Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 01, “The Adventures of Supergirl”
There’s so much to see! Superman is here and Lena Luthor, plus a new villain and Project Cadmus. Plenty of Supergirl/Superman action and bonding throughout, and Kara makes some major life choices with Cat Grant’s mentorship. The DEO gets a brand spanking new building, too (It’s so shiny). The change to the CW doesn’t seem to have affected the tenor or writing of the show. The premiere lived up to our expectations, and felt like the same show we gushed over last season, er, last week. And now we’re back together again and ready to talk about all the excellent things that happened last night (and that One Other Thing). Get ready for some fangirling. We’re excited. But in the spirit of objectivity and fairness, we’re not without critique.
After a voiceover recap of Season 1, the episode starts with the final scene from the finale: the Kryptonian pod crashing. The nameless, comatose man in the pod gets taken to the DEO, which has some swanky new digs (a skyscraper in the middle of downtown National City). Kara is trying to figure out what to do with the opportunity Cat gave her to choose her own job; Cat pushes her to look inward. Cat’s new assistant has a ‘Kira’ kind of day (making mistakes with salad dressing). Venture, a new spaceship, launches but has trouble. Enter super dorky Clark Kent and his very undorky chiseled jawline to help save the day as Superman, after Kara gets there first. (Side Note: they’re the freaking cutest team ever! She tells random strangers she used to change Clark’s diapers. LOL. We love them. Superhero Kryptonians are puppies, it is confirmed.) Ahem. Supes visits the DEO to check on the mystery man from the Kryptonian pod. Winn is a nerd so excited to meet Supes that he almost passes out. Alex thinks Clark smells nice (he seems like an Old Spice kind of guy). J’onn and Superman have a strained greeting that Alex, true to form, doesn’t fail to comment on.
Next is bring your cousin to work day! Cat is flirty adjacent (and apparently thinks Clark, Superman, and Lois Lane have a ménage à trois). We learn Lex is in prison, but Lena, his sister, was suspiciously not present on the Venture launch despite having booked a seat on the shuttle. We also have a new villain—who was behind the Venture explosion—who has just acquired some high powered drones. Clark interviews Lena Luthor, who wants to rename and rebrand Luthor Corp in National City and make it a force for good. Kara shares how overwhelmed she feels by her options (with James, with Cat and Catco) with Clark, who encourages her to follow her heart. Alex confronts J’onn about “Operation Emerald”, the operation that put a wedge between him and Superman. J’onn had been on the team to first discover kryptonite on earth, and instead of destroying it as Superman urged, he chose to kepteep it for safekeeping. Winn figures out that Lena was the target of the Venture bombing just in time for her helicopter to be attacked by two of the drones. Superman goes to save the civilian population from more drones while Kara rescues Lena. Kara and James have a heart-to-heart-ish talk about her not knowing what she wants. Cat mentors her about diving in and not being afraid.
Finally, the name of the new villain is revealed: John Corben, an assassin hired by Lex to take out Lena. Superman confronts J’onn about keeping the stock of kryptonite. Corben bombs Lena’s corporation renaming ceremony; the Supers save the day, with help from Alex and Lena. Corben is shot, but doesn’t die. With some prompting from Lena, Kara decides she wants to be a reporter (which Cat saw coming a mile away). Kara tells James they should just be friends, because she is unable to juggle so many obligations at the same time. Winn leaves Catco to join the DEO. Clark tells Kara he’s proud of her and offers to stay on for some family time. A mystery woman (Brenda Strong, Queen Nia, from The 100) from Project Cadmus offers Corben the chance to become Metallo.
Best Quote: “You’re standing on the shore afraid to dive into the new waters and you’re afraid because you don’t want to say goodbye to the mild-mannered, love-lorn Kara Danvers the sweet and dutiful assistant to Cat Grant. You are standing there looking out at your options: the icy blue river, the fast flowing water, and the choppy sea and they all look very appealing to you because you’re dying to go for a swim but you know that water is going to be cold and journey is going to be hard and when you reach the other side you will have become a new person. And you’re scared to meet that new version of yourself. Now we all get used to our own personas or used to our own comfort zones, but trust me. In order to live, we must keep daring, keep diving.”—Cat Grant, to Kara
Thoughts & Feelings
Let’s start by saying that this definitely felt like the same show from last season, which was a primary concern for us going into the network change. The biggest noticeable difference between Season 1 and Season 2 is the pacing. Season 1 was rather deliberate and slow, juggling only 2 to 3 plot balls at any given time. Season 2 comes out the gate juggling 5 to 6 plot balls while riding a skateboard, meaning that individual plot points aren’t getting as much screen time as we are accustomed to. This may not be a bad thing, but it so will depend on how they pace out each of these plots across the season. Frantically juggling too many plot balls often results in dropping all of them, and this storytelling problem has taken down many shows of recent memory. However, it’s difficult to make a definitive statement about whether or not this is a good change judging from just one episode, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
Something else that was noticeable was how the show just jumped right into the Season 2 plots without wasting time wallowing in the Season 1 arcs. The show does very little handholding in transitioning to a potentially new audience, and this is understandable considering how tightly the first season wrapped up. The one plot point pulled over from the last season was the Season 1 cliffhanger, which was surprisingly the plot point that got the least attention in the pilot episode. While it wasn’t exactly the number one priority to resolve this cliffhanger within the first episode of Season 2, we hope they don’t keep it on the back burner too long. It gives off the impression that the show is trying to distance itself from its predecessor, which does not inspire hope within the returning fandom.
