A review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as my dog likes applesauce…
There was a point in “Yakimono” where I began to worry that the show was finally falling prey to the problem it had very graciously avoided until now: that in order for Hannibal to keep getting away with it, the heroes have to be stupid.
Now, Bryan Fuller and company have done decently with the idea that Alana is both not a cop and someone with a longer history with Hannibal, but you're still watching her steadfastly side with the bad guy. And Jack seems to alternate at random between believing that Hannibal is the bad guy and that he's not. (Why on earth do you bring Miriam Lass to be hypnotized by the guy who may have brainwashed her?) Will always knows the truth, and that carries things to a point, but one of the things that's been so special about this show has been the way that everybody gets to be smart, even if Will and Dr. Lecter are the smartest.
But then the episode revealed the magnitude of Hannibal's frame of Dr. Chilton. And while I still had misgivings about what happened before, I was satisfied with how things went down, and by the possibility of what's coming next. It's an ingenious plan, explains all the strange decisions he made about Will and Miriam last week, and it finds an even better patsy than Will.(*) And by taking Chilton out of the picture for now (and possibly permanently; more on that in a minute), it means we don't have to keep questioning how it works in the same way we had to at times while Will was available to argue on his own behalf. Even as I felt at the time of Chilton's arrest that Jack realize this was too easy, the Miriam Lass of it(**) sells the lie as much as it needs to.
(*) Well, mostly better. Chilton's limp and need of a cane makes it tough to envision him performing many of the feats the Ripper has performed in recent years. I believe Lecter in his murder suit could overpower and mutilate two FBI agents that way; but could Chilton?
(**) How great was Anna Chlumsky in this one? Acting is acting, and a good performer should be able to disappear into any role, but it's still remarkable that this is the same woman who plays Amy on “Veep.”
Now, if Chilton is actually dead – and that was a rather large exit wound we saw from Miriam's bullet – the show has both lost a great performer in Raul Esparza and made a major deviation from the books and films. In the books, Beverly Katz is still alive at the time of “Red Dragon,” but Chilton's a much more significant, indelible character. It could be Fuller trying to make clear that he's not married to what we think we know about the story. Or, given Miriam Lass's own return from seeming death, missing both physical and psychological pieces of herself, I also wouldn't be stunned to see Chilton return down the road, with some sort of gruesome makeup effect showing the damage the bullet left even as it didn't kill him.
This is the midpoint episode of the season, and Will being imprisoned in Lecter's place had just about run its course, so I was glad to see him out and in civilian clothes again. The trick, of course, is to get him out without the immediate death or arrest of Dr. Lecter. Chilton's frame solves the latter problem, and the former is dealt with when Lecter makes an appeal to Will's intellect over his fury, and we learn – in a moment that I imagine will torture our hero down the road – that Will ultimately cares more about getting the full truth than he does about stopping Lecter from killing anyone else. It's an interesting dramatic choice, especially given that Fuller already had Will cross the threshold into attempted murder a couple of weeks ago. But it also sets up the incredible showdown that ends the episode: Will Graham, as cleaned up and composed as we've ever seen him (among other things, it looks like he actually ran a brush through his hair), arrives into the lion's den, aware that this is where he was brainwashed and framed as the Chesapeake Ripper, and offers himself up to the great beast's big hungry mouth, because he is certain that he can outwit Dr. Lecter now that he knows what he's up against.
That's amazingly badass, but in a psychological way that plays to this show's distinctive strengths. Any generic TV hero can pump a few bullets into the evil serial killer, but Will is going to take down Hannibal the Cannibal his way, and hoo boy am I looking forward to seeing it.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org