Television

I Myself Can Not: “Naka-Choko”

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(in which four’s company, but five’s a crowd — especially when one of the people involved is a highly symbolic hallucination)

KATE:  Hey, Jason! It turns out that Alana and Hannibal really are thinking about Will when they have sex! How about that? Or, maybe, he’s thinking about them. Or her. Or maybe just Hannibal… or maybe Hannibal as a stag monster. The sequence is a little unclear. Either way, someone is thinking about someone else when they’re getting busy. I think it’s safe to say that Will was probably thinking about Alana when he slept with Margot, but it’s anyone’s guess. All I know for certain is that:

a) Will is turned on by scars, both literal and figurative
b) Alana is turned on by playing the theremin
c) Hugh Dancy is apparently handsome enough to turn any lesbian straight.

Before I dive in, I wanted to clarify that Alana’s role in this is woefully underwritten and largely disappointing. This is familiar territory. Alana is given very little to do that doesn’t directly reflect her relationship with Hannibal. She’s either having sex with him or defending him to Freddie Lounds. I don’t really care to dwell on the implications of a scene consisting solely of two women arguing over their individual relationships with male characters, but c’mon. You can do better, Bryan Fuller. You really can.

I’d like to believe that the sex sequence was an attempt at a further blurring of the lines of Will’s sense of right and wrong. Did Will actually want to sleep with Margot? It seemed that way, until the weird five-way hallucinations started, but I’m not sure. My best guess is that Will saw it as more of a means to an end. Apparently, Will has a master plan to trap Hannibal and turning Margot against her shrink is part of that. Who knows? Will’s actions upon his release from jail need to have some kind of moral payoff if he’s going to continue as a main character, but unfortunately, he’s all over the map. Stringing up Randall as a literal man-fossil is decidedly on the more egregious side; sleeping with Margot as a cover is a little less.

Will definitely thinks Hannibal is guilty. I mean, you don’t imagine a black stag monster fucking your former (perhaps current?) crush unless you’re already predisposed to think of Hannibal as evil. Then again, Will’s subconscious already identifies Hannibal with a stag monster, so it could be completely normal. Well, as normal as identifying your shrink and best friend as a evil black stag monster could be. I don’t know. It’s just as likely that Will wanted to have sex with Margot and used a fantasy to, you know, get somewhere while doing so. I think it’s equally as possible that Bryan Fuller just wanted to mess with his audience.

For her part, Margot seems to be playing into the ultimate motivation of her character in the books: she wants a baby. I don’t think I’m jumping the gun on this, either. I was already a little suspicious of her motivation when she started to seduce Will. Don’t forget, this episode went out of its way to emphasize that Margot is gay. Again, who knows? I mean, Hannibal is weird enough at this point. Why not throw a pregnancy plot into it?

Okay. Having mucked my way through all of that unfortunate imagery, let’s take a deep breath and get down to what really mattered about this episode: Mason Verger. At last, we meet the man himself. His scenes, few though they were, were easily the highlight of this episode. How wonderful is Michael Pitt in this role? A character that drinks tear martinis and offers slaughtered pigs to guests would be a mere caricature in anyone else’s hands. Pitt makes it work! He’s obviously crazy, but it’s a fun crazy, as creepy and off putting as it may be. This show is too easily mired down in dour crime scenes and dark discussions of human nature. Mason’s introduction to the plot is a breath of fresh air. Admittedly, that’s probably coming from a personal fondness for the character. I can’t begin to describe the amount of fan service offered in his scenes and I can’t wait to see where the show goes with his plot line from here.

Something else of note in this episode: Hannibal mentions he had a sister. Had. Uh oh. I’m not liking where that plot line is going. Strangely enough, I can’t think of anything else notable that happened in this episode. Can you, Jason? CAN YOU?

Hey, Kate, I think I found our next Halloween costume!

Hey, Kate, I think I found our next Halloween costume!

JASON: First off: until a little past the halfway point of this episode, I had forgotten that Will was laying a trap for Hannibal. This might be another indicator that I’m not cut out for TV criticism, but I prefer to think that it shows how effective Will has been at deceiving Dr. Lecter. Something fishy was clearly going on when Will asked to continue their therapy, but everything that has happened since then is pretty plausible. Hannibal was betting that Will, when placed in a position where he could be morally justified in killing someone, would take great pleasure in the act, and he was right. He knows that Will has what we’ll charitably refer to as a mild obsession with the act of taking a life, and we know it as well. So, when Hannibal convinces Will, in that recognizable state of confusion and delirium that comes after you kill a bone-suit-man in your living room, to take that a step further and display the corpse, it catches us off-guard because it feels like a natural progression… which is the same effect Will is hoping to have on Hannibal.