Once again, it’s hard to make a definitive statement about the pacing with only one episode as reference, but we can say that Season 2 seems to be aiming for much faster plot development. We are willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to the writing team, but this is something we are keeping an eye on, since the deliberate and slow pacing of the first season was something that made the show really stand out.
Moving on to the new characters introduced in the pilot, we of course have to start with the Man of Steel’s small screen debut. Clark gets a great ‘running down an alley while changing costume’ sequence. He is both well cast and well written, in our opinion, so he slides into the show’s established cast very well. He is definitely his own man, but his camaraderie with Kara is well demonstrated and lives up to the subtle seeding from the first season.
Clark and Kara together is everything we’d hoped for and expected. Everything. They have such a sweet, loving, mutual, respectful relationship. Clark is supportive and treats Kara as an equal even though he’s been a superhero for longer. He jokes with her, gives her advice, and acts all around like the best older brother Kara could want. While we’d have liked more Alex and Kara time, we appreciate what they gave us enough to forgive them. Alex and Kara’s relationship is side-lined in favor of building up Clark and Kara’s, but not to the detriment of the sisterly bond. We know it’s still there, just in the background for a while.
As we were hoping last week, Clark definitely comes across as Kara’s teammate, not her superior. She gets the ‘heavy lifting’ job saving the venture and corrects Lena Luthor when she ignores Supergirl’s presence at the rescue. She comes up with the plan to save the building while Clark acts as the muscle. But they’re a true team, a partnership of equals. You don’t get the idea that her having moments of brawn and problem solving is pandering at all. It helps that Superman’s so genuinely excited for her when she succeeds and takes his cues from her, as befits a visiting superhero and cousin. They give us all the feels. And that final scene, where Superman asks Kara if he can stay so she can tell him more stories about Krypton and his family? *Hearteyes*
Second in our new character lineup is Lex Luther’s sister, Lena Luthor. Hot damn Lena Luthor. We couldn’t keep our eyes off of her; Katie McGrath commands your attention on screen. We can’t wait to see how she evolves in the season. She’s going to be an interesting foil for Kara. They’re both adopted, both attempting to use their family name as a force for good, and was it us or did Lena give Kara the once over in a flirty way?
We appreciate how she contrasts with Lord, too. She’s proved herself less distrustful and more open. She shares intel willingly where he held back from reporters and the government; she appreciates Supergirl/man instead of resenting them. Put her in a room with Lord and let them duke it out please and thank you. It is also noteworthy that she seems to be playing straight-faced when it comes to her mission to redeem her brother’s business. She’s come to National City in an effort to rebrand her brother’s company, trying to polish off the tarnish left by his crimes that resulted in 30+ consecutive life sentences. While there’s equal set up here for a villain arc, we’re kind of hoping that they don’t take that path. Thus far we’ve received no indication that she’s going to make an about-face, and when given the opportunity to she has been distinctly leaning towards the side of good. She seems genuinely interested in taking on a trademark Supergirl redemption arc; we hope she stays that way.
At the tail end of the pilot, we get to see the origin of Metallo. Damn, we’re ready for Metallo. He’s a pretty epic Superman villain—a cybernetic assassin powered by a kryptonite core—so you won’t want to miss next week’s episode. Plus, we get the reveal that Metallo is a product of Project Cadmus, presumably to fight against Kryptonians like Supergirl, Superman, and any remaining convicts from Fort Rozz (if there are any Kryptonians left). Project Cadmus as the big bad this season thrills us. We can’t wait for it all. Plus, Project Cadmus means that maybe Superboy/Kon-El will make an appearance. Fingers crossed.
Moving on to the characters we know and love from last season, J’onn and Alex didn’t get enough screen time for us (we love them), but hopefully that will be remedied soon. J’onn’s beef with Superman sets up the threat Metallo will serve next episode and makes sense of why J’onn has never shown much interest in having Superman around. While simple and understandable, the friction between J’onn and Superman seems a little thin, and too easily resolved. We are expecting that conflict to come back later, as it definitely could use a little more solid development considering how important it is to Superman’s relationship with the DEO and J’onn himself.
