In brief: an intricate web of textual references ingeniously reimagined for the show’s new timeline.
This episode tackles in retrospect the case that first brought Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter together in Harris’ novels: that of the Chesapeake Ripper (in truth, Lecter). The whole episode is an homage to Lecter’s incarceration. The fabulous Eddie Izzard plays Hannibal in his cage superbly. Chilton refers to feeling like Gideon’s secretary, with his volume of post, an irritation that Lecter poses in the novels. The murder of the nurse echoes Hannibal’s attack of a nurse during his incarceration (although he does not kill her in the novels). In his walkthroughs (the one for episode 4), Bryan Fuller talks about how parts of the dialogue are re-workings or re-phrasings of Thomas Harris’ prose, and this episode is one where I really felt that was true.
In the novels, it is Will’s sudden (and unconscious) mental leap upon seeing an image of Wound Man that tips him off, leading to a vicious and nearly fatal attack from Hannibal, but the doctor’s arrest and incarceration. In the TV series, a new character has to be created to fill the role of detecting Hannibal (although with less success). The character of Miriam Lass takes a great deal from both Harris’ Will, and his rookie Clarice Starling. The method in which Crawford draws her into his active investigation, her pluck and her ambition, as well as her intuition, mark her out as Clarice-like, although she is slightly hardier in her confrontation of dead bodies than Clarice is in the novels.
It is worth noting that the scene of Miriam’s recognition of Hannibal’s monstrosity from his drawings is a mimicry of the first episode in which Crawford wanders Hannibal’s office and takes a look at some of his drawings (including one of Hannibal’s French boarding school). Yet Miriam sees something amiss while Jack did not; a fact that I think in part plays into the note left for Jack with Miriam’s arm: ‘What do you see?’. Jack, having been ‘taken in’ by Lecter, is cast in the unfortunate trope of police-chief-who-cannot-see-the-truth. This is somewhat ironic, given Lass’ declaration (in flashback) that he has a ‘peculiar cleverness’. There is a suggestion that Jack’s cleverness has been dulled by the traumatic experience of losing Lass, meaning that he seeks to rely much more on surrogates, such as Will.
This episode also reinforces Will’s history of personality disorder. From the first episode, Will has been spoken about as a curiosity, with Alana seeking to defend his dignity. Here, Chilton attempts to solicit a psychiatric evaluation with Will (although he is rebuffed). This rudeness is characteristic of Harris’ Chilton, and we sense when Hannibal panders to him — in part to solicit how much psychic driving he has carried out on the deluded Gideon — his patience will be short-lived (there is a veiled threat in their discussion of tongues and ‘having old friends for dinner’!). This is an interestingly mis-placed self-assurance on Hannibal’s part, as we know that Chilton will later be his incarcerator. I think this is indicative of what Fuller talks about in his walkthroughs: although in some sense Lecter is the devil in this series, he is not Mephistophles in complete control of everyone and everything. He is reactive, and his plans do not always come to fruition.
Dancy’s acting, particularly during his act of empathising, is absolutely superb in this episode. He channels evil really rather well! This is also an episode in which Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) returns and shines. She is key to the story (and to the return of Gideon later on in the series), and her acting also reflects a sense of menace. I was particularly struck by the way that she keeps her gloves on during her meeting with Jack, Will and Alana.