Or at least, that was my experience. Maybe you and everyone else watching was able to keep their wits about them, but when I saw what Will did to Randall’s corpse, I was straight spazzin’. That display was one of the more upsetting tableaus that the show has done, both because it was done by our protagonist and because of how plausible it seemed: this wasn’t a human totem-pole or an angel statue made of flesh, it was just a guy’s body, chopped up and hung on an animal skeleton. Can I go one review without talking about body horror? I guess not. The killers on this show are always altering the human body in unpleasant ways, but this one was just a touch more subtle than usual, leaving the human form a little more recognizable and amping up the discomfort level. Plus, it was pretty fitting, considering Randall’s lifelong obsession with animal forms. Will Graham is a mad genius. Or maybe he’s just a crazy guy with a grudge.

I’m glad I picked up on Will’s deception before the end of the episode — which I assume you’re teasing me about, because you are a mean person — or I would be outright distraught right now. I don’t know exactly what happened to Freddie Lounds after Will dragged her out of the car, but I don’t think for a minute that she’s dead. And no, I’m NOT in denial. After all, Will had a whole meat locker full of body parts! Who’s to say he didn’t save some of Randall’s meat for himself and fed that to Hannibal at the end? Who’s to say? You? You’re not Bryan Fuller! You can’t tell me she’s dead! You don’t know! She’s not dead! SHE’S NOT!

Let’s press pause on that: do you think Will was really eating people at the end of the episode? He’d pretty much have to, right? Hannibal would know a fake if he tasted it. But Will, even for this dastardly plan you’ve set up, seriously, eating people is gross. I know we’ve all thought about it, am I right? Ladies? You know what I’m talking about. I mean, we’ve all be there. But, come on: ew.

Unpause: AND ANOTHER THING! SHE’D BETTER NOT BE DEAD BECAUSE IF SHE IS that’s one less female character on a show I used to champion based on the high presence of good female characters but has recently killed off one major female character and marginalized another to the point that she is little more than a sexual object for the two main characters to kick back and forth like a glamorous raven-haired soccer ball. I still think Bryan Fuller and co. deserve credit for populating Hannibal with interesting female characters, but boy, it’s hard to keep that admiration going whenever Alana is on-screen.

You already covered all the great things about Mason Verger’s first appearance, but I’d like to second that emotion. Just having that family on-screen is great, but I’m really getting curious as to how this will tie into the main plot-line. Obviously, if Hannibal’s gonna have his infamous session with Mason, it’ll have to happen before he goes on the run from the law, which is definitely how this season ends, right?

I love that last shot, which is either a reference to the final image of Norman Bates in Psycho (which is just one more addition to the list of things this show does better than Bates Motel) or a reference to something in Persona, which I haven’t seen, sorry, I’m not as up on my Bergman as I should be.

And finally, a personal plea to Bryan Fuller, in regards to Hannibal’s sister: please, please don’t go there.

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I Myself Can Not: “Su-zakana” & “Shiizakana”

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(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.

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Clearly nothing weird going on here.

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?

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“Lot of nice bones you got here.”

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.

I Myself Can Not: “Yakimono”

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(in which aggggghhhaghaghgdsfdjskfjdkfjdkfjdskfjd)

JASON: For the sake of anyone out there reading along, I’m going to do my best to remain calm and composed for the next few minutes while we work through the most emotionally turbulent episode of an already heart-shredding season. But before we start, I want to acknowledge that a painful, drawn-out scream of anguish would be a perfectly fitting review. In fact, it might be the best possible review I could give.

What can one say about a man like Dr. Chilton? In the original series (particularly the film version of Silence Of The Lambs) he is an arrogant buffoon, a man who gets great satisfaction from wielding what little power he has over the brilliant Dr. Lecter. In Hannibal, Raul Esparza elevated that buffoonery to a more sophisticated level of slimy self-aggrandizement. The narrative actually made him more despicable, by holding him responsible for Abel Giddeon’s murder, and yet Chilton’s real crime is thinking too highly of himself, and Raul Esparza made his inflated ego a joy to behold. So, it was always hard for me to hold it too much against him. Plainly put, Hannibal is a grim little show, and Chilton is the comic relief… or, should I say… WAS the comic relief.

[choked sobs]

I usually at least like to feint towards actual aesthetic critique in these reviews, sometimes to my own embarrassment. But this… this is too much. Dr. Chilton was my second favorite character, and due to a relative lack of my one true love (Her Royal Highness Freddie Lounds), he was turning into this season’s MVP. His status as my new favorite was cemented in this episode, when he finally aligned himself fully with Will and started dropping truth bombs all over Jack… which should have clued me in to what was about to happen. Hell, Will straight-up says that he’s probably about to die. He warned him, Kate! He tried to warn us all! But Hannibal was one step ahead, the whole time. I hate Hannibal, Kate. And I hate Hannibal, too.

Let me try and take a step back: from an objective view, this is a major alteration to the canon, possibly the biggest we’ve had so far. Yeah, Dr. Katz was still alive in Red Dragon but he was basically a whole different character who only had a couple of lines. Dr. Chilton is iconic. He’s pretty far down on the list of iconic things from Silence Of The Lambs, but he’s still on there. Somewhere above Jack Crawford and somewhere below the van that Buffalo Bill drives. The movie even ends with Hannibal about to kill Chilton! I don’t think Hannibal would be incline to repeat that scene verbatim, if we ever get there, but the idea of taking such a major part of the universe off the board this early is a shock… which is probably what they wanted. Damn you, Fuller!