Cat continues to have some of the best dialogue, mentoring monologues and snippy one liners included. We know she is going to be making a change, since Calista Flockhart will be appearing in fewer episodes this season, and they’ve seeded it already this episode. Tying it to Kara Danvers own journey of self-discovery and pursuing her passion works well, and it gives us faith that the show will give Cat Grant the graceful exit she deserves from primary hero to secondary protagonist.
On to James Olsen and the fly in the ointment, the one letdown in this action packed ball of sunshine and adorableness that was this premiere: the potential sinking of the James x Kara ship. The conversation with James and Kara was a bit awkward and unexpected, given that we know they were kissing just a day or so ago as the family dinner shown in the Season 1 finale was the opening scene of this episode. James’ reaction was on point and fit with the overall tenor of the show toward non-mutual relationships, but this felt rushed. As much as we enjoy the lack of relationship drama on this show overall, we feel like they needed to drag this out a bit.
Relying on dialogue and exposition has always been one of the show’s strengths, but in this case it’s fallen into a weakness. While we can absolutely accept that their relationship would be heavily strained by Kara’s attempt to juggle so much at a time, we feel that the show needed to let us watch it happen, rather than tell us that it would. There hasn’t been enough time for us to accept this as a foregone conclusion. Kara having a moment of “I have a lot going on, a lot is changing, and I don’t know how to handle it all. I need time,” would have made more sense and allowed for the same amount of tension. With all the build-up from last season, this lovely interracial ship deserved better than a “we’re just friends” within the first episode.
We’re not ready to call it quits on this ship yet, though. Maybe the writers are trying to slow burn more, maybe they just thought Kara had too much going on and wanted to give her more space to grow as a person before getting them back together. Maybe she’s going to be the queer one instead of Alex (Oh please, oh please. We want a bulletproof LGBT character more than anything). Who knows? It’s honestly too early to tell. We’re a bit annoyed, but not ready to bust out the pitchforks yet.
- They have not diminished their CGI budget it seems. Damn. Though it will be interesting to see how they escalate the stakes in future seasons. Kara saved a plane, then she and Superman saved a space shuttle. What’s next? The moon? We’re hoping for the moon.
- We keep wondering how Superman and Supergirl keep their capes under their clothes. Maybe they have a magic pocket they tuck them into that lays completely flat? Must be special Kryptonian technology.
- The volume for this episode was really low for Gretchen in Wisconsin. The show was barely loud enough, then the commercials blared. No idea if this is something the network can fix or if it was just the fact that she uses antennae for reception (I don’t want to pay for cable, so sue me—Gretchen).
- They addressed the fact that Superman looks so young: apparently Kryptonians age more slowly on Earth
- J’onn named kryptonite, that’s neat
- Helicopters don’t fare well on this show, do they?
- Clark uses his x-ray vision much more than Kara does. It makes sense given that Jeremiah Danvers gave her glasses specifically to block that use of her powers. She grew up not utilizing it.
- This moment:
- After being saved by Superman, a man says “We’re moving back to Gotham”. LOLZ
- Biracial family on bikes spotted! We love how diverse the background characters are.
- Being a reporter runs in the family, it seems.
- Cat reverts to calling Kara “Kira” when Kara is in her ‘feeling lost’ phase. Was that on purpose or a reflex of communicating with the shy, unassuming Kara of much of Season 1?
- ARE THEY GOING TO MAKE KARA GAY. The only way we will forgive them for destroying Kara x James is if they give her a girlfriend. Anyway, now that we’ve gotten that reaction out of the way, we can wrap this episode up 🙂
Images courtesy of CW
Fall 2017’s TV Successes and Disappointments
November is a fun time in television. While shows are winding down for their winter hiatuses and networks are picking up scripts or pilots for next year’s shows, they’re also ordering “back 9s” for new shows premiering each fall. That is, the 9 episodes to bring a 13 episode series order to a full season. (Though the first full season of a show can run as short as 16 episodes these days.) Getting a back 9 generally indicates high renewal chances if the ratings stay good enough for the network. Renewals and new show pickups are announced in May during Upfronts.
Upfronts this year was a weird time. The major broadcast networks picked up the least number of new shows in five years. 19 of the shows cancelled were one season and done. Though we’re only three months into the 2017-2018 TV year, I have a feeling next May will have similar results.
After all, of 19 new shows, only 8 received back 9s/full season orders. Only two of those have received second season pick ups thus far.
ABC’s The Good Doctor received a full season (18 eps) pick up after only two episodes. Its success is unsurprising because last year’s hit was a family feel-good (though very dramatic) show. I can’t speak to the actual content but it’s clear that somewhere, a lot of Nielsen families are loving it; its yet to move below a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo, which is the most important piece of measuring a show’s success.
There’s only been one other success not related to an already existing franchise, and that’s Fox’ The Orville which received a second season renewal halfway through its first season. CBS’ Young Sheldon, a prequel to BBT received a full season pickup after one special premiere airing, and NBC’s Will and Grace revival received a renewal before even airing its first new episode.
Everything else. No, really.
