Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hannibal: Episode 1.13 - Savoureux

The season one finale of Hannibal was an outstanding hour of television. I've come to expect a lot from this show and this last installment still blew me away. Every single moment felt essential and everything came together so beautifully. Bryan Fuller promised a cliff hanger but also maintained that the final episode could have worked as a series finale had Hannibal not been renewed by NBC. I believe Fuller was right; season one does work perfectly as a self-contained story because the arc is so flawlessly constructed. Having said that, thank goodness we are getting a season two! Hannibal Lecter is seductive and alluring and I am awe-struck by his brilliant manipulation of Will and his colleagues. It amazes me that the show continues to make him so fascinating and watchable while making him every bit the monster he ought to be. And Will Graham is so damaged and vulnerable but remains heroic through and through. I love how he fights, all season long, in the face of mounting obstacles, to bring justice to the victims of the crimes he's investigating. Much as I love to root for villains and antiheroes I need to see Will Graham turn the tables on Hannibal Lecter and take him down. I have never wanted a good guy to win (the next round, at least) so badly.

The first part of the episode was a gorgeously rendered nightmare. Will's dream with the stag transforming into a wendigo was dark and creepy; everything that came after it was worse. The show employed this shaky camera technique in the earlier scenes, while Will is stumbling around his house and trying to make sense of the overwhelming evidence that he has killed Abigail Hobbs, that's fantastically unsettling. Brian Reitzell's score has been eerily effective all season but the sound and score in this final episode was the best. It's so discordant and menacing. I think the show did a great job in these first few scenes of putting the audience right inside Will's fevered brain. For me it was overwhelming in the best possible way. Hannibal has reminded me more than once of Twin Peaks and this episode comes closest to rivaling the earlier show's final episode, where Cooper enters the Black Lodge. Nothing else on TV has made me feel so simultaneously disoriented and delighted.

Next we have to watch as everyone Will knows turns on him and everything he cares about is taken away. The scenes where he is processed by Zeller, Price and Katz made me wince. Zeller and Price treat him with cold indifference but it's even worse when Katz gets ahold of him and basically scolds him for being at the FBI in the first place. The rational part of my brain knows she's doing awesome police work and that the whole tough-guy routine comes from her caring about Will and probably feeling that he's betrayed her trust. But as a viewer who knows Will is innocent it's hard to take. Once again I found myself loving Alana Bloom. First for her emotionally charged exchange with Jack Crawford and then for her interview scene with Will. Not only does she offer to look after all of Will's dogs indefinitely (you rock, Alana) but she almost puts the pieces together. Until Hannibal undermines everything with his carefully crafted evidence. I'll admit I never saw the fishing lure thing coming. What a master stroke of evil brilliance. And what a perfect example of the way Hannibal has insinuated himself into Will's life and corrupted it. 

In the last part of the episode Will escapes custody and confronts Lecter. I loved the reconstruction of the copycat murder tableaux in Lecter's office. All in black, shadowed and inky, just like the stag and the wendigo. A literal representation of how everything Hannibal touches is tainted by his darkness. And the scene between Hannibal and Will in the Hobbs family kitchen was electric. After all the manipulation and scheming, even with half his brain still on fire from encephalitis, Will is able, at last, to make that final leap and determine that Hannibal is the murderer he's been hunting. Then Crawford comes riding to the rescue and blows everything to hell. Which leads to that final haunting scene, the inverse of the famous scene from Silence of the Lambs, with Graham behind bars and Lecter on the other side smiling serenely at the wickedness he's brought about. It's a dismal place to end up but it's necessary and, like pretty much everything else about this show, perfect. 

