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.

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!

I Myself Can Not: “Sakizuki”

imyselfcannot

(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?

Look, thinly-veiled death threats are a normal part of any healthy psychiatrist/patient relationship.

Look, thinly-veiled death threats are a normal part of any healthy psychiatrist/patient relationship.

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)

I Myself Can Not: “Kaiseki”

imyselfcannot

(in which Jason and Kate return from hiatus to talk about the season-two premiere of Hannibal, a show that they TOTALLY LIKED BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE, not to be a jerk about it, but come on, give us some credit)

JASON: And we’re back!

You know, Kate, it’s weird to think that just under a year ago, we were looking on the idea of a Hannibal series as if it were the stupidest thing imaginable. Even after the gorgeous, surprising first episode, I still wasn’t totally convinced. Bryan Fuller and his band of merry men won me over as the season went on, even if I was still a little on edge. Looking back on it now, my lack of faith was disgraceful and I should be ashamed. Also, it manifested itself in a lot of weird ways in our reviews. Remember that time I said that the show wanted us to disassociate from our bodies? A little much, don’t you think?

Well, all that is over, now. I put my full trust into the holy trinity of Bryan Fuller, Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, along with the many minor deities of Hannibal, from composer Brian Reitzell to cinematographers James Hawkinson and Karim Hussain to every other actor in the show. And the world is on my side, too! Everyone’s got Hannibal fever. With all reservations put aside, I was able to kick back, relax and let the show do its thing, and my first though upon starting the episode was: OH MY GOD I HAVE MISED THS SHOW SO MUCH.

Actually, my first thought was “the big fight scene in season one felt kind of weird but this one is so thrilling and well-choreographed not to mention CRAZY that I have no such reservations.” So, I’ve still got a modicum of critical thought left. Which is good.

Yeah, let’s start off with the fact that Hannibal is apparently going to stab Jack Crawford in the neck. I’m not entirely sold on flash-forwards as a concept, but that one was so engaging that I’m going to let it slide. Plus, it reminds me of how the writers of Breaking Bad would set up flash-forwards without having a plan for getting there, thus giving themselves a goal the were forced to meet. At the very least, we now know that Jack is going to get on Hannibal’s bad side by the end of the season, which will certainly shake things up.

There’s so much to talk about in this episode, I don’t even know where to start. How cool was it to see Will in his new surroundings? I mean, not “cool”, since my heart breaks a little more every time I see him behind bars, but his new attitude is a pleasure to watch. Will is still on-edge to say the least, but he’s no longer on a slippery slope to insanity like he was last season. Now that he’s playing the Hannibal to Hannibal’s Will Graham (huh?), Hugh Dancy gets to show off a new side of Will that still fits with the borderline-autistic murder-genius we’ve all come to love.

Okay, I can’t hold it back anymore: Kate! Will Graham has a memory palace! Granted, it’s not exactly like the thing that Thomas Harris describes in the Hannibal novel—for one thing, it’s just a river in the woods, and for another, it’s Will that goes there, not Hannibal. But it’s close enough to set off my Hannibal Geek Radar.

That radar went off for another reason when Hannibal and Jack sat down to dinner, though, and Hannibal made an off-handed mention of “Aunt Murasaki.” For those of you who know all aspects of the Hannibal mythos—or those of you who love bad novels—that name should be familiar. Would it be melodramatic to say that the idea of Bryan Fuller incorporating Hannibal Rising into the show makes me gag? He’s too smart for that, right? You think maybe he’s just trying to get a rise out of us? Yeah? That’s got to be it, right?

I’m edging out of criticism into pure rambling, so I’m going to pass the baton to you, my more levelheaded co-writer. Please tell me I’m going crazy, and that Hannibal Rising didn’t really happen, and while you’re at it, I guess you can tell me how you felt about the episode. If you need me, I’ll be on the Victorian fainting couch, hand pressed to my forehead.

kaiseki

Classic memory palace.