ABC had two “limited season” shows that if successful would have likely seen a second year. Unfortunately, the network pulled Ten Days in the Valley from the schedule, and will air its remaining episodes in December. The much maligned Inhumans just finished its season but with terrible ratings, barely making a 0.5, and on ABC nonetheless.
The network did give a few more episodes to Kevin (Probably) and The Mayor. This likely only indicates the need to fill airtime. Kevin‘s additional episodes give it a full season (16 eps) but The Mayor is finished.
Me Myself and I holds the honor of first cancellation this year, and 9JKL received three more episodes. That really only means the network doesn’t want to open the timeslot up yet. Consider it done, too.
Among the three dramas, two are very slight renewals. Both Seal Team (22 eps) and S.W.A.T (20 eps) received back 9s, but neither have ratings to call home about. CBS expects a 0.9 demo later in a show’s life, but not within six and three episodes respectively.
Wisdom of the Crowd’s ratings were subpar and with the allegations against lead Jeremy Piven, there’s no way the show was going to get a back 9. It didn’t even garner a mention in the first press article from CBS.
Sigh. Valor, one of four military/special ops themed shows premiered to a 0.3 (!) rating. Dynasty (also 0.3) on the other hand did receive a back 9, but the show is part of a deal with Netflix. Its renewal chances are dependent on the rest of the shows.
Ghosted and The Gifted were this network’s only other fall premieres. Though their ratings aren’t as exciting as other shows, both are firmly in the middle of currently airing Fox shows, and The Gifted will finish airing its 13 episode first season in January. Fox has yet to make an announcement on Ghosted so anything could happen. (Likely it’s done.)
Law and Order: True Crime, the lowest rated of NBC’s new shows, and The Brave just above it failed to receive back 9s. The former is a limited season show so a final decision won’t be public until May. A press release for NBC’s mid-season premieres states the same for the latter. However, Brave was always meant to be a back 9 contender.
With only 1 show per Big 4 “winning” the fall, and only 8 receiving back 9s, the network’s mid-season shows must succeed. NBC’s Rise, a mix between Glee and Friday Night Lights, should be an easy ratings win for the network especially airing after This is Us finishes its season. From one feel good story to the next. The CW has Black Lightning starting in January, which should also do well considering the amazing cast and The Flash lead in.
Otherwise we’re still waiting for announcements on the rest of the new shows’ premieres.
It’s also clear that the networks’ attempt at reaching certain audiences via its military/special ops shows fell short. Valor, The Brave, Seal Team, and S.W.A.T. all failed to bring in high ratings. No surprise if only one of the latter two receives a renewal, similar to when last year’s time travel shows all died except a last minute un-cancellation for Timeless.
Of course any one of the shows I marked as done could still conceivably receive a second season. That’s in the case of an across the board failure for spring premieres/shows past their first season. It’s clear live TV watching (what advertisers care about and thus what I care about) has decreased every year since Nielsen has calculated ratings. The 13% overall decrease in the 18-49 demo this year, however, is slightly more than the usual 5-10% decrease per year. So either shows need to be more interesting, Nielsen needs to expand its ratings measurement, or both.
Either way, mid-season shows must succeed or networks will be operating at major losses financially. Without inventive and entertaining pilots, 2018-2019 is just as likely to fail.
Image Courtesy of ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC
The Flash Shows How The Thinker Came To Be
After last week’s horribly boring episode, “Therefore I Am” comes to formally introduces everyone to the mystery that The Thinker is. We learn much more about the villain and his helpful partner, the Mechanic, but we don’t figure out his main goal. Still, a better The Flash episode as the show closes in on its fall finale.
This flashback ridden episode starts with a less than inspired Professor Clifford DeVoe, barely catching anyone’s attention during class. He is joined for lunch by his wife, Marlise, and Clifford whips out a design: a cap that could enhance his own intellect given Mrs. DeVoe can manufacture the device. In the present, we pick up from last week, with Barry and Joe interviewing the DeVoes.
Their first meeting seems to go well, as in nothing quite looked off from the DeVoes, but Barry is suspicious. Iris assigns all of Team Flash their own missions to dig deeper into Clifford just to be thorough. A new peek at four years previously shows Mrs. DeVoe had built Clifford’s thinking cap, but they would need a huge energy source for it. Thankfully — or should I say thinkfully —Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne is right on the verge of launching the particle accelerator.
Barry decides to pay DeVoe’s class a visit to ask him a few other questions and seize the opportunity to grab his mug for a DNA’s test. However, the test comes up empty as his genetic material doesn’t fit what one would expect from meta-DNA.
A new flashback goes straight to a scene from the pilot: the press conference Wells held before the launch. After Barry ran off to retrieve Iris’s bag, Mrs. DeVoe asked Wells questions as she is concerned about the safety of the accelerator. This scene is particularly interesting because Wells’s attitude is a nice throwback to him being a villain from the future. His compliments for DeVoe’s work come across far more as “big fan of yours, hope you wreck the shit out of Barry” than anything else. Nonetheless, despite Marlise’s warning that there will be an explosion, Clifford decides to proceed as planned with the charging of the cap.
