When I walked into the Hannibal screening at Wonder Con last weekend I knew that I was going to be one of the first people to see the series premier. Hannibal had been a major sponsor of Wonder Con this year – the main one, really – so there was a lot of Hannibal stuff around. The advertisements on the convention center were all large banners promoting the show and the lanyards we received had Hannibal and the premier date on them. What I didn’t know was that they were actually going to screen the first two episodes of Hannibal. Nor did I know just how much it was going to pain me to have to wait another week and then yet another week just to see those two episodes again. I still have two weeks until I see a new episode of Hannibal and I am just as excited for that as I am to see the second episode again.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think I still like Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll’s relationship more than this Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter… but it’s going to be a close one as the series’ progress, I think.
So, let’s talk the Hannibal pilot, shall we?
If you’re a fan of the series – and in particular the Red Dragon film with Ed Norton – you’re going to get a lot of little Easter eggs throughout the pilot. There are number of lines that are reused though occasionally spoken by other characters than they were originally. For example, when Jack Crawford comes to ask Will to work with him on a case Will responds with, “You have Heimlich at Harvard and Bloom down at Georgetown. They do the same thing I do…” Just like he did when he was asked to come back in Red Dragon. There are a couple other quotes over the first two episodes, too, that you’ll pick up. Just pay attention and you’ll catch them.
The story starts out with Will Graham consulting on a home invasion case. It’s pretty standard fair but it’s our first introduction to the way this particular Will Graham works. He sees scenes and then removes himself and any other distraction from them. He walks through them as if he himself is the killer and picks apart the individuals actions and choices until he ultimately picks up on clues and gathers information that none of the other police or investigators ever would have found. Will is an empath – he can imagine how anyone feels and put himself in their perspective. It’s a troubling gift and not particularly easy for a man who – in this interpretation of the character – has borderline Aspergers.
But Jack Crawford comes to him anyway.
Will is teaching at the FBI Academy. As he tells someone later in the episode, he’s never been an agent because they have very strict screening procedures for recruitment and he wouldn’t have passed. He is a former police officer, boat repairman, etc. – though I think that’s all information that comes out in the second episode. Whoops. Well. I think we knew all that anyway. Jack pulls Will away from his class and brings him in on a case in Minnesota where eight girls all of the same general description have been going missing. The two of them go to the home of the most recently taken girl where Will takes a moment, asks some awkward and seemingly insensitive questions of the girls parents, then goes upstairs to her room. There Will and the girl’s father find her body back in her bedroom where it had not been earlier that day when the police had been in and out of the room.
The police come on the scene but Will stays in the room trying to figure out what exactly happened and what was going through the killer’s mind. Jack tells him that when he’s read to talk, he talks. If he doesn’t want to talk, then he doesn’t have to. Will uses his little mental abilities and tries to recreate everything that happened – but he’s interrupted by some of the FBI crime scene investigators. It’s more of an introduction to them than anything else. All three of them are reoccuring characters and though they are scientists they aren’t the sort of awkward, unsociable ones that stereotypes might dictate. They are like the three Musketeers or something. They discover antler velvet in the girl’s wounds and they all discuss it for a bit. Share theories. Will hypothesizes that returning her to her home was an apology of some kind.
It’s all just a lot for Will to process so he goes home to try and drown it all out. On the drive back from the airport he sees a dog on the side of the road just walking and after a few tries gain its trust. He takes the dog home, washes it up, and then introduces it to his pack of other dogs. Apparently Will connects better with the dogs than he does people or something. He’s got like eight of them now. After adding Winston to the group, of course. While the dogs sleep happily downstairs, Will tries to go to bed but he’s haunted by images of the dead girl.
Jack sort of starts to lose his cool with the whole case and tries to make sense of Will, get him on the right track. Keep him focused. But Will is clearly struggling. Jack confronts him in the bathroom where his shouting and anger get Will thinking and talking about how this psychopath is something different. He’s sensitive and he feels something. He loves these girls but can’t show them that. The only lead they have is some metallic filing debris from the girl’s nightgown. We get a little peak at our killer then and of him working on a construction site as a girl with a cooler comes to bring him lunch… It’s just getting Will from these abstract thoughts to finding that particular man. And Will is floundering. He doesn’t think he can find this man. Jack goes to talk to Alana Bloom, a friend of Will’s who teaches on occasion at the Academy and who is psychiatrist and profiler.
They talk about Will and how she refuses to psychoanalyze him or even be alone in a room with him out of fear that he might think she was psychoanalyzing him. But she does give him one recommendation – that he keep Will out of all this if Jack can’t protect him. She knows he’s got a fragile psyche and she wants to keep Will safe.
