatic murders by now, “Kaiseki” at least offers up a few more overt nods toward the mythology, perhaps borne of an interest toward snagging a more broad viewership with fans of the canon. Not only does Hannibal namedrop his Aunt Murasaki, but our new mosaic killer’s presence and methods are clearly meant to evoke that of Buffalo Bill (who remains out of copyright bounds, we believe), and even Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) makes reference to the same “panty girdle” approach Hannibal would later berate him for.
All in all, “Kaiseki” doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table that we haven’t come to expect from Fuller’s disturbingly beautiful drama, but that isn’t to find any fault in it. We’ve got plenty to chew on as Will recovers his memories (staged with an exceptionally impressive visual representation of Alana), and Hannibal continues to put Bedelia on edge with his FBI transparency. We still question if the opening showdown might have been better served as a surprise later on, but for now, ‘Hannibal’ remains as fascinating and visceral as ever, a delectable feast among an otherwise pedestrian spread of serial killer filler.
Well, what say you? Did you feel that ‘Hannibal’ season 2 hit the spot with its 2014 premiere episode? Were you as shocked by the future revelations of "Kaiseki" as we were? Stay tuned for our ongoing coverage of 'Hannibal' season 2, and join us next week for another all-new episode recap of "Sakizuki" on NBC!