Season Two of Hannibal has begun and I am so happy to have it back. It’s stylish, gory, well-cast, and, as a weird bonus, filmed around here. Kelly walks past the building that plays Hannibal’s home and office on her way to work–it tickles us every time we see it on screen.
But geography aside, the show is about things that are dear to my heart: art, arts communities, and artistic critique.
The always-interesting serial killers in Hannibal are demented and horrifying artists. Or possibly, artistes. Hannibal is, of course, making food of his victims. In S1, we see killers making use out of human remains, over and over again, either sculpting the corpses directly or staging crime scenes around them. One makes throw pillows out of leather and hair; another prepares strings for musical instruments using his victim’s guts. There are body collages and mushroom farms.
Will Graham’s oft-repeated line as he assumes their point of view: this is my design.
There is an intense aesthetic sensibility to this show that pervades Hannibal the character and spreads outward, from him, to every element of the show.
Other crime dramas, of course, have put significant effort into creating disturbingly pretty crime scenes. Even some murder-of-the-week shows, like Life, did this. But Life would have been the same show, more or less, if the set dressers hadn’t bothered to take the occasional pre-Raphaelite extra, dress her in angel wings and crumple her beautifully all over the hood of a car. In Hannibal, this improbable design sensibility is integral to nearly every murder.
There is a degree to which these people are scrapbookers on a homicidal materials-collecting spree.
Within this entirely bent community, this fantasy circle of destructive creative spirits, artistic dialogs take place. Will Graham functions as a sort of critic, trying to understand what the killers are working to achieve and communicate. Interestingly, he’s an instructor when we first see him. It’s an interesting riff on that old saw: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Killers imitate each other on this show, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. They embroider on each other’s themes. When they get called out for plagiarism, heads can literally roll.
The process begins in the very first episode of S1. When Hannibal takes on the role of copycat killer to the Minnesota Shrike, he stages a crime scene whose explicit intent is to show Will the Shrike… by demonstrating all the things he isn’t. He creates a corpse-sculpture that is a reverse image of the Shrike’s work.
It is the beginning of Hannibal’s obsessive fascination with Will Graham. As the person who is both an expert in the field and who stands apart from its practitioners, it is Will whose understanding Hannibal craves. He wants to hear what Will thinks about his “work.” He wants to draw him into participating more actively. He wants to be seen, even though courting Will’s comprehension is an immense risk.
It is a strange and compelling portrayal of monster as aesthete, demon as artist. It’s gruesome and scary and weird, and I don’t know, yet, what the show will ultimately say about the practice of art. I am incredibly excited, though, to see where they go next.
Somehow I didn’t mind all that much that the first two seasons of The Killing were slow-moving and, in their way, low on plot. I find Mirielle Enos fascinating and once he finally won me over, I became inexplicably charmed by Joel Kinnamon too. Plus, Michelle Forbes! She was incredible. As a bonus, Michelle was screen-married to Brent Sexton, who was awesome on Life and who deserved a meaty role, despite his total lack of what are sometimes called leading man looks.
Kelly was not so engaged, and so S3 has been quietly piling, like snow drifting up, in our DVR queue. Then, Thursday, she had to go to a work retreat. So I watched it. I watched four episodes. And Holy Carp.
Okay. First, the casting mancakes. Hugh Dillon will always be Joe Dick to me, and well-beloved at that. I heart him. So–Joe Dick as, well, a dickly prison warden. He is still a thoroughly charismatic gargoyle.
But wait! Buy now and instead of a set of steak knives you get Elias Koteas! (Of TMNT, and The Prophecy, that Elias Koteas. Many of the actors I love are undeserving, or at least hard done by in terms of the roles they get offered.) As this season’s love interest for Linden, if the foreshadowing hasn’t misled me.
And as a special extra bonus, they’ve thrown in the current reigning Olympic Gold Medalist in Scenery Chewing (Team USA), Gregg Henry. So far he’s kept his teeth off the desks at Seattle Homicide, but he’s eyeing those desk chairs hungrily.
What about women? Yes, it has some. They are far less recognizable to me, since most of them are teens. But I have been amazed by Bex Taylor Klaus, who plays the butch street kid Bullet.
And that’s the other thing: street kid. The Killing has a big ‘examining the family torn apart by homicide’ schtick going, and this year, having wrung Forbes and Sexton dry, they are doing a microscopic examination of a chosen family of street kids, some of whom are in the sex trade. This pairs well with the kind of angsty human drama the series tends to inflict on its crime victims. They’re young, vulnerable, constantly at risk and often their only–very frail–safety net is each other.
Finally, in The Killing, Seattle is played by my former stomping ground, Vancouver. The kid gang spends major time in a walkway I call The Cage, in old Strathcona. The Cage turns up on TV almost as often as Aaron Douglas–it’s that striking, visually. I used to walk through it every Tuesday on my way downtown. I know I have a photo of it, but I’m having trouble finding it, sorry.
So. Anyway. I inhaled those four episodes on Thursday and I’m hungry for more.
This week’s essay is on “Checkpoint,” which has one of my favorite Buffy monologues. She smacks down someone(s) who really deserve it. And, as usual, there’s a lively follow-up discussion in the credits. You’re all invited, every time.