This whole thing makes me wonder what the show will look like when (or if) it finally gets around to full-on adapting the Hannibal novels. How will they incorporate the occasional killer-of-the-week into the overarching plotline? Won’t Francis Dolarhyde’s “mirrors-over-the-eyes” gimmick look pretty tame in a world where someone built a totem pole out of human bodies? Most importantly, what does this mean for Freddie Lounds? All we can do is speculate right now, but after this week, it’s hard not to. Fuller and co. have shattered my preconceived notions about what the show will look like in the future. Of course, that’s not the only thing they shattered.

My heart.

The other thing they shattered was my heart.

KATE: Is it possible to be done with a TV show, Jason? I mean, I’ve been done with TV shows before (Lost, The Blacklist, Dracula), but that was mainly because they were awful to start with. You and I may be slightly biased super fans, but I think we’ve safely established that that’s not the case with Hannibal. Hannibal…Well, Hannibal hurts, Jason. It just hurts. It’s been a rough season that gets more and more devastating…and this is a show that started the season with a man being forced to rip his own skin off. In the long run, I guess it’s a compliment to the show that this is even possible. Last week, I talked about the show’s use of pace and character development. This episode started out with Will getting out of jail and ended with another character being framed and subsequently shot in the face. Can you think of another show on television right now that raises the stakes that much in every episode? They’re certainly out there, but most shows that move at this speed end up reading as cheap melodrama. I mean, I love Scandal and The Vampire Diaries, but I won’t pretend that they’re particularly subtle. Sure, characters die on shows all the time; however, those deaths are usually reserved for sweeps week and season finales. Hannibal does it every freakin’ week and it hurts, Jason. It hurts. I understand the need to provide engaging material every week. That’s a given in the television industry. When the show’s main conceit revolves around cannibalism and human totem poles, I imagine it’s only harder to keep up the pace. I get that. However, the show is starting to run the risk of emotional exhaustion. Shocking character deaths work because they are unexpected and catch the audience off guard. When it’s the norm, it becomes more of an inside joke among viewers and less of a gut punch. You can do better, Hannibal! Shame on you, Bryan Fuller. SHAME. You can’t have your cake and eat it too!

Speaking of Red Dragon, I can only assume they’ll make Dolarhyde’s arc a season long affair, much like they’re doing with the Chesapeake Ripper. For every new Ripper kill, there’s always room for copycats and killers of the week. At any rate, Dolarhyde’s material is less about the gimmick and more about the overarching story. The strength of that character has been less about the murders and more about his persona… you know, the Red Dragon. Mirrors over the eyes does seem a little tame for this show, but it’s a fairly iconic image from the source materials, so here’s hoping they keep it in. Just think, Jason. In the novels and movies, Dolarhyde lives in a decrepit manor by himself and his Blake paintings. Imagine what Fuller could do with that! The Red Dragon material is also very heavy on the Will/Hannibal dynamic. I don’t think Fuller will pass on the opportunity to play that up BECAUSE THAT’S CLEARLY ALL HE IS INTERESTED IN ANYMORE, GAHHHHH.

Okay, Jason. I held out as long as I could. I can only be so critical when my heart is broken. Raul Esparza was a pleasure to watch. I’ve never had much of an opinion on Source Chilton, one way or the other. He’s just a creepy middle man who thrives on his own self importance. Raul’s performance as Chilton made me actually root for the guy, as obnoxious as he was, and as obnoxious as he was. You can’t just kill off every character who gets close to the Ripper’s identity! Honestly, the only character I wouldn’t mind seeing go is Alana, but it’s not like Hannibal would willingly murder his alibi…unless he just wants to troll everyone everywhere. Actually, I wouldn’t put it past him. It’s time for me to retire to my fainting couch, Jason. I’m going to sob into a pillow and wait for the Vergers to show up.

I Myself Can Not: “Futamono”

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(in which Jason and Kate have a crisis of faith)

KATE: Hey Jason! What an episode, right? We’re officially halfway through the season, so I figured it’s as good a time as any to discuss the season so far…before wildly flailing about and predicting where the show might go from here.

Maybe I’m too obsessed with parallels to the source material (and I think it’s safe to say I am), but the focus of this season has been character development. Think of where we started–everyone thought Will was the Chesapeake Ripper and had to come to grips with that. A few episodes later, Will has to drop some hints that Hannibal is the real killer and Jack is immediately testing appetizers for evidence of human flesh. It doesn’t take a lot to convince Jack that something is off with Hannibal–really, just that one conversation with Dr. Chilton– and that’s telling. Why is he so easy to convince? Is it because he’s never trusted Hannibal in the first place? Jack routinely bears his soul to the man, so that’s doubtful. Is it because he’s a cop? Maybe…Jack is always ready to suspect anyone of anything. Is it because it would mean Will isn’t guilty? Probably.

