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Following the events of Hannibal season one, FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is locked in a mental asylum, accused of psychotic forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter’s (Mads Mikkelsen) crimes. Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) is dealing with his own feelings about Will and whether his protégé is, in fact, a cold-blooded killer. With Will locked up, Hannibal becomes Jack’s new consultant on cases. The deadly dance between these characters continues to turn in startling and unexpected ways, in a season that will show nothing can ever be the same again. (From Lionsgate’s official synopsis)

 Hannibal: Season Two
Hannibal has made it through an awkward first season, full of good intensions and unique perspectives that outweighed narrative weaknesses. Season one had all the right ingredients on the table – an incredible cast (the actors have made these characters their own and no longer have to stand in the shadows of their movie counterparts), a fearless zeal to embrace abstract, hyper-violent imagery, and the best art direction in television – the creative staff just weren’t sure how to mix them into a four-course dinner. They had the perfect hors d'oeuvres and dessert, which offered them a chance to overcome the adversity of being a show based on a franchise that didn’t need a television reboot. But they didn’t quite nail the centerpiece meat and potatoes of the meal, even though it was a great trial run and proof of concept.

Now in its terrible twos, Hannibal is back. Bryan Fuller and his writing staff reevaluated their ingredients and figured out a solution to their equation. Instead of trying to construct a more balanced meal, they embraced the ingredients that made their show so uniquely delicious in the first place. They didn’t waste time on proteins and starches, like sturdy narrative architecture and familiar stories, they focused on making rich and elegant desserts. Sure, the focus on style over substance might be a little unhealthy and leave the viewer feeling bloated, but why give an audience the healthy, balanced meal they think they need, when you can give them a perfectly polished mousse that will leave their teeth aching?

 Hannibal: Season Two
Episode one of season two opens with Jack Crawford and Hannibal engaged in a brutal kitchen tussle. Just when it looks like Hannibal is about to win the fight, the screen cuts to black. Onscreen text reads ‘twelve weeks earlier,’ signifying that these are likely season-ending events. The cut isn’t only a sly tease and a cheap shot – it’s an indication of the way season two messes with time between edits (though further temporal skips won’t be accompanied by text prompts that explain the shift). It’s also a bold statement that verifies that Jack Crawford will know that Hannibal is the enemy by season’s end. Of course, the first season conditioned viewers to not trust any assumption. Fans know that the showmakers are more than willing to twist narrative reality to the whims of hallucinations and dream logic. So, in lieu of ‘spoiling’ the season finale, this brief sequence does two things: one, it satirizes the fact that the series is basically a prequel to a well-known movie franchise and drives viewers to presume they know how it will end; and two, that the end road is inconsequential, compared to the emotional journey the characters are going to take over the course of the story.

Fuller claimed in interviews that he had a four or five season plan in place, but the first season ended in such an abrupt manner that it seemed like the writers had written themselves right into a corner. A lot of time is spent figuring out exactly what to do with Will Graham, now that he is in prison and suspected of murder. The storyline that begins in Kaiseki is a rough, twisty road. Will’s actions and emotions are so unpredictable that it sometimes seems that even the writing staff were digging their fingernails into the steering wheel and holding on for dear life. Seemingly, this was their design (to use the show’s parlance) – to present something so psychologically convoluted that it only works for the viewers willing to embrace the madness. The soap operatic interactions satisfy the audience’s need for melodrama, but it’s secondary to a much deeper and more opaque labyrinth of character motivations.