As a fan of the horror genre I could not be more delighted that Hannibal exists. The arguments are still raging about whether or not something this dark, twisted and grotesque belongs on network television. I maintain that, for all its wonderfully bizarre flourishes, this is a show that is primarily character driven and the characters are very well-written and compelling. The production values have been consistently excellent and every aspect of the show seems to be crafted with thought, care and passion. That makes it exactly the kind of thing we ought to have on network television. Kudos once again to NBC for sticking with it. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hannibal: Episode 1.12 - Relevés

I hate that my worst fears were realized. Hannibal has set Will up for his copycat crimes. And he killed Georgia, horribly, after she and Will had a fantastic little exchange at the start of the episode (very nice use of the old horror trope where the final girl gets killed off in the first moments of the sequel, Mr. Fuller). And Will's other surrogate daughter, Abigail, is most likely finished as well. I'm glad she and Will had one scene on their own and bonded a little bit before everything went to hell. 

It was great to see Will thinking clearly in the first part of the episode and making those fantastic logic leaps in order to figure out what the copycat killer had been doing. It's just unfortunate that he shared his insights with Hannibal, which essentially put the cannibal in panic mode and made him frame Will for his crimes. 
Will's level-headedness in the earlier scenes made this a more straight-forward installment than the ones we've seen for the past few weeks. It felt like we were finally on solid ground for a change. Then those final moments yanked the rug right back out from under our feet. If Hannibal has in fact murdered Abigail and Will is arrested for killing her it will be devastating. I certainly appreciate the no good deed goes unpunished implications - Will rescued Abigail at the start of the season so her death as the final nail is in own coffin is appropriate - but just because I respect it doesn't mean I have to like it.

Much as I enjoyed this one it mostly just made me anxious for the finale. It's basically preamble. All the pieces are in place. Can't wait to see exactly how they'll fit together.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gregory Bald

hike to gregory bald hike to gregory bald  
Gregory Bald is one of my favorite places in the Smokies. We hike it in mid-June since that's supposed to be the best time to see the flame azaleas in all their fiery splendor. Unfortunately for us, they're taking their sweet time this summer so the display we caught Saturday was not quite as impressive as the one we saw last year. There were certainly several patches of color but I think next weekend will be the better time to catch them at their peak bloom.
  gregory baldgregory bald gregory bald 
The Mountain Laurel, on the other hand, was perfectly gorgeous. I think we must have missed it entirely last summer since I don't remember it at all. And we had great weather the entire day. The heat was a bit smothering but most of the Gregory Ridge Trail is heavily shaded, which makes a huge difference. I like this hike a lot but it's a tough one for us. The first two miles are very pleasant but the last three and a half are a relentless climb. That's why we only tackle it once a year. Maybe we'll have better luck with the azaleas in 2014. Regardless, the bald is a fantastic destination and always beautiful to behold. 
  hiking back from the baldhiking back from the bald

Monday, June 10, 2013

Andrews Bald & Clingmans Dome

hike to andrews bald hike to andrews bald 
This was our third visit to Andrews Bald. It's a short hike (just under four miles altogether) but there's a decent elevation change and, if you start at the Clingmans Dome parking area, like we do, all the climbing is on the return trip. The weather was nice but overcast and my pictures of the bald itself are a little dim, which is why I'm sharing pictures from the Forney Ridge Trail instead. I love that most of this hike is shaded. I really enjoy walking under the trees and through the ferns.
  clingman's domeclingman's dome 
I'd never done the half mile trek up to the Clingmans Dome Tower, which is a very popular attraction for tourists. The tower is really bizarre and wonderful. It doesn't look like any of the other structures in the park - it looks more like something out of The Jetsons. The walk up to it, via a spiraling ramp, if fun and surreal, especially when it's foggy (and it's almost always foggy at this elevation).

