freddie lounds

I Myself Can Not: “Naka-Choko”

imyselfcannot

(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: “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!