Have you noticed that every character on this show has an almost unnatural draw towards Will? Doesn’t that strike you as odd? He’s almost a deus ex machina at this point. Before evidence at the lab surfaces supporting Will, Jack is willing to take Will to crime scenes and test the meat served at Hannibal’s shindig. Dr. Chilton buys into the idea that Hannibal is a cannibal for no other reason than he heard Will pitching it to Gideon in his cell. That’s weird, right?

Then there’s Alana. Alana has sex with Hannibal and it’s explained later that she did it because she’s grieving for Will. Wait, what? That animal hoarder/suspected serial killer that you kissed once? Okay, I guess. To be fair, Hannibal says something similar, but it’s later revealed he’s using Alana as an alibi. That’s just bad writing. This is a show already lacking in female characters. In this season alone, one disappeared out of fear, one is a guest star wife at death’s door and a third was chopped into pieces. Alana, on the other hand, is a living litmus test indicating the fortunes of two male characters. She may bear an odd Will shaped cross, but her interest is ultimately with Hannibal. Her arc with Hannibal and Will has reduced Alana into a Golden Vagina Trophy**, which remains a cheap and regressive writing technique.

Ugh, there’s so much I haven’t commented on. This episode was SO heavy on Hannibal/Silence of the Lambs callbacks. That conversation between Will and Jack when they discuss the Chesapeake Ripper’s motives? Hannibal’s dinner scene with Gideon? That scene in the barn? Stop it, Fuller. It hurts too much.

So where do we go from here? How soon until Jack and Hannibal rumble? Does Hannibal cook breakfast the morning after? Will the Vergers show up this season? Jason, help! There’s too many emotions!

Some odd things to focus on:

–Do you really think Jack knew the names of all those flowers off the top of his head? I don’t.

–**For readers unfamiliar with the term I made up, a Golden Vagina Trophy is a word for a female character who exists as a prize to be fought over by two men. Common examples include: Laurie Grimes (The Walking Dead) and Julia McNamara (Nip/Tuck).

JASON: I don’t know what this says about me, but even though this episode ended with Eddie Izzard eating his own leg, I was far more disturbed by the pillow talk between Hannibal and Alana.

Before I go any further, let me second your concerns with the Golden Vagina Trophy. We’ve talked about this show’s progressive distribution of female character during this very season, but as of this episode, I’m a little bit concerned. I understand that Gillian Anderson has a full schedule, and Beverly Katz’s storyline made her more interesting than either of her male co-workers. But when you consider the fact that Bella will probably die before the season is up, it starts to look like Fuller and company are sort of mowing down their female characters. Granted, this episode kills one male character and brings back a female one that we thought was dead… but still, it does worry me a little.

I don’t think this would bother me if it weren’t for Alana’s storyline in this episode. I know I swore to put all of my faith in the Holy Trinity of Fuller, Mikkelsen and Dancy, but I can’t help but think that the show is wasting Dr. Bloom. Fuller seems to be aware of it, too; he’s mentioned in interviews that he worries about tying Alan’s character arc too closely to her romantic feelings for Will. But his solution appears to be… tying her character arc to her romantic feelings for Hannibal. To a certain degree, everyone in this show is defined by their relationship Hannibal or Will, but having a female character bounce back and forth between them like the aforementioned trophy just feels lazy. On a lot of shows, it wouldn’t stick out, but Hannibal is usually so well-written that it really bugs me.

But it’s possible I just don’t like the idea of Hannibal and Alana having sex. I’m going to take another step further away from legitimate criticism here, but seriously: ew. Ew ew ew. I can’t say it’s out of character for Hannibal to want to cloud Alana’s judgement with a thick fog of European sex appeal or for Alana to be attracted to someone with the wounded puppy-dog appeal of having almost died. But actually seeing it happen just feels unnatural, possibly because I don’t like seeing Hannibal as a sexual being… but again, that might say more about me than about the show.

I don’t quite agree with you about Chilton and Jack switching to Will’s side too easily. Jack has wanted to believe Will since the season began, and Chilton… well, I think Chilton just wants to feel smarter than everyone else. It just so happens that in this case, he’s right. By the way, since this season has been so light on Freddie Lounds, Chilton has become my go-to favorite, for all his oily self-confidence and that adorable cane he walks around with.

Come to think of it, if this show gave us a little more Freddie, it would go a long way towards smoothing out the dead woman issue. In fact, can we get her a Chilton together more often? Ooh! They could share an apartment! Do you think Fuller is accepting spec scripts? Because this could be just the dose of wackiness this show needs.

–so, we kind of glossed over this, but it looks like Will is going to be cleared of all those murders he didn’t commit. Not gonna lie, I didn’t think he’d get out of that cell until the end of the season, but I’m excited to see where we go now.

–sub-note to the previous note: do you think Hannibal decided to free Will because Wil tried to murder him? Hannibal, the loving teacher, proud that Will is finally embracing his murderous potential.

I Myself Can Not: “Mukōzuke”

imyselfcannot

(in which Jason and Kate finally find one minor point of disagreement before discovering they have fused into a single living brain)

JASON: Hi, Kate! Let’s talk about body horror!