Things of Monday, just to make you all tired: I wrote 1,329 words on the current novel yesterday. Then I walked Kelly to the Skytrain, hit two groceries, came home to unload, breakfasted, set up the camera to shoot birds, changed, and went to a 75-minute hatha yoga class–this last was possible only because it’s practically in my backyard, and therefore requires no commute. I ran two errands at two banks, came home, replied to 75 student posts for Writing the Fantastic, pondered the three questions I can’t quickly reply to, answered 25ish e-mails, made Tuesday-Wednesday lunches for K and I, simultaneously made chicken mole for several nights’ supper, committed personal hygiene, schemed with K about our 25th anniversary trip (changes to the plan are in the works!) made ten Scrabble moves, did one load each of laundry and dishes, lamented the cruel fate that allowed a Kleenex to slip into the washer via someone’s jeans. I also made the usual weekly tweets about the Buffy essay. Plus, now, this post.
Somewhere in there I had time to briefly contemplate how Return to Cranford has convinced me I was wrong so wrong about Tom Hiddleston being hideous and unlikable, but that’s fodder for a Telewitterings post.
Here at Chez Dua last weekend, we watched Parade’s End, a five-part mini-series based on the books by Ford Madox Ford. Look! The ‘Batch is blonde!
And we enjoyed it very much indeed, but on one of our snack breaks, I said “They’re arranging matches!” Because for those five hours what we were watching was paced exactly like the subsumed-drama British version of the imaginary movie described here by Eddie Izzard in this not-safe-for-work excerpt from Dress to Kill.
Two episodes in, World Without End seems to be Game of Thrones, with twice the rape, some okay medieval history, and none of the magic. That doesn’t mean it’s terrible: really, this is just a listing of ingredients.
The story is based on a Ken Follet book, World Without End, and it’s set in England during the reign of Edward the II. There are a few familiar faces within the cast, most notably Miranda Richardson. The story hums along: this is not one of those tales that morsels out plot in tiny teaspoons–we’ve seen three episodes, and already months have passed and there’s been a significant bodycount. And, in fact, one of the characters who’s already died was played by an actor who’s been horribly killed in every single thing we’ve seen them appear in.
I’m up to “Fear, Itself” this week on the Buffy Rewatch. Enjoy!
State of the Office:
This weekend I went off for what turned out to be a 7.5 km walk with Barb in Everett Crowley Park and environs while Kelly went to yoga. We then grabbed up a Modo Car and went OMG, everywhere. Lunch at Triluzza, the recycling depot, the paint store, Gourmet Warehouse for hominy, the drug store, the produce market, and some other errandy place I can’t remember.
On Sunday, we had made a reservation to go spoil ourselves at the Urban Tea Merchant. We had a thoroughly decadent tea (which didn’t photograph as well as I’d like but what can you do?) and then returned home in a state of caffeinated bliss and attacked the painting of the first two walls.
And if you want even more of my telethoughts, my Glee essay, “Who’s the Real LIMA Loser?,” went up this morning on Smart Pop Books, and will remain available until Monday at 12:00 AM. (After that, the link will still work but for the excerpt-only portion.) The essay’s about the S1 Puck/Finn relationship, and is quite dated now that they’ve all graduated, but it’s still fun reading. I wrote it for the above-noted book, Filled with Glee: The Unauthorized Glee Companion.
First: Squee! Tonight we all get new Doctor Who!! And over the next month, many other good things will head back in our direction: here at Chez Dua, we’re stoked about Revenge (no, really!), Smash, and a new trio of Wallanders.
But in the meantime, we’ve been scraping the sides of Netflix.ca, and what we’ve found most recently is Damages.
Damages, like Revenge, Like Smash, is–as we put it at my house–chickly. Its alpha character is Glenn Close, who is a fierce litigation lawyer with an apparent zest for righting the wrongs of very rich men. The bright-eyed questy character, played by Rose Byrne, is a first-year lawyer named Ellen Parsons. Like Sidney Bristow of Alias, she starts off the pilot with a handsome doctor boyfriend fiancé. Like the would-be Mister Sidney, he’s gonna end up in the same place. Pretty much exactly the same place, now that I think of it.
Alias, I think you’ll agree, isn’t about much beyond “Yay, Jennifer Garner is dangling from a harness in pursuit of an improbable artifact, wearing a skimpy outfit and a new wig and fighting with her father and her love interest on comms! Go Jennifer go!” Believe me when I saw, I was all for that. And Revenge, mostly, is about opera-scale dramatics–rich-people fighting at fancy parties, wearing pretty dresses and threatening to claw each others’ eyeballs. It’s pretty much Kraft Dinner with diamonds and décolletage.
Damages, Smash and Political Animals (a recent mini-series starring Sigorney Weaver as a Hilary Clinton type), on the other hand, are all exploring the idea of women with ambition. Men, naturally, are allowed to have ambition. Nobody much questions it when some fellow wants to grow up to be a billionaire captain of industry or the star of a musical about Marilyn Monroe or a Joint Chief of Staff or leader, as they say, of the free world. It’s barely worthy of note, really, unless he’s MacBeth and ready to kill and kill again just for the throne of Scotland. But the characters in these shows I’m watching now have big dreams. The undercurrent of the story is: go for it, ladies, but do expect to pay. Your relationships will fail, your kids–if you’re silly enough to attempt to nurture life–will hate you, you’ll make enemies and move through a world full of people looking to chop you off at the knees. All for having the temerity to reach.
I’m not saying there’s never been a show that dug into this before, but this seems like a bit of a surge. Are there others on now? Are you watching any of the above? What do you all think of this?