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The X-Files – Squeeze (Review)

Squeeze is the first “monster of the week” episode of The X-Files, and also the first episode that wasn’t written by creator Chris Carter. Instead, Squeeze came from the word processors of James Wong and Glen Morgan. Wong and Morgan would become a hugely influential (if not always successful) writing duo during the nineties. They’d write some of the best scripts for The X-Files, but they’d also leave (briefly) to run their own short-lived science-fiction drama in Space: Above & Beyond.

After Fox cancelled that show, the pair would briefly return to The X-Files before taking over Chris Carter’s other Fox drama Millennium, for that show’s second season. I’d argue that Wong and Morgan’s Millennium was one of the most inventive and insane seasons of television produced by any network in the nineties, and it’s a shame that Carter would have to re-assume the reins for the show’s third and final season. After that, the pair found considerable success creating the Final Destination film series.

However, all of that was in the future, but you can clearly see their creative talent at work here. Squeeze isn’t just the first episode of The X-Files unrelated to the show’s alien mythology, it is also one of the most memorable episodes ever written, creating a monster so iconic that he would wind up bookending the first season when he returned in Tooms.

Eye see you...

Eye see you…

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Non-Review Review: The Call

The Call is one-half knock-off of the underseen and underrated Cellular, a delightfully pulpy high-concept thriller which perhaps felt a little bit too similar to Phone Booth. The Call is also one-half knock-off of Silence of the Lambs, with the second half of the film in particular feeling like one of those psycho killer thrillers that were oh-so-popular in the mid- to late-nineties, but which became less popular in the post-CSI era. The Call has a delightfully ropey central premise, a high-concept for the mobile age, straining all manner of credibility and suspension of disbelief.

However, the problem lies in the execution. The Call wallows in heightened melodrama, struggling to sustain its central premise by trying to make us “feel” for the central characters in the most coy and manipulative of manners. Director Brad Anderson’s intrusive style doesn’t help matters too, seemingly unsure whether he’s making an action movie, a psychological horror or a high-concept thriller, and so instead tries to mash the three genres together with limited success.

Holding the line...

Holding the line…

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Hannibal – Savoureux (Review)

That was one impressive first season. Hannibal has developed from something that seemed like an idle curiosity – a police procedural based around the over-used cannibalistic serial killer? – into one of the best new American dramas of the past season. I suspect a lot of that is down to the decision to structure the season across thirteen episodes, instead of a larger (more traditional) network structure of twenty-or-more. To be fair, there were a few missteps early in the first season as Hannibal tried to balance the expectations of a procedural drama with the demands of an intimate character study, but it found its feet almost half-way through the season and it has never looked back.

Hannibal has been tightly plotted and cleverly constructed from around about Coquilles, and it’s remarkably how the show has found a way to weave its “serial killers of the week” into the over-arching plot. For example, Georgia from Buffet Froid winds up being a vital piece of Hannibal’s plot to incriminate Will. The clock that the sinister psychiatrist asked Will to draw in that episode is used to generate some exquisite tension here. Everything seems to have been building towards this point, and Bryan Fuller has done a simply tremendous job constructing a thirteen-episode Rube Goldberg machine that pays off beautifully.

Portrait of the killer?

Portrait of the killer?

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Hannibal – Relevés (Review)

For a show about a serial killer and the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit, Hannibal is often surprisingly deep. That’s not much of a surprise, given the quality of the staff working on it, but the show is absolutely stunning meditation on identity and personality. In a way, that’s one of the smartest things about Fuller’s first thirteen episode season, building on the foundations set by Thomas Harris to construct something that fits quite elegantly while remaining its own distinct entity.

Relevés is the penultimate episode of the first season, and the point where – having used Roti to clear away some of the clutter – the show starts tying up a lot of those loose ends. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the episode is the amount of suspense that Bryan Fuller and his staff can wring from the set-up – despite the fact that we know how this story ends, Hannibal manages to engage us so completely in the telling that what we already know seems almost irrelevant.

Things are heating up...

Things are heating up…

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Hannibal – Roti (Review)

Roti is the point where Hannibal really starts to gear up for its finalé. The decision to thematically name each of the first season’s episodes after a part of a meal seems oddly appropriate, as the whole season can be seen as a banquet, each of the courses painstakingly prepared to ensure a rich bouquet of flavour and a pleasing array of tastes. Each course is individual, and yet it remains part of the whole. It’s all one gigantic and enjoyable experience, just broken down into sweet digestible chunks. Each serves a clear purpose, like a chapter in a book, or a course in a meal.

Roti features the return of Abel Gideon, the show’s obvious homage to Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Doctor Hannibal Lecter. It also positions Will precisely where he needs to be for the first season’s rapidly-approaching climax.

A piece of the action...

A piece of the action…

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Hannibal – Buffet Froid (Review)

Buffet Froid is the most strikingly horrific episode of Hannibal to date. Of course, the show is very much a horror story and enjoys its fair share of grotesque imagery. This is the series, after all, that gave us the makeshift angels, the do-it-yourself cello and the human totem poll. However, Buffet Froid plays most obviously on the imagery and iconography of horror. This is the episode where people have no faces and skin comes off at the slightest touch and the serial killer is waiting for you under your bed.

As you might imagine for a show with such complete control of its own atmosphere, Buffet Froid works very well indeed – providing what might be the most horrific episode of the show to date.

The doctor will see you now...

The doctor will see you now…

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Hannibal – Trou Normand (Review)

Trou Normand has a rather beautiful twist, and one which caught me – and, I suspect, a significant portion of the audience – completely off-guard. It’s not overstated or overplayed, but it manages to pack one hell of a punch. It fits surprisingly well with everything we know about the show and the characters who inhabit it, while still serving as something of a game-changer. It doesn’t change the rules of Hannibal too much, but only because the show has been so dedicated to playing with audience assumptions.

In any other show, Abigail Hobbs would be the victim that Will Graham so desperately needs her to be. Jack Crawford’s cynical suspicions would prove to be as completely off-base as his absolute faith in Hannibal Lecter. It would provide a nice moral victory for Will, even if only the audience ever knew about it, and serve as foreshadowing to Jack’s only blindness. It’s a neat narrative hook, we’ve become so subconsciously familiar with the way that these sorts of narratives work that we have come to expect it.

However, Hannibal isn’t any other show, and it demonstrates it by pulling off a particularly shrewd (and nasty) character twist.

A monument...

A monument…

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