A review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as it sounds like I'm unemployed…
“Hannibal” is 2-for-2 in season 2 so far, with an episode featuring horror, suspense, theology, more homages to classic Hannibal Lecter scenes and Will Graham quoting “Sesame Street” lyrics. Can't beat that with a stick.
In lieu of the shocking, thrilling Jack/Hannibal fight sequence that opened the premiere, “Sakizuke” gives us one of the show's most terrifying and graphic sequences to date, as poor Roland Umber – a man with color in his name even before he became victim of a man building a human color wheel – frees himself from the corpse-eye in the swiftest, nastiest method available before dying in his attempted escape. (Hands up, anyone who would not have risked the cliff jump under those circumstances.)
The FBI's investigation pushes the Hannibal/Will role reversal even further. We get to see a beautiful visualized version of Lecter's superhuman sense of smell as a nice parallel to the many examples (including more in this episode) of how Will's own gift works, and Lecter takes greater advantage than ever of working right under the less powerful noses of Jack Crawford and company. Lecter moving through the cornfield in his plastic slipcover suit made him look like a 1950s space explorer, and Mads Mikkelsen's delivery of “Love your work” was so funny because he played it as sincerely as he did. The other Lecter movies have exhausted the character's usefulness as a camp villain, but Bryan Fuller and company have found ways to generate unexpected humor within the very specific and peculiar tone they've established for this show and this version of Lecter. When this Lecter talks the killer into being killed and inserted into his own “artwork,” it plays not as Lecter tricking some less omniscient killer, but as Lecter being the one man on the planet who understands him enough to do it. (Well, Will would understand the guy, too, but he wouldn't come across as empathetic enough for such a peaceful, if deadly, resolution.)
Will, meanwhile, continues to masterfully play Beverly Katz, Jack (even in absentia) and even to an extent Dr. Lecter himself, who hasn't been as able to read Will nearly as well as before Will figured out the true nature of their relationship. He talks Katz into investigating an alternate theory of his case – in a scene that stops just short of Hugh Dancy leering at her and saying, “Quid pro quo, Beverly” – while Jack finds himself second-guessing his impulses enough to let Katz keep going to Will to see what happens. It's all a lot of fun: a smart and entertaining way to show Will oh-so-gradually digging himself out of this bottomless pit Dr. Lecter hurled him into. And, again, Will Graham knows his “Sesame Street,” which is fantastic.
The episode also generates a lot of tension out of Dr. Du Maurier's realization that she's had all she can stands and can't stands no more from her least favorite patient. I don't know how much of this is Gillian Anderson's limited schedule given her commitments to “Crisis” and “The Fall,” and how much is the way the story was always meant to go(*), but if this is the last time we're going to see her, it was satisfying to watch someone for once recognize the extreme danger posed by Hannibal Lecter and get the hell out of town before winding up on one of his serving trays.
(*) And perhaps Jack's therapist, played by Martin Donovan, has been introduced as something of a Du Maurier replacement. Of course, the show already has Dr. Bloom (and doesn't give Caroline Dhavernas nearly enough to do most weeks), but she's so closely tied to Will that it's become increasingly difficult to use her in other contexts.
Even Lecter's slight smile at the end suggests that he relishes the notion of someone outsmarting him, and also that he didn't especially want to kill Du Maurier. Like Will Graham, she was his tool, but she was also one of his few vaguely true companions, and now she has removed herself from the game instead of attacking him or having to become his next victim. A satisfying enough conclusion for the good doctor, and a fine capper to another great episode.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com