Last year’s Hannibal was one of TV’s big new surprises. At best, I expected it to be a rehash of Showtime’s Dexter. At worst, a by-the-numbers procedural that occasionally drew from its source material ala Elementary (apologies, Elementary fans). What I ended up getting with that first seasons was some of the most compelling and well-crafted TV I’ve seen in years and I’m happy to say that Season 2 continues this trend.
Hannibal is a dark and at-times-surrealistic show that’s less about the crimes that Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) commits and more about the relationship he has with patient, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). The first season covered the pair’s introduction to one another and their recruitment by FBI agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) in the solving of a number of serial killer cases. Underneath this familiar surface visage of a crime-show, the series focused on Hannibal and his subtle nudging of Will’s psychological conditions – ultimately pushing him off a cliff of madness.
With the exception of a flash-forward that opens the premiere, Season 2 picks up right where we left off with Will framed for Hannibal’s crimes and trapped in a mental asylum. Without spoiling too much, the general plot of the season follows Will as he first works to prove himself innocent and then ultimately turn the tables on Hannibal.
One of the big wildcards to this overarching plot comes in the form of Mason and Margot Verger. The Verger heirs appear in the later Hannibal films but their inclusion in this season is very much tied to the show’s attempts to set up their backstory and relationship to Hannibal – before they presumably take a more central role in later seasons. Mason’s (Michael Pitt) rude and Joker-inspired brand of madness makes a great contrast for Hannibal’s precise and polite psychopathy.
Although Hannibal has definitely gone above and beyond the limits of a traditional procedural show, it does dabble with the formula again here. There are definitely less case-of-the-week mysteries in Season 2 but what’s on offer here is just as striking and memorable as the crime scenes in the show’s last season. I particularly liked how these episodes used crime show staples to explore new facets of the relationship between its characters and each new serial killer the show includes is more monstrous and horrific than the last – though their inferiority to the titular cannibal is often made clear.
One of my favorite aspects of the first season was its impeccably precise editing and I wasn’t disappointed with Season 2. This series continues to do a phenomenal job of conveying the intimacies of Will and Hannibal’s relationship and capturing the desolation and moral-uncertainty that defines the show’s tone. There’s a compelling style and exquistive craftsmanship that’s gone into the direction and cinematography of this series and I cannot wait to see where Season 3 takes things.
Hannibal’s first season’s biggest strength was in its surprises and Season 2 has just as much fun playing the expectations of its audience. There are plenty of fun easter eggs and nods to the books but the deviations in Bryan Fuller’s adaption often leave fans of Thomas Harris’s novels just as blown away who haven’t read the books.
Season 2 of Hannibal is a worthy follow-up to its stellar debut. Each episode goes from strength to strength and will leave you hungry for more. The casting, writing and direction of Hannibal continues to be one of the best on television with this season’s finale possibly being the strongest in the show’s run so far.