(in which Jason and Kate take on two episodes in a single review and never once mention that Jeremy Davies is on the show now)
JASON: Body horror is one thing, body horror I can handle. But the final scene between Hannibal and Will in “Su-zakana” made my skin crawl like nothing else on Hannibal ever has. Is it too soon to start making predictions on when Hannibal and Will are finally going to kiss? At this point, it would feel weird if they didn’t, right? Forgetting the fact that Hannibal is so deep inside Will’s head that Will isn’t even sure he wants to kill him, the look of pride and wonder on Hannibal’s face as he takes away Will’s gone has the sort of erotic tinge that could launch a thousand ships (so to speak), was this relationship not already so creepy that even the most misguided piece of fanfiction couldn’t make it worse. Hannibal and Will are like Mulder and Scully if The X-Files were written by the devil himself.
Putting aside my lingering discomfort and that gross, clammy feeling I’ve had all over my body since these episodes aired, there’s plenty to geek out about. Most importantly: THE VERGERS ARE HERE! Mason doesn’t make an appearance, although we do get a look at his infamous martini of tears — a character detail so deliciously insane and over-the-top that even Ridley Scott had the good sense to leave it out of the Hannibal film… but it fits in so perfectly with this series that it’s one of the first things we learn about Mason. I’ve been excited for these two to show up, for reasons of both personal fondness (“CORDELL!”) and legit interest in seeing Fuller’s version of the Vergers, and things are already looking up. As Fuller addressed in that episode’s Walkthrough, the Hannibal novel makes it seem like Margot is sexually “abnormal” as a result of being sexually assaulted by her brother, which is, you know, not how things work and certainly not the impression you want to give. So, he has wisely made Mason a little less gross, although we’ll have to wait and see just how horrifying this version is. He still hands out candy bars, after all.
Between the appearance of the Margot and the scientists finding a piece of organic matter in a victim’s throat, I could barely remember which novel this series is supposed to be adapting. That embarrassment of riches was enough to make me look the other way on some of the plausibility issues that came up in the past two weeks. Look, I’m not a jerk; I know that Hannibal operates on a level of heightened reality and I’m willing to be a good sport and suspend the appropriate amount of disbelief. But is there no oversight at all for this branch of the FBI? Does anyone think it’s a good idea to have Hannibal consulting on the same case as Will, a man who tried to have him killed? I actually started to pull away from the show in the opening dinner scene, where Jack, Hannibal and Will all sit down for a nice fish dinner and a little friendly chitchat about how one of them thinks that the other is a cannibal. Given the circumstances, I do imagine it would come up, but the scene just feels awkward and uneasy.
… though that may have been the point, given how these episodes examines the new Will/Hannibal dynamic and pushes it into the creepiest place it has ever gone. In these scenes, it’s clearer what the show is trying to do: things haven’t gone back to normal, but now that everything with the Ripper has been wrapped up, the characters have to pretend like it has. But everyone involved (us included) knows that beneath the paper-thin layer of normalcy is a tangled mess of sex, murder, and the least healthy male friendship ever put on television. It’s anyone’s guess where Jack’s head is at these days, and I don’t know if that’s intentional or just a minor failing of the show’s creative team. When Will was giving him that blatantly metaphorical lecture about fishing, it almost seemed like Jack was on the same page. I imagine he still has some lurking suspicions about Hannibal, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. Either way, that dude is getting a shard of glass to the neck in T-minus five episode, so he’d better wise up quick.
How did you feel about the first appearance of the Vergers, aside from SO EXCITED? Did you have trouble swallowing the new character dynamics within the FBI? How gross did you feel after watching the first session of Will’s renewed therapy? Guhhhh. Excuse me, I need to go stand under a hot shower and stare blankly at the wall.
KATE: Never say fanfiction can’t make anything worse, Jason, because it can. While you’re at it, never look at the Hannibal tag on Tumblr, either. Between them, Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy have starred in enough romance movies that you’re almost guaranteed a poorly photoshopped photo of them having sex. It’s either that or a gif set of Alana and Hannibal going at it. I’m not sure which is worse, actually. Anyway, the show is doing this on purpose, right? How could they not? Bryan Fuller is a very smart guy! It’s awful. He has to know what he’s doing is terrifying, but he keeps on doing it. Honestly, I’m beginning to find it a little annoying. Admittedly, I’m coming from a place of grief. Fuller has killed off my two favorite characters this season. Beverly had to die because she was suspicious of Hannibal. Chilton had to die because Hannibal needed a fall man for the Ripper case. So what are we left with? This? My beloved Beverly and Frederick were mutilated so we can watch Will and Hannibal exchange thinly veiled metaphors and call it a conversation? Guh. If they aren’t talking in metaphor at a crime scene, chances are they’re trying to out cheekbone each other in Hannibal’s office. It doesn’t leave me wanting more. If anything, it makes me want to go make a snack until the scene is over.