As the accelerator goes off, the thinking cap definitely does things to Clifford, but he also happens to be struck by lightning. Marlise arrives and resuscitates him just in time to witness Clifford feeling “enlightened.”
The cringy part of the episode starts as the DeVoes go to Captain Singh to report Barry’s inadequacies as harassment. As this particular form of lowkey gaslighting usually goes, the people around Barry don’t believe his instincts and ask him to stop looking into DeVoe which, spoiler alert, we also know he won’t and it will backfire eventually. Very cringey, very cliché, and not particularly well scripted drama.
So, after Clifford got hit by lightning, he becomes a really fucking smart person. To prove that, the writers ask him to reveal who Jack The Ripper is — call me foolish, but I would have rather they tried to explain who the Zodiac Killer is to see if it is more believable than American Horror Story: Cult’s ill attempt at doing so. Nonetheless, he starts having a seizure on the spot.
At STAR Labs, Barry hears a buzzing from the Samuroid head and finds a camera inside. He goes to perform some late night stalking at the DeVoes and find Marlise leaving the house, which is super convenient. However, she returns literally 45 seconds after with a full load of groceries so Barry has to quit his sleuthing. Flashbacking again, a doctor gives Clifford a grim prognosis, as his mind is feeding off his body.
After Barry reveals he broke into their house, Team Flash fully flips on Barry’s idea that Clifford DeVoe is the actual bad DeVoe. To make matters worse for my enjoyment of television, the part where Barry gets scolded a second time by the police happens as Marlise brings pictures from the invasion to the Captain. Barry gets suspended for two weeks — and somehow is 100% surprised by the Captain’s decision to suspend him after he broke into someone’s house… — and also a restraining order.
Back at it, it’s time for another cliché: Clifford goes all infomercial as he falls from his wheelchair trying to grab a book from the fireplace. Mad at the world, he begs to die, but Marlise won’t let him. In fact, she even developed the machine that DeVoe currently to help him with his fatal disease.
Even with a restraining order, Barry goes to Clifford at his lecture hall and finally something interesting happens: cards on the table, the professor acknowledges everything. He knows Barry is the Flash. He exposes his backstory, how he became a metahuman, and how superior he is in terms of intellect in comparison to Team Flash. In fact, he is only telling him who he is because “he has nothing to fear.”
Now, maybe this is just me, but I feel like this would be the time for Barry to engage and tell DeVoe that he lowkey already knows how to defeat him? I mean, Savitar did tell him the name of the device. But he doesn’t. He mostly brags about defeating speedsters, which are nothing compared to DeVoe’s powers.
Back at STAR Labs, Barry tells everyone that Clifford confessed and NOW everyone believes him even without any additional evidence — silver linings? At least they believe him now. This ‘No One Believes Barry’ nonsense could have carried on for more episodes. Cisco comes up with the Thinker name as Wally arrives to help out with supervillain but, if we’re being honest, he probably won’t because Kid Flash has been utterly useless. I blame it on the writers.
Finally, the DeVoes go back to their secret base and Marlise has her villain attire (slicked back hair and a lab coat instead of natural waves and sundresses) back on. It sort of makes you wonder about the practicality of having a whole villainous wardrobe just for the thrill of it.
As Clifford starts shaking again, it is time for him to return to the device we’ve seen him in before. The coolest part is that I was right about his hair: the Mechanic has to literally rip his scalp off in order to connect him with a machine that feels too tight on his head. As the romantic he is, Clifford is even “allowing” West-Allen to get married because “what is knowledge without love?”.
Not a lot went down again, but better than last week’s by a mile. So now we gotta get ready for the wedding crossover next week and hopefully an interesting fall finale!
Images Courtesy of The CW
The Heart is a Lonely Manhunter (Rewatching Hannibal Season 1)
Spoiler Warning for Hannibal, Season 1
“At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields. When I look back, from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”
—Will Graham, Hannibal 1×04
Confession: I am one of those people who watches a show and can’t quite accept that it’s gone. The show instead lives on for me internally. So, basically, do not tell me The Wire is gone. Nope. Nor Deadwood, The Sopranos, Parks and Rec, Justified, Veronica Mars, and a handful of others, just… for me, they’re not gone. The show’s still out there. Immortal. Ever-present. So, for me, yes, somewhere Tony still watches the exits. Somewhere, Raylan works out his inner demons. Somewhere, Leslie Knope is President. Somewhere, Dan and Casey are still wittily tossing out sports metaphors under Dana’s eagle eye. Somewhere, Veronica’s fighting for justice next to her Dad. And somewhere, Hannibal and Will are still embattled. Or engrossed. But they’re out there, somewhere, somehow. Living on, in a smarter universe.
