[This is a review of Hannibal season 2, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
With all its ghastly bloodletting, its dismemberment, and its Damien Hirst-ing of well-liked characters, Hannibal is already a pretty intimate show. The series makes a point of illustrating how frequently and easily the boundaries of personal space and psychic distance are closed, or simply done away with completely.
When he’s not engaging in deeply revealing one-on-one sessions with his patients or helping paint a psychological profile of some killer for the FBI, Hannibal is delicately working with what remains of those who occasionally cross his path. He’s not ravenously devouring their corpse; he’s transforming the vestiges of their being into something quite often beautiful and deserving of presentation. A commemoration, he might call it.
The tremendous presentation is due in part to the nature of television and its limited sensory output – if the audience could smell and taste what Hannibal was serving up, then they might feel quite differently – but the level of effort and skill that goes into the appearance of his cuisine is indicative of the character, and the series as a whole.
It is, by nature, about the intimate processes, and to its great credit, one that is interested in exploring the different levels of closeness and understanding within those procedures, even if it takes the story to uncomfortable, but inevitable places. Hannibal has demonstrated on many different levels that the process of truly knowing someone, connecting with them on a personal, intimate basis, takes time and patience. It is not the hurried, frenzied slaying of unfamiliar, nameless victims, as was depicted by Randall Tier in ‘Shiizakana’; it is more akin to Will’s fondness for fly fishing: deliberate, measured, and, most of all, (frighteningly) calm.
Then, as was seen in ‘Naka-Choko,’ the series manages to take that intimacy to a whole new level. The episode begins during the final moments of last week’s installment, which happened to be the final moments of Mr. Tier – though, in Will’s fantasy, Randall also vacillates between the Wendigo that haunts his mind, and the man who has been tinkering with it. The editing in the scene is notably hurried and frenzied, its quickness an indication of the violent act Will is committing. Slow the edits down a bit, and the effect is something altogether different, but equally personal and close; it begins to resemble the scenes between Hannibal and Alana, and Will and Margot Verger.
Similarly, when Will returns Tier’s body to Hannibal, they both recognize the reciprocal acts of trying to kill one another. Then things get increasingly intimate, as Hannibal cleans Will’s wounds and they discuss the finer points of Tier’s death and the way in which Will might choose to commemorate him. In the world of Hannibal, passions commingle in frightening, beautifully arranged ways.
A much stronger episode than last week’s entry, ‘Naka-Choko’ spends most of its time exploring the paradoxical relationship between Will and Hannibal, it also takes the time to look at characters who hold interesting places in the Dr. Lecter mythology. That means Michael Pitt’s first appearance as Mason Verger, which includes Hannibal extending him the offer of becoming his therapist, and the questionable fate of the audacious Freddie Lounds.
Despite this exploration of relationships, there is still progression of the narrative. Tier’s death is justifiable homicide; he was a stone cold killer who had Will in his sights. He’s also part of the game Will’s playing to lure Hannibal onto his and Jack’s line.
But playing that game means Will must let the monster inside him out. This asks the question: How far is he willing to go in order to make sure his prey will take the bait and, more importantly, how much of Will Graham will be left when and if the plan comes to fruition?
The episode ends much as it began, with Will and Hannibal communing over a piece of meat procured by the more nascent killer between them. Only this time, the flesh isn’t rendered into a disturbing tableau in a museum; it’s handled with care and given over to Hannibal’s design. The implication of whom they are consuming is certainly pointed, but unconfirmed.
Hannibal has already toyed around with elements of the series’ larger mythology, though; and if you combine that with how willing the series was to plumb the disturbingly intimate places it did here, the only thing that’s certain is that anything’s possible.
Hannibal continues next Friday with the David Slade-directed ‘Ko No Mono’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: