Full spoilers for Game Of Thrones and Hannibal below.
What a week in TV land it has been. Hannibal is back and brilliant as ever, but Game Of Thrones hit the now famous nine episode mark in its current season. Did it deliver? Was there a wedding? Is Stannis still the Mannis? Well…
Ned’s dead, Blackwater, The Red Wedding and the Battle Of Castle Black – episode nine is regularly one of significance in a GoT season. With all of the excitement last week you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe there was an effort being made here to throw our expectations and for the most part, last week remains the set piece episode of the season. What we did get this week however is some major character progression and you may have noticed that being an early season gripe on my end this year.
First off, a quick wrap up on last week sees Jon Snow return to Castle Black and being allowed passage with his new found Wilding compadres. Necessary, but ultimately irrelevant given what was to come. Quickly we move onto the North and Ramsay Bolton has followed through on last week’s threat, storming Stannis’ camp and eliminating their supplies. A lot of people have seemed to find a hero type figure in Stannis since he rode in to the aide of the Night’s Watch but I’m personally not seeing it. He’s still a weak man being bent by the ramblings of a witch. The best comparison I can make of him is to the weak willed men of the Tolkien universe, the ones that find themselves corrupted by any sniff of power. But at least he’s always stood in defence of Shireen, right?
Wrong. Yes Stannis finally went fully over the edge, dispatching Davos to Castle Black so he could get away with his most significance moment of weakness yet – allowing the sacrifice of Shireen in order to ensure victory. Look, we know magic exists in this universe, the black smoke Stannis offing Renly told us that much, but do we know if that is all their is in Melisandre’s bow or not? Sure, she claims to have had influence in the death of Balon, Joffrey and Robb but it isn’t all that bold for her to claim that the most hated person in Westeros and a man engaged in a war would meet their demise soon enough, and as for Balon who knows, the show sure as hell doesn’t. This is why I can’t see Stannis as anything but weak. She has brought herself across as all powerful and imbued with magical powers, yet her one parlour trick against Renly could be all that she wrote.
So when Stannis agrees to sacrifice Shireen, who he only started to properly connect with in this season to our eyes, it’s hard to think of him as anything but a fool. And man if it wasn’t some powerful TV. I hope everyone who, wrongly, was up in arms about Santa’s wedding night gets the keyboard hopping again because this was by far one of the hardest moments to watch of the series so far. Performed with aplomb by Kerry Ingram, this was a powerful moment and it now leaves us with yet another character who deserves a less than peaceful death. Stannis, yer time is up.
Of course all the action in the North was good, but not episode nine good. No, that accolade goes to Dany in Myreen. Begrudgingly over-seeing the fighting pits, she gets a rough surprise when Jorah enters the arena as a competitor, and a rougher one still when the Sons Of The Harpy appear in their droves. Given the episode title I doubt many were surprised when Drogon appeared but what a great moment it was all the same. Taken even further then when she moves on to full dragon rider mode. Whether or not Dany would manage to get some measure of control over her offspring has been a lingering question of the series and along with Stannis finally showing his true colours, this episode finally brought us to new stages for both of these characters. The less said about the Unsullied and their combat abilities however the better – at this stage their looking like cowboy builders and Dany would do better to just start wearing armour.
Game Of Thrones airs Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic
Look there’s very little I can say about Hannibal without being a total and utter gushing fan. I don’t mean to suggest I won’t be saying anything about it, that is merely a warning. Hannibal is the greatest TV show I have ever seen. I may be known for hyperbolic ramblings and sweeping statements of admiration, but I truly mean it when I say it here. Defying all the odds we have got ourselves a third season which premiered this week, and it’s as brilliant as ever.
Last we saw the Hannibal crew, Jack and Will were bleeding out on the floor of Hannibal’s kitchen and Alana was in critical condition on the doorstep. Dr Lecter of course just sauntered nonchalant out the front door and hopped on a plane with Bedelia. Naturally then we go into the first hour of Season 3 and don’t hear a peep from the three fallen bodies. Yes Hannibal show runner Bryan Fuller just has a talent for subverting expectations and he does so brilliantly here, with a premiere that gives us an update on where Hannibal and Bedelia have jetted off to, which turns out to be Italy via France.
It’s attributes like this that, when put into perspective, make it obvious why Hannibal struggles so much to gain viewers and it is also a hard show to praise without seemingly do through looking down one’s nose, but I would argue there is entertainment on every level here, depending on what type of a show you want. The entire first season in particular could be taken as a crime procedural for example and still be the best in its class. Here with this premiere we get a more slow burning drama, arguably the heaviest Hannibal has ever ventured into this territory. Bedelia has accompanied the good doctor on this trip out of what seems to be a mixture of fear and curiosity. Come the end of the episode she certainly seems as though she would be happier in FBI custody and with Gillian Anderson promoted to series regular, Bedelia will likely provide the link between Will Graham connecting with Hannibal once again. Those who have seen Ridley Scott’s lacklustre Hannibal or read the novel on which it is based will recognise that a lot of this episode encompasses Lecter’s European exploits from both source materials. The key difference here is that in both the original book and film Lecter makes his way to Europe after the events of Silence Of The Lambs. Once again Fuller is doing his best to make sure we aren’t step by step retreading travelled ground.
Hannibal has aclimatised well to the life of high society and culture that Europe affords him, but the loneliness remains. He remarks to Bedelia that he has hardly had to kill anyone, yet there are moments of near tragedy painted on Hannibal’s face throughout this premiere, letting us know that he does indeed mourn the loss of Will Graham (who we can only assume he believes to be dead). Gillian Anderson is incredibly strong here opposite Mads Mikkelson who commands with his presence as always. Anderson has been a character of intrigue in all her appearances thus far but it is only now that she is maybe likely to spring some sympathy from us. In a flashback scene we get a glimpse into the incident that first put her in Hannibal’s debt – the death of a patient by her hand. Yes, that was Zachary Quinto playing a corpse by the way and no, that isn’t the last we will see of him. The relationship between these two has been muddled to say the least up until now, and with Antipasto we have a far more clear and welcome view of things. We can’t ignore one of the highlights of the hour though, Eddie Izzard is back! In the first two seasons of Hannibal Izzard was something of a revelation. Not his first dramatic role by any stretch but certainly the best fit we’ve seen him do, playing charismatic killer Abel Gideon. These flashbacks filled us in on his last days spent with Hannibal, as he and the world’s most unorthodox physician consumed him limb by limb. Amongst other things, Gideon poked and prodded at Hannibal’s cannibalistic ways and this culminated with one of the best summaries of the character – that Lecter only considers it cannibalism to eat an equal. This show is never trying to actually make you question whether Lecter is in the right or not – it is made quite clear that he is a killer first and foremost – but you are asked to look upon the right concepts in the wrong hands when looking at him. To consider rude behaviour and ignorance to be such abhorrent social crimes, is that really a bad thing? Nope. To eat those who practice such things? Yeah, little bit of a stretch. Yet another layer you can find in this show, if you want.
Hannibal airs Tuesdays at 10pm on Sky Living