KATE: Hey Jason! Long time, no see!

So, where do we go from here? The first season of Hannibal was, quite simply, beautiful. The acting was terrific, the plot was detailed but easy to access and the set design…well, I’ve gushed about this before. Frankly, I’m surprised that so many other people liked the show as much as we did! I loved the first season, but I’m somewhat of a Hannibal superfan, for all of its ups and downs over the years. Why would anyone else bother? If I was an average person approaching this show, I’m guessing all I would know is that it’s yet another installment in a long running franchise. My best guess is that people were lured by the idea of another police procedural and were hooked by its particular kookiness. That’s neither here nor there.

Hannibal is back and better than ever…so far. Second seasons are notoriously tricky. Any TV show can put together a stellar first season before they fall off in quality. Can the second season of Hannibal live up to all of the buzz of the past year? If the first episode of season two is any indication, I think it can. I spent most of the episode furiously scribbling notes between freaking out over the on screen visuals. Some of them are insightful, some of them are dumb…all of them are imbued with a certain “HANNIBAL IS BACK, HANNIBAL IS BACK” mania. No worries, there. I’m as pumped for this season as you are.The new Hannibal/Will dynamic is an interesting direction for the show to take. It’s obviously a reversal of what we may know from the earlier movies and novels. For one thing, Will’s cell is almost identical to Hannibal’s from Silence of the Lambs. For another, it gives Will some room to breathe. He isn’t any less crazy, so to speak, but he has gained a new sense of identity. He’s safe behind his creepy plastic jail cell. There aren’t any new killer of the week cases to grab his attention, he isn’t being tricked into eating people’s ears, he’s got a sweet memory palace to escape to… I mean, the situation is looking up!

It will be interesting to see where the show takes Will’s situation throughout the season. Keeping your main character in jail has to chafe the writers a little bit, don’t you think? Of course, it also gives the show more incentive to hang out with other characters, especially Hannibal. Is it just my imagination or did we spend more time with Hannibal this episode than any in season one? He has a lot to do, after all. Hannibal is the new Will Graham over at the FBI, as well as resident psychopath of the DC area…he’s got a lot to keep him busy. (Why does Hannibal work for the FBI now? Is there seriously no one else trained in criminal psychology working at the FBI? Really?) Mads Mikkelson has always been wonderful in this role and it was nice to spend more time with him this week. A particular favorite of mine was the scene between Hannibal and Dr. Du Maurier, as he began to discuss his compulsions towards Will. What is his motivation here? In some strange way, I think Hannibal genuinely cares about Will. Framing him for Abigail’s murder was just an unfortunate by product of an unfortunate situation. Some one had to go to jail, Will just happened to be collateral damage. That’s serial killer logic for you, I guess.

Help me out, Jason. First crazy Hannibal theory of the season: Do you think Dr. Du Maurier knows about Hannibal? She hinted at it heavily in this scene. For example, “Jack Crawford doesn’t know what you’re capable of…” or “You’re putting me in a position to lie…again.” If she does know (or at least suspects), why would Hannibal keep her alive? Does he owe her a debt? (Maybe). Is she secretly Aunt Murasaki? (No.) Am I crazy? (Probably.) I’m not too worried by the random mention of Aunt Murasaki. If Fuller has control over the character, it won’t be too awful. Look at Freddie Lounds. I didn’t find him particularly engaging in the novels and films, but on this show, they’re morphed her into a character that works. I hope…I just really hope  they don’t bring up Mischa as a plot point. Like, ever.

I Myself Can Not: Savoureux

imyselfcannot(in which Jason and Kate finally finish up their season-long look at Hannibal, miraculously getting their final review logged before the second season begins)

JASON: Well, gee, Kate: where do we go from here?