The effectiveness of body horror largely relies on the individual viewer–and if I haven’t made it clear, I find it extremely effective–but in general terms, it works by violating the idea of our physical self, which we, for obvious reasons, are very attached to. Body horror is typically more effective when it happens to a central character, or at least one that we relate to on something beyond a surface level. Seeing a total rando get his brain replaced with a beehive is upsetting, but the more we relate to a character, the more we identify with them, and the more upset we our by that violation of their physical self.

And so, as I predicted last week, the sight of Beverly chopped up and displayed like a Damien Hirst art piece hit me hard. Director Michael Rymer and the writing team delicately play both sides of Beverly’s fate: when we first see her, it’s a relief that she’s even recognizable, but as the shot plays out, we discover that she’s been sliced into pieces. Compared to some of the other deaths on this show, it’s still pretty tame, and I appreciate that the creative team didn’t feel the need to rub our noses in it. But they also didn’t miss an opportunity to lower our defenses and then twist the knife.

We get another display of this body horror principle later on, after Will has orchestrated Hannibal’s murder. In a brief dream sequence, Will collapses on the floor as antlers burst through his skin and cover his back. Given how well the show has used the stag symbolism (I loved that moment when Will sees the stagman figure lurking behind Beverly’s corpse), the implication of that moment is obvious. But even though we might morally know that Will has crossed a line, even if Hannibal totally deserves it, that brief yet vivid violation of Will’s body and the distress it causes him drives the point home in a visceral way.

Anyway, let’s talk about what’s really important: Freddie Lounds is in this episode! Oh, and Gideon’s back, too. That was a surprise. Will plays on Dr. Chilton’s oh-so-delicious vanity and gets the man he tried to kill brought in for questioning. I was under the impression that Will’s murder of Gideon was more than ‘attempted’, but it wouldn’t be the first time I misunderstood something. Considering that Chilton survived having most of his organs removed from his body, I’d say the bar is set pretty high for permanent death in the Hannibal universe. Except when it comes to Beverly, in which case you can just choke her out.

Sorry. Too soon?

There’s lot to talk about in this episode, and almost all of it was good. The one thing that didn’t quite work for me was the reveal of Will’s secret admirer. Turns out it was… an orderly in the hospital. Okay? Bryan Fuller says in this week’s Walkthrough that the whole secret admirer plot was built to get us to the moment where Will sends his new ally to kill Hannibal. The seams definitely show, but the end result was good enough that I don’t care.

This episode of Hannibal left me more excited than any other to find out what happens next. What can Jack and Alana actually prove about Will’s involvement in the attempt on Hannibal’s life? What will that mean for Will? What is Will’s next move? How will Hannibal react to having his closest friend try to murder him? When are the Vergers going to show up? When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?

I don't know if I'm really prepared to consider the implications of the way Hannibal is posed.

I don’t know if I’m really prepared to consider the implications of the way Hannibal is posed.

KATE: I don’t think Jack and Alana can prove much of anything, Jason. All of the conversations between Will and the orderly took place in the one room Dr. Chilton can’t spy on. Furthermore, Jack and Alana are already predisposed to believe Will. Alana has an obvious soft spot for Will and Jack, for all his misgivings, took Will to the scene of Beverly’s death so he could give Jack some input. He hasn’t said it out loud, but it’s obvious that Jack is leaning towards believing Will. Besides, most of the evidence at hand suggests the orderly was Will’s admirer and acting of his own accord. If it sounds kinda lame, that’s because it is. The characters on the show are almost too accepting of random serial killers and psychos, which is why I think Will is safe for now.

Of course, Hannibal is another story. Hannibal isn’t dumb and furthermore, he knows how crazy people think and operate. Naturally, I think Hannibal will be very suspicious of the orderly’s motives. How could he not be? He’ll probably (okay, he will) connect the attempted murder to Will, but there isn’t much he can do, right? Will is safely secure in prison. If Hannibal wants to keep up appearances, he can’t exactly openly attack Will. Will, for his part, knows what Hannibal is at this point. He knew Hannibal was the Chesapeake Ripper and he’s beginning to understand that Hannibal is something even worse. We’re half way through the season. There isn’t too much back and forth left to go on that, especially if we’re going to end up with Hannibal getting into a knife fight with Jack.

I have to disagree with you on the reveal of Will’s admirer. Yeah, he was basically a plot device, but the actor really carried the performance from an obvious plot development to something more. He was creepy, he was effective and furthermore, he’s one of the only people around who has been able to get a drop on Hannibal. After Beverly’s death, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little happy that Hannibal got taken down a notch. It was interesting, both in terms of character development and audience catharsis. How will Hannibal react to a near death experience? How will this play into his relationships with Alana and Jack? Why is no one else concerned that every agent in the FBI is continuously attacked and targeted? How are there so many serial killers in the greater DC area? Seriously, I know I mention this a lot, but it isn’t any less true. Anyway, right until the end, I was thinking that Hannibal and Will’s admirer were working together out of a shared admiration for Will. I was wrong, of course, but hey! Of course, then there’s the reveal that the orderly didn’t kill the judge in Will’s trial. Huh. So was it Hannibal? Or is there a third killer out there?

