[Contains disturbing dog-food suppliers and SPOILERS!!!]
Inevitably, as soon as I’d finished watching Wonderfalls I started jonesing for more Hannibal, and began binge-watching the second season (2014)… which was just as implausible and plot-holed as the first season, but also just as macabre and absurdly entertaining. Hurrah! You have to give the writers credit for not repeating themselves, or attempting to string out ‘Hannibal’s (Mads Mikkelsen) secret-killing-and-cannibalising-spree for another couple years… this season opened with a flash-forward to an epic kitchen-based brawl between the eponymous psycho and FBI Agent-in-charge ‘Jack Crawford’ (Laurence Fishburne), to assure viewers that there would be a “reckoning” of sorts fairly soon-ish… that Hannibal would be outed as the monster he is, and a serious attempt would be made to bring him down… before the story rewound a couple months to show us how they got to that tipping point. Of course, there was a lot more forehead-slapping dumbassery to sit through in the intervening eleven episodes, and Hannibal won the day by a wide margin, but slow progress is better than no progress at all!
So, let’s check in with the show’s recurring female characters, and see how they fared here: ‘Dr. Alana Bloom’ (Caroline Dhavernas) managed to drop even lower in my estimation, compounding her decades-long blindness to Hannibal’s criminality by hooking up with him for sexy times and drug-induced, alibi-establishing sleepovers! Feh! Even when she took ‘Will Graham’s (Hugh Dancy) sound advice to start carrying a pistol in her purse, she neglected to check that it was properly loaded before entering a potential danger zone, and ended up getting shoved out of a window to her (possible) death! D’oh! Thankfully she had the good sense to call the emergency services before setting foot inside Hannibal’s house, so it’s quite possible she’ll be saved/resurrected in the following season… but, seriously, if Dhavernas weren’t such a damn fine actress, I’d be actively willing her character to die already. Next up was ‘Beverly Katz’ (Hettienne Park), who belatedly decided to buckle down and make herself useful, only to fall into the same trap that so many curious victims in horror movies always seem to: walking into the killer’s creepy basement of horrors without calling for back-up or bothering to leave an explicit “If I don’t make it back alive tomorrow, then Hannibal’s totally the killer, you guys!” note on her boss’s desk. D’oh! (eps #2.1-5)
As for Hannibal’s personal therapist, ‘Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier’ (Gillian Anderson), I’m still not entirely sure which side of the accomplice-fence she was actually on. In her first two episodes (#2.1-2) she seemed genuinely unnerved by her patient’s increasingly abnormal behaviour, even going so far as to visit Graham in his high-security “hospital” cell to say that she believed him about Hannibal, before going into hiding for the majority of the season. When she returned in #2.12, she seemed to be in a very different head-space, confessing to murdering a patient while under Hannibal’s influence (after securing immunity from prosecution, despite offering precious little evidence against anyone besides herself), and then jetting off with the villain at the end of the finale, for a jolly holiday in the sun! (eps #2.12-13) So… was she working with him the whole time, or did he track her down and get his hooks into her again after Graham dickishly dropped her name during one of their own dysfunctional therapy sessions? I DON’T KNOW!!! Either way, Anderson rocked her scenes, and did a fine job of muddying the waters and whetting my appetite for the next/current season…
‘Freddie Lounds’ (Lara Jean Chorostecki) got to spring a little surprise plot-twist of her own here, when everyone (including the audience) was fooled into believe that she’d been viciously murder, mutilated, and partially consumed by Graham, as part of his “evolution” into a cold-blooded-cannibalistic-killer… only for her to crop up alive-and-smirking again in a later episode, when Crawford clued Alana in on the undercover sting that he was running with Graham, to capture the real “Chesapeake Ripper”. Sadly, her stinky hair-dye eventually tipped Hannibal off to the fact he was being played, but it was still nice to see her on the right side of the thin blue line for a change. Fun fact: During Graham’s trial it was revealed that Freddie had been slapped with six libel suits over the course of her journalistic career, and settled every one of them out-of-court! (eps #2.3/5/10-11/13).
Other returning cast members included Gina Torres as Crawford’s terminally-ill wife “Bella”, who chose to overdose on morphine to spare her husband a prolonged and painful good-bye, but made the mistake of trusting Hannibal to oversee her exit, when he’d much rather keep her alive to distract/sap his seemingly clueless nemesis. (eps #2.4/13) Meanwhile, I was very happy to see the adorable Kacey Rohl reappear as ‘Abigail Hobbs’ in a father-daughter-fishing-lesson dream that Graham had while imprisoned… but far less happy to see the real live Abigail step out of the shadows in the finale, to apologetically attack Alana! Apparently Hannibal had been keeping her on (metaphorical) ice all that time as a going-away gift for Graham… but when he realised that his patient/protégé had betrayed him, he decided to cut them both to bits, so the last we saw, Graham and Abbie were huddled up on the kitchen floor bleeding out together, in an unfortunate (and deliberate) echo of the pilot episode’s ending! (eps #2.4/13) Anna Chlumsky also enjoyed a surprise encore as ‘Miriam Lass’, the missing-presumed-dissected FBI agent-in-training recovered (by Katz) from an abandoned farmhouse/death-shop, where she was found missing the arm that was used to taunt Crawford in the previous season, but otherwise intact. Despite some ominous talk from the other characters suggesting that she might be some sort of brainwashed acolyte/sleeper-agent under Hannibal’s control, all she’s done so far is finger ‘Dr. Chilton’ for her actual captor’s crimes… which was effective enough in story terms, but not as much fun as her going “postal” in the FBI offices would have been, action-wise. (eps #2.6-7)
There were also plenty new characters introduced this season, including: ‘Kade Prurnell’, a hard-ass FBI supervisor-type, played by Cynthia Nixon, as a gender-flipped and anagrammed version of a book/movie character once played by Ray Liotta! After the bad taste those Sex and the City flicks left in my brain-mouth, it was good to see Nixon doing some proper acting again… even if her character was a fairly generic by-the-book authority figure trying to clip her “maverick” underlings’ wings, and inadvertently (?) aiding their suspect. Boo to that! (eps #2.1-3/13) Another familiar (and very welcome) face was Katharine Isabelle, who scored a major recurring role as ‘Margot Verger’, a glamorous and gothy “femme fatale” who got herself impregnated by Graham as part of a sneaky scheme to murder her abusive older brother (Michael Pitt) and claim a sizeable family inheritance! The Vergers’ introductory scene was a tad obtuse and arty, so I wasn’t sure exactly what Margot’s beef with her brother was… but then he started acting like a straight-up supervillain (specifically “The Joker” from Batman), and the penny dropped pretty quickly. Anyhoo, I thought Isabelle gave a great performance here, and am glad that Margot has survived to serve her bed-ridden brother some just deserts (through a straw?). (eps #8-12)
Finally, there weren’t so many killers-of-the-week to catch this time around, but Amanda Plummer did get a fun cameo as ‘Katherine Pimms’, a crazy acupuncturist who believed that making a beehive out of a depressed patient’s head might help him lighten up a little. M’kay. Fullerverse in-joke: “Kitty Pimms” was a pseudonym that ‘Chuck’ (Anna Friel) used in Pushing Daisies, when conducting undercover investigations… most notably in the episode where she infiltrated a company that produced honey, to investigate a bee-related murder! (ep #2.1)