A review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as you're harshing my buzz…
After last week's mostly unsuccessful attempt at dressing up in courtroom drama clothes, “Hannibal” gets back to what it does best with “Takiawase,” an episode full of freaky imagery, gripping mind games and overwhelming emotion.
On a purely episodic level, it gives us one of our stranger Killer of the Week stories to date, with the usually-macabre Amanda Plummer as a woman turning her victims into human beehives to take away their pain. That's bizarre stuff, and a picture I won't soon forget, even as she had twisted altruistic motives for doing it to these men. Unlike some of our other serial murderers, she's not interested in running or fighting when the FBI catches up to her; she just wants them to understand what she's been doing, in the same way that James Gray(*) was so glad that Dr. Lecter understood his reasons for constructing the human eye.
(*) Roland Umber, James Gray… are we going to find out that all of the victims not only had attractive skin, but color-based last names?
Plummer is trying to take the pain away from her victims, and a desire to be free of pain also motivates Bella Crawford to try overdosing on morphine so she won't keep suffering from her cancer. I was glad to see Bella return, not only because Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres are the rare couple whose real-life chemistry absolutely translates to the screen when they act together, but because Bella brings out a side of Dr. Lecter that we don't often see. When he is with Will, or Jack, or the handful of patients we've observed him with, he is always motivated by his own agenda more than a genuine desire to help any of these people.(**) With Bella, though, there is a level of affection that we've seen he also has for Will, only without most of the Lecter-hunting baggage that Will brings to the relationship. Certainly, there is value to Lecter to be treating the wife of a powerful FBI agent like Jack Crawford, but mostly he just seems to like Bella. And when she reveals her suicide plan to him, he seems torn not between what's right and what is useful to him as a serial killer, but between letting Bella have the death she wants and fulfilling various ethical responsibilities (and also letting Jack get the goodbye she was about to deny him). Lecter usually moves through this universe like a god, but here he is so at a loss that he actually leaves the decision up to a fateful toss of the coin, in the process evoking other supervillains like Two-Face and Anton Chigurh.
(**) This week, in Alan Wants a Web Series: “The Cannibal Doctor Is In,” a kind of quickie spin on “In Treatment” where we watch Hannibal work with some of the less glamorous patients in his practice, and get to see whether he's actually helping them or just manipulating them for his own amusement.
With his trial on hold indefinitely – and shouldn't a bigger public deal be made about a judge being murdered and displayed in his courtroom in such a baroque fashion? – Will goes back to using the psychological tools at his disposal to free himself and stop Lecter. Recruiting Dr. Chilton to his side seems an iffy proposition, given how unpredictable Chilton's vanity makes him, but Will already has a strong and smart ally in Beverly Katz – though it appears he is about to lose said ally. I'm torn on Katz and Lecter's encounter in his basement of doom. On the one hand, it's a creepy and chilling sequence and a nice cliffhanger, even if we know from both the flashforward and the larger pop cultural legend of Hannibal Lecter that he isn't going to die or be arrested at this point. On the other, for the most part Bryan Fuller and company have done a really impressive job of showing how Lecter can get over on the FBI without Jack, Dr. Bloom and company having to look so stupid that they require immediate transfer to the cast of “The Following.” Katz going into Lecter's dungeon alone – and without so much as a call or a text to Jack or someone else to let them know where she is and what she's doing – is a poor decision and will inevitably prolong Lecter's freedom and Will's incarceration in the process. It's mitigated somewhat by her thinking Lecter will be at the hospital for a long time, but still, consider this:
Will Graham has just told you that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper, who for years evaded capture by your brilliant, focused and vengeful boss, and that Lecter is eating the organs of his victims. You then break into Lecter's home to confirm this theory, and do so. At this point, you know that Lecter is a very sick, very smart, very powerful individual who has outwitted the FBI at every turn. Do you really go into his dungeon alone? And do you do it without sending any kind of message to anyone in the FBI about what you have discovered, just in case he does to you what he did to poor Miriam Lass?
Still, the episode to that point was awfully good, and this show's track record on reinventing the many tired tropes associated with Hannibal gives me some hope that whatever happens next week will at least be more inventive than that climax.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org