The crime scene guys and Will get together to talk about the body. Will realizes that the antler wounds are not from a deer – which they all had figured out – but from the killer mounting his victims. He’s also been cutting them open and removing organs but with the latest victim, Elise, something went different or something was wrong. Will just says simply, “There’s something wrong with the meat.” He realizes that he’s eating the organs. The girl had liver cancer. He wasn’t going to eat that.
After that revelation we get our first look at Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal eating something. Foreshadowing!
It turns out that Alana was mentored by Hannibal back when she was in medical school. She seems to recommend that if anyone is going to do a study on Will Graham or try to figure out just how he works and how to keep him on the ball it should be her old friend. So Jack goes to talk to him and brings him in on the case. Will, of course, is cautious and defensive. It doesn’t take him long to figure out that Hannibal isn’t there to catch their killer but to try and understand Will instead. He storms off and as he does so Hannibal tells Jack that he knows how to help Will get his head around this one.
Which, is, apparently, by faking a similar crime scene. The facts of the murders had all gotten out because of a tabloid journalist named Freddie Loundes. So Hannibal can fake a crime scene without worrying about it being traced back to him. He impales a girl on a stag’s head in a field and rips out her lungs while she’s a live. Everything he does is different from what the man they are hunting does and Will recognizes that instantly. But it does help him gain some perspective. By seeing someone try to copy their killer in all the wrong ways he can connect more with the man they are after. He realizes some how that their killer cannibalizing girls is actually going after girls like his own daughter. That she is probably the same age, about to leave for school. It’s all because he’s too afraid to lose her so he’s doing this to keep some part of the girls inside of him. It’s dark. Will is totally in the zone now and knows what he’s looking for with that killer.
With the ‘copycat’ who we know is Hannibal, though. He tells the crime scene guys that they are dealing with a sadist with no real motive, no real modus operandi. Someone who would be impossible to catch. Which, of course, is more foreshadowing. They do like to tease us. They also mix in short cutaways of Hannibal cooking the girl he had killed’s lungs while Will is talking about the two different series of killings. Then, you know, Hannibal shows up at Will’s hotel the next day with the lungs mixed with eggs and such pretending it’s sausage. The two of them sort of come to some agreement and talk about things. Come to a sort of middle ground. Hannibal talks about Will, the way he thinks. The killings. How Will used the copycat to understand the real guy. “It’s like he had to show me the negative for me to see the positive.” Oh Hannibal. You’re so helpful! Even if he doesn’t know it’s you.
They go to do some recon together. Will is off going through personnel records of various construction companies and the like with Hannibal tagging along. They are able to track the type of pipe based on the composition of the filing debris that was found on Elise’s nightgown. Going through the paperwork, Will finds one person who seems suspicious. A man named Garrett Jacob Hobbs. If anyone here has seen Red Dragon, you should know that that was the first person that Will and Hannibal ever tracked down together. You’d also know that he had a daughter who Will rescued. So, you would probably know how this whole episode is going to go down.
But what a twist!
Hannibal distracts Will momentarily as they are leaving and then calls Garrett Jacob Hobbes to warn him. As a professional courtesy, he says.
When Will and Hannibal show up at his house Hobbs has already cut his wife’s throat. He tosses her out on the porch in front of the house where she dies in Will’s hands as he tries to stop the bleeding. He follows Hobbes into the house where he has his daughter with a knife to her throat in the kitchen. Though he’s not an agent and he’s known to be unstable, they let Will have a gun apparently. Hobbs cuts his daughter’s throat – just not as badly as his wife’s and Will shoots him repeatedly until he stops. Hobbs dies as Will tries to stop the bleeding from his daughter’s neck. All the while Hannibal has been watching these scenes unfold, seeing how Will reacts. Then he steps in to stop the bleeding as Will shakes uncontrollably nearby. Hannibal gets into the ambulance with the girl and leaves Will at the house, in shock and covered in blood.
Back at the Academy, Jack tries to find Will after the incident with Hobbs but he’s not there. Alana is covering his classes and she’s pissed at Jack. Meanwhile Will has gone to the hospital to check on Hobbs’s daughter and finds Hannibal there still, holding her hand.
It’s pretty clear that Will can connect to people. He’s connected to this girl and feels responsible for her now that he’s saved her life. And Hannibal knows that. If you’re looking to manipulate a guy like Will, this is a great start.
Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate just how awesome this season is going to be? Watch the trailer they showed for the whole season that I’ve linked her. As of last week the final episode was in filming so they should be wrapping it up soon. I’m super excited.