tv criticism

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: “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.