Hannibal at TCA: Panel promises even more operatic crimes and even more kissing

Hannibal at TCA: Panel promises even more operatic crimes and even more kissing

The cast of Hannibal flew in to Pasadena Sunday morning and brought along showrunner Bryan Fuller to promote the second season of the show, which begins February 28 on NBC. (Yes, that’s a Friday, a tacit acknowledgement from NBC that the show will be low-rated but could hang on for several years if it clears a certain threshold on that night—or on that night plus DVR numbers from later.) Somewhat cheekily, the session was scheduled for over breakfast, ostensibly because it was the only time all four main cast members (Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, and Laurence Fishburne) could be available for a panel at the same time, but no one involved—reporters and panelists alike—was above the obvious jokes about eating a meal while discussing a show about a cannibal. “The sausage is people!” cried Fuller, setting the tone for the day.

Those of us in the room had seen the first two episodes (which tell one story), so discussion necessarily involved plot points from those hours. I’ll try to keep this spoiler light, but if you don’t want to know anything about the upcoming season, the combination of this article and the trailer NBC sent out could spoil some pretty major things. So either don’t read beyond this point or don’t watch that (or both). For the rest of you, please, we’ve all seen Silence Of The Lambs. We know where this is headed.

Much of the talk revolved around the sequence that opens the season premiere, which I’ll try to talk around a bit (though, again, if you watch the trailer, you’ll know what it is instantly). The sequence, which is between Fishburne and Mikkelsen, took around 20 hours to shoot. Fishburne opined that in a film, it might have taken two weeks, but on television, there’s no such luxury. Still, it looks terrific, and Fuller’s instinct to lead off the season with it—to give some sense of “instant gratification”—looks like a smart choice, given the sense of pace and inevitability it gives to the whole season.

Other teases for the season to come involved the “cases of the week” taking up more time in given episodes, with the stretch of episodes between four and seven in particular telling one big story this season. (In that story, things are going to get very bad for a bunch of characters, and Dancy earlier said of the misery Will will endure this season that “This season it’s even worse, so I’ve been very happy.”) Also in terms of structure, the season is broken roughly into two chapters, the first taking up the first seven episodes and the second taking up the last six. Fuller also situated the premiere as sort of “episode 14” of season one, finishing out some of the story beats from that season. The first killer of the week—whose story plays across the first two episodes—is meant to deliberately evoke what Hannibal is doing to the other characters on the show. Finally, this season’s guest stars will include Amanda Plummer (as someone who will make viewers think twice about getting acupuncture, apparently), Jeremy Davies, and Jonathan Tucker, as well as returning players like Gillian Anderson and Raul Esparza.

Also, Fuller teased that there would be “more kissing” this year, though not always between the people who should be kissing, said Mikkelsen. (Tumblr, start your engines.)

There was also plenty of talk about less spoilery things from the show, particularly concerning the show’s haunting imagery and the over-the-top nature of its crimes. (Hannibal tends to be a somewhat polarizing show within the TV critic community, but those of us who like it really like it, and the morning’s session reflected that.) Fuller reiterated that he keeps the crimes over-the-top because the purple, operatic nature of the imagery allows for the show to keep one foot in fantasy and lets him continue working on a series that plumbs the depths of humanity’s inhumanity. He also spoke of the feathered stag and several other hallucinations that pop up in the first two episodes as being a stepping stone for the show toward the Francis Dolarhyde character from Red Dragon, whose hallucinations are truly baroque and would be hard to simply drop the audience into the middle of without some preparation. (Fuller continues to refer to the first three seasons of Hannibal as three “lost novels” leading up to the three Hannibal novels that already exist. Presumably, Hannibal Rising will never be adapted by this show, nor should it be.) Finally, in the very last question of the panel, Fuller admitted he hasn’t seen True Detective—which also uses antlers in its grotesque crimes—but he said that he thought the use of antlers in crime scenes stems from James Mason killing someone by impaling them on antlers in the miniseries version of Salem’s Lot back in the ‘70s, which sounds about as reasonable an explanation as anything we can think of.

One thing is clear, though: Hannibal is launching its second season at a gallop, building and improving upon everything that the show did in season one and growing its case for being one of the best shows on TV. The first two episodes are thrilling, thoughtful, and darkly mesmerizing, and the panel did nothing but suggest that everyone involved knows exactly where they’re going with this story.

Here is a trailer. It’s spoiler-y, sort of. But it’s pretty amazing, too.

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