“Mizumono” is a blood bath in slow motion, a graceful, elegant finale that also happens to be explosively violent, incredibly shocking, and surprisingly tragic. It is the dream that curdles into a nightmare, the hero’s journey that ends not in triumph but in a quiet resignation to duty, in a small decision to do the right thing even if it hurts, even if it kills you.
“Tome-wan” is one of the most relentlessly gruesome hours in the history of a show that is fundamentally drenched in macabre imagery and revels in the methods of madness. We watch the downfall of Mason Verger as he loses associates…
At the end of last week’s episode, Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter dined on what Hannibal believed was Freddie Lounds. It was not, of course (what, exactly, they ate has not yet been revealed, but my money remains on some of Randall Tier, whose parts we know Will had squirreled away), and the end of “Ko No Mono” reveals…
Pigs get something of a bad rap. For all of their faults, they are generally smart animals, higher on the cognition chain than they are given credit for. Yet they are seen as filthy, lowly creatures. We use their name as a derogatory term, we see them as beneath us, we devalue them even as they provide us with much, in life and in death. “Naka-Choko” is about how…
Coming at roughly the same place in the season, “Shiizakana” and its killer who springs from the shadows seems to directly echo season one’s “Buffet Froid,” which introduced us to Georgia Madchen, another murderer with an identity disorder. And in both cases (as in most cases this series show us), the killer mirrored one of the characters and one of the larger themes. Georgia Madchen was afflicted with Cotard’s Syndrome, believing she was actually dead and rendered incapable of identifying other individuals, even as Will’s own capability to trust his faculties broke down, leaving him grappling with how much of his perceived reality he could trust, and whether anyone was who he thought they were. In “Shiizakana,” Randall Tier believes himself to be an animal born in the body of a man, but he isn’t, not really. As Peter Bernadorne tells Will, “Man is the only creature that kills to kill.” That’s what Randall is doing, even if he justifies it by claiming there’s a beast inside him he cannot quell. There is a beast. But that isn’t the animal inside Randall. It’s the man.
On its surface, “Su-zakana” feels like a procedural episode from Hannibal’s first season. There is a killer of the week, and Will Graham is helping the FBI track him down. Meanwhile, Will is receiving psychiatric treatment from Hannibal Lecter, a figure of much more complexity than Will, or anyone around him, can possibly comprehend. Where “Su-zakana” differs is that now, all of the little pieces that used to make up this show’s short forays into the twisted minds of psychotic killers add to a larger whole that has grown immeasurably more layered. This is a story of death and rebirth. It is a story of men who think they are playing God who more accurately resemble Lucifer. It is a story of pawns in larger games seizing desperately for their own agency, and of the dark, traumatic toll their becoming often takes.
And so we turn to Dr. Frederick Chilton. The man at the helm of the Baltimore Psychiatric Hospital for the Criminally Insane has an important place in the mythology built up by Thomas Harris. Chilton serves as Lecter’s jailor, his tormenter, and then his dinner in both Harris’ books and the films based on them (Chilton is, after all, the friend Lecter is having for dinner at the end of The Silence of the Lambs).But Bryan Fuller is telling his own story, with its own twists and turns, its own ways of reflecting and refracting the story as we know it. And so Frederick Chilton died tonight, at the hands of Miriam Lass, another victim in a season with a high body count among its main and recurring cast.
In “Futamono,” Hannibal Lecter is composing a piece of music. We see him writing it, making changes as he goes along, course correcting to improve the final composition. He does not yet know its end, and he tells Alana Bloom that Stravinsky felt a composer lived with a piece in the back of his mind until it was completed. Ostensibly, the work Lecter is creating is intended for harpsichord, but as we have already seen in this series, a deranged mind can very easily make an instrument of man. What Hannibal is truly writing here is a much dark, much longer composition, one where lives very literally hang in the balance.
“Mukozuke” is all about sound. The sound of blood hitting linoleum, echoing as regret in the ears of those who cannot save a friend, or who cannot take back an action. The sound of drums, blaring incessantly, as Will Graham goes to war. Beverly Katz is discovered this week, though her fate was clear by the time the credits rolled on the last episode, and with her death, season two of Hannibal kicks into high gear. She is found in the place The Ripper leaves taunts to the Behavioral Science Unit: that observatory where Miriam Lass’ arm was found, and where the deranged Abel Gideon performed his surgery on Frederick Chilton. Now it is the site of another horror, as Beverly is splayed out like an exhibit at Body World, dissected the way she herself would have dissected a crime scene.
There is pain, and beauty, to both seeing and not seeing. There is terror, and tranquility, to the idea of both feeling and not feeling. There are moments when you try to go gently into that good night and the darkness refuses you, just as there are moments when some malevolent force guides you into the quiet. “Takiawase” is a gorgeous, moving, terrifying, near-perfect hour of television. It is a hallucinatory episode that includes a sequence likely to be the most darkly surreal thing on network television since The Little Man From Another Place helped Dale Cooper solve a murder on Twin Peaks, but it is so much more. It is layered with complexity, telling several brilliantly interweaving stories about anguish and its end, and simultaneously serving as a reminder that Hannibal is the best show on television right now.