 Hannibal: Season Two
The first season’s ‘freak of the week’ structure is largely replaced with the dissonance of the ongoing narrative struggles of the major characters in season two. Stand-alone exceptions include the ‘palette’ killer of the first two episodes (Patrick Garrow), Katherine Pimms (Amanda Plummer), an acupuncturist that lobotomizes her chronic pain patients (one ends up with a head full of bees), Clark Ingram (Chris Diamantopoulos), the evil social worker that pins his crimes on his charge, Peter Bernardone (Jeremy Davies), and Randall Tier (Mark O'Brien), the over-maligned ‘metal bear’ killer. These stories have only tertiary bearing on the season arc and, Tier’s attack on Will aside, they probably could’ve been deleted in the rough-draft phase without effecting the story. One ‘sideline’ event that marks a welcome intrusion is the introduction of Margot (Katharine Isabelle) and Mason Verger (Michael Pitt). Mason Verger is best known as Hannibal’s nemesis in Ridley Scott’s movie adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal novel. His back-story in the book was far more drawn out and disturbing, including the rape of his twin sister, Margot (who is missing from Scott’s film). He’s an objectively evil man that involves himself in a number of objectively evil activities, which is a rarity in a series concerned with the moral intricacies of murderers. It’s oddly refreshing. Margot’s romantic involvement with Will is regrettably predictable, but the writers have otherwise done a good job making her into a three-dimensional character, because Harris never did. Also, Kathrarine Isabelle and Michael Pitt have done a spectacular job making the characters their own. I certainly hope we see more of them.

After drifting from murder to murder and watching Will and Hannibal stretch our suspension of disbelief with every step of their psychological chess game for 12 episodes, the season finale proves that you can’t assume anything about this show. Despite the first scene of the first episode apparently verified the pitch and awe of the story, we are left in complete shock by the final 44 minutes of the season. Over and over again, Will tells the other characters that they need to stop making assumptions, but it isn’t until Dr. Chilton (Raúl Esparza) – a character that survives until the events of Silence of the Lambs in the books and movies – takes a bullet to the face that we realize that all bets really are off. But even a viewer that prepares for the unexpected can’t fully brace the visceral shock and anticipatory betrayal of the last episode. Hannibal doesn’t only turn the tables and win the climatic battle – he leaves three members of the lead cast bleeding out. The abruptness of the final scenes is still jolting on a second viewing, even though recent interviews with the creative staff have given us clues as to what to expect in the aftermath of the episode (for example, Esparza is returning next season and Gillian Anderson is set to become a regular cast member).

 Hannibal: Season Two

Video


Hannibal season two is presented 1.78:1, full 1080p video and it’s just as beautiful as the first season collection. Maybe even more beautiful, now that the creative minds have found their artistic footing. This season’s directing staff included strong visualists, like (a returning) David Slade ( Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night), Vincenzo Natali ( Cube, Splice), and Peter Medak ( The Changeling, Romeo is Bleeding), but everyone managed to adhere to a consistent aesthetic that carries through every episode. Once again, the imdb.com specs list that every episode was shot using Arri Alexa digital HD cameras and, once again, series cinematographer James Hawkinson manages to straddle a visual line between film and digital formats. The footage is brimming with fine grain and white edge haloes, both of which appear very much like 35mm film. But the film-like contrast levels and the texture the grain provides beautifully counteracts the digitally-enhanced colour-grading and smooth gradations. The transfer somehow embraces the best of both worlds in terms of artefacts and imperfections. Details are limited by strict focus depth in wide angle, but still extraordinarily sharp in close-up and plenty complex in terms of patterns in even the soft backgrounds. This season is darker than the last, so deep pools of black and harsh shadows also effect the overall sharpness. The aforementioned colour-grading is a bit more extreme this season as well, including more sickly, minty fluorescent greens, richer warm highlights, and more vivid gory reds. There are some banding effects notable among the more subtle gradations, but none of the blooming edges or mixing palettes appear to be accidental.

