(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?
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?