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Hannibal – A Show You Should Be Watching (But Probably Aren’t)


It’s no secret, the writers of Rock Paper Watch are all TV junkies. While there are shows that the three of us watch together, each writer also has their personal favorites. Starting a new blog series titled “A Show You Should Be Watching (But Probably Aren’t),” here are a couple of reasons why you should join us in our favorite thrill ride, Hannibal.

There’s this little thing called the Friday night death slot and for some reason all of my favorite shows end up there (see Friday Night Lights). Hannibal airs Friday nights at 10pm on NBC and has averaged 2.65 million viewers for season 2. At a time when TV horror is at the top (see American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful, Bates Motel, The Walking Dead, etc.) Hannibal is flailing. Why? Is it the awful Friday night time slot or is it something else? The season finale is Friday night and for a series that I love so much, let me tell you why it’s imperative to set your DVR and then spend the summer catching up.

It’s got a killer cast (ha, get it). The long list of TV and movie veterans includes Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, and special guest Gillian Anderson. It’s built on one of the most bankable franchises in literature and film and tells the twisted backstory of one of the most famous villains in cinematic history. What is interesting about Hannibal is that we already know what happens. We know that Dr. Hannibal Lecter finds himself behind bars eventually. Hannibal sets out to tell the story of how he got there. And boy, it’s a twisted story.

Hannibal - Season 2

Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is on par with Anthony Hopkins (bold statement, I know). Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is so haunting that I physically cannot watch it before bed. He’s cold, dark, calculated, and detached. His counterpart on the show is Will Graham portrayed by Hugh Dancy. Will Graham is a criminal profiler and hunter of serial killers. He has a unique ability to empathize and understand the killers he tracks. The first season posed the question, how far can Hannibal push Graham before he loses it and becomes a killer himself? The second season is all about Graham’s mission to bring Hannibal’s true intentions to light while maintaining his sanity and desperately suppressing his natural instincts to kill.

This is where Hannibal is far more captivating than the other horror shows currently on air. It explores the most depraved depths of human nature. The series shows the journey of a cold, unfeeling murderer who just kills because of his own curiosity. It doesn’t use witches or zombies, like American Horror Story or The Walking Dead to justify the violence. It doesn’t care if you root for Hannibal or not, he’s not meant to be an anti-hero like Norman Bates or Dexter. He kills and then eats people because it is what he feels like doing.

Hannibal is often credited for being one of the sharpest dramas on TV. The writing is sleek, it’s haunting, and it’s artfully filmed. You may remember my recap of the premiere in which I stated, “The show is beautifully filmed.  It’s a quality that I didn’t anticipate from NBC.” This sentiment continued. Each week, I’m mesmerized by the show’s use of color, metaphorical imagery, culinary depictions (buh), and slow motion. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch. It completely disregards your gag reflex, the blood and gore is pretty gruesome. I spend a good portion of the show covering my eyes in horror.

So, Friday night. The second season opened with this flash forward, an epic fight between Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

At the time it aired, Will Graham was in a psychiatric prison after being framed for Hannibal’s crimes. Now he’s out and embarking on a mission to take down the psychiatrist. We still don’t know why Jack and Hannibal are duking it out in his chilly kitchen but we will get our answers Friday night. Will you be watching?

On May 9, NBC renewed Hannibal for a third season. If you are interested and want to catch up Season 1 is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Bon appetite.


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Bates Motel Renewed for Second Season

A&E has renewed Bates Motel for a 10-episode second season.  The show has had strong ratings since it’s premiere, debuting with 3 million viewers, 4.5 counting DVR.  The second and third episodes have maintained similar ratings.

Just yesterday, I was discussing the show’s strengths (the creep-tastic scenes between Norman and Norma) and weaknesses (Emma and the town’s subplots) with friends.  They brought up something I hadn’t thought about yet.  Last week, we saw Norma visit Norman and tell him to go to the Deputy’s house to get the belt.  What other interactions between Norma and Norman are in his head?  Was Norma even there for the death of Keith?  Thoughts?


What is wrong with you, Norman Bates? Bates Motel, Episode 1×3 Recap

A few interesting developments in last night’s episode, let’s get started!

The episode begins with Dylan trying to be a badass with a handgun before having a lovely mother-son exchange with Norma. The hatred these two have for each other is a stark contrast to the adoration between Norma and Norman.

Emma meets up with Norman at school. She is worried about the guys in the woods that chased them last week with guns. Could they come back to finish the job? She also feels guilty after seeing the shed because she knows the journal is true, really she was just using it for an excuse to hang out with Norman. All the talk of the journal makes Norman feel a bit funny, Emma accuses him of being obsessed with it.