I’ve talked before about my expectations for Hannibal and how they were quickly dashed when the show turned out to be a moody, intelligent, well-shot crime drama with an endearingly dark obsession with death and mutilation. But I formed another set of expectations when Bryan Fuller described the season’s arc as “the story of a man losing his mind” (or something to that effect). I figured Will Graham would slowly drift away from reality, only to be pulled back at the last minute before something really terrible happened. I expected that Hannibal would clean up his mess and move forward with the rest of the world none the wiser to his true nature… and I thought we might end the season with an ironically emotional moment cementing Hannibal as Will’s only true friend.

And that’s sure not what we got!

To recap: after Hannibal force-fed Will a piece of Abigail’s ear, he was able to pin Will for her murder and several other murders that Hannibal himself committed this season. It looks like Will might FINALLY get the medical attention he needs, but due to Hannibal’s meddling, it won’t account for the time he supposedly killed all those people. Will gets locked up in a facility for the criminally insane, but not before he finally realizes that Hannibal isn’t what he appears to be.

Actually, so maybe we should back up a little. We haven’t discussed this show in three weeks, after all.

In a way, these last three episodes all function as one big finale, bringing back characters from previous episodes and tying up their stories. It was especially nice to see Abel Gideon show back, after the show seemingly dropped the Chesapeake Ripper plot, a storyline that impacted all the main characters to some degree. The culmination of Gideon’s storyline was mostly about Graham and his deteriorating mental state, though Jack Crawford’s past failures drove his obsession with the case and informed every action he took, even if we weren’t overtly reminded of it. In fact, the culmination of the entire season ended up being about Will and Dr. Lecter, which is the way it should be… but still, Laurence Fishburne’s version of Jack Crawford was so entertaining, I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get any more from the subplot about his wife’s cancer. I’d like to seen him get even more material next year.

Then there’s Abigail… I guess we should have seen it coming, but it was still chilling to see the walls close in on her like that. Before I throw it to you, Kate, I’d like to say that the final scene of episode 12 was my favorite of the entire season, specifically the moment where Abigail asks the question that we’ve been asking all season: why, Hannibal? What drove you to warn Garret Jacob Hobbs of his impending death and then to become so invested in his daughter’s life? The answer: curiosity. It was the obvious answer, but to hear Dr. Lecter say it so matter-of-factly was chilling.

KATE: I agree. Hannibal seems like such a psychopath that it would be folly to try and hash out his motivations, although many will theoretically try and fail in the episodes to come. And yet…he’s astonishingly simple. Hannibal is a psychiatrist. He’s interested in human behavior and motivation, so why wouldn’t he be curious to see what people do when put into certain scenarios? If you throw in the fact that he’s an avid cannibal and all around psychopath, then it makes almost perfect sense. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less chilling, which is why the show works as a series and why Hannibal is a great character.

Alright, now that I’ve effectively praised the show, who’s in the mood for some crackpot theories? I thought so! I can’t tell you why, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Abigail isn’t dead. Yeah, Will coughed up one of her ears and yeah, the floor of the Hobbes’ house is smeared with a mysterious blood like stain…but that doesn’t mean anything! I’ve always been a firm believer in the TV convention that if the audience doesn’t see a body, the character probably isn’t dead. This show invested so heavily in Abigail, both as a plot device and motivation for the other characters to develop and grow. She wasn’t a one episode guest star like Lance Henriksen or Molly Shannon. Why would they kill her? Pure shock value? If Hannibal was trying to frame Will as the copycat Chesapeake Ripper, wouldn’t he have planted her body somewhere in some ornate, ceremonial fashion? If Hannibal did kill Abigail, do you think he ate her? That seems like something Hannibal would find rude, given their prior relationship. It’s one thing for Hannibal to murder a poorly trained flautist; it’s quite another for him to kill and eat someone he thought of as his daughter.

At any rate, all we know for sure at this point is that Abigail is missing an ear.  On the other hand, I may very well be grasping at straws in a vain attempt to convince myself that Hannibal isn’t over for the next year or so. What are we gonna do, Jason? What are we going to do without Hannibal?