 Hannibal: Season Two

Audio


Hannibal’s delicate artistry permeates from every aspect of its production, including the mind-blowing sound design. It is, without a doubt, the most sonically interesting show on television and it sounds fantastic on this Blu-ray collection’s sturdy, loud DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Composer, music supervisor, and sound designer Brian Reitzell, who worked with Slade on 30 Days of Night, returns and tightens his unique Hannibal soundscapes without losing the frightening sense of spontaneity that helps define his work (he apparently records his first pass compositions, then refines them). The barely contained ferocity and unpredictable extremes in dynamic range wrap around every channel without damaging the clarity of the dialogue or the incidental/ambient sound effects – though ‘reality’ is pretty low on Reitzell and Fuller’s list of priorities. Like last season, Will’s psychologically damaged point of view provides many of the most memorable and abstract sound effects. His hypnotism and regressive memory therapy lead to a number of cool, multi-channel designs. Other non-musical additions include a super-slow-motion house explosion in episode two, a chorus of chirping birds over the end titles of episode 8 ( Su-zakana), the crunch of the animal suit’s hydraulic attacks, the blazing flames of Freddie Lounds’ faux corpse, and oodles of dripping liquid throughout the entire season. The dissonant, chaotic ‘noise music’ that coincides with Will’s sodium pentothal treatment is demo-worthy stuff, assuming you’re willing to traumatize you’re friends and family.

 Hannibal: Season Two

Extras


    Commentaries:
    • Episode 1: Kaiseki with creator/showrunner Brian Fuller and actor Hugh Dancy
    • Episode 2: Sakizuke with Fuller and culinary consultant José Andrés
    • Episode 4: Takiawase with Fuller and actress Hettienne Park
    • Episode 7: Yakimono with Fuller, actor Raul Esparza, and writer Steve Lightfoot
    • Episode 8: Su-zakana with Fuller and actor Hugh Dancy
    • Episode 10: Naka-Choko with Fuller and actress Caroline Dhavernas
    • Episode 13: Mizumono with Fuller and Dancy and, on a separate track, with Fuller and Lightfoot
  • This is My Design (1:22:50, HD, Disc 2) – A feature-length, behind-the-scenes documentary concerning episode 5, Mukozuke. It covers the entire process, including the organic and changing process of writing the screenplay, designing a major character’s post-murder tableau, special effects (CG and practical), ridiculous nudity restrictions, direction, cinematography, acting, working on set, a post-shooting costume contest (it’s adorable), editing, colour correction, sound design, Brian Fuller’s social media presence, and the outcries of misogyny and racism concerning the death of a certain character.
  • The Style of a Killer (13:20, HD, Disc 2) – A shorter featurette on the show’s costume design.
  • Bodies of Lies (12:20, HD, Disc 3) – Concerning the show’s make-up/prosthetic effects creation and design throughout both seasons.
  • Hannibal Season 2: Killer Intentions (11:40, HD, Disc 3) – A generalized exploration the story connections between the two seasons and how they might lead into future seasons.
  • Post Mortem with Scott Thompson Webisodes (42:50, HD, Disc 3) – A series of interviews with cast & crew members Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park & Aaron Abrams (together), Jim Hawkinson, Janice Poon, Bryan Fuller, and Christopher Hargadon. These aren’t super informative, I guess, but Thompson’s comedic tones are infectious.
  • Gag reel (7:40, HD, Disc 3)
  • Deleted scenes (12:00, HD, Disc 3)


 Hannibal: Season Two

Overall


Hannibal might be the most rewarding experience on television. Even its flaws have become part of an immersive bouquet that is so unusual and artistically challenging I can’t believe it got a third season. I can’t wait to see where this goes. This season two Blu-ray features a nice 1080p transfer, an extremely stylish and aggressive DTS-HD MA soundtrack, and some of the best extras I’ve seen from a television release in some time, including a number of commentaries, featurettes, and an 82-minute behind-the-scenes documentary. Highly recommended.

 Hannibal: Season Two

 Hannibal: Season Two

 Hannibal: Season Two

 Hannibal: Season Two

 Hannibal: Season Two

 Hannibal: Season Two

 Hannibal: Season Two

 Hannibal: Season Two

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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