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June 1, 2014 | by  | in Arts TV |
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Hannibal Season Two Finale [Review]

Hannibal’s one of these shows which has been bashed recently for conforming to this new sub-genre (I suppose it’s now a sub-genre) of the detective-story archetype made more visually violent, while often protagonising a serial-killer. Which I guess began with stuff like Dexter, and has percolated through to the most recent and (in)famous True Detective. Some people are unhappy with this morbid fascination, citing the graphic violence, and making connections to the previously popular ‘gorno’ film genre, which popularity seems to have dropped off recently (see Saw, Hills Have Eyes, Hostel, etc. Don’t worry, I’m aware that many of those films were just graphic remakes, blah blah.)

But I think what distinguishes these shows – and here I’ll actually just keep it to Hannibal for the sake of coherence – what distinguishes Hannibal, is the attention to symbolism, elegance, cinematography, deep characterisation, and other conventions you’d probably see more often in arthouse or auteur cinema than in television. Now, I really want to get into the recent surge in television as a new art form (as in, respected as art), but that’s probably another thing altogether. If we go down that road, you’re gonna start seeing gushing exclamation marks and shit, and that’ll just be a bad scene. The point is, the violence is part of the aesthetic, just as much as the other things I mentioned before. And here, the violence serves a different purpose than that of typical horror stuff.

Season two’s been different to season one. Moving away from the familiar one-case-one-ep format, we’re now presented with multiple storylines solved over multiple episodes. Again, the overarching storyline pertains to Hannibal and his meanderings through this strange life of his. So much for context, let’s get down to business.

Actually, first, I’d like to just say: this season was, for me, far weaker than the first. The characterisation has been a little sloppier, the murders have been a little less fun (that sounds a bit fucked up…) and I got the feeling there was just a little less direction. The fake-murder of Freddie Lounds and reappearance of Abigail kind of pissed me off. It’s the sort of sensationalism that this show should really be above. Because the sensationalism should be apparent in the murders – which are part of the essence of Hannibal – not in the plot. Plotting was solid for season one; not so sure about season two.

And so, the finale, finally. Basically, as an episode, it delivered, mostly. Theme was forgiveness. Some lovely dialogue between Hannibal and Will. And also, some beautifully subtle and unsettling acting from Mikkelsen wherein Hannibal seemed to actually experience Will’s betrayal as one of the most emotional events of his life. That’s how I felt, watching that scene at their last supper. Seriously, you can read a lot of religious elements into this text: most obvious is Hannibal as the Devil, but there are plenty more when you start looking for them.

What I really want to talk about, though, is the structure of the episode. Which I thought was pretty rad and really drew on the forgiveness angle, and went deeper to the pure binary elements of the show – I’m using that word because I’m pretty sure everything in this show is about binaries and balance. Everything.

The first half sets the scene: we’re given crisp dialogue-driven scenes in which characters say their final goodbyes before going into battle.

The second half is the action. Quite simply, and, as we, that is to say I, had hoped, Hannibal JUST FUCKING KILLS EVERYONE. I hope. I hope everyone’s dead so bad: it would be such a breath of fresh air for a television show to just kill off everyone and build again next season. Who are they going to cast as Clarice? Anyway, there’s some awesome physical violence between Jack and Hannibal. Will gets gutted, providing some nice symmetry (see season one). Abigail turns up to push Alana Bloom through a window, only to have her throat slit. Who else dies? Jack gets shanked in the neck with a piece of glass. So you see I’m being blunt with the violence, which is typically visceral.

The soundtrack for the episode is immense to the point of absurdity. I can’t really do it justice. It might be Bach, but I suspect Google has been lying to me again. There’s also more repetition of that unsettling, percussive, metallic-clangy noise they do. Very nice.

I realise I’ve gotten to the end of the review without having talked about anything I wanted to. Shit. Anyway, this episode was one for the purists out there: the attention to colour and soundtrack was elegant; there were murders; there was the symbolism (the deer died, I forgot to say); and Hannibal got away with it.

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