I wondered in my review of E5 how Hannibal would react to his near-death experience. He seems genuine in his regret and disappointment in Will, and his rejection of further FBI work — “I can’t dwell on death anymore” — to focus on “life-enhancing events”. This also gives the show the opportunity to make use of some of Hannibal’s musical skills, rather neglected thus far, with him composing a new harpsichord piece in order to “metabolise” his feelings. The scene of him playing with his injured wrists echoed, for me, the moment in Hannibal where Harris reflects that Hannibal plays with some stiffness, having had his sixth finger removed. The lack of a sixth finger is one of the few missing notes for me in the TV series, although I can understand for practical and financial reasons why it hasn’t materialised, so this echo was sort of satisfying.
It seems that this metabolism is successfully, as Hannibal confronts Will about halfway through the episode in a tense exchange about the latter’s role in the death of Beverly, having instrumentalised her, suggests that whilst threatened, Hannibal is still proud of the fact that through his actions Will has become “more in control than he has ever been”. Later in the episode, using lures made with human remains like those he planted on Will, Hannibal seems to be trying to release his ‘friend’, but he also still wants to contain Will, threatening Alana in the hope that it will lead to a frozen conflict. The threat has already been made by the episode itself (which cuts to Alana’s face as Will challenges Jack: “Who does have have to kill for you to open your eyes?”), but it is an elegant articulation of it and the place it has in the larger power-play. Regrettable, it once again reduces a female character to a pawn in a power struggle between male characters. The show really does need to get better about this!
Speaking of female characters, I think the A.V. Club’s review is so generous because the return of Miriam Lass feels like a fantastical rising from the dead, but it is not fantastic. It is a visually impressive final scene, but it simply repeats the “surprise” of Eddie Izzard’s return, and Season 1 was suggestive of Lass’ survival, particularly because of the way that she resembles Clarice Starling so, so much. Presumably, Lass is far less interesting to Hannibal than Starling, as she only seems to have a function for him when he can use her to manipulate Jack.
At any rate, we can now make guess what made Beverly Katz gasp just before Hannibal captures and kills her in his basement in episode 4 (review here). Miriam’s appearance is therefore made most interesting by the way it is theatrically staged for Jack (and for those who’ve read/seen The Silence of the Lambs), if we guess that until recently she was a captive in Hannibal’s home. It’s interesting that this plot line is something else that has been moved out of S1, just like Katz’s death, suggesting that the show is becoming more in tune with its own rhythms. This bodes well for later series, although I am finding series 2 a little break-neck with this episode in particular crammed full of plot.
I’d actually quite like something a little more ponderous at this stage, resembling The Killing or Spiral more than CSI. For example, over the course of the episode, I found Jack’s turn against Hannibal a little over-quick, particularly given their tense conversation at the very beginning of the episode where Will confronts Jack with the possibility that he has eaten the “people he is trying to give justice”. It seems that Chilton is far more persuasive over the course of the episode than Will has been over several, but I think it is Will’s suggestion that Jack has been unknowingly drawn into Hannibal’s cannibalism — and a desire to disprove an idea that makes him queasy — that really works on Jack here and leads to him testing the food at Hannibal’s latest dinner party (with zero results, despite all the food porn in this episode!).
The destruction of Abel Gideon so quickly after his return is also a bit of a shame, although is presumably at least partly based on guest availability, as with quite some of the other big names. The episode at least gives him a wry ending, playing to Izzard’s skill-set.
Gideon appears to be on a ‘suicide-by-cop’ mission in the way that he goads the guards into attacking him, presumably because he knows that his card is marked by Hannibal, despite all his efforts to present himself as non-threatening, both in the previous episode (in their conversation, taped by Chilton, and by alerting Alana to the attack on Hannibal), and in this one, trying to shift suspicion onto Chilton. Will has instrumentalised yet another person onto Hannibal Lecter’s dinner table, and it is too late for Abel to save himself. Returning him to the same chair in his dining room where he sat when they discussed Hannibal being the Chesapeake Ripper, Hannibal presents him with his own roast leg, which Gideon (after a moment’s hesitance) calmly tastes (Izzard can barely keep a straight face!). The scene is a nice complement to Jack’s taking of food from Hannibal’s home without trying it. Hannibal’s face is priceless; he detects the threat, but his face gives no indication of what result Jack’s tests might come up with. He seems wounded more by Jack’s rudeness, the breach of friendship indicated by Jack’s suspicions. It is this victimisation that seems to prompt Hannibal’s sense that he has to ‘take care’ of Gideon, but it also throws Hannibal and Alana together.
This is supposed to be the other “shock” of the episode is Hannibal and Alana falling into bed together. The prospect of sexual attraction between them was thrown out there in S1 in a way that did surprise at the time, so isn’t particularly surprising now, especially not at this moment, when Hannibal is wounded from his near-death experience in the last episode, and Alana just loves a wounded bird! As Will has started to take greater control of his own narrative and chosen to darken it by trying to kill Hannibal, she has to turn elsewhere for someone who needs (or appears to need) saving. It’s a little bit of a shame that Hannibal plays with this so cynically so immediately. It would have been nice for the show to lead us on a little, to suggest that his near-death experience might have created a genuine emotional need that Alana could genuinely fill, their relationship a possible “life-enhancing moment” for Hannibal.