It may be that I spent most of this episode in an emotional coma after the Beverly reveal or that we share the same brain, but you pretty much covered my thoughts on this episode, Jason. Literally, every point you raised mirrors my notes. The only thing I would want to add are some thoughts about Beverly’s death and discovery. We went from heavy organ in the last episode to a lot of bongos in this one. I have no analysis to offer here, aside from the fact that both instruments were used in an extremely jarring way to different effect. It made for an interesting contrast between the tone of last week’s episode and this one.

I only have one last point to offer, which is to say that I have a lot of logistical questions. Why is the observatory such a serial killer hotspot? Does anyone actually work there or is it just a depository for horribly dismembered corpses? Does Hannibal have a source for life size human microscope slides? He can’t just have those gathering dust in his basement. Furthermore, where did Hannibal get his industrial human saw? Even if he did, how did he transport the Beverly slides to the observatory? I can’t see Hannibal driving a pickup truck. Can you? CAN YOU?

I Myself Can Not: “Takiawase”

imyselfcannot

(in which Kate and Jason zig-zag through Kübler-Ross model)

KATE: Hey, Jason! Wow, what an exciting episode. It had everything: suspense, body horror and a guest appearance from a character actor as our serial killer of the week. It really seemed like typical Hannibal fare at first… and then we got to the ending, proving that the show is really ramping up expectations for this season. If next week’s episode is supposed to be the jaw dropper of the season so far, then I really don’t know what to expect. I’m so confused, Jason! Honestly, I went into this week expecting very little, but boy, was I wrong… so very wrong. So very disturbingly wrong. Is there enough room on that fainting couch for two, Jason? Because I have a feeling I will need some smelling salts by the end of this review.

Well, let’s start with the positives. We get to return to Will’s memory palace this week, where we find Will fishing with Abigail. They have a highly metaphorical conversation over the difference between hunting and fishing before we’re snapped back into reality. Will is still in jail and in between visits from Alana, Beverly or Hannibal, he’s busy being analyzed by the all too willing Dr. Chilton. Chilton is working with Will to restore his memory from the previous season with surprising success. It adds a lot to the plot and to the character of Chilton. In the books and movies, I’ve always viewed Chilton as largely useless. We’ve rarely seen anything to suggest he is the master psychoanalyst he pretends to be, until now. He’s actually earning his stripes this week, bringing us (and Will!) back to the memory palace for a replay of the pivotal conversation between Hannibal and Abel Gideon. Will Chilton trigger something in Will to help him remember the truth? We can only hope.

I’m very glad the show has embraced the concept of the memory palace, even if they haven’t explicitly named it as such. In doing so, the show has carved out a certain space for relaxation and reflection, both for the characters and the audience. In a world full of body horror and human honey combs, this is crucial. After all, a show ultimately about death can become very heavy very quickly… and Hannibal is no exception. In particular, this episode revolved around how different people confront death. In the case of Bella, we face it head on because we have no other choice; when it comes to Abigail, we go hunting and actively seek it out; in the world of killers like Hannibal and Katherine Pims, it’s seen as a gift to our fellow man, something merciful and well deserved.

Which brings me to Beverly. Oh, Beverly. I’ve been crushing on her very hard this season. In my brain, I thought she could be this show’s version of Clarice Starling–a capable, smart, no bull type who sees through Hannibal’s shenanigans and can work to bring him down. Look at that scene in Hannibal’s house! It’s essentially Clarice’s descent into the basement at the end of Silence of the Lambs! Aside from Dr. Du Maurier, she’s the only character around who seems to want to believe Will, so much so that they run the risk of bodily harm. However, Du Maurier had the sense to keep her cards close and disappeared before Hannibal came for her. I guess in the end I was half right. She did see through Hannibal’s exterior, but I’m not sure it’s going to do her any good, given that cliffhanger.

What did you think, Jason? Are you as heart broken as I am?

[muffled sobbing]

[muffled sobbing]

JASON: You can have the fainting couch all to yourself for this week, Kate, because Beverly’s death didn’t have the same effect on me that it had on you. Well, to be fair, I had the ending spoiled for me, and while I’d love to grumble about it (thanks a LOT, tumblr), that’s just the reality of television these days: if you don’t want spoilers, watch the episode as soon as it airs or stay off of social media. But whether it was adjusted expectations or a lack of connection with the character, when the moment came, I was more interested in the final shot and the way it indicated her death without showing it. Then again, I just realized that next week we’re probably going to see her done up in one of the show’s infamous corpse displays, at which point all my denial will crumble away and I will most likely shove you off the fainting couch so I can have a good cry.

By the way, given the parallels between Beverly and Clarice, and considering what happened to Jack’s original protege, this makes two Clarice Starling proxies that Hannibal has murdered. Maybe it’ll be better for everyone if MGM never gives up those rights.

While the death of Dr. Katz was this week’s main event, we also got some forward movement on Will’s “investigation,” along with confirmation that, yes, he is trying to trap Dr. Lecter. I may have been the only one who needed that confirmation, because I am not only not a critic but also not a terribly clever viewer, but it was a least a nice surprise to see Abigail show up and to learn that the “fishing” Will is doing in his memory palace isn’t just for the purposes of relaxation.

