Review: ‘Hannibal’ – ‘Shiizakana’

Senior Television Writer
04.25.14 53 Comments


A quick review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as I collect church collapses…

After I noted last week that “Su-zakana” felt a bit slight compared to the episodes preceding it, one of the commenters pointed out that in a Japanese meal (all this season's episodes have been named for Japanese course), Su-zakana is a small palate cleanser. And certainly that's a useful thing in both a meal and a season of television. “Shiizakana,” on the other hand, is named after what's meant to be a more substantial dish, and if anything it feels even slighter than last week's hour.

Or maybe it's that it feels just on the wrong side of absurdity, even on a show that has put a live bird inside a dead human inside a dead horse, or turned human corpses into beehives or trees or giant eye murals. There's already something superhuman to both our hero (in the way Will is able to mentally reconstruct crime scenes down to the smallest detail) and our villain (who has various physical gifts to go with a mind almost as potent as Will's), but it works because the two actors are so good, because the characters are written so well above and beyond their special powers, and because a show this baroque has room for at least a couple of larger-than-life characters.

But a killer who tries to turn himself into a predatory animal by building an exo-skeleton modeled on fossilized jaws and claws feels like a supervillain bridge too far, even on a show that has given us flesh angels and human mushrooms. Though the visual and sound design of the show will prevent it from ever being confused with “Arrow” or “Agents of SHIELD,” Cave Bear Man(*) felt like someone who should be hunted by a hero in an equally outlandish get-up, or at least a cape.

(*) Not to be confused with ManBearPig.

The case does add another layer to the game that Hannibal and Will are playing with each other, and we can spend some time wondering whether Hannibal sicced Randall on Will as payback for the orderly nearly hanging him, or if he did it because he's trying to make Will more and more comfortable with the idea of killing. (The only thing that justified the coincidence of Dr. Lecter having treated Randall was Will's suggestion towards the end that Hannibal has been seeking out cases like this, perhaps grooming an entire stable of serial killers for his own entertainment.) And there were some other interesting scenes involving Will going to Pete (who understands animals the way Will understands people) for insight into the killer, and Will and Margot(**) crossing paths and comparing notes on their therapist. An hour with Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen and Laurence Fishburne playing these roles is never going to feel wasted, but I'm definitely eager to get into whatever the endgame is for season 2, and I wonder if it's going to get even harder in the future (including – hope hope – additional seasons) for the show to keep returning to the Killer of the Week well.

(**) I never actually read Thomas Harris' “Hannibal,” nor saw the Ridley Scott-directed film, so this show is actually my first encounter with Margot and her brother. In general, I've treated previous Hannibal books and films more liberally than I have, say, the books in “Game of Thrones,” in part because they're so old and so famous, but I've also tried not to be super specific in talking about things down the road. I'm not going to ask anybody to stop discussing the Verger family in the comments, but just try to read lightly when you can. 

What did everybody else think?

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