Fellow fans of Hannibal will no doubt especially feel my pain on this. And as someone still deeply mourning the end of the show all these years later, I thought the best consolation might be to go back and watch the show from the beginning, and it’s been a joy, offering new nuances and moments galore. It’s been especially fascinating to be able to go back to the beginning, and most especially to see how far back Bryan Fuller and his talented team set up the relationships, conflicts, and inspirations on the show, which are present even in the pilot episode.
The Table is Set
The blood splashes in the credits, Brian Reitzell’s superb score surges ominously, and Hannibal begins. Boom. Grossness. Ooky murder victim close-ups. Dating taboos. Ships, ships, and more ships sail into the distant horizon (how were we ever possibly this young?).
Welcome to the world of Hannibal. So let’s drive right in, to episode one, for instance, and that beautiful first meeting of Will (a wonderfully twitchy Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (a chilly, graceful Mads Mikkelsen). Where, if you watch closely, you’ll find extra enjoyment in all the little subtleties to Mads’s and Hugh’s performances—because they’re setting the foundation for every single moment to follow.
It’s all right there, the entire show. Hannibal’s focus and detachment, mixed with that strange fleeting tenderness. Will’s disgust, empathy, and fear that also mask his inevitable fascination and self-loathing. Cue the mental metronome as it sweeps ominously across the frame in red. We begin, and even within 40 short minutes in episode one, as Garret Jacob Hobbs dies, whispering, “See?” to a horrified Will, the table is set.
The finishing touch on this scene (that will echo back so tragically at the end of the season) is the fact that Hannibal, watching Will, seems to decide to save Abigail because it is something that Will wants. So he gives it to him, the gift of Abigail’s life, placing his hands gently on Abigail’s throat in order to save her. He further does this, I think, because for Hannibal everything comes down to power, because he can, and because it will tie both of those people to him in ways he wants to watch play out further.
But perhaps the nastiest trick he plays on Will here is his facade at the episode’s end, as Will enters Abigail’s hospital room to find Hannibal already there, holding Abigail’s hand as if he is not the monster her father was, but as if he is, in fact, the caring savior he pretended to be. Everything that occurs between the two men from here on out, occurs because Will mistakenly uses this image of Hannibal as a baseline. It’s diabolical and tragic.
Cat and Mouse
I think my favorite aspect of the rewatch is that I have changed my opinion slightly when it comes to Hannibal’s reactions and motivations. Upon a second viewing, most of the time, I now do think that Hannibal seems to play out his scenes with others as honestly as he can, at least, to a point.
I remember that I thought Hannibal was smirkier the first time I watched it; I felt like he was playing them. But now I actually think he’s weirdly transparent. I do think he likes and respects the team and genuinely (and quite quickly) grows to care for Jack and Will. It doesn’t mean he won’t torture them, mind you—Hannibal’s so warped that I truly believe he has no concept of how normal, non-psychotic people feel or demonstrate tenderness.
Shoot, for all we know Hannibal considers everything he does to poor Will in Season 1 to be nothing but simple foreplay. (“What are you complaining about?” I can imagine him saying to Will. “I fed you an ear!”)
Speaking of love, however, I most definitely missed how closely Beverly (played with subtle wit and tenderness by Hetienne Park) is involved with Will in many scenes the first time I watched the show. Her shooting range scene with Will in Episode 2 is terrific. Sparky and fun, on rewatch, it’s evident to me that Beverly likes Will. I mean, I think she like likes him. Which just adds to the tragedy of her entire arc.
Every bit as much as Jack and Alana, Beverly seeks Will out, to goad him, to study him, to offer support. She visits him several times (including in “Ceuf”) just to talk to him, for instance. And in the Angel episode (“Coquilles”), Beverly approaches Will again, offering help and asking him to confide in her; they interact closely once more in episode 6 (“Entree”). I’d really missed how close these two are in my first viewing of the show, and this makes Beverly’s devastation at Will’s arrest that much more heartbreaking to witness as season 1 moves toward its close.
The Wolf Visits the Sheep
In Episode 4 (“Oeuf”), in one of the best scenes across the entire show, Hannibal explores Will’s house. And I think upon rewatch this is just an incredibly rich and fascinating scene. Hannibal enters as a guest (and we later learn that Will asked him to feed the dogs for him while he was gone), and absently feeds Will’s beloved dogs, who adore Hannibal instantly. Hannibal, of course, feeds them what we assume is yikeshannibalsoylentsausage. Of course, he then simply wanders through Will’s home, and it is just sort of mind-bogglingly, quietly amazing to watch him do so. I think it’s easily one of the most naked moments for Hannibal in the course of the story. We get this rare opportunity to simply watch him study and react without the need to play the role of the guy in the human-suit that Bedelia calls him out on being.
As he enters Will’s home, Hannibal pats and feeds the dogs, then (in a poignant note for me as a classical musician) notes that Will owns a piano but that it is out of tune.
