This is how you bring back a series: you open with a bang, immediately raise the stakes, and follow through with consistent tone and quality to offer the viewer a seamless transition from last year’s finale to the new episode. Hannibal‘s second season opener ‘Kaiseki’ surely did all that and more: it fully embraced the gothic and surreal imagery that became more prevalent in the latter half of season 1, to effectively let you know you’re in for a wild and one-of-a-kind ride into madness, manipulation and horror.
Two forces of nature colliding, that’s what the fight between Jack Crawford, head of the FBI’s Behavorial Science Unit, and Hannibal Lecter, everyone’s favorite cannibalistic foodie, looked like. Both men held nothing back in a brutal dance of death, the beautifully choreographed and expertly performed scene that started off Hannibal‘s second course. Hannibal soon realized he could not beat Jack directly, a man made out of bedrock, so he feigned defeat and used Jack’s moment of relief to jab a piece of glass in his common carotid artery. After Crawford fled into Hannibal’s wine cellar and Lecter tried to break down the door, we were transported back to the past, to twelve weeks earlier, to a dinner conversation between these two men. They talked about Will, about his “death”, while they had a stunningly presented human flounder dish to salivate over. Fuller, a gifted storyteller, acted like the Ripper, presenting us with a negative so we could see the postive with absolute clarity and amazement. The Crawford-Lecter dynamic is a one-sided friendship in which Jack trusts the man who caused the ruin of two of his precious ponies, because he’s being manipulated at every turn, because that’s simply what Hannibal does, concerned with curiosity and self-preservation. But now we know what happens when Jack finds out the truth, we’ll just have to wait to learn about the aftermath of this savage collision.
While Will’s incarcerated for the crime’s commited by Hannibal, Lecter functions as the new Special Agent Graham, consulting on crime scenes, walking in Will’s shoes and looking through his eyes. When he told his psychiatrist Bedelia Du Maurier about this turn of events there was a gleeful twinkle in Lecter’s eyes, a smile fixed on his lips, like a child telling his mother about playing dress-up, about that moment he was more than he truly is, the promise of greater things. Hannibal has found his person suit, acting like his “friend” Will Graham, the man he’s obsessed with. Meanwhile Lecter cooperates in the investigation following Will’s capture and Graham’s aligations pointed squarely at him to lull everyone into blind belief and a false sense of security. “Jack Crawford doesn’t know what you’re capable of,” Du Maurier whispered in the conversation with her patient who had just signed a piece of paper allowing her to breach doctor-patient confidentiality. “Neither do you,” he replied, outright threatening her. Will hubris be Hannibal’s downfall, the self-made defeat of the devil thinking he has become God?
Meanwhile Will tried to unlock some of the memories he’s forgotten, leading to a beautiful scene of him sitting at a rotting feast across from Hannibal’s surreal counterpart the Wendigo. Will eventually remembered how Lecter forced Abigail’s ear down his throat, a harrowing scene of violation, the physical equivalent to Hannibal’s intrusive penetration of Will’s mind. It’s abundantly clear that Graham will stop at nothing to prove what Hannibal did to him, even though there’s really no one in his corner just yet.
‘Kaiseki’ hit the ground running, got straight back to the series’ central dynamics we’ve come to grow to love to hate. The beautiful tapestry of surreal psychological horror Fuller and company have created doesn’t cease to astound and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. The procedural part of the show is still the least interesting piece of the puzzle, but it has always functioned as a springboard to further the phenomenally acted character interactions at the heart of the NBC series. And it seems like there’s plenty of that in store. 9/10