Now that I’m working away from home for most of the week again, I’m missing Hannibal‘s Tuesday night screenings here in the UK! It’s a tragedy, but I’m going to continue blogging about the series, following the Saturday repeat schedule instead.
The A.V. Club’s review gave this episode an ‘A’, and Bryan Fuller’s walkthrough of the episode is also up on the site. I’d particularly recommend the latter, this time around, as it has some interesting commentary on the show’s aesthetic, guided by Lynch and Cronenberg. Also interesting is Hettienne Park’s blogpost (‘Racism, Sexism and Hannibal’) about what happens to her character, Beverley Katz, in this episode.
This episode links closely back to S2E3, Hassun (my review, in case you might be diving into this episode cold). Spoilers below!
This episode is spectacular, and not only because of the nearly-naked Mads Mikkelsen at the end. It ratchets up the heat, making what has been in some ways quite a cerebral battle between Will and Hannibal (the violent opener of S2E1, with Hannibal and Jack fighting to the death, is a distant memory by this stage), albeit one that is being fought by proxy on Will’s part.
The episode as a whole is an assault of resonances: Will’s transportation, masked and strapped to a dolly, echoing Antony Hopkins’ in Hannibal; Hannibal’s stringing up in a ‘Jesus-on-the-cross’ pose an echo of the same; Beverley’s body left in the observatory where Miriam Lass’ severed arm was found, and Chilton disembowelled by Abel Gideon; Will’s use of Freddie Lounds to smoke out his ‘admirer’, which he does in Red Dragon in order to goad Francis Dolarhyde; and even Will’s use of his ‘admirer’ to strike out at his enemy, Hannibal, a favour that Hannibal returns in Red Dragon, giving Will’s home address to Dolarhyde. S2 is stepping up a gear, and we are being challenged to keep up. It’s also really great to see the show gesturing towards Red Dragon because I do hope that it gets to do seasons dedicated to the Harris books (assuming all the rights issues are worked out and the show lasts long enough!).
The display of Beverley’s body, sliced into sections, each individually pressed into plastic, is a fascinating one. The A.V. Club explores the echoes of Damian Hirst’s artwork (flagged up by Fuller) and her presentation as symbolic of the FBI team’s situation, but I think there are some other interesting ones at play.
The first is the resonance of slicing as a food preparation method. Hannibal has the tools to create the scene because he has the tools to prepare cuts of meat from a larger carcass, and he uses them to prepare Beverley as food or fuel for the ongoing struggle between him on the one hand and Will and the FBI on the other.
The second is the visual trick of perspective itself. From the right angle, as shown to viewers initially, Beverley appears whole. Her progressive deconstruction, going deeper with each step, is an interesting metaphor for this show as a whole, which by shuffling steps — and occasional leaps and bounds — is relentlessly delving beneath the surface of human psyches, particularly those of Hannibal and Will, but also a number of other core characters, like Alana, Jack and Bedelia. Beverley having been neglected in terms of narrative development and exploration, it’s interesting that she receives the deconstruction treatment in death, when she is finally completely instrumentalised by the show and by its characters. In the episode, Will almost gets this far, noting that the killer “pull[s] her apart layer by layer as she would a crime scene”, but doesn’t explore the meta-narrative.
The attack on Hannibal is fascinating because the show has played him as an almost superhuman, demonic figure. Making him so vulnerable means that we get to test out his philosophy, which he has applied to Will and Bella in particular: how much does he really respect Will’s evolving ‘ethics’? how much does he really live by the idea that death is always around the corner and that one should not shy away from that threat, but use it to enhance one’s life? He is wonderfully dignified whilst struggling for his life, but we’ll need to wait for the next episode, I think, to see exactly how ethically consistent Hannibal is.
Also adding to this episode’s wonderfulness is Eddie Izzard’s proper return to the show. He’s incarcerated right next door to Will, and I love him in ways that I cannot fully express! Gideon remains delightfully crazy, and yet there is an air of canny rationality to him as Will draws him into his dangerous crusade against Hannibal. At every stage, we can see the wheels turning in Gideon’s head as he seeks to determine what action is least likely to get him killed by the real Chesapeake Ripper. I sincerely hope there is a lot more to come!