A review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as I play “Chopsticks”…
It is really remarkable the ways in which “Hannibal” manages to be simultaneously restrained and cuckoo bananas in an episode like “Futamono.”
On the one hand, it's an episode where Dr. Lecter turns one murder victim into a human tree, guts another and hangs him with fish hooks, forces Abel Gideon to eat his own amuptated (and cooked-in-clay!) leg, and features the shocking last-second revelation that Miriam Lass is alive (minus the arm Hannibal chopped off to taunt Jack). Oh, and there's also the matter of Will imagining himself growing a massive set of antlers when Hannibal comes to visit him at the hospital. It's an hour full of insane, baroque imagery, even by “Hannibal” standards, and mixed with huge plot twists that feel genuinely surprising and fun rather than a contrivance to make people want to see the next episode immediately.
But on the other hand, Bryan Fuller and company are sure taking their sweet time in this elaborate game between Hannibal and Will, with Jack and Gideon and Alana and Dr. Chilton all as players in their own way. There's an overt nod to the screen legend of the character when Chilton coins the “Hannibal the Cannibal” nickname, and a winking one when Hannibal mentions the census taker who once woke him from his slumber (the rest of that story was explained in perhaps the most famous line from “Silence of the Lambs”), and Jack certainly allows for the possibility that Will is correct about Hannibal being the Ripper and eating his victims. But it's also clear here that Hannibal is several moves ahead of either Agent Crawford or Will Graham, and that the Hannibal/Jack kitchen brawl is still a ways into the future.
After going on another murder spree in order to host another dinner party, for instance, Hannibal also manages to make sure that Jack is served animal meat(*) in case he thought to get it tested. He seduces Dr. Bloom – succeeding in an area where Will failed – and (after apparently drugging her to sleep deeply) is able to use her as his alibi for Gideon's abduction from the hospital. For a moment, it seems as if Jack and his forensics guys have outwitted Lecter and found Miriam without his knowledge, but the way the rescue scene is intercut with Hannibal playing his harpsichord, I'm guessing this is just the latest movement in the composition he spends much of the episode writing and discussing. In a straightforward situation, Miriam(**) would identify Dr. Lecter as the man who kidnapped her and took her arm, but without having seen episode 7, my guess is she has a very different story to tell – assuming such a long time of confinement and physical and emotional torture hasn't simply wiped away all traces the promising young agent Jack once mentored.
(*) Which makes me wonder if all the food at that meal was animal, just in case, while Hannibal has a fridge full of pre-made human meals to enjoy over the coming weeks.
(**) I'm glad I have already seen the first few “Veep”s of the new season, because I may have a hard time toggling between Anna Chlumsky in the two roles at the same time.
I really can't overstate how well-crafted every piece of the show is at this point. Tree Man is among the more haunting murder tableaux the show has given us (how I'd love to be a fly on the wall as Fuller and company brainstorm what objects a human body can be made to resemble in death), but all the visuals are dazzling, whether special effects like Will's enormous antlers or Lecter's musical notes turning into flowers on Tree Man, or simply the composition of shots and the way everything is seamlessly edited together to enhance the story. (Note how quickly we jump to a close-up of Alana's face right after Will asks Jack, “Who does he have to kill before you open your eyes?”)
There are probably some storytelling things I should be questioning, like whether the Chesapeake Ripper's ongoing activities should be enough to cast doubt over Will's guilt, whether or not anyone believes Hannibal to be the Ripper. But the acting, the writing, the directing, the music and everything else is just so beautiful and evocative that at a certain point in each episode (other than an unusual dud like the courtroom show), I feel less like I'm watching it than that I'm being immersed in it.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com