I found this moment lovely and subversively interesting for what it says about both men. Hannibal is a person who writes and plays music at a superb and virtuosic level, and who listens in the same way. Now he enters Will’s home and sees, unexpectedly, another fraction of his heart. Another realization, piercingly, that Will is like him. He is not alone. So yes, my favorite part of this scene is how Hannibal sees the piano and his glance lingers on it.
And right there, to me, I think is when Hannibal becomes a love story.
The Search for Connection
It’s not really about romance, to me, however, but about something more subtle and fragile—about recognition. Kinship. Fellowship. The pleasant, guilty surprise of bondage. Forget romantic love. Love’s less complex in this universe, and I’m not even sure it’s given anywhere equal weight. What the show is seeking and exploring, ultimately, is a dozen times more complex: the connection of equals, a speaking of souls. The mitigation of loneliness.
Hannibal as a character or person may not believe in love, but I’m certain that he (and the show) believes in soulmates. More casual viewers, I think, may miss that about this show. Hey, ship anything you want, any character combo that floats your boat. Seriously, I get you. I ship Hannibal and Will, at varying moments, with pretty much every adult who shares a scene, not least because Mikkelsen and Dancy both have chemistry with everyone around them.
But what Hannibal is ultimately about, to me, what sets it apart and makes it real genius… is loneliness. And connection. Hannibal seeks it, and is surprised and charmed to find it in Will, even in his home. We already know how much Will desires and fears the same thing.
And everyone else we glimpse, don’t they want that same sense that someone knows and understands them? Jack? Alana? Beverly? Every single cop, medical examiner, or killer we meet?
Of course. Cue drama.
Make Yourself at Home
So back to my point. I mean, Hannibal’s visit to Will’s home is fantastic. And pivotal. To me, it’s the core moment in their evolution as compatriots and friends and, perhaps, lovers. It’s so intimate.
Moving on. In his home visit for Will, Hannibal also notices a full outboard motor evidently in repair in Will’s living room (tellingly, later, in the “therapy” session with Hannibal, Will talks about his father’s work in boatyards from Biloxi to Erie).
Hannibal then checks out Will’s bureau and oh, Lord, gloriously, yes, there are the white tee shirts and socks, neatly stored, although I imagine the filmmakers simply cut out Hannibal’s full-body recoil at the sight. Hannibal then goes over to Will’s desk, looks through the magnifying glass there (nice subtext) then plays with one of Will’s fishing lures, carefully adding one of the feathers from the tray on the desk, before deliberately cutting himself with the hook he has just perfected. Then he licks the wound. And, yeah, it’s weirdly erotic.
This is also the episode when Will confesses to Hannibal, in one of the show’s most beautiful moments, that he only feels safe from a distance: “At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields,” he says quietly. “When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.” It’s yet another in a long line of beautiful boat references that help us to get to know Will that will also come back into play in later seasons.
Hannibal, potential anchor that he is, merely gives the tiniest hint of a smile. Because he is in control. He doesn’t need an anchor… or does he?
But although it’s fun to watch Hannibal become fascinated with Will, I forgot that Hannibal initially befriends Jack much faster than Will. Jack joins him for many more dinners at this point, actually. Jack and Hannibal become good friends, and Hannibal’s friendship visibly means something to both men.
Meanwhile, complicating those waters, is Will, of course. I mean, “Coquilles” is also the episode where Hannibal sniffs Will! And Will notices! It’s weirdly awesome. (Will: “Did you just… smell me?” Hannibal: “Difficult to avoid. I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave. That smells like something with a ship on the bottle.”)
I also love Will’s conversation with Jack here:
Will: This is bad for me.
Jack: I’m not your father, Will. I’m not going to tell you what you ought to do.
Will: Seems like that’s exactly what you’re gonna do.
Jack: You go back to your classroom, when there’s killing going on that you could have prevented, it will sour your classroom forever.
Will: Maybe. And then maybe I’ll find a job as a diesel mechanic in a boatyard.
Jack: You wanna quit? Quit.
Interesting that Jack smiles to himself as he says that. He knows Will can’t quit. When it comes to duplicity and hidden meanings, Jack is every bit as subtle as Hannibal himself. And he’s willing to do it because he’s willing to risk Will’s sanity in order to save lives—and because he’s also confident enough that he can see Will through it without harm.
Onward to therapy!
Episode 7 (“Sorbet”) is pure genius with its series of therapy sessions—Hannibal with Franklyn, Bedelia with Hannibal, Hannibal with Will. In each session there’s this tangible subtext of yearning and loneliness yet again: of Franklyn trying to impress Hannibal, of Hannibal trying to impress Bedelia, and then having a glass of wine with Will. There is something sort of poignant and lonely about Hannibal saying, “I have friends.” And we know who they are and how much he hides from them. (Note: I also think that it’s telling and important that Jack dreams of a mutilated Will in this same episode, as well.)