Also: Let’s not give the good Doctor Chilton too much credit, Kate. It looked to me like any actual benefit Will got from his treatment was purely incidental. Maybe when we get another look at how the Chilton/Graham sessions are going, it’ll be clearer. For the time being, though, he’s definitely giving Will the ol’ Don Draper special and reporting back to Hannibal about his findings —

A quick pause while I brainstorm my Hannibal/Mad Men crossover fic.

— but even if Chilton thinks that he and Hannibal need to “stick together,” the fact remains that Will is making some pretty convincing points towards Hannibal’s guilt. The mere act of spreading around that kind of suspicion is a win for Will… although in Beverly’s case, it didn’t turn out so well, so maybe Will ought to keep his big stupid mouth shut. Oh, Beverly! Why? Why did it have to be this way?

Um… let’s talk about the music! The scoring on this show is always suitably unnerving, in a way that doesn’t draw attention to itself. It sometimes reminds me Jason Segel’s line from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, about “dark, ominous tones.” But Segel was taking a shot at formulaic CSI-style procedurals that would never do something as adventurous as the use of (what I believe was) an organ in this week’s score. It only happens a couple of times and it draws attention to itself in the best way possible. We first hear a few jarring organ-stabs when Beverly appears in the hallway following Will’s trip to the memory palace. It has the immediate benefit of throwing us off-balance, something the show is quite good at, but it also foreshadows Beverly’s fate in the final scene, where the music sounds like it was lifted from an old Universal horror movie and the credits play out entirely to a single, elongated note.

The organ also makes an appearance during Will’s stunning trip into his own mind during Chilton’s treatment, where it plays off the flickering lights to communicate the feeling of disorientation Will gets during his seizures. Another nice little visual touch from that scene: the way the flashing light plays over the physical objects in Will’s memory.

One last thought: what did Beverly find in Hannibal’s basement? I’m betting it was just a lot of creepy cannibal stuff, but I have to admit that my first reaction was “it’s Abigail!” I’ve never bought into the theories about Abigail still being alive, but I guess they’ve gotten inside my brain, anyway. Does that count as “psychological driving?” Wait, don’t answer that.

KATE: As much as I want Abigail to be alive, it seems more likely she has already been eaten. Towards the end of last season, Hannibal conveniently served a veal dish right around the time of her disappearance and it read as a wink to the audience. I want Abigail to be alive, I really do, but it seems unlikely, even if the FBI still hasn’t found her remains. At any rate, I don’t think Hannibal is the type to keep his trophies around for long. He either eats them or sets them up as performance art. In the case of Abigail, I’m thinking it’s the former and sadly, I’m afraid Beverly is going to be the latter. Will’s play at confusion was working for him; it just so happens that Beverly played her cards too soon. I’m thinking that if Beverly found anything, it would be Hannibal’s collection of special cookware and yet to be eaten human flesh. Alas, we’ll never know.

Say, Jason. Did you know that Fuller originally planned to have Will cough up Beverly’s ear at the end of season one? Just think about that for a second. It isn’t going to change things now, but just imagine what would’ve happened to Abigail if they had focused on that angle instead. While you’re thinking, take some time to enjoy Dr. Chilton’s very lovely singing voice.

I Myself Can Not: “Hassun”

imyselfcannot

(in which sometimes you just gotta talk to ’em)

JASON: Say, Kate! Have you been reading Bryan Fuller’s weekly interviews with the AV Club? If you haven’t, I would recommend them: Fuller comes off like a very smart man who knows exactly what he’s doing with the show, which is refreshing and means that we’re TOTALLY right about the folder-passing shot last episode. I mention it this week because the interview following “Hassun” made me realize that not a lot happened in this episode, and that most of it was set-up for episode 5, which apparently is going to be the craziest episode yet.

Hannibal is such an entertaining show that even an episode spent moving pieces around on the board is a joy to watch. Question: has the show gotten funnier since the first season, or has it always been this way? I find myself writing down several lines per episode in my notes, just because I’m surprised at how humorous they are. Will’s lawyer, in particular, had a quip for just about ever situation. I don’t know which is better, his muted reaction when he received an ear in the male, or his line to Alana about “stepping in Young Adult and tracking it into the courtroom.” Also deserving of mention: everything about Chilton and Lounds. I cheer whenever Freddie shows up in any context, and even though I love her and her ridiculously inappropriate church-lady hat, it was sooooo satisfying when Will’s lawyer shut her down with two questions. You’re the real Paul Esparza fan here, so I’ll leave any discussion of that to you, except for two words: dat cane.

And I have to hand it to you, Kate: a week after you point out the show’s use of mirroring (which I had missed until then), Hannibal opens with the most blatant example to date. Well, technically, the episode doesn’t open with Will and Hannibal getting dressed for court, it opens with Will dreaming about pulling the switch on his own execution. I’m wondering if that’s going to get more attention, or if we’re just meant to interpret it as-is. My initial impression was that Will was expressing a latent death wish, wondering whether it would be easier to just let himself be convicted and get out of this whole crazy circus. But nothing in the episode bears this out… unless I missed something.