Later in class, Norman is staring blankly at his test. His teacher is concerned and comes over to check on him. He begins to have visions of the teacher tied up, just like in the journal. All the visions lead to him passing out, but not before delivering one of many creepy Norman Bates smiles seen in this episode. Freddie Highmore is so good at looking like a psychopath that it is frightening.

Norman is sent to the hospital for a full work-up. We learn that Dylan’s new job where he does nothing is real; he actually sits around and does nothing. He just has to guard the town’s pot plants all day.

At the hospital, Norman is watching a black and white movie on a flat screen TV, again what era is this? Bradley stops by to thank him for visiting her when she was in the hospital with her dad. “You’re brave Norman Bates,” she says. We can see Norman’s confidence with women growing, as is his crush on Bradley. During their exchange we learn that Mr. Bates passed away during an “accident” in the garage.

While Norma is debating with the carpet delivery men, the police show up at the house with a search warrant. Uh oh!

Next thing we know, Norma is storming through the hospital in search of Norman. All I could think about was how pissed she was going to be to see Bradley lying on Norman’s bed watching movies. My roommate and I physically sighed in relief when she discovered Norman alone. Norma enforces Norman’s early release because they are in a crisis. As Norma tells Norman about the police paying their home a visit, they both do their best to convince the other that everything was going to be fine. Internally, they are unraveling.

Back at the house, we see Norman rushing upstairs and checking under his bed. Something is missing. Norman, having a breakdown, repeatedly asks himself “what is wrong with me?” What is wrong with you, Norman Bates? Turns out Norman kept Keith’s belt, he wanted a memento. Immediately, Norma goes into fix-it mode, compartmentalizing her fear and getting down to business.

Dylan learns that the pot plants are owned by the town bigwigs and they burned Bradley’s father last week to “send a message.” The pot is what keeps the town alive. Is this also the reason for the hanging corpse on fire at the end of last week’s episode?

Emma is back and wants to bug Norman about the journal. “If we forget about her the world will forget about her,” so they keep looking for clues. The number 4 is in the journal, weird considering the rest is in Mandarin. They go to motel room number 4 and find more Mandarin under the sink. They finally piece things together; Keith brought the girls here and kept them in the hotel to be “tried out.”

When Norman gets a text from Bradley, Emma is noticeably jealous. Hello love triangle!

Norma goes to meet the Deputy Sherriff, time to turn the flirt on. Does anyone else find it unrealistic that Deputy Shelby would be into Norma? Something is off; I can’t quite put my finger on it. He invites her to hang out later and discuss the search warrant.

When Norma returns, Norman obviously feels guilty that his mother has to go clean up his mess. Alas, off she goes. She finds out that the Deputy knows about and has the belt but wants to help her, as long as she’s honest with him. We don’t know how much Norma told him but by the time she returns we know that she feels safe (enough) with Deputy Shelby on their side. And with the amount of cleavage spilling out of her dress, I’m guessing he trusts her too.

Dylan is still watching the pot plants. This time he and his friend are talking about their backgrounds. Dylan grew up in South Dakota, his brother in Arizona, his Dad in Kansas, but interestingly enough he has no idea where his mother grew up. We know that Norma is a fan of fresh starts, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

Back at the house, we find Norman waiting for his mother’s return. Dylan comes home first and they bicker about Norman calling Norma “mother.” Dylan notices the hospital bracelet and cuts it off for Norman (this show loves it’s sharp objects, no?). Dylan offers some brotherly advice “What she [Norma] is doing to you is not healthy, there’s a whole world out there, you need some perspective.” Then Dylan requests Norman apologize for trying to kill him the other night but (gasp!) Norman doesn’t remember!

At school the next day, Emma continues to pester Norman about the journal. He’s as over this journal as I am. He thinks finding out what happened isn’t going to make a difference because the girl is still dead. Then he lets this slip out–

And I’m still going to be who I am. Who is that, Norman Bates?

The next thing we know Norman is lying in bed and he sees a vision his mother telling him that he has to get that belt. Norma acts as Norman’s self-conscious, innnnteresting! This could explain why he has to dress up like Norma to commit his crimes later on in life.

Off to Deputy Shelby’s house he goes, and let me just say, breaking and entering is not a Bates strong suit. Using a flashlight app and a bat to fend off the Deputy’s dog, Norman gets into the Deputy’s basement. Down there, he finds an Asian girl chained up (the first time we’ve seen her since the first episode).

Things to Consider in the Shower

  • What is Norman going to do with the girl? Will he save her?
  • What does this mean for the Deputy/Bates alliance?
  • Why do you think Norman doesn’t remember attacking Dylan?