Episode 8, meanwhile, features one of my favorite exchanges between Hannibal and Will when Will says, “I feel like I dragged you into my world.” And Hannibal quite truthfully replies, “No. I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company.”
What’s interesting as I rounded out Season 1 here is the way Hannibal interweaves that loneliness I mentioned earlier as an almost palpable, touchable aspect of the show’s fabric. I was constantly struck by how solitary everyone seems to be in Hannibal’s world, how disconnected—a fact emphasized in many scenes by the show’s lighting, which is moody and dark, with characters illuminated in stark relief as if trapped onstage. Every major character also seems caught in a dreamworld now and then, as if mute on the most important level—speechless about the things they truly want—yet all are yearning, and all are quietly starved for connection.
Not just Will, but Hannibal himself, and even Jack, Bedelia, Bella, and Beverly. They all seem like characters seeking connection and safety. Alana is the only one who, to me, implies a rich external life elsewhere, and it’s interesting to watch her move in and out of all these other lives with so much ease, especially knowing what lies before her in later seasons.
One thing that really struck me upon my Season 1 rewatch was just how fantastic the actors are. I’ve talked about Will and Hannibal, but let’s just call out Caroline Dhavernas as Alana, for instance. She in particular is just wonderful, much stronger than I remember her being (and it really sucker-punched me when she goes to the car to scream and cry; at that point I realized then how much she did truly love Will). I also loved the chilly, gorgeous Gillian Anderson as Bedelia, and thought Kacey Rohl was amazing as Abigail Hobbs. It’s a performance where she has to walk so many lines in so many conversations, and Rohl was able to do that with a lot of delicacy and hidden nuance.
And then of course there’s Fishburne’s presence and gravitas, Dancy’s vulnerability and anguish, and wonderful Mads and just how much he’s able to communicate in every single graceful movement and microexpression.
While it’s hard to watch Will spiral downward in the final episodes of season 1, I do love the conversation in “Buffet Froid” (1×10) when Will is ill and floundering, and Jack is surprisingly warm and supportive:
Jack: Let me tell you what I think. I think that the work you do here has created a sense of stability for you. Stability is good for you, Will.
Will: Stability requires strong foundations, Jack. My moorings are built on sand.
Jack: I’m not sand. I am bedrock. When you doubt yourself, you don’t have to doubt me too.
Near the end, when Hannibal brings Bedelia the veal, what’s fascinating is that, in an entirely different awareness of context, I’d argue that she is absolutely aware of exactly who Hannibal is and of what (or who) they may actually be consuming. And before she does so, she unexpectedly and blatantly warns Hannibal:
Bedelia: You have to be careful, Hannibal. They’re starting to see your pattern.
Hannibal: What pattern would that be?
Bedelia: You develop relationships with patients who are prone to violence. That pattern. Under scrutiny, Jack Crawford’s beliefs about you might start to unravel.
Hannibal: Tell me, Dr. Du Maurier, have your beliefs about me begun to unravel?
The way she takes the bite, with her eyes on Hannibal, very slowly, implies to me that she is doing this deliberately, perhaps almost as an odd form of answer. Foreplay? Or communion?
The Last Bite
Every meal has a finish. And so we come to Will’s horrified, beautifully gradual realization of Hannibal as the real killer throughout episode 13 (“Savoureaux”), leading to the confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen, the site of their first connection and mutual recognition:
Hannibal: At a time when other men fear their isolation, yours has become understandable to you. You are alone because you are unique.
Will: I’m as alone as you are.
Hannibal: If you followed the urges you kept down for so long, cultivated them as the inspirations they are, you would have become someone other than yourself.
Will: I know who I am. I’m not so sure I know who you are anymore.
There’s such symmetry in that final, raw and terrifying confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen between Will, Hannibal, and Jack. And it’s awful to watch, to see Jack as adversary, to see Will led off as a criminal, to see him processed by the team (and to see their personal, anguished and angry reactions), and to then see Will locked up and facing Hannibal, who is of course still free and confident and smiling. And still there! Just on some level, you know, he’s still so creepily happy to see Will. To be a part of his life and world.
A caged Will is just more accessible, after all… more fun for Hannibal to play with.
Anyway, wow. I really loved taking another look at this first season of Hannibal, and what’s interesting is it’s my least favorite of the three, so I’m looking forward to the chance to rewatch the next two even more. Most of all, I’m so pleased to have found the show even more rewarding upon rewatch, not less. There’s so much detail to Hannibal‘s world that there’s always some new little treasure to notice.
What did you think? And what did I miss? And what do you think Will really smells like? I’m guessing Old Spice, sea salt, engine grease, and warm dog. Want to live on the edge? What does Hannibal smell like? My own guess on this is that he smells absolutely fantastic, like Italian cologne, fresh sage, and the faintest breath of electric wickedness…