Come to think of it, I probably did miss something. Until I read that interview, I thought we were still meant to believe that Hannibal was the copycat killer. All those deeply unsettling lines about Will not letting the killer’s love go to waste, coupled with that unexpectedly sad image of Hannibal sitting alone in his office, lead me to believe that the new murders were Hannibal’s way of saving Will’s life, while allowing himself to remain free from suspicion. And yet, Fuller seems to imply that at this point, Will’s admirer is a mystery. What’s going on, Kate? Did I miss something? Seeing Will in that electric chair did nearly drive me into hysterics, but I do believe my delicate Victorian lady composure was restored by the end of the episode.

Something else that disturbed my delicate emotional equilibrium: Jack Crawford. Boy, back in episode one, I hated Jack for refusing to believe Will. When the two of them were speaking in the prison, I was almost looking forward to that fast-approaching moment when Hannibal jams a piece of glass into Jack’s neck — and if you ever had any doubts that I was unqualified for legitimate criticism, well, there you go. But now, I’m more on Jack’s side than I’ve ever been. It wasn’t just his act of professional suicide that doubled as a re-affirmation of his own guilt in what happened to Will, it was the conversation he had afterwards with Hannibal. We haven’t seen Bella in a while, and hearing the details of their life together as she nears her death was like a sucker-punch. The way Jack got teary-eyed and choked up was heartbreaking. I forget how great Laurence Fishburne really is, which is the risk you run when you surround him with people like Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy.

One last thing about that interview: Fuller mentions later in the season, we’ll be seeing some “other patients” that Hannibal has been “encouraging.” That’s got to be Verger siblings, right? Oh, man, I can’t wait until Mason Verger shows up. No, that doesn’t do it justice. When Mason Verger makes his first appearance, I am going to split the time-stream in half so I can watch that episode with my 15-year-old self and give him a bunch of high-fives. Wait, that may have been too much in the opposite direction. Well, I’m excited, anyway.

Please don't ever change, Freddie.

Please don’t ever change, Freddie.

KATE: It’s good to be excited, Jason! Embrace it! I’m excited for the Verger siblings to show up as well, although I’ve always preferred my Vergers (especially Mason) post-mutilation. Spoilers, readers: Hannibal likes to mess around with his patients. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll be riveting. Look what the show has already done with the Hannibal/Will relationship! I’m not sure if the readers are familiar, but Red Dragon, the first book in the “Hannibal” series, takes place after Hannibal has been caught by Will and put in jail. The TV show is largely working in unexplored material that we as the audience had only previously imagined. I imagine (and hope!) the Verger subplot will be treated the same way. Let’s face it, good back story and prequelization are so hard to pull off successfully. I know “prequelization” isn’t a word, but bear with me. Just look at Hannibal Rising. Actually, please don’t. It’s awful.

My point being that it is difficult to retroactively pull off a background story of a character, particularly one as well known as Hannibal Lecter. There’s almost no way for it to work and it rarely adds anything. I never wanted to know why Darth Vader turned evil. Everything you need to know about him is right there on the surface. I never wanted to know how the Wicked Witch of the West became so wicked. In great stories, your villains can speak for themselves. It’s not just evil characters, either. No one needed to know how Carrie Bradshaw moved to New York and met Samantha.  All of this is just to say that Hannibal is abnormally good at its job and the Verger subplot will hopefully be no exception. There’s very juicy material there, if someone knows how to write it. As much as I love Gary Oldman, I rewatched Hannibal (the movie) the other day and man, it is pretty awful. The story could definitely stand a new approach. Yeesh.

This season does seem to be more humorous than the last. I think the snappy lines and quick jokes are part fan service and part Bryan Fuller. Like any beloved book turned TV series, there are a lot of inside jokes and foreshadowing for the fans. Look at Game of Thrones! Every time the word “wedding” was said during the third season of GoT, the editors could have inserted this cue and saved themselves a lot of time, but they didn’t. Part of that may be storytelling for people who aren’t familiar with the source material, but I think it’s a subtle acknowledgement to the fan base. The hard core fans want to see Chilton be irritatingly pompous because they know what happens to him; the casual fans want to see Chilton be irritatingly pompous because it works towards what will happen. And yes, I do love Raul Esparza. He isn’t the most subtle performer on the show, but that’s what the role calls for. Chilton is intelligent, but he’s mostly snide and self absorbed. Have they shown Chilton with a cane before? Is that related to his kidney issue? I’m almost positive Chilton doesn’t need it, he just likes showing off.

All in all, I think you covered my thoughts on this week’s episode, Jason. I found it to be a little uneventful, save for the dead judge and Freddie’s hat. Every show has its filler and development episodes, so I’m not too worried. Not to mention, we know by now to trust in the wisdom of Bryan Fuller. If he tells me that episode five will be crazy, it will be. So say we all, in the name of Fuller, Dancy and Mikkelsen.

JASON: So say we all!