Hannibal: Episode 1.11 - Roti

Wow. What on earth did I watch last Thursday? Between last Sunday's "Red Wedding" on Game of Thrones and Dr. Lecter's most recent round of infuriating, misery-inducing mind games on Hannibal I am wrung out. I mistakenly assumed, with the escape of Dr. Abel Gideon, that "Roti" would deliver a slightly more straight-forward manhunt type of episode. Of course as long as the show is told primarily from Will Graham's point of view that's not what we'll be getting at all. Not to beleaguer a point but, oh my God! Poor, poor Will. Seriously, his story is the stuff of nightmares and it escalates by the week. With two episodes left I shudder to think where we're going but I do have a few theories. I originally thought season one might wrap with Will institutionalized, convinced that Hannibal is the Ripper but unable to convince anyone else because he is presumed crazy. Now I am scared that Hannibal is actually setting Will up to take the fall for some of his own crimes. Maybe not the Chesapeake Ripper kills but, at the very least, the copycat kills from the beginning of the season. Will locked up in an asylum is bad enough. Will framed for crimes he didn't commit is so much worse.

Like last week, there was one scene in particular that stood out for me in this most recent episode. The scene where Will apprehends Gideon and takes him to Lecter's house is equal parts fascinating, horrid and heartbreaking. Every week something awful happens with Will and I'll think to myself "that's the saddest thing I've ever seen." And then a new episode airs and Will's life becomes more frightening and depressing. This episode devoted several scenes to Will's wild dreams and hallucinations. I had to watch a second time just to be clear on what had actually happened versus what had taken place inside Will's fevered brain. Most of what took place between Gideon, Lecter and Will was real and that's why it was so unbearable to watch. It was a heightened version of Lecter and Dr. Sutcliffe conspiring against Will the week before. This time it was two sadists sitting around nonchalantly having a conversation while our hero suffered a seizure and was, afterwards, briefly rendered catatonic (and entirely vulnerable to the wolves in the room). The wrongness of this scene cannot be overstated. I don't just mean from a moral standpoint; I mean the scene was so bizarre and surreal and hellish that I had a hard time processing it. For me it was weird and disorienting in the same way as the weirder moments from Twin Peaks. Nothing else on television has come close to creating such a fascinating cocktail of the terrible and the bizarre. It really freaked me out but I also loved it.

For the second time I very much enjoyed Eddie Izzard as Dr. Abel Gideon. He was certainly scary but also oddly sympathetic. His final moments with Will, where he admitted to no longer knowing who he was or what he'd done, were beautifully acted by Izzard and allowed the audience to see the humanity that was buried somewhere inside his abused and damaged mind. I also loved the return of Raul Esparza as Dr. Frederick Chilton. Chilton is so shady and self-serving but also highly amusing. I really thought for a few minutes that Hannibal was going to break with canon and kill off Chilton early so I was relieved that he survived. I enjoyed the scenes with Dr. Bloom, particularly the moments where she expressed compassion for Gideon and concern that he would be killed. She seemed genuinely upset that her colleagues had taken advantage of Gideon and that she herself had not been able to help him. I continue to really like her even though I'm confused about what she's doing with Will. She keeps telling him she can't be with him because he's unstable but she keeps flirting with him all the same. I'm not sure if that makes her seem conflicted or flighty. Maybe it's both. And maybe that's alright since her flaws make her character more well-rounded and relatable.

Looking forward, with excitement and dread, to Thursday night.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hello Again, Charlie's Bunion

hike to charlie's bunion hike to charlie's bunion hike to charlie's bunion hike to charlie's bunion One of my favorite hikes in the Smokies is the four mile trek along the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Charlie's Bunion. This past Saturday we made the hike for the third time and it was just as lovely as our last two visits. Most of our hikes this year have been on the easy side so it felt good to tackle something a little more difficult. Keeping our fingers crossed that the weekend weather continues to cooperate for the next few weeks, since it's almost time to visit the flame azaleas on Gregory Bald!

