“This is my design” is what FBI Special Investigator Will Graham says as he gets inside the mind of a murderer, way super deep inside as it turns out. It is also a fitting way to describe what series creator Bryan Fuller has got going on here. This is my third or fourth time watching the pilot and each time I’m struck by how much is going on here. So much happens, so many things are introduced that will pay off later.
We start with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) at a crime scene, two bodies and blood everywhere. In a brilliant “show don’t tell” bit of work, the show demonstrates how Will gets into “profiler mode” by winding back time so that we’re at the moment when the murders start and with Will in the place of the killer. Then unfortunately we get a little tell along with the show as the killings play out: no, nobody can shoot people with a pistol and sever their carotid and jugular with surgical precision. That silliness aside, Will somehow manages to figure out that the killer tapped the couple’s phone and created a false alarm on their security system, then recorded the wife’s voice to play back to the security company on the night of the murder? At least he has the all-clear password so no one comes out immediately to interrupt him.
Anyways, cut to Graham teaching a class on this murder. Special Agent Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) shows up to drag Will into a missing teen girls case, 8 so far. We’re told that Will is somewhere on the autism spectrum and suffers from a case of too much empathy. That’s his superpower, he empathizes so much that he can read motive from murder scenes. It costs him though, so he’d rather not… but he does anyways. He meets with the family of the most recently abducted girl, knows she was taken from the home because she fed the cat first. The girl’s body is returned to her bedroom, because she’s got liver cancer and the kidnapper is a cannibal and won’t eat “spoiled meat” or something.
We’re only like 15 minutes into a 42 minute episode. This show is pretty densely plotted, and we haven’t even met Hannibal yet. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is recruited by Crawford to help profile and to maybe sort of keep an eye on Will? Hannibal winds up doing a copycat killing of the abducted girls, since he has access to the entire FBI case file and also he wants to cook some fancy meal with the lungs of the dead girl. Will and Hannibal share a meal that Hannibal prepared… eww! And then they find the killer! Unfortunately Hannibal tips off our killer, one Garrett Jacob Hobbs, so before they can arrest him he’s murdered his wife and is holding his teen daughter(who is the template of the murders he’s committed) at knifepoint. Hobbs starts to slit her throat, but only makes it part-way before Will guns him the fuck down y’all! The girl survives due to the quick actions of Hannibal (who is both an MD and a psychiatrist), and the show ends with Will walking in on Hannibal sleeping in the girl’s hotel room holding her hand oh so sweetly.
So much I glossed over. The look on Hannibal’s face when his patient puts a used tissue on the table instead of the trash bin. The weirdly beautiful way Hannibal butchers a set of lungs and lovingly prepares a meal for one. The very artistic blood spatter, Will Graham’s horrible nightmares, all of it. Plus this shot:
…which very much mirrors this shot from “The Shining”:
MIRRORS. There’s some mirroring in this episode. Will and Hannibal sit across from each other in a perfectly divided room, sharing a meal that may or may not include human sausage. Hannibal even sort of dresses a little bit like schlubby on-the-spectrum Will and sports some semi-matching stubble too, which is a far cry from the perfect suits and grooming Hannibal displays everywhere else. And here’s a question: if Will is Jack Torrance, doesn’t that put Crawford in the place of Grady? I do believe it does, and hints at the direction this series is going with these characters. There’s a boatload of stuff happening in this show that I’m sure to explore later as we get past the introductory stuff. After all, this episode is called “Apéritif” and is meant to stimulate our appetite for more. Episode 2 is “Amuse-Bouche” because a show about a cannibal HAS to have food-themes everywhere you look!
Next few posts, I promise to talk about Dr. Alana Bloom and the sweet crime scene techs who are introduced in this episode but don’t do a whole bunch. The techs are AWESOME-MINTS!