What about you? Do think Bates Motel has finally found its stride? Any predictions about where it’s headed?

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Bates Motel Week Two Review, Did you pick a nice town, Norma?


As confident as I felt about last week’s episode, I find myself on the fence this week.

In episode 2, they halfway set up a few plot lines and I find myself with more questions than answers.  In discussing this with a friend, he quickly reminded me that Bates Motel is created by the same people as Lost.  Perhaps that is where I’m having problems.


This week we meet Norma’s other son, Dylan, played by Max Thieriot.  Overall, Dylan’s character will be a nice addition to the story.  He’s there to disrupt Norma and Norman’s happy little bubble and provide just enough conflict to show Norman’s descent into darkness.  Also, Thieroit’s on-screen charm provides comedic relief to the dark and twisted plot.

While watching, I found myself not caring about Emma and Norman.  Last week, Norman found a bondage picture book and has become somewhat obsessed with the photos.  This week, Emma found it while they were studying together in his room.  She was not at all bothered by the content of the book and asked to borrow it.  It’s later revealed that she believes the picture book is the story of four girls from China who were forced to be sex slaves. According to the book, one of them died and is buried nearby, so off they go to find the grave in the woods.  In the process, they stumble upon a pot farm and are quickly chased out of the woods by its owners.  On the way out, they discover a shed that was depicted in the book.  I’m sure this connects to the girl and the syringe from last week, but I’m having a hard time understanding what this has to do with the rest of the plot.

Again, the most interesting part of the show is the relationship between Norma and Norman.  When Emma arrives to study with Norman, you see a flare of jealousy in Norma that there might be another woman in Norman’s life.  When Norma is preparing for her date with Deputy Shelby, you see jealousy in Norman.  He’s obviously on-edge and insists on going with his mother.  In the same scene, Norma changes clothes in front of Norman as he watches, making himself and the viewer uncomfortable.

Favorite scene – Norma and Norman thoroughly (and hilariously) swiffer’ing the kitchen to hide their crime.  Quite an interesting product placement when you think about it.

Things to Consider in the Shower

  • Is Dylan responsible for the burnings?
  • Who is going to be Norman’s first kill:  Dylan, Norma, Emma, or Bradley?
  • Is Norman supposed to learn taxidermy from Emma’s dad?
  • Still, what time period is this all taking place?

What questions do you have from this week’s episode?  Are you tuning in for episode three?


Checking Into Bates Motel

Bates Motel

On Monday night, A&E’s highly anticipated “Bates Motel” premiered to a record breaking 4.6 million viewers despite early negative reviews.

I was one of those 4.6 million, and I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hooked.  As an avid “American Horror Story” fan and lover of all things Hitchcock, I was counting down the days to the “Psycho” prequel and it did not disappoint.

What I find interesting about the show, is that it’s breathing life into an iconic character that we’ve actually never met:  Norma Bates.  From the movie, we know that she’s the mother of a monster.  “Bates Motel” depicts Norma as woman consistently threatened and taken advantage of by men.  It then artfully poses the question “How did a woman, who is abused by men, create a man that abuses women?”  (Mind Blown!)

The acting is superb.  Vera Farmiga is perfect as Norma, keeping her emotions at bay and compartmentalizing in a crisis.  Freddie Highmore (love me some August Rush) is Norman Bates.  Without trying to impersonate Anthony Perkins, Highmore creates his own Norman Bates.  A handsome, sensitive, soft-spoken young man that’s a little socially awkward, but isn’t every teenager?

Where the show shines is depicting the relationship between Norma and Norman.  Norma easily manipulates Norman to avoid her own loneliness.  Norman gladly does his mother’s bidding, but at the same time seems wary and almost scared of her instincts.

In a premiere filled with hard-to-watch scenes, the show creates this odd, sexual tension between mother and son.  A&E is depicting it brilliantly.  It is not being thrown in your face, but it’s just enough to make you uncomfortable and a little icky.

Things to Consider in the Shower

  • Why did Norma kill the dad?  Are we going to find out later?
  • When is this taking place?  The clothes and the settings scream 1960s, but Norman has an iPhone?
  • What’s with the girl and the oxygen tank?
  • When do we get to meet the cute brother played by Max Thieriot?
  • Are we supposed to be surprised that Norman doesn’t fit in with his peers?
  • Is it too soon to wonder about the syringe situation?

What about you?  Are you planning to watch the rest of the season?  What are your big questions?  What was the most uncomfortable part of the premiere for you to watch?  Was the kitchen scene too much for you to handle?