Hannibal: Episode 1.10 - Buffet Froid

All the advertising for last week's Hannibal pointed towards it being a terrifying installment. So I wasn't prepared for how melancholy it ended up being. I frequently feel anxious and concerned for the characters when I watch but what I felt last Thursday, more than anything, was an overwhelming sense of sadness. That doesn't mean there weren't some truly creepy parts. None so unsettling as the last scene where Hannibal, wearing a clear plastic raincoat over his immaculate suit, mutilated his colleague and latest victim with a pair of scissors. This scene was really unsavory. I think it was the contrast between the brutality of the act and Hannibal's calm demeanor (the books and movies make mention of this, the way his heart rate doesn't even accelerate while he's committing a murder). And the fact that he nonchalantly pinned his crime on the most pitiful murderer we've seen this season.

I love the surrogate daughter dynamic the show has created with Abigail, Will and Hannibal. I wish that Abigail could bond more with Will and learn to trust him but, especially after her admission last week that she'd helped her father secure his murder victims, the show has pretty much established her as Hannibal's child. He's manipulated her into confiding in him and he has gained her trust. So it seemed appropriate that, in this most recent episode, Will found a surrogate daughter of his own in Georgia Madchen. Poor Georgia brutally murdered her best friend but she is so psychologically unstable and so isolated and lonely that my heart went out to her in spite of this. I had never heard of her affliction, Cotard's Sydrome, and I can't even begin to understand how it must feel to be a living person but believe that you are dead. Georgia is also unable to recognize faces, which explains why she mutilated her best friend's face (she believed the woman was wearing a mask). I appreciated the scene with Georgia's mother and the thoughtful, honest discussion of mental illness and its treatment. In that one scene we saw a woman who loved her daughter but believed, after years of suffering, that she was beyond hope. It has been a long time since anyone has understood Georgia enough to effectively reach out to her. When Will finally gets through to her, first in the woods and, later, when he finds Georgia hiding under his bed, it is very powerful. Will is able to reach out to Georgia, not only because of his extraordinary empathetic gifts, but because he has begun to believe that he is psychologically unstable himself. 

Hannibal has done a great job of establishing Will Graham as a person who is more sensitive and socially inept than his colleagues. But it has also established that Will is not fragile or broken. It takes incredible strength to look at the horrors he encounters each week. He keeps looking because he knows his efforts save innocent lives. What we learned this past week is that Will is not, as he feared, suffering from a psychological breakdown. He is in fact suffering from anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis. The auditory and visual hallucinations he's been experiencing, his loss of time, his spatial disorientation, are all the result of his encephalitis. His condition is easily treatable. Or would be if Hannibal weren't keeping the diagnosis a secret. For all the talk of Georgia's scary monster under the bed scenes the scenes that really made my skin crawl were the ones where Hannibal and his colleague, the loathsome Dr. Sutcliffe, conspired to hide Will's illness from him. Sutcliffe sees, in Will, an opportunity to study a condition that is still something of a medical mystery. Hannibal, who first smelled the illness on Will weeks ago, will continue to hide the information in order to make Will doubt his own sanity. At the same time, Hannibal can continue to treat Will and, by extension, maintain control over his new friend's life.

I have at times been really frustrated with Jack Crawford. Like Alana Bloom I think Jack pushes Will too far. He all but admitted to Hannibal that he was willing to sacrifice Will's well-being if it meant they could save lives. But Jack and Will had a great heart to heart the other night that really turned me around. When Jack told Will that the work they did was, in fact, good for Will, that it grounded and anchored him, I believed it. When Will told Jack that he felt like his foundations were built on sand and Jack countered that he was Will's bedrock I nearly applauded. Jack is a hardass and he's dealing with his own personal problems at the moment but I do believe Will can count on him. It's a shame that Will, like Abigail, has placed all his confidence in Hannibal instead. I really like that Will also reached out to Beverly Katz, the only character who treats Will as an equal and doesn't stand to gain anything for herself from being his friend. We should all be so lucky as to have a Beverly in our corner. She's good people.

I really appreciated this sombre episode. It may be one of my favorites of the season. And kudos to NBC for renewing Hannibal for a second season. Their announcement came a few hours before "Buffet Froid" aired on the east coast, which made last Thursday's viewing all the sweeter.