When a relationship is the emotional core of a show, it needs to be something the audience can relate to. At the very least, it should be something the audience actually wants to see. I found myself drifting away during the Will and Hannibal sequences. These episodes may have been total Tumblr bait, but I thought they were boring. Will and Hannibal only work together on screen when they’re in a scene with another character…and that’s a problem. They have a mutually assured destruction thing going on that is actually very fun to watch when it’s played out in the real world. Will knows Hannibal is the Ripper and Hannibal knows that he knows. Watching that dynamic present itself in a crime scene is engaging. Watching it play out in Hannibal’s office is boring. When they’re alone, their conversations come off smarmy and hackneyed. Will’s dreams about Hannibal are so chocked full of metaphor that it falls apart. I don’t want to go so far as to say they’ve worked this relationship into the ground, but it’s very close.
Furthermore, Hannibal is just a terrible person. We already knew that, of course, but his setup of Will in “Shiizakana” was a total party foul. I guess you could make the argument that Hannibal thought he was helping Randall by encouraging him to jump over the edge into full on Cave Bear, but I don’t buy that Hannibal would want to openly attack Will…not yet, anyway. I haven’t read Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs in a while, but the Hannibal in the books was never this forward. Was he? Hannibal usually talks people into hurting themselves, not open violence towards others, right? I mean, before he was put in jail. After his conviction, it’s all nurse tongues and human face masks. Okay, maybe I’m wrong, after all. So why hasn’t anyone noticed? No one at the FBI thinks that Hannibal and Will’s relationship is just a little odd? Hannibal tells Jack over dinner that he is treating Will again and Jack’s barely raises an eyebrow. I know you already covered this, Jason, but you can’t tell me that Jack Crawford would let Will work alongside a man he tried to kill, especially given that one of them is the other one’s therapist. How can he really rationalize that? Will doesn’t want to kill Hannibal anymore because they realized it was Chilton’s evil light therapy all along? Then there’s Alana. Have you noticed that every sex scene between her and Hannibal ends with some sexy pillow talk about their mutual love for Will? Guh, this show makes me feel so uncomfortable sometimes. Heightened reality is one thing; blatantly ignoring reality is another. Yeah, Jason, I said it.
The only thing that saved these two episodes for me was, rather predictably, the introduction of the Vergers. Somehow I had forgotten about them! I am enjoying the new take on Margot’s character. She isn’t the most interesting or dynamic character in the book; in fact, she’s more like a plot device than an actual character. This version is self aware and skeptical of Hannibal’s treatments. People who find Hannibal suspicious don’t tend to last too long on this show, but it was refreshing. I’m happy someone finally said something about Hannibal’s tendency to recommend murder as a therapeutic exercise, even if Will mostly shrugged it off. It’s a shame it took until episode nine of the second season. I’m excited for Mason’s introduction this week. I’m not sure if he’ll be any less gross, Jason, I just think he’s young and hasn’t met Hannibal yet. I mean, he still drinks tear martinis and collects eels. Did you notice the line about the Vergers being the heirs of a meat packing company? Was that in the books? If not, it’s a wonderful detail to add.
Have I gone too far, Jason?
JASON: No, Kate — I don’t think you’ve gone too far. Every time Jack, Will and Hannibal share a scene, the entire premise of the show threatens to collapse under the weight of massive implausibility. And that’s coming from someone who loves Hannibal and will tear his garments and wear sackcloths on his loins if the show doesn’t get renewed. That’s the reason I get so annoyed with those scenes, actually: because they’re keeping me from enjoying a show that, when it’s firing on all cylinders, is one of the weirdest, darkest and most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on TV.
Let me pause on that for a second, so that I can say something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while: this show really is beautiful, and I didn’t fully appreciate it until this season. The look of the show is unique right from the get-go, but for a while, I kind of thought that the high-contrast image was carrying a lot of the weight… which just goes to show that I am an awful critic. If you take even a moment to actually study the show’s visual storytelling, you can see that it’s not just the color of the image (although adjusting the show’s color palette to acheive a certain mood is an art in itself that should not be discounted), it’s everything: the dark and moody scene design that always stay on the right side of realism, the Brian Reitzell score that functions more as a nightmare soundscape than a piece of music, the way the shot composition will resemble a slightly off-kilter version of a normal procedural in one scene, then shift rapidly into an awful dream of violence without causing whiplash.
Okay! Sorry. I just wanted to pay the show a long-overdue compliment before we dive back into how absurd it is that Jack watches Will and Hannibal have these innuendo-laden conversations and apparently thinks nothing of it. In “Shiizakana,” he has them both working a crime scene at the same time. Gee, Jack, you think that might bring up some bad memories? I know Will’s not crazy anymore, or whatever, but have a little tact.
I don’t agree with you on everything, though. The scenes between Will and Hannibal do sometimes threaten to veer off-course, but the dynamic between those two characters is so unique that I’m able to let it slide. I know, there’s nothing earth-shattering about two adversaries with a uncomfortably close relationship, where feelings of hate, fascination and (dare I say it?) love all intertwine to create a complicated dynamic that goes beyond a simple good-guy/bad-guy dynamic… but its rare to see a pair of frenemies this closely connected, interacting in such a public yet emotionally claustrophobic space. Your mileage may vary, and it clearly does, but I get a little thrill whenever those two take their icky relationship a step further.
Oh, and I also don’t mind that Hannibal and Alana talk about Will whenever they finish having sex. I just assume that they’re both thinking about him the whole time, anyway.