(in which Jason and Kate talk about Hannibal while Jason idly wonders if he should find a new picture of himself for the header, one where he isn’t three weeks into another failed attempt at growing facial hair)
JASON: I have a lot of stuff I want to say about feminism and world-building, but first I need to stop dry-heaving over that first scene.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, the only notes I wrote for that cold open were “GAHHHH” and “guhhhhh,” because… well, GAH. When this episode opened on a shot of the silo, I was hoping that the victim who woke up at the end of last week would already be dead, just so we’d be spared the agony of watching him die. No such luck, however, as the show then cuts to a shot of the human mosaic and it is clear that only moments have passed. And then…
Look: body horror is one of my things, and when I say ‘things,’ I don’t mean “things I enjoy” or “things that I can watch without feeling sick” — as a mater of fact, I mean the opposite of those two things. You even warned me ahead of time that it would be hard to watch, but until I saw Roland Umber pulling himself free from the mosaic and tearing off chunks of skin, I guess I didn’t believe you. I was eating dinner when this episode started, Kate! The third most important meal of the day!
Aside from being an wonderfully-executed example of something I never want to see again, that opening scene was as tense as anything that’s ever been on the show. Roland ducks in and out of cars while the killer pursues him, and then they end up in a corn field with the killer’s flashlight as the only source of light. Of course, there’s no way Roland is going to make it out of there alive, but even after he hit those rocks on the side of the cliff, I held out hope right until his body re-surfaced. Sorry, Roland; your superpower of having a slightly above-average tolerance of heroin couldn’t get you out of this one.
As usual, I have more stuff on my mind than I could ever hope to whittle down into a single review, but since this episode put a spotlight on Dr. Du Maurier, it seems like a good opportunity to discuss the show’s female characters. Namely, the fact that they exist. Alana Bloom (who appears only briefly in this episode) is an expanded and gender-flipped version of a very minor character from the books named Alan Bloom, and Freddie Lounds is, of course, the gender-flipped version of Frederick Lounds, a character who’s prior portrayals still make me too sad to think about, so let’s not focus on that right now. The point is, Bryan Fuller made it a point to add more female energy to the show, and he’s stated in interviews that this was his motivation for turning Frederick and Alan into Freddie and Alana.
It goes further than that, though: if I remember correctly, the CSI characters in Hannibal were just one character in Red Dragon, and that character wasn’t a woman, much less a woman of color. And then there’s Cynthia Nixon! I’m only familiar with Nixon through the very little I have seen of Sex And The City, but so far I am loving her in this. Her fierce persona is second only to her fantastic Hillary Clinton hair. Trivia: Nixon’s character, Kade Prurnell, is an anagrammed version of the character Ray Liotta played in the Hannibal movie, Paul Krendler! This doesn’t exactly bode well for the ongoing copyright issues that will someday stop this show in its tracks… but we’ve got a ways to go before that’s an issue.
Let’s not forget Dr. Du Maurier, the only person in the world who believes Will Graham and who I absolutely thought was going to die in this episode. Luckily, she only caught a minor case of the Actor-Has-Other-Projects disease, and Fuller says he wants to bring her back as soon as possible. But here’s the thing: even if he doesn’t, he and the other writers have a full roster of female characters the can keep exploring! I don’t know much about Bryan Fuller’s beliefs in regards to feminism, but despite the fact that Hannibal is a show centered on the relationship between two men, it offers a corrective to the major problem of female representation in popular culture: namely, the fact that there are hardly any female characters at all. This is a subject for a much longer rant, but it’s not about having more “strong” female characters — it’s about having more female characters, period. Of course, you also want them to be interesting characters, and Fuller isn’t doing a half bad job at that, either.
Kate, I imagine you’ll be sympathetic to my thoughts on the subject, but still, I apologize for getting distracted that I left 80% of the episode untouched. Was your reaction to the opening scene as strong as mine? How did you feel about Will Graham’s solemn intonation of “one of these things is not like the other?” Is Will’s trial going to have a strong emotional impact on me than any real trial I’ve ever seen?
KATE: You know what, Jason? Looking back on last week’s review, neither of us brought up the human mosaic! What’s up with that? It’s like forgetting about the human mushroom garden from season one! Huh. It completely slipped my mind until the opening shot of this week’s episode. That was probably for the best, all things considered. Roland’s last minutes on earth were gripping, disturbing and disgusting. Hannibal is a show that prides itself on arresting imagery and this was no exception. I’m still not sure what was worse—watching Roland peel himself off of the human mosaic or watching Roland realize he’d have to peel himself off in order to survive. I didn’t think he’d make it to safety, but I did admire his will to live, even if it ended with him floating down river split in half.
It’s safe to say we’re on the same page about body horror, Jason. Hannibal’s heart to heart with the mosaic killer, as he lies sewn and glued into his own masterpiece, was just…creepy. They might as well have been two neighbors, comparing different brands of lawnmowers! It also felt a little off, if only for the reason that Hannibal isn’t that big on influencing people directly. He talks people into believing what he wants them to believe from a distance, not in the middle of a crime scene. And because Hannibal can’t leave without a trophy, the audience is treated to a lovely sequence of Hannibal preparing a human leg for dinner. I may be wrong, but is the first time we’ve seen Hannibal definitively consume human flesh? This is our first trip to Hannibal’s memory palace, even if it reads more like an ability to detect other serial killers via smell-o-vision.
Strangely enough, I haven’t put much thought into the show’s female characters, aside from the fact that they gender swapped two of them. I think that’s a credit to the show. Most television has very few female characters, let alone main characters that have actual personality. Alana started off her run as a vague love interest for Will, but she’s also shown she’s intelligent and has a spine. It’s a similar story with Beverly’s character. She began the show as a sidekick technician in the lab; now that Will is in jail, she’s quickly become the lab’s most valued member. In fact, she reminds me a lot of Will. Not only can she pick up random bits of information no one else sees, she’s also learning to connect it to larger patterns that save lives.
This brings me to my main point, which is that the show is very focused on how relationships play off and/or mirror each other. For every Hannibal and Will, there’s a Hannibal and Dr. Du Maurier. Granted, that’s the most obvious mirroring going on here, but did you notice how Beverly has started using Will for unconventional advice, much like Will sought Hannibal? I may be (and probably am) grasping at straws, but with Will stuck in jail, Beverly is the only person on Crawford’s team who thinks outside the box. She may believe Will is guilty, but not enough to stay away from utilizing his skills, so how insane could he really be? This brings me to my other point. It can’t be a Hannibal review without me bringing up something to compare to the source material. Beverly and Will have a certain je nes sais Clarice/Hannibal vibe. I mean, did you see the way she passed him the case info on her visit? It’s the same shot from Silence of the Lambs!
So, I have a couple of stray thoughts about this episode that are neither here nor there:
What do you think Hannibal eats for breakfast? How many plastic murder suits do you think he owns? Where does he get them? Why did Dr. Du Maurier leave Hannibal her perfume? Is it because Hannibal likes to sniff things? Did you see how he sniffed the corpses? How did no one else in the lab see that? AHHHHH. Jason, in a way I’m glad we don’t watch these shows together. I think our combined Hannibal insanity would be a little much for anyone else in the room.
JASON: I totally saw the way she passed him the case! I meant to ask if you thought it was intentional, but I see I need not have bothered! Glad to know we’re on the same page, Kate, quite glad.
(random reminder that Kate co-hosts a podcast about alcohol and pop culture, which makes it my number-one podcast of all time)