JASON: I’d usually agree with you about the bodies, but in this case, I think we actually DID see a body–it was just in the form of veal! Abigail does seem like a major character to kill off, but I think it was meant to shock. Not a cheap, empty kind of shock, but the shock that comes with the title character of the show murdering his surrogate daughter after we spent the whole season becoming invested in her. I just don’t think there’s any way Hannibal could let her live at that point, and I think he ate her because… well, that’s kind of his thing. It also harkens back to the Hobbs family philosophy of “honoring” every part of the kill, which is something Hannibal could definitely get behind in this situation.

But speaking of crackpot theories, I have one of my own! It actually has to do with something you mentioned a few weeks ago, but I never go the chance to address: the one time Freddie Lounds eats dinner at Hannibal’s, she specifically requests a vegetarian meal. As far as I remember, that makes her the only main character who hasn’t eaten human flesh (inadvertently or otherwise). That’s got to mean something, right? Either it’s a nice bit of irony that the most morally suspect character on the show is the only one not to indulge in cannibalism… or it’s a sign that Freddie Lounds isn’t as sleazy as we think, and that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge her!

It’ll come as no surprise to you that Freddie is my favorite character at this point, but I don’t want to make excuses for her. She’s fucked over more than a few people, and she’s (mostly) responsible for that cop’s death in episode two. Still, there’s something so pure in her self-interest and sleaziness… she’s like that grape Hannibal showed off in one episode–the same all the way through, from the skin down to the core. Hannibal is the exact opposite, a black-hearted villain in a “person suit”. Jack Crawford is awfully shifty in his treatment of Will, Jack’s wife lies about having cancer, Will is honest with others most of the time but never honest with himself, and Alana Bloom… well, I guess Alana’s okay. She IS the reason that Hannibal got involved in the first place, but that’s just because she was wrong, not because she was being dishonest. Maybe this crackpot theory is still more of a crackpot hypothesis.

I don’t know what we’ll do for the next year, Kate, I just don’t know! But what are you most excited about in the second season (besides the fact that it’s actually happening?) The prospect of seeing Mason Verger on television is almost too much to bear, and then there’s this little bit of news that I’m very excited to see play out.

KATE: Well now that you’ve told me that, I think I’m most excited about David Bowie! Will it really happen? Do we really have to wait a whole year to find out?  Have they announced the premiere date of the second season? I need to know how much longer I have to wait, Jason! I need to know!

Where is Mason Verger going to fit into all of this? In the novels, Mason is the only one of Hannibal’s victims to survive (albeit with half of a face). He also plays a vital role in putting Hannibal in jail, so where are they going? It’s actually a somewhat interesting prospect. Will and Mason (in the novels at least) are the two characters that experience Hannibal’s violence first hand while living to tell the tale. That seems like a workable angle for the television show to play off of, but will they really put Hannibal in a jail cell this early? He should be nice and incarcerated by the fourth season premiere, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m also curious as to who they will cast as Mason Verger. I have a hard time picturing Mason Verger as anything but a lipless Gary Oldman attempting a southern accent, but I have my hopes! Of course, they won’t introduce Mason already mangled…or will they?

JASON: I don’t know, Kate. I just don’t know! I guess they might introduce Mason Verger pre-mangled and then have his face-cutting incident happen during the season… boy, that’d be a sight to see on basic cable, wouldn’t it? You raise a good point about the parallels between Mason and Will, which I’m sure will not go unexplored by the show’s writers… although, the way things are going for Mr. Graham, it’s hard to say who comes out of the whole thing worse.

Actually, no, it’s not. Being a faceless pedophile is probably one of the worst things you can be.

No exact return date has been set for Hannibal, but I look forward to it with just as much frothing anticipation as you do, and I hope you’ll join me for another lively discussion sometime next year.

Say goodnight, Kate!

KATE: Goodnight Jason!